Labour law pro­pos­als get­ting mixed re­views

Auto in­dus­try against mak­ing it eas­ier for work­ers to union­ize

Windsor Star - - CITY - SARAH SACHELI ssacheli@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/WinS­tarSacheli

In­creas­ing the min­i­mum wage will have lit­tle im­pact on On­tario’s auto in­dus­try, but the prospect of mak­ing it eas­ier for work­places to union­ize isn’t sit­ting well with plant own­ers.

Re­ports that the On­tario cab­i­net dis­cussed pro­posed changes to labour leg­is­la­tion this week was met Fri­day with mixed emo­tions.

Labour ad­vo­cates lauded the two main pro­pos­als leaked from the cab­i­net ses­sion, while the spokesman for parts man­u­fac­tur­ers was less than en­thu­si­as­tic.

The prov­ince is said to be on the cusp of rais­ing min­i­mum wage to $15 an hour from $11.40.

“Min­i­mum wage is not a prob­lem be­cause we pay more than min­i­mum wage,” said Flavio Volpe, pres­i­dent of the Au­to­mo­tive Parts Man­u­fac­tur­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada.

“We pay peo­ple well, we treat peo­ple well, worker safety is a pri­or­ity and train­ing is a pri­or­ity.”

Volpe said rais­ing the min­i­mum wage could af­fect the pool of avail­able labour for his in­dus­try. Work­ers may es­chew au­to­mo­tive jobs for other em­ploy­ment that does not in­volve assem­bly lines or shift work, he said.

“It gen­er­ally tight­ens the labour pool.”

But the union that rep­re­sents au­towork­ers ap­plauds the change.

“Peo­ple need a liv­able wage,” said Uni­for pres­i­dent Gerry Dias. “If you can’t af­ford to pay 15 bucks an hour, you have to look at your busi­ness model.”

Dias said, in the au­to­mo­tive parts in­dus­try, there are some nonunion­ized shops that pay less than $15 an hour. Some of the own­ers, mean­while, are mak­ing mil­lions.

“For them to ob­ject to peo­ple mak­ing $15 an hour (ticks) me off — the hypocrisy,” he said.

Auto an­a­lyst Den­nis Des­Rosiers said in­creas­ing min­i­mum wage will have lit­tle ef­fect on the in­dus­try.

“I have a hard time con­nect­ing the dots on that,” he said. Most plants pay more than min­i­mum wage and those that don’t con­sti­tute “a fly speck in our in­dus­try — as it should be.”

Au­towork­ers de­serve higher wages be­cause the work is repet­i­tive and phys­i­cally dif­fi­cult, he said.

“They de­serve the high pay they get.”

In ad­di­tion to boost­ing the min­i­mum wage, the prov­ince ap­pears poised to al­low work­places to be­come union­ized with­out a se­cret­bal­lot vote by work­ers. In­stead, all unions will need to be cer­ti­fied in a work­place is hav­ing a ma­jor­ity of work­ers sign union cards.

But Volpe said, while the in­dus­try “un­der­stands the value of union­iza­tion,” the change will make the prov­ince less com­pet­i­tive by send­ing the wrong mes­sage to in­vestors.

The prov­ince will ap­pear too friendly to unions at a time when some states in the U.S. are pass­ing “right to work” leg­is­la­tion that makes it harder for unions to op­er­ate.

Des­Rosiers said that change is up­set­ting busi­ness own­ers.

“We have a democ­racy that’s pred­i­cated on a se­cret bal­lot,” Des­Rosiers. Dias dis­putes that ar­gu­ment. Sign­ing a card shows a worker wants to union­ize, Dias said.

The vote is not only un­nec­es­sary, it’s an op­por­tu­nity for em­ploy­ers to in­tim­i­date work­ers af­ter the fact.

Pro­posed changes to labour leg­is­la­tion may also in­volve giv­ing tem­po­rary work­ers the same ben­e­fits as full-time em­ploy­ees.

That could hurt au­to­mo­tive plants that of­ten “gross up” be­fore prod­uct launches or to meet tem­po­rary de­mands.

“They need to be flex­i­ble,” Volpe said.

Leg­isla­tive changes could force plants to “run per­ma­nently over­staffed or run per­ma­nently un­der­staffed.” Nei­ther sit­u­a­tion is good busi­ness, Volpe said.

“If you run over­staffed, how do you bid ef­fec­tively?”

Wind­sor-Te­cum­seh MPP Percy Hat­field (NDP) said many of the pro­pos­als likely dis­cussed by the Lib­eral cab­i­net are things his party has been ad­vo­cat­ing, but fears it may not go far enough.

He said he’d like to see anti-scab leg­is­la­tion in­tro­duced, as well as leg­is­la­tion that al­lows newly union­ized work­ers to get a first con­tract through bind­ing ar­bi­tra­tion.

“I’m in favour of any­thing that makes it eas­ier for peo­ple to join a union and to get a first con­tract, and I’m all for a boost in min­i­mum wage.”

Des­Rosiers said the Wynn gov­ern­ment may be try­ing score points with vot­ers, or they may sim­ply be try­ing to pass leg­is­la­tion be­fore los­ing power.

“It’s be­com­ing ap­par­ent that the odds of Wynn get­ting sec­ond term are close to nil,” he said. “While they’re in power they’re try­ing to get stuff done.”

Jerry Dias

Den­nis DesRosier

Percy Hat­field

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