Over the years since our founding, Unifor has sounded the alarm about heavy-handed tactics and trusteeship being used to squash local democracy, workers’ rights and dissent.
In January of 2017, members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113 made moves to change their union affiliation, and applied under Article 4 of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) constitution to do so. The local was immediately put under trusteeship by the ATU; assets were seized, the union hall was taken over and all democratic leadership was forced to sign ‘loyalty oaths’ or face removal from their elected positions.
At the time Unifor publicly offered its support to ATU Local 113 because the union stands in support of union democracy and the rights of workers. Unifor is opposed to any union that threatens, harasses, intimidates, silences or removes duly-elected officers for simply asserting their democratic rights to choose a union.
“It’s simple, trusteeship should not be used to quell dissent,” said Jerry Dias, National President. “Workers have a right to join a union of their choosing and the CLC Constitution is not protecting that right.”
A year later the union has been successful in creating legislative change in Ontario, this is one step towards addressing the problem.
In the Ontario government’s budget a change was proposed to curb this misuse of trusteeship. The proposed change will amend the Labour Relations Act (LRA) to limit the imposition of a trusteeship (or any other interference that affects a union’s autonomy) by a parent trade union over its local union where there isn’t ‘just cause’. This expands protection that is currently only applied to the construction industry to apply to all unions covered by the LRA. Learn more about this change by reading the letter sent to all Ontario locals on March 29.
Any challenges to trusteeship that the local believes are without just cause can now be challenged through the Labour Relations Board, which should allow for speedy, public resolution.
“This will be a positive change for workers in Ontario,” said Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director. “While it would be better for the CLC to appropriately protect the democratic rights of members, this legislative move will prevent trusteeship from being used to punish workers without cause.”
Despite this change happening only in the province of Ontario, these types of rights should be enshrined directly in to the Constitution of the CLC.