With Bill C-377, the Harper government has declared open war on labour. Tom Walkom writes in today's Toronto Star that:
The real target of Conservative MP Russ Hiebert’s private member’s bill is union financing.
To be precise, the target is the automatic check-off — also known as the Rand formula. Mandated by law in six provinces (including Ontario), it requires all employees in a bargaining unit that has democratically chosen a union to pay union dues.
It’s a particularly Canadian solution and is named after Ivan Rand, the Supreme Court justice who pioneered the idea in 1946.
The bill signals that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's attack on labour has migrated north of the border. Ostensibly, the bill is about recovering tax revenues:
Finance department figures show that the tax exemption for union and professional dues does indeed cost the federal treasury $795 million in lost revenue annually. How much is attributed to unionists and how much to others unaffected by this bill, such as doctors and lawyers, is not stated.
But the same figures show plenty of other revenue losses attributable to tax breaks. High rollers paid in stock options cost the treasury $725 million. Those claiming capital gains deductions cost $3.7 billion. So-called carrying-cost deductions reduce federal revenues by $1 billion.
The fact that the bill targets union workers and not others who benefit from the same tax exemptions is the key to understanding what the Harperites are trying to achieve. When Justice Rand devised his formula, he wrote: “The power of organized labour, the necessary co-partner of capital, must be available to address the balance of what is called social justice.”
The bill is all about removing labour as "the necessary co-partner of capital." It is another salvo in the corporatist juggernaut by a government which insists on transparency for native peoples and unions, but which also insists that it has no such obligation.
Do as I say, not as I do.