Saturday, October 26, 2013

It Takes One To Know One

Jim Flaherty brought forward his third omnibus budget bill this week. And, as in the past, it is full of all kinds of things which have nothing to do with the budget -- like labour relations between the public service and the government. Tom Walkom writes in The Toronto Star that the bill is a full frontal attack on public service unions:

The government’s latest omnibus budget bill would give the government the unilateral power to determine which civil servants are essential workers and thus disqualified from striking.

This in itself is a break from standard Canadian practice, aping a Saskatchewan measure whose constitutionality is currently being appealed to the Supreme Court.

But the real bite in the government’s proposed changes to Canada’s Public Service Labour Relations Act has to do with arbitration. Most federal public service labour disputes are settled by neutral arbitrators without the need for strike or lockout action. The new law would permit arbitration only when the government agreed.

Even in areas deemed essential, the government could veto arbitration unless it had designated at least 80 per cent of the workers as ineligible to strike.

And in those instances where arbitration was permitted, arbitrators would be required to give a “preponderance” of weight to the government’s claims as to what it could afford.

In the end, says Toronto labour lawyer Steve Barrett, the government will have “stacked the deck” against its employees.

It is, indeed, interesting that while Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau are arguing in the Senate that the deck has been stacked against them, public service workers are getting the same treatment. The Harperite mantra is that they are all "fat cats." Mr. Harper can go to his base next week and claim  that he and Toronto mayor Rob Ford have declared war on the fat cats.

As always, it takes one to know one.

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