May 17, 2012

Merit Canada, skilled trades launch campaigns on opposite sides of Bill C-377


Stakeholders on both sides of Bill C-377 are renewing their efforts to make their voices heard.

Merit Canada recently launched a national television advertising campaign urging financial disclosure while hundreds of skilled trades workers descended on Parliament Hill on May 15 to ask their locals MPs to vote against the bill.

C-377, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (labour organizations), is a private member’s bill, sponsored by MP Russ Hiebert of South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale, to increase labour union transparency and accountability.

Under the bill, every labour union in Canada would be required to file a standard set of financial statements each year. Details from those statements would be posted on a public website. The bill passed its second reading and is currently awaiting a hearing before the federal finance committee.

Merit Canada’s national ad campaign asks “why is big labour afraid of the light?” which is available at www.uniontransparency.ca.

“Canadians and most unionized employees are in the dark when it comes to how labour leaders spend the billions of dollars in mandatory dues collected from workers,” said Terrance Oakey, president of Merit Canada, the national voice for eight provincial open shop construction associations.

Union dues are 100 per cent deductible and labour organizations’ non-dues revenue streams are tax exempt. Other organizations with similar public benefits, including charities and religious organizations, are required to disclose their financial information.

“Given the significant tax benefits that labour organizations enjoy, and the compulsory nature of dues that they collect it’s time to end this special treatment and improve the transparency and accountability of labour organizations in Canada,” said Oakey.

A day of meetings at Parliament Hill was recently organized by the Canadian Building Trades Union to provide MPs with an opportunity to hear directly from their constituents about their concerns with the bill.

“Skilled trades workers from Vancouver to St. John’s are worried about the impacts of Bill C-377 and its costly negative impacts on major oilsands developments and other large scale energy projects across the County” said Bob Blakely, Canadian Building Trades director of Canadian affairs, in a release.

“Our workers rely on their unions to provide necessary benefits and training with the dues that they pay. And our partner contractors — and clients they work for rely on them to use the skilled manpower we provide in a cost efficient manner. C-377 is going to see that money spent on creating more government bureaucracy. It will slow down Canada’s economic recovery in the construction sector.”

The Canadian Building Trades Unions say the impacts from Bill C-377 will endanger workers’ ability to build projects across the country and create jobs.

It says the bill is intended to fix a problem that does not exist and that it duplicates processes that are already in place to provide accountability and transparency for workers and would create an expanded, expensive and redundant bureaucracy.

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