Fraser Forum

Repealing legislation is a backwards step for union accountability

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It seems like the federal government is set to officially repeal legislation that dramatically improves the disclosure of union finances and thus union accountability in Canada.

The legislation, which was passed in the summer but is not yet fully in force, requires labour organizations to provide basic financial information (such as expenditures, revenues, and their financial position) to the federal government. Included in this packet of financial information are details on any transaction of more than $5,000 (including contributions to political or social causes) and on union employees who are paid over $100,000 (including compensation levels and estimated time spent on political activities and lobbying).

This information was to be made publicly available so that unionized workers and interested third parties could more easily—and anonymously—gauge the financial health and operations of union organizations.

An important aspect of the legislation is the requirement of labour organizations to provide details on how much money and time they spend on political activities and lobbying. Unions often spend money on political and other causes that are outside of the confines of their responsibilities in collective bargaining and with which dues-paying workers may not necessarily agree. The legislation would enable unionized workers to more readily determine how much of their dues are going to these causes.

This is particularly important because unionized workers can be forced to pay full union dues as a condition of employment, even if they disagree with the causes that the union is funding. The requirement for unions to disclose how money is spent at least allows workers to more easily find out how much their union is spending on such causes, helping workers make more informed choices about union representation. And research shows that increasing financial transparency contributes to improved governance and reduced corruption.

Repealing the legislation is a step backwards for union accountability.


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