Author by : Nathalie Sturgeon
Photo by : Nathalie Sturgeon
It does overall increase the potential for unionization across New Brunswick, which is key here. David Coon
The New Brunswick government has proposed an amendment to the Industrial Relations Act that would give unionized employees a right to first contract arbitration. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)
Unions negotiating a first contract would have the right to arbitration instead of having to give up or go on strike under a proposed amendment to the Industrial Relations Act.
Employees already have the right to form unions but not to arbitration if they can’t reach a first contract with management. Arbitration has only been available to unions renegotiating existing contracts.
But under the proposed changes, a union and employer would each have the right to ask for arbitration if a dispute reached an impasse.
The bill comes almost a year after unionized employees at Covered Bridge Potato Chips went on strike trying to get their first collective agreement.
Patrick Colford, president of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour, said the dispute in Hartland tore apart a community.
Dispute hurt families
“It divided families,” he said. “We had some people, you know, who chose to go in and some people who chose to stay outside on the picket lines. That should never happen,”
Without the right to a first contract, workers and employers are both left vulnerable, Colford said.
“Once they’re in a position to take job action, there is a whole lot of up-in-the-air things,” he said. “If we can mediate that beforehand and not have that happen, it’s a win-win.”
The proposed legislation would bring New Brunswick in line with all provinces but P.E.I.
The proposed change in the Industrial Relations Act is historic for the province and adds fairness for employees and employers, Gilles LePage, the minister of employment, said Wednesday.
Patrick Colford, president of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour, says the proposed change would be a win for both employers and workers.
“We’ve listened and we’re acting,” LePage said Wednesday.
In New Brunswick, the Industrial Relations Act regulates collective bargaining in the private sector, municipalities, universities and nursing homes.”
More fine tuning
David Coon, the Green Party leader, said he was happy to see the bill and was prepared to bring one forward himself.
* Covered Bridge chips strike concerns Green Party’s David Coon
“They’re pretty comparable,” he said.
Coon said union jobs pay about 25 per cent more than non-union jobs and this is a large factor in people staying in the province for work.
“It does overall increase the potential for unionization across New Brunswick, which is key here,” said Coon.
He said it also allows for increased social mobility.