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B.C. Greens say no to ending union secret ballots

Russell Hixson
B.C. Greens say no to ending union secret ballots

B.C.’s Green Party has drawn a line in the sand on secret ballots for unions. Party leader Andrew Weaver has said the Greens would block any attempt by the NDP to pass legislation doing away with secret ballots for unionization.

The secret ballot system has been the law in B.C. since 2001 to ensure that neither employers nor unions are able to coerce or intimidate workers. Certification votes are supervised by a neutral party, the Labour Relations Board.

While campaigning, NDP Leader John Horgan promised that if he won he would change laws that require unionization to take place by a secret ballot. In its place he would use a card check system.

Rather than a vote, once a certain majority of workers sign union cards, the union is then considered certified.

The NDP and Greens have partnered to try and defeat Christy Clark’s Liberal government after her razor thin victory during the election, making the Green’s three votes of support crucial.

The Independent Businesses and Contractors Association of British Columbia (ICBA) praised Weaver for his support of the secret ballot.

"Whether it’s when we elect governments or strata councils, or association boards, we rely on the secret ballot to provide assurance that the voting process is free from manipulation by one side or the other," reads a statement from ICBA president Chris Gardner. "Working men and women deserve no less when they are deciding whether or not to join a union."

Tom Sigurdson, executive director of the BC Building Trades, acknowledged that intimidation of workers is still an issue.

"I remember one time at a powder coating plant in Delta, they threatened to fire all the ‘disturbers’ as soon as the union drive was over," he said.

However, he was reluctant to weigh in on specifically supporting a secret ballot or card check system, citing it was part of a larger issue.

"You can’t just say that one or the other is going to fix the labour code," Sigurdson said. "The code is terribly problematic and is in need of review."

According to the United Steelworkers of Canada, Alberta, B.C., Nova Scotia, Ontario and Saskatchewan are all voting provinces, while the rest are card count.

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