WINNIPEG — The Government of Manitoba has introduced legislation that would reform workers’ rights to organize to work on public construction projects.
The Progressive Conservative government said in a May 10 media statement the new measures would “respect workers’ freedom to organize as they choose” on publicly funded construction projects.
“From day one, our government has been clear that forced unionization is wrong for Manitobans,” said Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler in the statement. “This legislation ensures all qualified workers and their employers, regardless of union status, have equal access to publicly funded construction projects in the province, and that all workers and employers in this province are treated fairly.”
The Public Sector Construction Projects Act (Tendering) would prohibit public-sector entities from using unionization status as a tendering requirement and would eliminate the practice of employees paying dues to unions they are not members of.
Under the previous administration, large publicly funded construction projects such as the Bi-Pole 3 transmission line and the Red River Floodway expansion were subject to project labour agreements that required employees and contractors awarded work on a project to sign a collective agreement and hire members of specific unions, the statement explained.
Where exceptions to this rule were made, the agreements still required dues or fees to be paid to unions for work carried out by non-union workers.
This legislation would prohibit public-sector entities from requiring any of the following when tendering for work on a construction project:
- the successful bidder to be, or become part of, a collective agreement;
- the successful bidder to employ only members of a specific union or to employ only non-unionized workers; and
- dues to be paid to a union for work completed by non-unionized employees on a project.
Construction projects undertaken by the Manitoba government, Crown corporations, school boards, regional health authorities and post-secondary institutions would be required to comply with this act.
The legislation would not impact projects currently under construction.