EJ: No ‘Union Busting’ Here

Edmonton Journal
Paul de Jong, Executive Director (PCA)


Re: “Union-busting no way to mark Labour Day; Construction lobby group only concerned with itself, not Alberta’s economic health,” by Gil McGowan, Ideas, Sept. 5.


In his letter, Gil McGowan grossly misrepresents the positive goals of the Construction Competitiveness Coalition.

The coalition is a unique group of non-union and unionized contractors and their associations, who seek to strengthen Alberta’s economic future by creating a level playing field for construction in Alberta.

In response to the provincial government’s focus on fostering the domestic and international competitiveness of our province, the coalition simultaneously upholds what exists in our legislation (including the right of workers to unionize and protecting worker safety), as well as advocates for improvements to our labour laws, in order to eliminate obstacles to fair and open construction.

McGowan suggests that workers’ choice is being threatened, while in fact the efforts of the coalition are to increase choice. Albertans can and should be able to freely choose to work for non-union construction companies and/or for unionized firms, whether these are organized by modern alternative unions, or by craft-style unions. Some of these craft unions have controversially resorted to fining their members when they elect to secure employment beyond the union dispatch hall. This is a practice which can hardly be held up as promoting workers’ choice.

Another misrepresentation made by McGowan is that one group of (non-union) employers would corner the market at the expense of another group of employers (the craft union group). Presently, the reverse of his argument is closer to the mark, in contrast to the coalition’s efforts to create a level and fair playing field. A few years ago, Bill 26 eliminated Market Enhancement Recovery Funds (MERFs). These funds had been used by some craft unions to buttress the commercial bids of their signatory construction companies in a way that distorted fair bid competition. The coalition seeks to ensure that this unfair bidding practice remains an unfortunate relic of our province’s past.

Contrary to what McGowan suggests, there is no “union busting” going on here. Increased competitiveness, more choices, fair and open construction, and a level playing field for all – it is hard to imagine how achieving these goals could be anything less than a win-win for Albertans and our economic future.

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