Thursday, November 16, 2006

On party principles

Michael Ignatieff may have set off a firestorm by being unusually blunt about his own personal disdain for true progressives. But lest there be any doubt as to whether his view accurately reflects the Libs' general style of government, the party's largest provincial administration has been slammed by the International Labour Organization for its neglect of basic labour rights:
The International Labour Organization (ILO), an agency of the United Nations, has condemned the Liberal government of Ontario Dalton McGuinty for denying 16,000 part-time community college workers the basic right to form a union and participate in collective bargaining.

The ILO's highly critical report is in response to a formal complaint lodged by the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) in June 2005. It involves the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act (CCBA), which denies most part-time employees employed by any of the 24 public colleges in Ontario the right to join a union and engage in collective bargaining...

The ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association stated in its ruling:

“While the particular circumstances of the part-time employees concerned here may call for differentiated treatment and adjustments as regards the definition of bargaining units, the rules for certification, etc., as well as specific negotiations taking their status and work requirements into account, the Committee fails to see any reason why the principles on the basic rights of association and collective bargaining afforded to all workers should not also apply to part-time employees.”

“The Committee further recalls that all workers, without distinction whatsoever, whether they are employed in a permanent basis, for a fixed-term or as contract employees, should have the right to establish and join organizations of their own choosing.”
About the only argument available to mitigate the Libs' neglect is that the exclusion of part-time workers is a historical relic which has subsisted through government terms of three different parties. (Though of course the failings of the NDP premier involved now reflect on the Libs as well.)

But for the Libs in particular, it's clear that the issue has been brought to their attention as one in need of action - based on both union submissions like the one in the above link, and the ILO complaint itself. And at the same time, the Libs have made amendments to the legislation in question under a process specifically intended to "ensure that hundreds of the province’s laws are up to date". Which suggests that the Libs have consciously classified the exclusion of part-time workers as a matter which doesn't need updating.

Of course, it could be that the ILO's ruling will manage to break the Libs' inertia where the mere voice of Ontario workers couldn't. But one way or the other, it's clear that those Libs still in power aren't changing from the party's usual pattern of ignoring the needs of workers - and there's no reason to believe that any of the federal leadership candidates would change that anytime soon.

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