New changes have been proposed to labour laws in Newfoundland and Labrador in an effort to avoid lengthy labour disputes such as the Voisey’s Bay mining strike, streamline union certification and make it easier to apply for a Special Project Order (SPO).
The new legislation calls for the province’s Minister of Labour to be able to appoint a mediator in cases where employers and unions are unable to reach an agreement within 60 days of serving notice to negotiate. Under the proposed changes, employers will also have the right to ask workers directly to vote on a contract offer, though this stipulation is a one-time-only possibility.
The new legislation will also make it easier for workers to get union card-based certification, with certification being granted automatically once 65 per cent of employees sign union cards. In cases where more than 40 per cent but less than 65 per cent of employees sign union cards, they would be required to hold a certification vote.
Furthermore, it will be easier for builders to apply for “Special Project Orders,” major construction builds with lengthy build times. While SPOs were previously only granted when build times were slated to exceed three years, the new legislation calls for a minimum two year build time. Special provisions could be made for other projects based on the size and scope of the work to be done and the geographic location of the work.
The nickel processing plant at Long Harbour is an example of a Newfoundland and Labrador project that qualifies for an SPO.
“An SPO is a valuable tool which allows government to sanction a unique labour relations environment for a major construction project and help ensure labour stability, no strikes or lockouts, for the construction period,” said Labour Minister Terry French. “SPOs create a separate labour relations regime for special projects outside the normal bargaining environment for the industrial commercial construction sector.”
French added that, given the competition in the construction industry both nationally and globally, it was important to update the legislation so Newfoundland and Labrador could compete.