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Canada’s Senate is being urged to oppose Conservative attacks on unions. Appearing before a Senate committee, Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), called on senators to block approval of Bill C-377, a Conservative private members bill that would place unjustified and punitive financial disclosure requirements on union.

Bill C-377 is a solution in search of a problem. This Bill has little to do with transparency, as the government claims. It is an attack on workers,” said Moist. CUPE’s submission to the committee also points out that the bill is not only unfair it’s unconstitutional because it usurps the powers of the provinces, interferes with freedom of expression and association and contravenes privacy rights.

Moist, along with other labour union representatives appearing at the committee, argued that the Bill unfairly targets unions and would create a dramatic shift in the balance of power. Unions will be required to give out confidential information, without the same requirements for employers, professional associations, and other corporate interest groups. This could create an unfair advantage for employers in collective bargaining.

Unions are already held to a higher standard of accountability and transparency by their members and by virtue of certain provincial labour statutes,” said Moist. “By contrast, none of the business associations are governed by comparable statutes, nor do they appear to voluntarily make their financial statements publicly available.”

Moist also countered arguments from Bill C-377 supporters who justify its provisions because paying dues is obligatory in unionized workplaces.

The argument that unions are the only organizations with compulsory membership is completely false,” said Moist. He reminded the senators that medical associations are compulsory for doctors, as are bar associations for lawyers, but are exempt from Bill C-377. Imposing this burden on unions while excluding professional organizations, corporations benefiting from public contracts, and powerful lobby groups, show clearly that unions are being targeted by this Conservative government.