The State At The Service Of Employers - Or How The Bosses Legislate Misery

Recently, there's been a lot of talk about the legislation that the Charest government pushed through just before Christmas, muzzling all opposition.

Let's take a look at what it all means. What are some of these infamous pieces of legislation? The explanatory sketches below are adapted, in part, from a number of documents put together by the CSN. It's our job to understand and analyse them.

We have to stop believing that the State is a tool for establishing a sort of equity or just relationship between workers and their employers. We have to stop believing that the State is created BY us and FOR us.

The State is a tool used by the powerful (capitalists) that institutionalizes and legalizes relationships of domination and exploitation. The State legislates and regulates our exploitation. The people who direct the workings of the State are politicians and high-ranking bureaucrats. Watch carefully what sort of decisions they make. Look carefully at who they're in bed with. And observe how they live, eat, travel and take vacations. Watch who they marry and with whom they have children. Notice where they live.

It is necessary to understand the interests of those who direct the State. Look at the decisions they are making and draw your own conclusions.

Bill 31

This piece of legislation modified the Labor Code regulations that apply when a part of a business's activities are handed over to another party.

When workers in a business decide to unionize and to negotiate their work conditions, they don't want their jobs and their work conditions to be able to be overturned by means of a simple reorganization of the business.

That is exactly what Article 45 of the Quebec's Labor Code guarantees. It protects the exercise of workers' fundamental right to associate in order to form a union and to negotiate their work conditions.

Thus, if the employer transfers all or a part of its activities to another business, the union accreditation and the work conditions remain unchanged.

But Bill 31 stipulated that if a business transfers part of its activities to a sub-contractor without also selling its equipment, machinery, know-how-in short, without transferring "most of its characteristic elements"-article 45 no longer applies.

The union accreditation no longer covers those jobs. The work conditions that have been negotiated cease to exist. The sub-contractor can do as it please!

The legislation also eliminated any requirement that the employer advise the union that it intends to transfer activities to a sub-contractor.

In cases where Article 45 still applies, the union will be preserved but the collective agreement will be rendered null and void as soon as the concession of activities is made.

Workers can now find out one morning that they've changed employers and that the employer has the right to decide what their work conditions will be.

Whether it is the sub-contracting out of mechanical maintenance, house keeping, kitchens or cafeterias, laundering services, machining or assembly process, transport, snow or garbage removal-as long as there is no transfer of equipment or vehicles, there will no longer be a union or negotiated work conditions for those workers.

We can take a simple example. Say the management of a hospital center wants to sub-contract out its cafeteria service. The management only has to sell its service without selling the cafeteria equipment for the conditions of Article 45 of the Labor Code to no longer apply. Simply put, that means that the sub-contractor who will have purchased the cafeteria service will be under no obligation to hire the unionized staff already doing the job, to maintain their work conditions or pay them the same salary. Easy as pie. There is no transfer of equipment, so Article 45 doesn't apply. The sub-contractor can move in with its equipment and its personnel-and out go the unionized workers!

With Bill 31, the government gave business a tool to keep unions from forming or to break existing unions. What's more, the government gave bosses the tools they need to put a downward pressure on work conditions.