Manitoba reintroduces legislation in favour of ‘open shop’ tendering for public projects

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The Manitoba government has re-introduced proposed legislation that it says “would ensure freedom of choice is protected in Manitoba workplaces,” Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler has announced.

Under the proposed public sector construction projects (tendering) act, public-sector entities, such as the Manitoba government, Crown corporations, school boards and regional health authorities, would be prohibited from using unionization status as a tendering requirement. The practice of employees paying dues to unions they are not members of would also be eliminated.

The Winnipeg Construction Association (WCA) says in its newsletter that this legislation had been introduced in the past legislative session, but “died on the order paper”. Its reintroduction indicates the government is serious about implementing it.

“From day one, our government has been clear that we respect the rights of Manitobans to choose whether or not they join a union or form a union in their workplace,” said Schuler. “Our legislation would ensure all qualified workers and their employers, regardless of union status, have equal access to publicly funded construction projects in the province, and that all workers and employers in this province are treated fairly.”

Under the previous administration, large publicly funded construction projects were subject to project labour agreements that required employees and contractors to sign a collective agreement, and hire members of specific unions, regardless of their union status at the time the project was tendered.

This proposed legislation would prohibit public-sector entities from requiring any of the following when tendering work on a construction project:

  • the successful bidder to be, or become part of, a collective agreement;
  • the successful bidder to employ only members of a specific union or to employ only non-unionized workers; and
  • dues to be paid to a union for work completed by non-unionized employees on a project.

The legislation was developed with input from stakeholders representing both employers and labour, the minister said in the news release.

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