The next day however, we saw another side of Brad Wall when he took a rather petulant shot across the bow of the trade union movement.
Wall complained that the SGEU had imposed an extra 1% dues increase on their members. The sole goal, he claims, being to defeat the Saskatchewan Party in the election. He said he was considering legislative changes, which would make it easier for union members to to better scrutinize how their unions dues are spent. Any changes the government intends to force on unions he said would be meant to provide greater transparency. "We're not going to be looking for arguments but if there's opportunities to increase accountability and transparency for union members we're going to pursue those,"
I thought the comments were interesting as he had already said that the members were told what the increase was going to be used for. No lack of transparency there.
All trade unions I know of, are required are required by their own constitutions to generate annual audited financial statements, which are available to their membership. I will agree that they are not any easier for the average worker to sift through than the average corporation financial statement but that, is neither here nor there.
It makes me wonder what Wall is up to. The Saskatchewan Party people really don’t understand trade unions. Being mostly small business people they have no experience with organized labour and have very little understanding of how they function. That bunch only know, they don’t like unions. No ands, ifs or buts.
When the Saskatchewan Party was first elected one of the first things on their plate was to pick a fight with organized labour. There was no reason for it except for a deep-seated visceral dislike for unions, particularly the SGEU.
The view, even within the Labour community, is that the SEGU leadership are not very likeable, they are not the sharpest tools in the shed and they can’t even get along with their own staff. The fact that the government doesn't like the union that represents the majority of their employees was no reason to bring in the punishing anti labour legislation, when a few tweaks would have solved the “problems.”
So what is next?
Wall wants changes in Labour legislation but will he stop a minor adjustments? History suggests not and he has already given us hints about where his thinking lies when he mused during the campaign that he might look at changing legislation so that dues would remain mandatory but unions would become responsible for collecting their own money.
The small business were all over that like a tent, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business spokesperson Marilyn Braun-Pollon, made it clear she and her members would support that. It is something they are already lobbying for. She said if unions had to collect their own dues, it might make them more accountable to their members.
Accountability is a good thing particularly at election time. I think everyone should remember it wasn’t the lack of trade union accountability that triggered the Global economic crisis.