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Eliminating parity committees: we won’t back down!

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Do you work in an industry subject to the Act respecting collective agreement decrees (ACAD)? If you do, you know that decrees (collective agreements) passed under the Act are outdated. Parity committees, which oversee the application of decrees, cause of a number of problems: miles of red tape, unfair competition and dubious practices that can include harassment by committee inspectors.

For years now, we have fought to get this obsolete law repealed or extensively revised. As a result of our efforts, the government has hinted at reform in recent years but has yet to take meaningful action.

Rest assured that we will not back down and will keep fighting until the battle is won!

A law that opens the door to apparent conflicts of interest and abuses of power

Under the ACAD, the government has the power to dictate working conditions for an entire economic sector if there is a collective bargaining agreement in force between union and management representatives of that sector. Once a decree is passed, parity committees are responsible for overseeing its application, with broad regulatory powers.

In theory, these committees give you a voice by having management representatives; in practice, it’s a threat to your business, because business association representative on parity committees are able to dictate working conditions and perform inspections of their direct competitors! We regularly receive complaints from members who have been victims of unfair competition, overzealousness and allegedly abusive behaviour at the hands of parity committee inspectors.

The problem rests at the heart of the Act, which opens the door to apparent conflicts of interest due to an outdated governance system. This only hampers the competitiveness and growth of small businesses subject to the ACAD. We believe that it is unacceptable to require your businesses to interact with a regulatory agency acting as both judge and defendant!

A long-standing battle

We have committed to fighting a long-term battle for the repeal of ACAD or, at the very least, a full overhaul.

Over the last few years, we have sent successive Ministers of Labour more than 1,500 letters signed by businesses subject to the Act. The government has shown signs of interest in our cause without ever taking concrete action, so we’re keeping up the fight.

Here is what we’ve done so far:

  • In May 2015, the government introduced Bill 53, which intended to facilitate application of the ACAD and enhance the transparency and accountability of parity committees. We attended the bill’s introduction at the National Assembly.
  • In October 2016, we presented to a parliamentary committee and asked the government to quickly adopt Bill 53.
    We also recommended that:
    • Application of the Act be entrusted to an impartial and independent agency, such as the CNESST.
    • Every five years, the Department of Labour administer a vote by secret ballot in businesses subject to a decree to decide whether to maintain the decree.
    • Businesses with fewer than 20 employees be exempt from the provisions of the ACAD.
    • Contributions to parity committees be integrated into the payroll deductions that employers send on a monthly basis to Revenu Québec.
  • In December 2016, worried about the current state of affairs, we wrote to the Minister of Labour demanding immediate action, and she listened: an auditor was appointed to investigate the practices of parity committees. Unfortunately, the auditor’s report was never made public.
  • On May 29, 2018, the government introduced a bill that would transfer the regulatory powers of parity committees to the Commission des normes, de l’équité et de la santé et sécurité du travail (CNESST). We have recommended that transfer in the past, but were concerned that it will never see the light of day, as the bill was introduced at the last minute. We  asked the government to take more concrete action by incorporating the proposed changes into the labour standards reform bill, as has been done in the past. The government did not follow our recommendation and did not pass the bill.
    Watch the Radio-Canada report (French only) about this issue.

Origins of the ACAD

The ACAD was adopted in 1934, during the Great Depression, to correct a power imbalance in Quebec labour relations. At the time, the ACAD was viewed as a necessity, especially considering that the social safety net available to workers was practically nonexistent. Times have changed since then! Workers are now protected by a number of laws, like the Labour Code, the Act respecting labour standards, the Act respecting occupational health and safety and the Pay Equity Act. The ACAD’s raison d’être has in effect been legislated away.

We will continue to keep a close eye on this issue as it progresses and will not back down until the battle is won. If the situation remains unresolved as the electoral campaign draws near, we will lobby every political party to commit to repealing the ACAD.
Has your ACAD-regulated business had an unacceptable experience with parity committees? Share your story with us and call your CFIB Counsellor. Lend your voice to this fight!