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Quebec’s unionization model is an anomaly that must be corrected by giving workers greater liberty

Montreal, January 31, 2011 – When the time comes for the members of the National Assembly to examine the possibility of updating the Labour Code, it is the freedom of choice of workers that should be foremost in their minds. Indeed, the authors of an Economic Note published today by the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI), Louis Fortin and Michel Kelly-Gagnon, note that the Quebec unionization model is an anomaly when compared to the situation that prevails in most free and democratic societies, including the 47 countries of the Council of Europe.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes freedom of association as a basic right, but specifies that "no one may be compelled to belong to an association." In Quebec, it is precisely this freedom of non-association that is violated by the unionization model, explains Mr. Fortin. "It is worrisome, to say the least, that a worker who has never had the chance to decide democratically on the formation of a union through a secret ballot vote is forced to pay union dues and belong to that union under penalty of losing his or her job," he continues.

Neither in Europe nor in the United States are workers forced to pay the portion of union dues used for purposes other than collective bargaining. In Quebec, the Labour Code makes no distinction regarding the purpose to which union dues are put, and requires employees to finance all of their union’s activities, including political and ideological activities. "For example, the FTQ [Quebec Workers Federation] decided in 2003 to campaign openly against a provincial political party using money collected from its members, some of whom very likely were supporters of that same party," points out Michel Kelly-Gagnon.

In addition, the Economic Note reminds us that two thirds (67%) of Quebecers believe that union membership should not be compulsory. "When we look at the way things work elsewhere in the world, when we listen to workers whose rights are being violated, we must face facts: the Labour Code must be revised down to its very foundations, rather than merely modifying the definition of replacement workers," concludes Mr. Kelly-Gagnon.

The Economic Note entitled The Quebec unionization model: correcting the anomaly, which was prepared by Louis Fortin, certified industrial relations consultant and McGill University lecturer in industrial relations, and Michel Kelly-Gagnon, president and CEO of the MEI, can be consulted free of charge on the Institute’s website.

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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit research and educational organization. Through its publications, media appearances and conferences, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies in Quebec and across Canada by proposing wealth-creating reforms based on market mechanisms. It does not accept any government funding.

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Information and interview requests:
Ariane Gauthier, communications coordinator, Montreal Economic Institute
Tel.: 514 273-0969 ext. 2231 / Cell: 514 603-8746 / Email: agauthier@iedm.org

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