Over the past two years, you have heard me say this repeatedly: the labour movement is under attack. In Canada, one form of this attack is the federal government's attempt to pass Bill C-377: An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (Labour Organizations). The bill requires that the Income Tax Act be changed to make it mandatory for all labour organizations to make detailed annual financial filings covering salaries, revenues, and expenses. "Labour organizations" covers union locals, the International, health & retirement trusts and even building corporations (for those locals that own property). The information would be posted on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website, and would be made available for the public to read "in a format that allows for word searches to be performed and for cross-referencing of data."
Bill C-377 is expensive. In a time when government is supposed to be
tightening its belt, the administration of this bill would see huge costs for
taxpayers. A conservative estimate for
developing the new legislation to oversee compliance as well as the development
and maintenance of all forms, booklets and software, says that this will
generate additional costs to taxpayers
in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Compliance will also be very expensive for unions. Reporting requirements are so broad and onerous that the CLC has estimated it will take the average local union 200-400 hours annually to prepare the returns - at a significant cost to the local unions' treasuries. Failure to comply will result in a $1,000/day fine for each day not in compliance.
Bill C-377 is unnecessary. In Canadian unions, financial statements are audited and reported to elected executive boards, to all union locals, and to delegates at conventions. Financial statements are already open to union members. In addition, approximately 95 percent of all unionized workers are governed by provincial labour codes, almost all of which require unions to make their financial statements available to their members.
Bill C-377 is unfair. It gives employers a major advantage at the bargaining table, as they will be able to open a local's books and determine, for example, how much is in its strike fund. When only one side of a negotiation has the ability to view the other side's finances, there can be no illusion as to the fairness of that negotiation. It also enables potential employers to use a union's financial information to help in fighting off organizing drives. Bill C-377 is overt interference in the labour relations process, designed to give significant advantages to employers at taxpayers' expense.
Bill C-377 is discriminatory. Although charitable and other organizations
are treated similarly under tax law, this bill targets only unions. It does not cover any other dues-deducting
professional organizations, such as those representing doctors or lawyers.
Because the bill requires that local unions report transactions over $5,000, any business we conduct with non-labour organizations, such as health & retirement benefit providers, becomes public knowledge, exposing these organizations to the same disadvantage with their competitors as we face with our employers; simply because they have a union as a client.
I am therefore requesting your assistance. The IATSE is launching an online lobbying campaign to call for action on
this issue. I am asking all Canadian
members to participate by emailing Finance Minister Jim Flaherty as well as
your federal Member of Parliament.
Clicking on the link below will bring you to a form field which will ask for some basic information. This information will be used to personalize a template letter we've drafted, by addressing it to Minister Flaherty and your MP and will fill in your name and address (if you entered it). The subject line and the letter itself are completely editable, and I strongly encourage you to personalize the letter. Once you hit "Submit", your letter will be sent.
Results from the last online lobbying campaign proved that the membership, working together, can effect change. I hope you will use this software once again to make your voices heard.
Matthew D. Loeb