Thursday, October 08, 2009


The CLAC (Christian Labour Association of Canada) is a right wing union founded in 1952. See this Wikipedia article for more information. In the years since its foundation it has been accused, usually rightly, of being a "bosses' union". Employers are more than happy to sign up with the CLAC in order to avoid having to deal with a serious union. Down New Brunswick way, however, there is a new twist to the story. Traditionally strongest in the West, especially Alberta (no surprise there), the CLAC has undertaken to supply construction labour for the Canaport Liquid Natural Gas facility, labour imported from western Canada. This labour will, of course, be quite docile, and, also of course, paid less than standard rates. Seems that the CLAC is acting like a fast food franchise these days, serving the bosses wherever they may be, even at the other end of the country. Workers in New Brunswick aren't taking this lieing down. Here from the St. John Telegraph Journal is the story of how local workers slowed down the buses taking the CLAC-provided employees to the work site.
Protesters slow down vehicles:

SAINT JOHN - School buses were delayed and traffic slowed on Black River Road Wednesday morning as protesters waited for buses carrying out-of-province workers to pass on their way to Canaport LNG, police say.

Sgt. Pat Bonner, with the Saint John Police Force, said about 200 protesters were on Black River Road and about 75 on Red Head dike at about 6:30 a.m. He said they were not blocking traffic but they were slowing it down.

Bonner said police were present and assisted vehicles in getting through the picketers. He said there were no incidents and no arrests.

Ron Oldfield, first vice-president of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour, said he attended the protests as an observer and did not see buses take workers to the job site on Wednesday.

He said protesters staged a peaceful demonstration to send a message to out-of-province workers: "If you really want to work here, get in line like everybody else and take your turn."

The outside workers are employed by Integral Energy, an Alberta-based electrical and instrumentation company contracted by SNC-Lavalin to work on a third holding tank at Canaport LNG. Some of the Integral Energy workers are members of the Christian Labour Association of Canada, or the CLAC.

Oldfield said local tradespeople believe SNC-Lavalin and the CLAC are in this together and have decided to circumvent the local work force. He said the New Brunswick Federation of Labour does not consider the CLAC a union and does not want it to be certified in the province because they fear wages will be driven down.

"They (protesters) are standing on the street while people from other areas of the country are going to work and they are upset, and rightfully so," Oldfield said.

The union leader said the protest slowed traffic but he believes the public supports the demonstrations and understands their need to stand up for their right to go to work in their own back yard.

Mayor Ivan Court said he hopes the union leaders and the companies responsible for construction at Canaport LNG will come together and work things out.

"We have people that go to work everyday for an honest day's wage, and you don't have to bring people in to cause problems by undermining union labour," Court said. "If that is happening, someone is going to have to step to the plate and make sure there is harmony in the workplace."

Dominique Morval, spokeswoman for SNC-Lavalin, would not answer questions about how the company has been affected by the protests and what her Montreal-based company is doing to put an end do the demonstrations.

"Work continued today on site and our primary focus remains the completion of the construction of the Canaport LNG Terminal," Morval wrote in an email.

Integral Energy declined comment.
Here's more from the Telegraph Journal about how local labour in New Brunswick feels about the CLAC
Protest: Union leaders blame Ontario-based organization for recent labour upheaval:

SAINT JOHN - Local union officials say they want to prevent the Christian Labour Association of Canada, also known as the CLAC, from receiving certification in New Brunswick.

Ron Oldfield, first vice president of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour, is lobbying provincial politicians to ban the Christian Labour Association of Canada from becoming a local trade union.

The CLAC was the organization that recently arranged for a number of out-of-province tradespeople to come to Saint John for work - a move that prompted local workers to demonstrate boisterously outside the hotel where they were staying.

Local union officials say they are concerned the CLAC wants to become a certified union and drive wages down. They are encouraging provincial politicians to change the text in the Industrial Labour Act in a way that would deny the CLAC's certification if it applied.

"We think they will try to be recognized as a union here"¦we are trying to be proactive," said Ron Oldfield, first vice-president of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour. "We are going to expose CLAC for what they are. They don't negotiate in the best interests of employees. We don't want to see the practices they use in Alberta used here."

The CLAC was brought into the national spotlight recently when protests waged for over a week in front of Hotel Courtenay Bay.

Tradespeople were protesting the hiring of out-of-province workers at Canaport LNG while many local workers are unemployed. Waving signs that read "Go home CLAC," the protesters were also sending a message that they do not welcome the organization or its members in Saint John.

The outside workers are employed with Integral Energy, an Alberta-based electrical and instrumentation company contracted by SNC-Lavalin to work on a third tank at Canaport LNG. Some of the Integral Energy workers are members of the CLAC.

Protests in the city attracted hundreds during the week of Sept. 14 to 17 and appeared to be over when Integral Energy workers left Hotel Courtenay Bay on Sept. 17.

But smaller protests emerged on Friday and continued throughout the weekend.

On Friday, a protest of about 40 people was held at the corner of Union and St. Patrick streets.

Sgt. Pat Bonner, with the Saint John Police Force, said between 50 and 60 protesters waited by the Petro-Canada station on Bayside Drive on Saturday at 6:30 a.m for buses carrying Integral Energy employees to drive by on their way to the work site at Canaport LNG. Bonner said the buses decided to go a different direction that day, avoiding the protesters.

Bonner said there were a couple of protesters on the access road to Canaport LNG on Sunday at 5:30 a.m.

He said there were no arrests made as a result of the weekend protests.

Oldfield said he believes the out-of-province work at Canaport LNG is being driven by the CLAC's attempt to get their foot in the door. He is in the process of getting information together to make a bid to the provincial government to stop any situation, including the certification of the CLAC, which he believes would lead to standards and employee wages being dropped.

Andrew Dawson, Atlantic Canadian representative for the building and construction trades, said workers in Saint John have dealt with the CLAC when working in other provinces and are fearful the association will emerge in their home province.

He said he is confident the CLAC would be denied certification if it applied in New Brunswick. He said an assurance of this from the provincial government would put workers at ease.

Alex Pannu, a CLAC spokesman, said the association is not planning to apply for certification in New Brunswick in the near future.

"We have had requests from our members to come and operate there and we certainly think about that," Pannu said. "We're open to moving there"¦but we don't have any immediate plans."

Pannu said the CLAC has competitive collective agreements and he wonders why labour unions would want to prevent his association from working in the province.

"Is their model is so weak that they can't compete," Pannu said. "Why is competition good for everybody else but not labour unions?"

A record from the Labour Relations Board in Nova Scotia revealed that the CLAC applied for certification in the province in 2000 and was denied. The documents show the CLAC was not found to be a labour union as defined in the province's Trade Union Act because it did not follow established trade union practices.

Dawson said he believes the CLAC would fail for the same reason if it attempted to get certified in New Brunswick.

The provincial government, he said, has staked its claim to fame on self-sufficiency, which depends on the success of the energy hub. But the energy hub won't happen if Saint John gets a reputation as an unfriendly place to do business, he argued.

"We have a situation of labour unrest. Saint John is getting a bad name for itself and we recognize that is because of the fact that this threat of CLAC and lowering wages is out there and has created this discontent," Dawson said. "They haven't done anything illegal but they have created a fear amongst the working public."

Dawson said if the government tightened the Industrial Labour Act to ensure the CLAC could not become a union in New Brunswick, workers could stop worrying and get back to building business.
Real unions have been battling the CLAC for some time now, especially in Alberta. For more information about the CLAC, and the threat it means to workers' conditions see 'The Truth About CLAC', a website sponsored by a number of Alberta labour groups. The syndicalist IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) has also been battling the CLAC for years. See this article from the website of the Edmonton IWW for even more info on the CLAC and the opposition to it.

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