Unions step up criticism of Justin Trudeau Liberals
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OTTAWA - Two more union leaders are accusing Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau of hypocrisy on labour rights.
Unifor national president Jerry Dias and CLC president Hassan Yussuff have joined the chorus of union leaders who are furious that Liberals have criticized New Democrats for providing parliamentary office space to their staffers' union local.
They've sent letters to Trudeau denouncing the Liberal move, following the lead of three other unions — the United Food and Commercial Workers, United Steelworkers and Canadian Union of Public Employees.
In his letter, Dias says Liberal House leader Dominic LeBlanc's denunciation of the practice is "completely unacceptable" and leaves the impression that "workers' rights can be disregarded in the cause of cheap political theatre."
Yussuff says LeBlanc's criticism "doesn't square" with Trudeau's recent efforts to court the labour movement.
Both argue, as other union leaders have done, that it is common practice to negotiate collective agreements that require employers to provide office space for the union locals representing their workers.
The NDP is the only federal party that is unionized.
Dias's criticism of the Liberals is particularly significant because Unifor has adopted a policy of encouraging strategic voting — for either the NDP or Liberals — to defeat the Conservative government in this fall's federal election.
Unifor used to represent the NDP's 600 to 700 parliamentary staffers but its refusal to unequivocally back the party prompted them to find a new union home, with the UFCW, last year.
Earlier this week, LeBlanc called it "very bizarre" that the NDP are "using taxpayers' money to fund their union operation out of their leader's office." The arrangement "completely blurred the lines" about the proper use of parliamentary resources, he said.
A Conservative MP later lodged an official complaint against the arrangement with the board of internal economy, the secretive, multi-party body that polices spending by MPs.
The issue is part of an escalating battle between the NDP and the board, on which LeBlanc sits. The board has ordered New Democrat MPs to reimburse almost $4 million in parliamentary funds it says were improperly used to pay for mass partisan mailings and staff in satellite party offices.
The Liberals have also asked the board to investigate New Democrat MPs' use of constituency offices to allegedly conduct voter identification campaigns ahead of this fall's election.