Harper versus the unions

The differences between the new opposition and the new majority government are in stark relief on labour

Harper versus the unions

Adrian Wyld/CP

In the midst of June’s 47-hour filibuster over back-to-work legislation for Canada Post, New Democrat MP Wayne Marston was moved to recall the events of 1946, when “workers and veterans fought side by side in the streets” of Hamilton for better working conditions, thus launching the modern labour movement and paving the way for what would become the NDP. When it was her turn to speak, Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner apparently felt compelled to respond. “Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to many nostalgic comments across the way about the old labour movement and the unions back in 1946. I am wondering if the members opposite recognize that we are in 2011 and that we have just come through a great recession that has damaged so many countries and from which we are just recovering,” she said. “When will they realize that we are not in the old socialist days of the good old union? We are in 2011.”

Here the differences between the new Opposition and the new majority government seemed in stark relief. But that filibuster may have only been the beginning. Months later, the issue of organized labour is a source of conflict—or the potential thereof—on numerous fronts.

Last month, for instance, after party strategist Brian Topp—an official with ACTRA, the union that represents 22,000 members of the performing arts—confirmed his bid for the NDP leadership, Conservatives deemed him a “union boss” with “deep union ties.” “How,” they asked, “could Brian Topp speak on behalf of all Canadians when he is so tied to big union special interests?” Conservative MPs have compelled committee hearings into union sponsorships of events at the NDP convention in Vancouver this past spring, while Conservative backbencher Russ Hiebert, who won the draw to table the first private member’s bill, is proposing legislation that would require unions to release public financial statements. And last week, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt both moved to refer a dispute between Air Canada and the company’s flight attendants to the Canada Industrial Relations Board—thus blocking a potential strike—and mused vaguely of perhaps amending the Canadian Labour Code.

Raitt’s reference to the industrial relations board is her third intervention into a dispute between management and labour in the last five months, following Canada Post and an earlier threat to use back-to-work legislation after Air Canada flight attendants went on strike in June. In doing so, the government asserts the need to act on behalf of the economy and the national interest. “I think it is an accurate reading by the government of two related issues, the ongoing fragility in the economic recovery and the complete lack of public patience for widespread workplace disruptions in the current economic circumstances,” says Geoff Norquay, a Conservative strategist. Conservatives can also argue, though critics beg to differ, that compelling arbitration does not necessarily demonstrate preference for one side over the other. Raitt, whose grandfather was a coal miner and local union leader, feels the message of her actions should be straightforward. “I hope the message, quite frankly, is you have ample time and lots of opportunity to develop your internal labour management relationship and that you should be able to conclude a deal at the table and get it done,” she says, “especially if it is an economic issue of national significance.”

Such interventions may also do indirectly what more partisan gestures do directly: helping to define the Conservatives as careful stewards of the economy and mindful representatives of Joe Public, while casting the NDP as the old socialists, beholden to special interests.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers is contesting the government’s back-to-work legislation in court, but a poll conducted in June put support for the government’s actions to prevent work stoppages at Air Canada and Canada Post at 60 per cent. “Labour has a reputation that is not popular when any Canadian is inconvenienced,” says Paul Moist, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Moist worries that government intervention will disturb the relative peace and balance that has defined labour relations in recent years, eventually leading to more unrest, not less. Either way, organized labour would be well served, he says, to speak more widely to broader issues like labour force development, pensions, wages and household debt: matters of concern for all Canadians, unionized or not. “I think labour has a legitimate voice that we don’t always express as well as we should about these macroeconomic things,” Moist says.

NDP labour critic Yvon Godin, a former miner who was president of his local United Steelworkers branch, sounds resolute. “It’s right in my gut feeling that we have to protect the men and women who wake up in the morning and work hard,” he says. NDP strategist Brad Lavigne sees a concerted effort to undermine organized labour as part of a larger Conservative strategy to push the national discussion to the right. Attacking the NDP’s historical ties is, he notes, nothing new, but how the party should handle its traditional links to organized labour as it tries to build the broad support necessary to unseat the Conservatives is a point of some internal debate, most notably in the race to replace Jack Layton. On that count, Lavigne argues the party has already—much as Moist would have labour do—moved to broaden its message and, as a result, its support. “There’s no question that we have, in the 2008 and 2011 campaigns, already successfully furthered our reach from the traditional base,” he says.

Lavigne says New Democrats will argue that the Conservatives, rather than being good managers, are provoking unnecessary discord. Raitt says she’d welcome the NDP’s assistance in solving labour disputes. When Candice Hoeppner chastised the official Opposition in June, the NDP’s Claude Gravelle was quick with a rejoinder. “Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right,” he said. “We are in the 21st century. However, the government, along with this member, would like to bring us back to 1946.” If the current meaning of the last 65 years of national progress is thus up for discussion, there might be even longer debates ahead.


Harper versus the unions

  1. “Raitt, whose grandfather was a coal miner and local union leader, feels the message of her actions should be straightforward. “I hope the message, quite frankly, is you have ample time and lots of opportunity to develop your internal labour management relationship and that you should be able to conclude a deal at the table and get it done,” she says, “especially if it is an economic issue of national significance.”

    Seriously?? Wow I did NOT know that. He must be tossing and turning in his grave, going mad before your actions and anti-democratic comments Miss Raitt!!! 

    And BTW – when you say “I think it is an accurate reading by the government of two related issues, the ongoing fragility in the economic recovery and the complete lack of public patience for widespread workplace disruptions in the current economic circumstances” you DO NOT speak for me and my family dear. 

    I DO NOT support this statements, and I DO believe that “widespread workplace disruption” is the only tool workers have to be heard. Workers have rights, just like you, and stopping a strike is an action so close to tyranny, it makes me want to vomit from anxiety. 

    • So what’s your nickname?  Mr. Hyperbole?

      • And whats your nickname Mr. Ad Hominen?

    • unions should be abolished

      • a$$hole bo$$es should be abolished

    • Well it is obvious that you belong to a government union. Under no circumstances should government employees have the right to strike. They are either essential services or redundant. Unless of course private enterprise is permitted to compete for all forms of government work.

  2. Go Lisa go!
    “Bona fide Labor unions work within a free market system where firms compete for customers who are normally able to switch from sellers of wares and services if they want to. Public works are noncompetitive, however. Workers who belong to public unions conduct their labor negotiations without their employers facing any competitors. The USPS, for example, has a monopoly over first class mail delivery; teachers at public schools are working for monopolistic employers – students must attend school and the funds are confiscated through taxation and not obtained through voluntary exchange. So, as the saying goes, public workers have the taxpayers over a barrel – there are no alternatives and in most cases one cannot refuse to deal with these workers.
    So public workers unions are not genuine free market agents. As such they are able to have their terms met by the taxpaying public basically at the point of a gun. The public must deal with these workers otherwise they face legal sanctions. There is nowhere else to go apart from moving out of the state to another where the same situation obtains, where once again public unions possess monopoly powers and costumers have nowhere else they can turn to get a different deal or to avoid dealing altogether.  
    In a genuine free market place unionization would involve organizing workers in a firm that competes with others for costumers and with which costumers are free not to enter into trade. So the unions would not be able to engage in extortionist practices, making demands that must by law be met. If one’s child attends a public – or, as some prefer calling them, government – school, and teachers decide they want a higher salary or other benefits, the option of leaving the school doesn’t exist because one will be taxed to pay for it anyway. The same basic setup exists when it comes to any public work and unions.
    So for these folks to unionize is quite unjust.
    Indeed, the rationale behind public works is not the same as behind private works. In the latter all the parties are involved so as to get the best deal they can find and bargaining occurs to bring this about. Public works, however, are supposed to amount to public service, something done not for profit but as a commitment to the public good or interest. Anyone who views public work as if it were the same as private work is suffering from a misconception or perpetrating a hoax.  
    Accordingly, all the people who work for governments, which are all supported through confiscatory payments – that is, taxation – are strictly speaking ineligible for unionization.”

    • Go Lisa go, far away. Texas beckons.

    • In other words, if you choose to work in public service, bend over and don’t expect lube, because you don’t deserve it you filthy commie.


      Now kindly tell me how that squares with this.

      Not to mention, what the hell does that have to do with flight attendants for Air Canada? It’s not just public unions Raitt is interfering with.

      • Originally public service workers were paid less than private because they were guaranteed pension/benefits and pretty much a job until retirement. 
        What the public sector workers can’t seem to understand is, somehow they have to reflect the economy and it’s cycles.  With the crash in 2008 the private sector took it on the chin – companies went bankrupt, people were laid off. etc.   Yet public sector workers (not just union but management as well) kept right on going, fully expecting they were due status quo or yearly increases as per contracts negotiated years earlier.
        That is why you are seeing the public service cut backs. just like the mid-90’s – it is a cycle.  If you don’t do it, it becomes unsustainable. 
        Getting a public sector job is looked at as winning the lottery for many people, so Flaherty’s speech still applies.  I know my parents lived very well because my father worked for a Crown Corp., CMHC.
        Yes, Air Canada is now private but it is our national airline and serves all regions of the country, places that are not served by other airlines. 

        • People can refuse to use/pay for the service Air Canada offers. Your argument still fails in that respect.

          That is, unless you’re changing the goalposts now such that any employer that manages to attain monopoly power anywhere should not have any impediments to treating its workers however they wish.

          • This is where it gets tricky.  How do you define ‘treatment’ of its workers? 
            From what I’ve read re Air Canada, they are the highest paid (incl. benifits/pension) compared to their industry peers.

          • So.. you’d legislate what specific areas workers are allowed to make demands in then? So when do they get to talk about wages? When the government says it’s okay to?

          • Maybe they are the highest paid; I really don’t know. And I think most strikes these days result, at best, in Pyrrhic victories. If a strike is of any length, it usually costs the strikers more than any gains can make up for.

            But the right to strike exists, and the Harper government is doing everything they can, short of legislating it away, to circumvent it and to punish those who make use of it (see the lower-than-offered wage settlement unilaterally imposed on the postal workers by the Harperista). I think they are simply enjoying this latest outlet for their bully-boy tendencies.

            The other day Baird spoke out about bullying in schools, and how terrible it is. He was right – but I’m surprised he didn’t choke on his own tongue saying it; did he have the faintest clue just how big a hypocrite he was making himself out to be?

          • Yes & I’ve read that a starting salary for a flight attendant is approx $18K/yr – ie, below the poverty line.  Perhaps you should broaden your reading.

      • Give us an example of a public service employee in Canada who is taking it up the rear with no lube, Thwim…..just one example.

        • Still haven’t mastered reading I see.

          I was commenting on what Le_o wrote/quoted. Specifically on the bit about how public employees should not be allowed to unionize at all.

      • Its funny how if your a workeer and you want to be treated like a human being that makes you a commie.

    • Ah – Air Canada is a private corporation.

  3. As a former union employee I do not like the idea of unions.

    I fail to see the point of me paying another party so that I can work for someone else.

    As well, the structure of all unions where seniority is based on days employed is garbage. Anyone who has been part of a union has been burnt by this rule as some incompetent coworker is promoted ahead of you, or is spared a lay-off because they were hired 2 hours before yourself.

    If the idea of organized labour is going to continue I propose several fundamental changes.

    1) That seniority is based on competency and performance, before time employed. This motivates people to do a better job with greater efficiency which is ultimately helpful to their self and to the success of the company

    2) That if a union is to percolate into a company, that law be restructured or written such that the union must buy into a minority ownership of the company. This motivates union employees again to work efficiently and with greater competency.

    A very good example of how a union stifles success and how the labour force can excel when they have a stake in a company is found in a sawmill on Vancouver Island. 

    If memory serves me correctly a mill in Nanaimo BC was shut down because of high operating costs with inefficient production – this was a unionized business.

    After being shut down, the employees bought the mill, reopened and have been running it successfully.

    The profound change in the business model that took it from a money pit to a success is rooted in the employee ownership. In interviews with media, an employee described that is was now in (his) best interest to do everything, sweep the floor, make sure machinery was fixed promptly, and the plant was maintained because it ultimately belonged to him.

    This shows how a union mentality can suck a business dry, and how a relatively simple change – removing the union mentality at the same time as adding employee interest – can profoundly impact a business and a community. 

    “Traditional” unions with their us-vs.-them mentality is out dated. And the business models of profiting off your employee population while leaving them in various levels of poverty, is one of the forces driving current civil movements (ie. Occupy Wall street, etc.).

    These conditions must fundamentally change if we are to succeed and extinguish such labour unrest.

    • Two really good ideas, but why would unions ever try them? Your ideas don’t give them more money, more benefits, or less work to do.

    • Lived in Nanaimo in the early 80’s – several neighbours worked at the Harmac mill – oh that ‘smell of money’, lol!  I would tease them about getting picked up in the morning by the little MacBlo mini bus – not a perk that is done today I bet.

      It is a great example of a change in mentality and quite the success story.  Faced with no jobs (mills shut down as pulp & paper cycle flat-lined) they created their own.  Nothing but respect for the guys that pulled it off.

    • I absolutely agree with your first suggested change. Not so much with your second — while I think a union having a minority stake in the company is a good idea and one that unions should pursue, I don’t agree with forcing them to do so. No more so than I’d agree with forcing an employer to provide a share of the corporation to all employees — which would also achieve your objective.

      However, I would point out that typically the reason a union forms is because management has started off with an “us-vs-them” mentality toward the employees, who find they have to organize if they hope to have any chance of withstanding the leverage the employer holds. It’s a two-way street after all.  And if we truly want to extinguish labour unrest, we have to extinguish employers who would take advantage of their employees.  Good luck with that.

      The final thing I would add though is that your proposed changes lie entirely in the hands of the members.  People, even union members, often talk about unions like they’re these faceless things out of control of even the employees. That’s rarely the case — more often it’s just that most employees can’t be bothered to take an active interest in their union, in what the executive is doing, and in the policies that are being enacted on their behalf, often to their own detriment.  In many ways, almost exactly the same way most people treat politics.

      • I would agree with you Thwim that unions did originally form because workers had no power and worked in very poor conditions.  However, if you look at today’s situation, you cannot say that those conditions exist anymore in Canada.  If the economy is prospering, the workers rub their hands together and decide what outrageous demands they will make.  If the economy is in tank, the workers shake their heads and bemoan the concessions they will have to make.   Everyone on these blogs carries on about the outrageous salaries of CEO’s and executives but they have negotiated contracts just like the union members, often in “plumb” times and those contracts have to be honored.  Once the contract is up, they also re-negotiate and unlike a union member who if they have a lot of senority can have a job for life, the CEO is sent packing as they have no job security.
        The interesting thing in the flight attendant story at Air Canada is that they didn’t even listen to their union executive who they PAY to give them advice on whether or not to accept the deal offered.  I don’t understand this.  As a long-time union member, that is almost unheard of….if your executive says take the deal…you take the deal because nothing better is coming down the pike. 

        • There’s an argument to be made those conditions don’t exist anymore in Canada specifically because of the continued presence and power of unions. And further, that if the government continually steps in to weaken that power, we’ll see the return of those conditions.

          As for CEO’s, there’s damn few that get sent packing short of publicly making a complete mess of things.. and even then they tend to get sent off with a severance package several times better than any working stiff is going to see in their lifetimes.

          And while your story about Air Canada flight attendants is interesting, I’m afraid I don’t see how it’s relevant other than that the union obviously needs to change executives since the group doesn’t seem to believe them.

          • With regard to point #1: Westjet is not a union shop and yet from all accounts it is a a good place to work.  I would wager that the top 50 companies listed in Macleans are full of non-union businesses.
            As I said about the CEO’s, they negotiated contracts, including severance packages.  Union members get severance packages too.  Two years ago when Liepart hired Duckett and they decided there wasn’t a shortage of nurses in Alberta…everyone who got “let go”, got early retirement with one or two years pay plus full  benefits (packages in excess of a quarter million dollars each)….one CEO costs 1/2 million to displace from  the company….think about how much money hundreds of nurses cost to displace from the company.
            As to your suggestion that the union executive at Air Canada dismantle, that might be sensible if their recommendations were dismissed by over 90% of the voting members but in this case, only 63% voted to reject the union executive’s recommendation to accept the offer.  37% of those who bothered to cast a ballot, supported the executive so clearly it isn’t just dissention between the executive and the membership but dissention between the members themselves.

          • And as discussed before, there’s an argument to be made that part of the reason WHY these are good places to work are because the employees are able to unionize and wield considerable power, and the employers know it.

            As for the CEO’s, now you’re arguing that both them and unions negotiate for what they can get, but somehow it seems you think it’s okay for the government to intervene when it’s the union doing the negotiating. So unless you’re saying that government should step in on CEO’s as well as unions and regulate what kind of terms they’re allowed to negotiate with the company, you’re simply being a hypocrite.

          • You are ignoring the fact that when the government steps in, they are causing both the union AND the employer to negotiate further.  Strikes do not always hurt the employer.  You might remember a 2 year long strike at the meat processing plant at Brooks, Alberta where the employer brought in “scab” workers.  Had someone intervened and forced binding arbitration, it would have been much better for the union employees.

          • As for your comment about CEO’s and the government regulating their negotiations…..maybe you remember when Stephen Duckett, the CEO of Alberta Health Services was fired without notice for making comments about “eating his cookie”.  He was publically humiliated and given his walking papers without cause.  Even a few board members resigned over the situation.  I am sure he would have loved it if someone would have intervened on his behalf.

          • @healthcareinside:disqus 
            Stephen Duckett walked away with a $700,000 severance payout.  I’m not shedding any tears for him. 

          • Don’t the WestJet ads say that employees are also shareholders?
            If so and they have some actual say on company policies, that would explain the good working conditions absent Unions, but this is not yet standard practivce in Canada.

            Most Canadian companies still foster the ‘us versus them’ attitude which makes for adversarial labour relations.  In some countries (I think Sweden is one), it SOP for a company’s Board of Directors to have seats reserved for employee reps.  This encourages a cooperative atttitude betwen labour and manangement.

        • Actually the union executive didn’t tell the membership to take the deal.  They said that, given the circumstances – the government hanging over the negotiating table – it was the best deal they could get for them.  Members exercised their democratic right and rejected it. 

          • Wow, Jan.  You are the only person I know who didn’t interpret….”we can’t get you any better deal” as “you better accept this offer because nothing better is coming”.

          • That’s because I heard what actual members of the union said, I’m not relying on Raitt’s talking points.

          • Stephen Duckett had a contract that gave him that severence package.  Like I said earlier, Jan, the nurses he laid off “walked away” with packages worth about $250K.  They were all retirement age but he wasn’t. He still has young children and an “infamous” reputation now.
            Oh and I apologize Jan, I didn’t realize you are a flight attendant at Air Canada.

        • Perhaps the union executive isn’t listening to the members.  And there can be many reasons for union negotiators to suggest accepting a bad deal – incompetence is one of them.  As for the CEO being sent packing – they’re usually sent packing with a very attractive severance package.  

          • As I blogged earlier Kay53, 37% of the union members voted to accept the deal and 63% voted not to accept what the union executive presented as the best they could get.  
            You missed out on one of the BIG reasons why a union executive suggests accepted a so-called BAD deal……because the economy isn’t good and if you don’t accept the deal, some of the members are going to get LAID OFF.  How do I know about this?   I have been a union member for my whole working life and I am 50 years old.    Are you a union member, Kay?

          • I’ve been a member of a labour organization for 10+ years, so yes, I do have 1st hand experience (if that is the purpose of your question).  Two contracts ago it took 18 months to negotiate a contract which contained almost no increases.  We accepted it, because we knew we were unlikely to achieve anything better.  Would we always accept it – absolutely not.  And sometimes the threat of lay-off is just that – a threat & an idle one at that.  You seem to be suggesting that when faced with this threat, union members should just suck it up and accept whatever the company offers.  Sorry, I don’t agree.  The fact that almost 2/3 of Air Canada members rejected this contract offer, speaks to the apparantly deep dissatisfaction with job conditions.  And from what I’ve heard & read the issues have less to do with actual wages & more to do with other issues.

    • The crazy thing about many of the bloggers on here Mr. R is that NONE of them have EVER worked in a union, as a manager in a unionized facility or even in a big business that competes with union-run shops.  They have no personal knowledge of what they are speaking about and yet their hatred of CEO’s and their certainty that a union must provide a worker utopia propels them to be supportive of unions and union members even if  means that the demands of the union spell the end of the company.  They cannot accept that not everyone can make as much as the CEO and that unions often breed mediocrity because they never allow anyone to be compensated for performance, only for seniority.  They also almost make it impossible for bad behavior to be punished and laziness is rampant.  If you are a hard worker, it is due to your own constitution and you won’t be promoted because of it.

      • How do you know what anyone’s work experience on here is?  You claim to be a nurse and so we should consider you an expert on labour relations, apparently. 
        Sorry, but yours is just another opinion, you’re ‘expert’ status is impossible to establish on here. If you are a unionized nurse, you certainly don’t exhibit any solidarity with your co-workers.

    • High pulp prices is the reason Harmac is doing so well now. 

    • Unions are democratic organizations.  If people don’t like the way a union is being run, negotiating contracts, etc., they can choose to get involved or choose to sit back & bitch.  I have no patience with people who complain about their union, but never attend meetings & don’t bother to vote on contracts.  The country gets the government it deserves, based on who votes & union members get the union they deserve, again based on who votes.  Unions are not inherently bad, as you seem to suggest.  They exist to counter the balance of power in the employer/employee relationship.  If unions disappeared tomorrow, that balance would shift overwhelmingly in favour of employers.

    • It will alwaya be us verus them when capitalists want and iinsist on poluting the environment and treat workers like crap. If all they care about is money then yes there is a problem .

  4. A CEO, a union member and a conservative supporter sit down at a table on which there sits a plate with 12 cookies.  The CEO grabs 11 of the cookies and shovels them into her gob, munching them greedily.  When she’s done, she says to the conservative supporter:  “Watch out!  That union guy wants your cookie!”.

    • And here I thought it was the Union Rep. that grabbed all 12 cookies, lol!
      Don’t know how you can shame CEO’s into lowering their salaries.  At least the last buget had a little goodie that will force them to value their share options on a yearly basis so they will be paying more taxes.
      Here in B,C, our B.C. Hydro energy traders are being head-hunted by J.P. Morgan so in order to keep them we had to triple their salary ($200k/yr to $600k/yr) 
      My experience working for small private firms was when times got tough, no raises, management skipped paycheques, and when times were good, we profit shared.

      • You can’t really shame them into it. But perhaps Lisa could look at the labour relations code and see about changing it so that unions set management’s salary. Or would that be government interference?

        • I don’t see that ever happening, as, like it or not, if a company has rules forced on it that it doesn’t like, they will go somewhere else.
          A step in the right direction was when some of our chartered banks agreed to shareholders having the right to vote at the AGM on the compensation of CEOs and upper management.  They were shamed into it, fairly or not when the obscene compensation of the U.S. banksters became known and talked about in 2009.
          It is sad to see that graph that shows top management salaries going from 10 x a workers salary in the 70’s to 350 x today.

          • You’re talking about “say on pay” measures there.  The funny thing is, the initial research on their efficacy appears to show that the existence of such measures does not slow the growth in executive pay, does not reduce it and in fact may even increase it.  The jury is still out on the merits of say on pay, that’s for sure, though it’s become gospel among shareholder rights advocates.

      • I don’t think CEOs of the big multi-nationals can ever be “shamed” into lowering their salaries, as they have no conception of the term. And passing capping legislation in only a few countries will just lead them to relocate their head offices so as to circumvent the cap.

        If the UN truly wanted to do some good and prove its relevance, it would establish – and its member nations enact – a law that would cap worldwide executive salaries at 100 times their company’s lowest-paid worker (globally, not locally), and make all bonuses truly performance-based – including making the executive ineligible for bonuses in any year where more than X percent of their employees were laid off.

        We also need a complete overhaul of the global financial markets, but that’s another story…

        • Don’t get me started on the global financial markets, lol.  Throw some of them *!x%&  banksters in jail!!   If it is any consolation, some of the big time hedgefund boys shorting in 2008 are down billions this year and their 1% clients are closing out accounts.

      • And here I thought it was the Union Rep. that grabbed all 12 cookies, lol!

        Well, that thinking makes you useful to some.

  5. Of course the Quebec Labour Party (NDP) is in the pocket of Big Unions…….

  6. The taxpayers of this country are on the hook for $100 billion dollars, the cost of ameliorating the effects of the Great Recession.  A big chunk of that $100 billion dollars went to bail out GM and Chrysler and save tens of thousands of CAW workers from the permanent loss of their jobs.  An even larger chunk of that money went to infrastructure, which kept unionized skilled trade workers employed during the downturn.

    And now some unions (the postal workers and AC’s unions) want to jeopardize that economic recovery with their own selfish demands.  How about some moderation in demands while the world economy recovery is ongoing to payback the Canadian taxpayer for the $100 billion they will be paying for which saved hundreds of thousands of union and non-union jobs during the Great Recession.

  7. If you are in favour of laissez-faire capitalism then you need to get the government out of labour relations and allow the workers to negotiate. That means they need to have the ability to walk off the job if management won’t negotiate in good faith just as management has the right to lock them out if the unions won’t negotiate. Strikes and lock-outs are key parts of labour relations. They are designed to motivate both sides to negotiate in good faith. The Conservatives have effectively destroyed this balance by taking a partisan stand with the Corporations (3 for 3 so far).If the unions are fighting for the workers rights, and the government is fighting for the corporations, then who is representing the majority of Canadians?  They certainly don’t care about the average Canadian.
    It is complete voodoo economics to say that the economy will be better if we increase corporate profits by hobbling the unions ability to negotiate and denying a competitive wage and benefits to workers. Yes, corporations create jobs, but if most of those jobs are limited to part-time, minimum wage with no benefits, then we are no better off. It is the workers who end up spending the money that ultimately drives our economy.
    If you want to improve the economy then protect the workers rights, stop corporations from denying full-time jobs and benefits just to increase their already high profits and give a 2% raise to 10,000 workers instead of a 200% raise to 10 Corporate executives.Denying decent jobs is a sure fire way to kill our economy, our society and our country.

  8. The problem with many unions (especially CUPE and PSAC) is that they protect so much deadwood, even parasites proved detrimental to their employers.This loses the union’s credibility in the eyes of the public, the employers, and those employees who do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wages. Most of the governments’ bloated bureaucracy is caused by middle management creating paper empires and pushing their authority to the breaking point.

  9. >It’s right in my gut feeling that we have to protect the men and women
    who wake up in the morning and work hard

    Good.  But don’t forget that most of those people do not belong to a union.

  10. There needs to be movement on both sides — many union members have no concept of the”real” world and what people without representation have to endure — a little common sense at contract time would go along way toward redeeming their reputation.

    It is also certain that if the Cons succeed in weakening or eliminating unions we will indeed begin moving back to the labour conditions of the early 20th century.  Without the labour movement the legislation currently in place that provides some protection for all workers wouldn’t exist.

    • It seems to me both the union and the government are not thinking about all of the taxpayers who do not belong to a public sector union.  These people have been laid off, hours shortened and pay scaled back over the last three years.  It is time for the public sector unions and the government to scale back their expenses.  Why is the only solution a strike that upsets and puts a lot of people out of time and money when they had nothing to do with the problem?  Why are the public unions not scaling back their demands as well?

  11. I love it. The useful idiots over at the NDP are giving fodder to the Conservatives to frame them as 21st century Luddites. Watch for the 93 year old old commie, Pete Seeger, recently seen supporting the cerebrally challenged, Occupy Wall Street jesters, coming up to sing “Solidarity Forever” with our fat cat Public Service union members. Con Party strategists must be peeing themselves.

  12. The fortunes of the working class are very closely tied to the labour movement. Such abominations as child labour and 18-hour work days in dingy sweat shops have become a thing of the past for most workers largely because of the labour unions. 

    Nobody gave the workers the right to have safe working conditions and decent wages; they had to fight for them. If you don’t believe me, read up on the Winnepeg Strike of 1919.I have no problem with people who want to root out corruption from labour unions. I do have a problem with those who want to use corruption– or any other problem that may exist with labour unions– as an excuse to destroy the labour movement so that management can live like kings while their employees go back to the squalid conditions that existed a century ago and more. 

    Instead of trying to destroy labour movements in Canada, we should be trying to make them strong everywhere– especially in Third World countries like India and China.