The right to strike

by Aaron Wherry

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt is promising back-to-work legislation if Air Canada and the union representing flight attendants are unable to reach a deal before Wednesday. This would be the fourth time the Harper government has introduced such legislation. Yvon Godin, the NDP labour critic, is unimpressed.

I know she said that she will vote to protect the Canadian economy. At the same time she is voting against the union’s right to have a strike. In this country we still have the right to have free bargaining and have the right to have a strike. The strike is even not started yet and she`s already telling Canadians in this country under the Conservative government there’s no strike. They’ve done it in the spring. They’re doing it again and I think it takes away the freedom of the negotiations, free negotiations by doing it.




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The right to strike

  1. It is amazingly interventionist for a government that supposedly believes in free market forces.

    • Umm, you do realize that the very idea of unions and collective bargaining and strikes is about as far removed from “free market forces” as you can get, right?

      • Dam workers, they seem to think they have rights. 

        • You do understand workers rights (to strike) and free market forces are diametrically opposed?  Viewed purely apolitically, it is to be expected, rather than “amazingly interventionist” for a government that believes in free market forces to seek to curtail anything that might impede those forces, be that strikes, trade barriers, tax inefficiencies, etc.  

          • You got it.

            The sole purpose of a union is to override free market forces

          • Because ‘free market forces’ would mean the workers would be making 2 bucks an hour tops.

            This is how China operates

          • A union IS a free market force. People exercising their freedom to demand a better deal collectively. If the employer doesn’t like it, he can exercise his free market force to fire them all and take the consequences thereof.

          • It’s way too simplistic to say that a union is either a “free market force” or its opposite.  On the one hand, yes, union members are free to collectively organize and bargain.  But the whole regime is heavily regulated.  A shining example is closed-shop rules — those are the antithesis of a free market for labour.

          • Thwim, your analysis is too simplistic and in certain respects incorrect.  In many jurisdictions, an employer cannot simply fire unionized workers who go out on strike.  There’s a statutory duty to bargain in good faith.  In some jurisdictions, it’s flat-out illegal to fire workers for striking, and in some jurisdictions it’s even illegal (or at least extremely difficult) to hire replacement workers.

          • And where closed shop rules are backed by certifications or training exclusively recognized by government,(ie, where the market for employees is already intervened in with government legislation) you have a point. 

            I somehow don’t think that applies for flight attendants.

          • Sorry Orson, I simply don’t believe it’s illegal to fire a striking worker.  Can you give me any evidence of jurisdictions where it is actually *illegal*, not just against the collective agreement, to fire a striking worker?

          • I have learned not to expect consistency from the Harper government.  It minimizes the disapointment. 

      • No, it’s legislating people to work that’s as far from free market forces as you can get. Against the Magna Carta too I think.

        • Agreed – the proper approach for a free market favouring government  would be to legislate away the right to strike, rather than to legislate strikers back to work and employers to continue to employ them.

          • That would give the companies all the power.

          • It’s not called Capitalism for nothing.

          • @Geiseric:disqus 

            Except we haven’t had free-market capitalism since the Robber Barons…for good reason.

      • So individuals are not free to get together and collectively bargain?

        Interesting definition of “free” you have.  I never realized it had to include “alone”

      • Almost. Do you know what is even farther removed? Government intervention.

  2. The ‘right to strike’ no longer exists.

    It’s covered by 2 of Harper’s slogans:

    ‘Focus on the economy’, and ‘we have a mandate’

    • You forgot a third slogan: ”The recovery is too fragile to jeopordise.”

      Of course, this fragile economy runs counter to the thanks we are supposed to be offering the Harper Conservatives for giving us a strong economy .. except that wait … it’s too fragile.

      Now I’m  confused.

      • Contradictory slogans are meant to confuse people.  LOL

  3. Unions are free at any point to negotiate a deal that’s, you know, actually acceptable to the employer, rather than ridiculous, unsustainable and business-killing. Act like a spoiled four-year-old, get treated like a spoiled four-year-old.

    • What would be ‘acceptable to the employer’ is people that work for free.

      • No, that’s what would be optimal. What would be acceptable is the union agreeing to an increase the employer can actually afford, rather than one they ultimately can’t. Greedy unions demanding unrealistic amounts are good for no one, least of all their members.

        • No one has any patience with companies announcing huge profits, but pleading poverty to it’s workers.

          Greedy CEOs getting mammoth unrealistic bonuses aren’t good for anyone.

          • Okay then; under your theory, both sides are acting badly. Clearly someone has to be the responsible adults in the room. Why can’t the union step up and do that, if they claim management hasn’t? Why is the response a childish “Well, he started it, so I can have free money too?”

          • Because unions don’t have the power to control executive pay….shareholders do.

          • It’s an interesting question. One could similarly ask why it’s the union that has to take the shaft, and what lesson that teaches management.

    • Air Canada management has done a pretty good job of killing it’s business on it’s own. 

      • Accepting your premise, how will a strike by flight attendants that (subject to government intervention) won’t end until substantial wage/benefit increases are gained resurrect the business AC management is killing off?  Put another way, you seem to be suggesting AC workers can’t be blamed for its current economic plight – how will giving in to those workers demands improve that plight?

    • “Unions are free at any point to negotiate a deal that’s, you know, actually acceptable to the employer…”

      Actually, as I understand it, they’re free to negotiate whatever deal they like. If they’re so demanding as to hurt or kill their own employer then they have to live with that. But like any organization, they’ll do their best to optimize their conditions over time. For example, the AC employees made serious concessions 8 years ago that permitted AC to continue as a successful business.

      “Act like a spoiled four-year-old, get treated like a spoiled four-year-old”

      Get treated by whom? A state power that steps in on behalf of one side of the negotiations? Funny how “libertarianism” is so appealing to so many under some circumstances. Personally, I think the government should keep its nose out of peoples’ business.

    • The employer is free to fire them if he doesn’t like what they’re doing.Government doesn’t have to get involved.

      • Thwim, as I posted above, that’s simply false.  You cannot simply fire unionized workers who are under the protection of a duly formed and certified bargaining unit and a collective agreement.  Under Canadian labour legislation, management is under a statutory duty to bargain in good faith.  In some Canadian jurisdictions, it’s outright illegal to even hire replacement workers.

        Ronald Reagan’s firing of air traffic controllers was an extraordinary event in North America for that very reason — via executive order, he overrode existing labour laws in order to do that.  I can’t think of another example of that in North America.

        • If the employers agreed to a collective agreement before, that’s their problem. They’re still free to fire the workers and take the consequences thereof.

          Isn’t that the entire basis of the free market? Doing what actions are required and accepting the consequences? If the consequences are unacceptable, I put to you that such is the fault of the management who agreed to the terms in the collective bargaining agreement to begin with.

          • I’m sorry, your post makes no sense to me.

          • However, I think I maybe get your point about management previously making bad bargains and then trying to wiggle out of that later.  I agree that’s a problem, it in a way goes to human nature — people just want to get negotiations over with, and so they essentially sluff the problem off to a later date (i.e., the next round of negotiations when the current collective bargaining agreement expires). Governments are arguably even more guilty of this than private corporations, since they tend to sluff the problem off onto taxpayers (especially taxpayers of future generations).

  4. Big Daddy State, always using threats and force to make us do what they want.

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