“Johnny, Git ‘Ur Gun” – When labour relations resembles a war zone

Written by Hank on . Posted in Labour relations, Unions

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the weapons that American police forces use and the way in which they use them. Remember the scenes from Ferguson, Mo., where police, looking more like soldiers than cops, marched through the streets, armed with army-surplus sniper rifles while wearing camo? Many worry that American police now rely more on their weapons and armour rather than honest detective work or dialogue to resolve problems.

Now, I am not against our police having weapons. There are times when they are needed. But they shouldn’t be the go-to solution for every crisis, and they don’t need to be military-grade.

Use-of-force must be in line with the situation and should always be a last resort. Otherwise, innocent civilians can get caught in the crossfire, and distrust and disrespect for the police grows.

The attitudes of “the person with the biggest gun wins,” and “shoot first, negotiate later,” are present in labour relations as well. Unions tend to hold strike votes before they even start negotiations, and companies don’t hesitate to lockout workers if the union doesn’t cede to their demands—no matter how unreasonable. Just ask former Electro-Motive workers in London, who were locked out and lost their jobs when Caterpillar, the parent company, moved Electro-Motive to Indiana.

Employers often aren’t prepared to negotiate until there is a stick hanging over their heads, and sometimes they refuse to allow neutral third parties to resolve disputes. And neither side seems prepared to give up any power.

Work stoppages should be used only as a last resort after all attempts of negotiation have failed. Because in a strike or lockout, no one wins.

Unionize! Everybody does it!

Written by Hank on . Posted in Unions

Trade union: “An organized association of workers formed to protect and further their rights and interests and to bargain collectively with employers.” Canadian Oxford English Dictionary.

There are all different kinds of unions and associations, and a lot of people belong to a union-type organization, but won’t admit it.

Everyone knows about public sector and trade unions, and people often get upset when these “greedy” unions fight for their members’ rights.

But you hear nary a peep when other well-organized workers—white collar workers like doctors, lawyers, accountants, and businessmen farmers—fight for their rights through their professional associations.

Union vs. Corporate Influence in Politics

Written by Hank on . Posted in Unions

With the Ontario election going on, there has been a lot of debate about whether unions should be allowed to pay for political advertising using their members’ dues money. Terrance Oakey, of Merit Contractors Association, an employer association, recently wrote and article in the Huffington Post decrying union spending on political ads. While I understand his concern, I disagree with much of what he said, because he only focuses on one side of the political fence.

I have spent a great deal of time working with governments of all stripes on behalf of my members regarding specific workplace concerns and offering constructive solutions. Who do I typically see coming out of the door as I am going in? None other than corporate lobbyists (such as Merit).

Like some unions’ lobbying efforts—see the Working Families Coalition, for example—many of these corporate lobbyists not only attempt to get the government of the day to see it their way, they also spend a great deal of time and money trying to directly influence the political process. I am concerned about the influence of big money on elections—no matter which side of the political fence it comes from.

Message to Unions: Embrace Change or Become Obsolete

Written by Hank on . Posted in Labour relations, Unions

It was once said that there are only two certainties in life—death and taxes. We might add a third—change. When I started as a representative, collective agreements were printed by a Gestetner machine and spelling mistakes were corrected with nail polish. Nothing stays the same, however, and change is inevitable in our smartphone and Ipad world.

Unions used to be agents of change, but today many people consider them to be as relevant as the Gestetner. In the first seven decades of the 20th century, unions pushed hard for pensions, unemployment insurance, WSIB, pay equity, and the rights of the most vulnerable. They got them. Today, the economy is bogged down and the pressures for cut backs and structural change are taking place. Most unions haven’t adapted. Instead of positioning themselves at the front of the train, they have moved to the caboose and are looking backward. They wait for management or government to act so they can react. They cling to past achievements instead of looking to the present and future.

Ontario Public-Sector Wage Freeze Needs to Be Qualified

Written by Hank on . Posted in Health care, Labour relations

Tim Hudak is vowing to freeze the wages of all public sector workers if the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party is elected. But not all public workers make six-figure salaries and enjoy long vacations and great pensions. Some make just over minimum wage, and like many Ontarians, have difficulty making ends meet at the end of each month.

Further, some of our public-sector workers, employees in our long term care homes in particular, have already had their wages frozen for two years as part of the current round of public-sector wage austerity. Public workers at the lower end of the wage spectrum and workers who have already sacrificed to help the province balance the books should not be penalized by wage freezes again.

An across-the-board wage freeze may make for a good sound bite, but the impact on workers is devastating. Any policies targeting public-sector wages need to be balanced and should not demonize public employees.

Our public workers are taxpayers, too, and, like everyone else, want to see our province’s financial health improve. CLAC is calling on all political leaders to work with public workers and unions to find real and fair solutions to the province’s financial woes.

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