The Value of Partnerships

Written by Hank on . Posted in Uncategorized

I had a colleague who was famous for saying, “You build relationships or policies in good times for bad.” There is a lot of wisdom in that.

Labour relations is a lot like any human relationship. It has its ups and downs and you have to be committed to working at it. CLAC has always championed a partnership approach to labour relations. This has causes some union leaders to accuse us of naiveté, or of even being outright traitors to the working class. Interestingly, when you speak one-on-one to good union reps of any union, they will tell you that they trade on good relationships all the time to achieve goals for their membership.

The Death of Worker Choice

Written by Hank on . Posted in Uncategorized

The recently elected Liberal government of Nova Scotia has just passed legislation that arbitrarily reduces the number of healthcare bargaining units in the province from 50 to 4. Sounds simple and efficient right? It will cut the number of bargaining sessions, thus saving time and money. The problem is that the freedom of choice of these workers has just been destroyed forever! How?

First, it will result in bargaining units of such massive size that it will be logistically impossible to mobilize support to try to bring in a different union.

Second, if an intrepid individual who felt disenfranchised or abused by their union were to challenge their union, they would face the massive power and legal machinery of the union alone. No chance of success.

Third, if a group of employees got together and approached another union with the resources to displace a non-functioning union, they would be stopped by the no-raid pact that most of traditional labour has agreed to, so workers are left with no viable options.

“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.

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