Wage Freeze, Huh?

Written by Hank on . Posted in Health care

Ontario is in bad shape, and it’s not getting better. With a population of 13,538,000, we now have a public debt of $267.5 billion, or $20,166 per citizen. Government and opposition leaders (the people who helped get us into this mess) use this to justify imposing wage freezes on the lowest-paid workers in the public sector. Yet they don’t seem to impose restraint on themselves or others making top dollar.

In 2007, provincial politicians gave themselves a 28 percent wage increase. In 2010, shortly after the 2008 recession, CLAC met with provincial officials to discuss the two-year freeze that the government requested the healthcare sector take. We couldn’t agree to the proposal because we had seen it all before in at least four previous rounds of wage restraint. At that time, I warned the provincial officials that government itself is always the worst offender in terms of breaking any legislated restraint and that they should look internally before they asked our members for nickel. Little did I know how right I would be.

One Big Union?

Written by Hank on . Posted in Labour relations, Unions

Imagine if Canadians were told that they could only shop at American retail behemoth Walmart—they would be in an uproar at this imposition on their freedom of choice.

If it’s not OK in retail, or any other aspect of life, why is it OK in the world of labour?

In the early 20th century, there was the One Big Union movement that wanted the whole working class to be represented by one union. The idea was born out of the communist idea that the working class had to unite against the owners—you were either for workers or against them.

Today, you see shades of the same thinking from the Canadian Labour Congress and its affiliated unions as they pretend to represent all labour—regardless of differences in perspective or ideology. They work to create a world where workers can choose one of their affiliates or remain non-union. Ironically, many of the Canadian Labour Congress’s affiliated unions are based in the US.

Being Thankful

Written by Hank on . Posted in Uncategorized

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of travelling outside of North America both for business and pleasure. I remember one particular trip when I was visiting a group of South American trade unionists in Venezuela. We had a break during one of our meetings, and our hosts wanted to show us around. We were travelling through a slum on the outskirts of Caracas, and I was sitting in the back seat, looking out the window.We ended up in a traffic jam due to the very poor road conditions.

We happened to stop directly next to a beautiful little girl, maybe four years old, neatly dressed, standing barefoot in the gutter between two rusted cars, raw sewage running between her toes. I don’t know why, but she locked her huge brown eyes on mine for a few moments in the midst of the traffic chaos. Against the background of grinding poverty, this innocent child stared at me, and I couldn’t look away.

It hit me that she didn’t ask to be born here. Her future was grim at best and she would probably never reach her potential. The helplessness and despair that I felt for her at that moment were indescribable. Here I was, a comparatively wealthy North American, separated only by the glass of the car window, but living in a world completely apart from hers. 

Interstate Bribery

Written by Hank on . Posted in Uncategorized

During the 2008 economic crash, it was ironic to see Wall Street “free market” executives fly in their private jets to Washington to ask for a “socialist” bailout. It wasn’t the first time that companies had come to the public trough, nor would it be the last.

It seems that some companies are now building taxpayer funding right into their business plans. They “extort” public funds by threatening to set up shop elsewhere, happily playing one jurisdiction off against the other.

Such interstate bribery has become the new normal in today’s globalized manufacturing environment.

On Being Partisan

Written by Hank on . Posted in Uncategorized, Unions

Political parties are by nature partisan. They approach almost everything from their ideological point of view. The act of politics is trying to convince the majority to agree with you; however, the art of politics is to be able to govern all citizens effectively and honestly, even if they don’t agree with you.

On election day, something very important happens. The winning party moves from being a partisan political party, speaking to its own supporters, to being a government, dispensing public justice for all people. That can be a difficult but necessary transition. In Canada this is especially important since it is possible to win a majority government with the support of  less than 40 percent of those who actually show up to vote.

The situation calls for graciousness, active listening, and the exercise of judicious restraint in victory. When a government does not make that transition but remains stubbornly partisan, it leads to conflict and strife. In a democracy, it also leads to an eventual change of government to a party that will swing the pendulum back the other way. In these wild swings, the rights of citizens take a back seat and the pain is felt by those who can least defend themselves.

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