Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Anti-Union Public Bias

Anti-union sentiment amongst the Canadian populace is strong, and getting stronger. Listening to the radio during my drive, most callers are quite vehement in their denouncement of unions, and any public money supporting companies with unionized labour.

CBC Radio was asking the question, "During tough economic times, should unions scale back their demands and even accept wage roll backs?"

Boy, is that an unfair question. First of all, it assumes unions are making unreasonable demands right now. Secondly, it unfairly targets an identifiable demographic within Canadian society and implies there's some unfair practices happening.

Should unions scale back demands? Depends. How is the company doing? Not all companies are failing. Are the white collar non-union employees getting above average raises and benefits? If they are, then the union membership should too.

Its all about averages. What is the average in the industry and related industries? How fair is the salary distribution within the organization? These (and probably other) questions determine the viability of any salary/benefit negotiation.

To castigate unions as an evil that must be punished (which some of the rhetoric suggests) is unfair to the workers and their families. If we force pay cuts where none is warranted, then we risk pushing families into bankruptcy. That is a clear case of the cure being worse than the disease.


ADHR said...

Anti-union rhetoric, as I'm sure you've gathered, really annoys me. Particularly because things like massive salary inequalities are just swept aside. (Which is one of the biggest labour problems in higher ed, for example.)

One thing I don't quite understand is why anti-union radio callers and the like don't start their own unions. I mean, the driving motivation seems to be jealousy. So, why don't they try to unionize themselves and make their own working conditions better?

Ken Breadner said...

I have nothing against unions where they're necessary. Thing is, they're not necessary any more in most places; the benefits they fought to achieve are now regulated.
I get *livid* when people go on strike...because I know damned well there are thousands of people out there willing and able to do the job with the previously agreed-upon terms that are suddenly so unacceptable...
Jealousy? Hell, no. More like scorn. A minimum wage job is a minimum wage job, whether it pays minimum wage or three times that.
I've seen firsthand how unions play out in the grocery industry. They sucker cashiers in with promises of $22/hr or more to start. What they don't mention is that you only get three or six hours a week.

ADHR said...

Uh... huh. So, previously agreed-upon terms are no longer acceptable, so... what? Everyone should just suck it up? This is nonsense. Things change, people change their minds about what's important, and so contracts get renegotiated. Whether thousands would like the job at the current terms is irrelevant. The people who currently have the job don't like the terms and are asking for better terms.

This reads like jealousy, I'm afraid. You can't get a better deal from your employer, so you get angry at those who are always trying to improve what they have.