National Post (Latest Edition)

Wel­come to Union­land, a scary place

- John Rob­son

Years ago my now- col­league Terry Cor­co­ran ended a col­umn with “Wel­come to Union­land, Canada’s scari­est theme park.” And we’re there.

What? Wasn’t the union hey­day so long ago FDR was pres­i­dent, “so­cial re­al­ism” not “so­cial jus­tice” was trendy and the “rust belt” hadn’t yet been gut­ted by ex­ces­sive wage and pen­sion set­tle­ments?

Well, yes and no. Pri­vate sec­tor union­iza­tion has gone the way of black and white tele­vi­sion and, um, pri­vate sec­tor de­fined ben­e­fit pen­sions. But in the public sec­tor it’s a huge deal. It’s not the main rea­son govern­ment is so in­ef­fi­cient and un­af­ford­able but it’s a big­ger con­trib­u­tor than peo­ple re­al­ize, and the un­funded li­a­bil­i­ties for public sec­tor pen­sions were al­ready a si­lent cri­sis be­fore COVID-19 led giddy politi­cians to toss what passes for fis­cal pru­dence in Canada to the plague-laden winds.

Did it never oc­cur to any­one that hav­ing 40 per cent of the work­force re­tire in their 50s with pen­sions big­ger than what most of the other 60 per cent earned while em­ployed must some­day fly off the rails? Of course. To cranks like me and Terry Cor­co­ran. But the unions had an an­swer. If only the pri­vate sec­tor were more like the public sec­tor, and paid salaries higher than rev­enue could cover and pen­sions higher still, every­one could pay the taxes nec­es­sary to fund the public sec­tor in all its deca­dent glory.

They really thought every­one should, and could, live like bu­reau­crats, with un­shak­able job se­cu­rity, pro forma per­for­mance re­views and mer­ci­ful early re­tire­ment from end­less fu­tile meet­ings, sur­rounded by a great big pile of money. And as I said, we’re now there at least in one sense.

Uni­for, whose Soviet-style name seems to be de­signed to con­jure up an ir­re­sistible “uni­fied force” or the “One Big Union” of Big Bill Hay­wood’s era and which in­deed bills it­self as “the­union,” just rat­i­fied a juicy deal with Ford Mo­tor Co. Uni­for says it in­cludes “a five per cent wage in­crease over the life of the agree­ment, along with a four per cent lump sum, a pro­duc­tiv­ity and qual­ity bonus of $ 7,250, in­fla­tion pro­tec­tion bonuses and ma­jor changes to the New Hire Pro­gram, in­clud­ing an eight-year wage grid, and re­in­state­ment of after­noon and mid­night shift pre­mi­ums.”

I asked my edi­tor for a

“pro­duc­tiv­ity and qual­ity bonus” and he laughed so hard I couldn’t make out his un­print­able re­sponse. Still, you may ask, what’s my beef ? Uni­for claims to be “Canada’s largest union in the pri­vate sec­tor, rep­re­sent­ing 315,000 work­ers in ev­ery ma­jor area of the econ­omy” in­clud­ing Crown cor­po­ra­tions, which if they’re pri­vate sec­tor, I’m Bat­man. But Ford is a pri­vate com­pany, right?

If they think it’s a fair deal and their work­ers think it’s a fair deal, maybe Union­land’s rides are safe and fun after all. Maybe I should work there in­stead, if they’ll have me. But be­fore get­ting on, read the waiver.

It seems the heart of the deal is a vast new in­vest­ment by Ford in elec­tric cars con­sumers don’t like that hurt the en­vi­ron­ment, paid for by … yes, you guessed it … gov­ern­ments. Those wacky left­wing Trudeau Lib­er­als and that wacky right- wing Doug Ford in On­tario. All believe in in­dus­trial strate­gies. All believe in pick­ing win­ners and losers. All believe in los­ing money on ev­ery sale and mak­ing it up in vol­ume. We can all make a liv­ing tak­ing in one another’s sub­si­dies.

Or not. Be­cause some­body some­where has to cre­ate the wealth gov­ern­ments and their union bar­na­cles are so busy re­dis­tribut­ing as if they had created it by do­ing so. It would be bad enough if they re­al­ized they were Ni­bor Dooh, steal­ing from the poor to give to the rich, since those get­ting th­ese salaries and pen­sions are do­ing far bet­ter than those slav­ing away to pay for them if they can even find jobs. Which I might add the pan­demic lock­down has made far harder, though they haven’t heard of it in Union­land, where you can hand out $ 343 bil­lion a year you ain’t got and be­cause in­ter­est rates are ar­ti­fi­cially low the bill never comes due.

It’s a lot worse be­cause they hon­estly think there’s a golden goose with an at­ti­tude prob­lem. Whereas in the chilly world out­side their par­tic­u­lar Magic King­dom, firms and fam­i­lies that con­sis­tently spend money they can’t earn wind up watch­ing the county haul their be­long­ings away … what­ever it hadn’t al­ready con­fis­cated to hand out to re­tired mu­nic­i­pal work­ers, teach­ers and mid- level man­agers from the Min­istry of Women and Gen­der Equal­ity and Ru­ral Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment.

Mem­bers of Uni­for will cash in. Ford will cash in. The politi­cians will cash in. Cre­ate jobs, save the planet and smile for the cam­eras. But you dwin­dling band of hicks not sub­si­dized by the state will not cash in. It’s like Jack and the Beanstalk ex­cept Jack really did get magic beans. We’re get­ting bup­kis.

Wel­come to Union­land.

 ?? Chris Young / the cana dian press files ?? Uni­for pres­i­dent Jerry Dias, left, last month with Ryan Kan­tau­tas, vice pres­i­dent of hu­man re­sources
at Ford Canada in Toronto.
Chris Young / the cana dian press files Uni­for pres­i­dent Jerry Dias, left, last month with Ryan Kan­tau­tas, vice pres­i­dent of hu­man re­sources at Ford Canada in Toronto.
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada