Unions blamed for eco­nomic woes

The Compass - - OPINION -

Is the use­ful­ness of unions in the pro­tec­tion of work­ers rights com­ing to an end? The an­swer is yes.

Unions were the best thing that ever hap­pened to the labour move­ment be­cause work­ers needed pro­tec­tion from be­ing mis­treated by em­ploy­ers, and they also needed bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions, shorter work days and higher wages. This was very ev­i­dent in the log­gers strike in 1958/59 be­tween In­ter­na­tional Wood­work­ers of Amer­ica (IWA) and An­glo New­found­land De­vel­op­ment com­pany (AND).

I’ve long sup­ported unions, how­ever, my con­vic­tions have changed over the past few years, mainly be­cause unions are no longer about the pro­tec­tions of work­ers rights, but about power and greed. Unions are no longer re­quired to en­sure that work­ers have good work­ing con­di­tions, good wages, and safe work­ing en­vi­ron­ment be­cause these fac­tors are reg­u­lated by leg­is­la­tion and laws and our moral val­ues.

To­day, unions are ob­struct­ing com­pany’s abil­i­ties to com­pete and pros­per. Unions are anti-com­pet­i­tive­ness; they have be­come vic­tims of their own suc­cess be­cause of high wages and ben­e­fits. The prod­ucts or ser­vices that union work­ers pro­duce have be­come so ex­pen­sive that they can­not com­pete against cheaper for­eign com­peti­tors and non-union pro­duc­ers.

Un­der unions, there is a lack of ini­tia­tive and a noted drop in pro­duc­tiv­ity from its mem­bers be­cause there is no in­cen­tive to work at your top per­for­mance be­cause your job is pro­tected by your union and its con­tract with the em­ployer.

How­ever, now in the 21st cen­tury the tides have changed. Work­ers are not be­ing ex­ploited by em­ploy­ers; now, em­ploy­ers are be­ing ex­ploited by em­ploy­ees. Unions have be­come more pow­er­ful than their em­ploy­ers and that is an un­healthy busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment.

Unions are not will­ing to give con­ces­sion to save mem­bers jobs. Unions de­mands are, when it comes to ne­go­ti­a­tions, driven by greed, which in turn is forc­ing com­pa­nies to close their doors as ev­i­dent at the Cater­pil­lar plant in On­tario, pulp and pa­per mills in Stephenville and Grand Falls-wind­sor, and more re­cently at the OCI fish plant in Marys­town.

Unions are so set in their way they are un­will­ing to bend or com­pro­mise to save a com­pany from clos­ing its doors. Their egotistic lead­er­ship is preach­ing from song­books of old in­stead of to­day’s re­al­i­ties. Unions ex­pect com­pa­nies to kneel to their ev­ery whim, how­ever, in to­day’s eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment, com­pa­nies are mak­ing it clear to unions that if you don’t work with us and only against us, we will close the doors and move our busi­ness else­where. So be­ware work­ers at the Corner Brook pulp and pa­per mill.

Unions seem to think that once a com­pany or gov­ern­ment puts for­ward a pos­i­tive eco­nomic year-end fi­nan­cial state­ment that they are en­ti­tled to pay raises and in­creased ben­e­fits. How­ever, when com­pa­nies or gov­ern­ments are in the red, unions are not of­fer­ing to roll back their wages and ben­e­fits to help their em­ployer sur­vive.

Unions seem to think, or at less give the im­pres­sion, that once they go out on strike that a busi­ness must shut down when in fact dur­ing a strike, by law, an em­ployer has the le­gal right to con­tinue to op­er­ate their busi­ness with per­ma­nent re­place­ment work­ers and that the striker’s jobs are not se­cure when the strike is over.

This is why scab labour leg­is­la­tion is an un­com­fort­able sub­ject for gov­ern­ments. If scab labour leg­is­la­tion is en­acted, then more com­pa­nies will close their doors and take their busi­nesses else­where. Scab labour leg­isla- tion will put more power in the hands of the unions and less in the con­trol of the com­pa­nies/gov­ern­ments. This type of leg­is­la­tion will hand­cuff em­ploy­ers to the point where their rights as an em­ployer will no longer ex­ist.

For gov­ern­ments to bring in scab labour leg­is­la­tion they will have to change the laws of the land to deny an em­ployer the right to op­er­ate dur­ing a labour dis­pute.

The ques­tion is: can non-union work­ers be em­ployed by a com­pany, work for a com­pet­i­tive wage and have ben­e­fits equal to or bet­ter than a union can of­fer? The an­swer is yes and with­out pay­ing out high union dues. All we have to do is look no far­ther than Miche­lin Tire in Nova Sco­tia, where the CAW has tried on sev­eral oc­ca­sions to union­ize the plants in Bridge­wa­ter, Gran­ton, and Water­ville with­out suc­cess be­cause the work­ers there don’t want a union screw­ing up an ex­cel­lent re­la­tion­ship be­tween em­ployer and em­ployee.

Com­pa­nies must take note of Miche­lin’s suc­cess­ful labour re­la­tions and think hard about how they do busi­ness by fol­low­ing Miche­lin’s blue­print for suc­cess.

It is time for gov­ern­ments to take a hard look at the is­sue of labour re­la­tions be­tween em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees. They will dis­cover that unions in gen­eral are one of the ma­jor con­trib­u­tors to the eco­nomic mess that the world is in to­day. The Euro­pean Union is in cri­sis and mainly be­cause of the de­mands of unions in coun­tries like Greece.

It’s time for com­pa­nies to treat there non-union em­ploy­ees with re­spect, good work­ing con­di­tions, fair wages and ben­e­fits that will in turn keep the pow­er­ful and greedy unions out­side look­ing in.

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