National Post (Latest Edition)
Welcome to Unionland, a scary place
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.