Okay, so you might get the feeling I am anti-union. Not really, unions do hold an important place in certain developing economies, but in the western world you would be hard pressed to tell me one good reason we still have unions. Especially professional sector unions.
All unions do in our economy is distort wages and working conditions. Ask any knowledgable person in a “mill town” and they will say how the mill and union have provided a stable source of employment, but at the same time have provided a road block to any future growth. Their youth doesn’t aspire to anything but getting their union card when they get hired on at the mill, sometimes without even completing high school. Small business can’t start up because they are unable and unwilling to compete for workers on the union pay scale.
And why do we have unions in professional circles? Why do nurses, doctors and teachers have a union? Is it the sweat-shop conditions? Is it the over whelming fear that they will be replaced by scab workers? Maybe their employers will decide to shut down the whole operation and put them all out of work. None of the above. The plain and simple truth is that by holding their employers to ransom, ( that means you and I pay more in taxes ) they can get more money. Yup, that’s it. The union line is that they are trying to protect us from substandard service, but what has any union done to help you and I? Are your children learning more or your waiting times less?
While that may sound harsh, the truth is that unions inhibit efficiencies and protect sub-standard workers and policies. When employers do want to change they are met with union barriers. Take the current postal strike. Talking to one of the postal workers/union member caught up in this strike exposes the fact that Canada Post is trying to get a handle on sick leave. As the postal worker stated to me, “a few bad apples in the union have ruined it for the rest of us.” Seems that the number of sick leave days applied for was astronomical. Canada Post wanted to bring it back in line so proposed that a private insurance company would track sick days and not allow any that seemed unnecessary. Doesn’t sound like a bad thing does it? Well, the union would have none of it. Rather than try to control those “bad apples” or let Canada Post deal with them, they had to go on strike to force Canada Post to submit to their demands. Unfortunately for the worker I was talking to, it doesn’t look like Canada Post is going to give in so easily. As a result all the “good apples” are stuck on the picket line at Christmas. Happy Holidays.
Having relatives in Industrial Cape Breton I was amazed and aghast any time I would visit and hear of the terms that the mine workers had negotiated with DEVCO. Men were actually putting in a few hours of honest work and being paid for a full day! And they wondered why it shut down. They were soooo hard-done-by.
Probably the worst aspect of unions is the mentality it brings to workers. The “Us vs. Them” mantra doesn’t work in this economy. We need businesses and workers who are going to sit down and develop strategies to keep the business ongoing and the workers employed for the long term. Not a union trying to grab everything that “they deserve”.
I have to hand it to Buzz Hargrove. The tireless complainer, who up until six months ago was the head of the Canadian Auto Workers union, has vanished. Yup, the guy who was going to fight plant closures tooth and nail, and protect the “unfairly treated Canadian auto worker” is no longer with the union. Interesting that he would scram at such a crucial time in the CAW’s history. With the government mandated concessions that the unions are going to have to make to keep the Big Three alive, I guess Buzz saw the writing on the wall. Who wants to lead a union when everything is going south, literally and figuratively. So to Buzz, I take my hat off. He truly has the union spirit. “Cover thine own arse first.”
The current economic shake up will hopefully provide and opportunity for business and its workers to come to a working arrangement that benefits both, and I personally hope that unions are not a part of it.
Until then, I remain,
A Sour Kraut