Is the usefulness of unions in the protection of workers’ rights coming to an end? The answer is ‘yes’.
The truth of the matter is unions were the best thing that ever happened to the labour movement throughout the world. Workers needed protection from being mistreated by employers. They also needed better working conditions, shorter workdays and higher wages.
Unions were successful in bringing these essential changes. This was very evident in the loggers’ strike in 1958-59 between International Woodworkers of America (IWA) and Anglo Newfoundland Development (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 workers have good working conditions, good wages and a safe working environment, because these factors are regulated by legislation, laws and our moral values.
Unions are anti-competiveness; they have become victims of their own success because of high wages and benefits. The products or services union workers produce have become too expensive to compete and 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 – employers are been exploited by employees.
Unions are not willing to give concessions to save members’ jobs; unions’ demands are, in negotiations, driven by greed, which in turn is forcing companies to close their doors. Examples are 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.
Union leaders are so set in their way they are unwilling to bend or compromise to save a company from closing its doors, 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 – if you don’t work with us and only against us, we will close the doors and move.
Beware workers at the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper mill!
Unions seem to think once a company or government puts forward a positive economic year-end financial statement they are entitled to pay raises and increased benefits. However, when companies or governments are in the red, unions are not offering to rollback their wages and benefits to help their employer survive.
Unions seem to think, or at least give the impression, once they go out on strike, a business must shutdown. In fact during a strike, by law, an employer has the legal right to continue to operate its business with permanent replacement workers.
This is why ‘scab labour legislation’ is an uncomfortable subject for governments, because if it’s legislated, then more companies will close their doors and take their businesses elsewhere.
Scab labour legislation will put more power in the hands of the unions and less in the control of the companies/governments.
For governments to bring in scab labour legislation, they will have to change the law 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.
It’s time for governments to take a hard look at the issue of labour relations between employers and employees. They will discover unions in general are one of the major contributors to the economic mess 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 their 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!