Thursday, December 20, 2012

The War On Wages Continues

On the subject of rotating teacher strikes in Ontario, Tom Walkom offers a little historical perspective:
When Bob Rae’s New Democratic Party government overrode collective agreements in 1993, many private sector unions — including the Steelworkers and my union, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers — broke with their public sector counterparts to support the NDP regime.

The essence of their argument would be familiar today: private sector workers had already suffered from what was, at the time, the biggest recession since the 1930s; therefore, public sector workers had to sacrifice as well.

It was an argument that resonated with their rank and file. But it ignored the real story, which was that government was changing the rules of the entire collective bargaining game.

We know that, two summers ago, Jim Flaherty met with Canada's movers and shakers, and one of the items on their agenda was lowering the cost of Canadian labour. That wish became reality when Bill C-377 passed the House. Last week, Tim Hudak -- whose bulb has never burned very brightly -- announced that, when he becomes premier of Ontario, he will table Right to Work Legislation. And, yesterday, General Motors announced that it will move production of its Camero from Oshawa to Michigan -- even though Canadian and Ontario taxpayers helped keep the company alive during its darkest hours.

Walkom writes that the teachers strike is a moment of truth for Canadian labour:

So think of this latest foray against teachers as part of a package. In Ottawa, the federal government brings temporary workers into Canada to staff doughnut shops. They do so not because the ability to pour coffee is an unusual skill, but because doughnut-shop owners don’t want to pay the wages expected by Canadian workers.

In Ottawa and at Queen’s Park, governments respond to deficits by cutting away at social spending. The reason here is that programs like employment insurance keep workers from becoming so desperate that they will take any job at any wage.

Like Canada's native peoples, it's time for labour to be Idle No More.


Lorne said...

Excellent post, Owen. Yesterday, while watching the news about the GM move in 2016, I was thinking that any day now Mr. Hudak will chime in with a predictable 'told-you-so' comment. Limited as he is both in intellectual range and rhetoric, I imagine it will go something along the lines of, 'This just demonstrates that it is vital that Ontario create a more 'flexible' (i.e. willing to labour for pittances) workforce to prevent more businesses from moving their jobs south of the border.

Owen Gray said...

I would like to know, Lorne, how many of our present political elite come from union households. We know Stephen Harper didn't. I suspect Mr. Hudak didn't either.

These folks have no understanding of how important unions have been in building a vibrant Canadian -- and American -- economy.

Anonymous said...

This is a problem of our own making.

Just look at the voter breakdown. How many times have members of organized labour voted with the very parties that are out to gut their compensation.

I remember putting a chunk of money in altimira funds (Foolishly). Went to one of the meet the fund administrator events. After being lectured on the "Evils" of unionization for almost an hour, came to the reasonable conclusion that it made no sense to patronize such a firm. Transfered the funds the next day.

Same at the polling booth. At the end of the day, the one area that politics is guaranteed to effect the worker is vis a vis labour relations. As such, I cannot vote for the Extreme right. (Never mind their insistance at putting a creationist in charge of science).

Voting for their moral compass? Give me a break - just look up Vic (I have a skeleton) Toews.

BemusedLurker (Hoping Canadians wake up, but not holding my breath)

Owen Gray said...

Like you, Bemused, I keep hoping that Canadians will wake up.

Things will not change until we stop sleepwalking through the Harper years.