By Neil Reynolds, Globe and Mail, October 24, 2011
We could tinker with the public-sector pensions (and we should), but we would be wiser to tackle the public-sector unions directly. We could justifiably eliminate them. We could justifiably eliminate the right to strike. Or we could justifiably adopt the American model: Wisconsin’s reform law that limits public-sector collective bargaining to wages only (excluding benefits, work rules and pensions) and ends the right to strike. FDR would approve. With hindsight, Lester Pearson might, too.
This manifesto against organized labour, from Mr. Reynolds, comes when the current culture is so pro-business and anti-people, that if fits very well with the Harper government's agenda, whether publicly stated or not.
Remember, Mr. Reynolds, it is not only the up front costs that matter; the climate for workers in the U.S., from where you seem to draw your most treasured evidence, is barely above slavery. A private sector worker is no more and no less than just another lump of raw material, useful for the production of whatever widgets your factory produces, but certainly disposable at the whim of the management.
Such "freedom" comes at a cost and that cost is borne primarily by those very workers and their families. Removing labour union protection, however weakened its current state, would be like opening both business and the public sector to the laws of the jungle, where only the management are meant to survive. There are police and fire men and women whose service, done as public servants under the protection of the unions, assures the public of some measure of both safety and protection from other potential enemies. Their jobs cost profoundly in anxiety and stress, given the dangers they face while on duty; submitting their work to the private sector would seriously damage the commitment of those workers to the "cause" on whose behalf they work. Secondly, the public service unions, for example, in provincial and federal government departments have some job security amidst the political masters' whims that would see them fired and replaced after every election. That is not the stability and continuity that the country needs when governments change roughly four times in a decade. Removal of the protection of their union contracts would seriously curtail the pool from which recruits could be drawn to serve in jobs that would then be basically dependent on the government of the day. We already have too many of such jobs, dependent on the party in power.
When the bottom line, that is the immediate and observable and calcuable cost of workers, like all other "commodities" is the reason for change, there are always many variables missing in the equation. The provision of services by ordinary workers needs the protection that unions attempt to offer, in order to preserve a modicum of fairness in a world gone wild with "private enterprise entitlements."
Rarely have I taken to the streets to protest a Canadian government action; however, that will change the moment the Harper government proposes to remove the protections from the labour movement, in a formal bill, as we all know is coming before the next four years are up. It is just one of the many reparations Canadians will need to conduct, following the decimation of the country at the hands of this government.
Meet you on the protest lines, Mr. Reynolds!