Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Assault On Organized Labour In Canada

In Alberta, the Redford Government just passed one of the most offensive and blatant attacks on labour that we have ever seen.  It is uniquely focused on the civil service unions in the province, but that does little to ameliorate the degree of wrong that Bills 45 and 46 represent to Alberta's workers.

In Saskatchewan, the government recently passed another batch of legislation which very directly attacks organized labour.

Then, in Ottawa, the Harper Government is set to pass its own legislation designed to undermine Canada's unions. 

All of these laws ultimately are aimed at dismantling the ability of organized labour to engage with their employers through the time honoured process of collective bargaining, and if necessary the withdrawal of services should the employer prove unwilling to negotiate.

True enough, the Alberta and Federal laws are focused on the civil service.  One might argue that the government is really "protecting the taxpayers".  Except that, in a fit of irony, the civil servants are taxpayers as well.

These laws represent the leading edge of the wedge.  Other changes in labour law will come which more blatantly attack organized labour across the board, not just those who are in the employ of the government in the first place.  We have already had rumblings along these lines out of Ottawa, with Conservative MPs muttering aloud about laws to provide "exceptions" to paying union dues, and demanding onerous reporting of union activities.

I do not think that the timing of the legislation in these three jurisdictions is a coincidence.  In fact, I fully expect BC to follow suit with their next budget as well.  Should this happen, it would confirm my opinion that Harper has been arm-twisting premiers who are known to be sympathetic to his agenda.

This comes on the heels of one company in AB combining sick time and vacation into a single "pool" of time.  If this sounds a little screwed up to you, it should.  It has the nasty effect of ensuring that a protracted illness eats through your vacation time before you can apply for coverage under the company's short term disability program (if you are lucky enough to have one).

Labour at all levels is being cornered these days.  Our governments are actively working to undermine workers and worker's rights, and employers - even in traditionally white collar domains - are moving to take advantage of every opening they find to "minimize the cost of employees".  This is creating a pressure cooker environment that will become very volatile.

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