Of course, we fully support the right of any individual to stop working if he (or she) so chooses. If he quits his job, his employer can hire someone else. But that's not what strikes are about. Strikes are about collective work stoppages, enforced in some provinces by law and in others by sheer intimidation, with the expectation that the employer will still hold strikers' jobs open for them no matter how long they disrupt its business.
Most government sector employees do a fine job and are a critical part of a civilized society. But pension liabilities are ultimately paid for by taxpayers, either through special payments or increased contribution rates. The sheer size of the government sector means it is in everyone's interest to ensure compensation is fair and affordable for all.
Policies that restrict competition ultimately act to the detriment of Canadian firms and their workers. Free trade agreements like CETA open new markets for Canadian companies, but also force them to compete against foreign entities at home. It is that competition that spurs innovation and productivity.
Kathleen Wynne raised the minimum wage -- yet another clear case of politics trumping evidence in the setting of government policy. Minimum wage legislation has been studied ad nauseam so there's plenty of evidence to draw upon. And the vast majority of that evidence shows increasing the minimum wage does little to help impoverished families and often hurts the most vulnerable workers.
In December, when Kellogg's announced that it would be closing its doors, London's economy was hit with a devastating blow. In February 2012, more than 450 workers found themselves out of work when Electro-Motive Diesel closed. In 2013 alone, more than 33,000 factory jobs were lost and this trend is likely to continue.
"Pick your battles" is a familiar refrain for anyone involved in politics, advocacy or any endeavour wherein opposing points of view will be competing for public attention. Most organizations will review issues and determine which are critical and which are not, and then fight for the most precious while conceding that others are perhaps not as important.
It's an all-too-regular occurrence in this province. Government employees, whipped up by their union leaders, marching against whatever economic development opportunity is being proposed. Pipelines to the coast? Opposed. Gas exploration? Opposed. Companies creating investment revenue for pensions? Opposed. New mine? Opposed. Coal exports? Opposed. But what if government employees had a direct financial stake in the economy doing better than expected? Would they be more willing to consider ways to grow the economy? It's an interesting premise, and one the B.C. government will test in the next round of collective bargaining.
This year I'm thankful for things like a good home and a family to share it with, and the ability to provide for that family and to help our children pursue the opportunities in their lives. I'm also thankful for having been a member of a union which made all that possible. But for this year, too many families are struggling in low-paying and precarious jobs that make it difficult -- if not impossible -- to provide a decent standard of living for their loved ones.
Imagine that Canada is a retail store in which 100 people work. 10 managers make $80,000 per year. One manager of the 10 trumps them all: he gets over $190.000. The other 90 people -- a majority of whom are women -- work as salespeople and cashiers, or in the stock room. 45 of them make less than $30,000 per year. Many make less than $20,000 per year. This is the retail landscape in Canada.
Labour Day is about more than a well-deserved day off. It is a time to celebrate the important contributions working people make to our economy. It is also a good time to reflect on what is needed to improve the economic and social well-being for all workers. Economic recovery is being undermined by federal government actions over the last two years that erode workers wages, including: exploitation and fast-tracking approval for business to employ temporary foreign workers at wages below market rates; cuts to Employment Insurance and forcing workers to work at lower wages, continuous interference in the collective bargaining process on the side of employers, as well as attacks on unions and labour rights.
If the government is serious about tackling Ontario's youth unemployment and fostering job creation, then it should steer clear of future minimum wage increases regardless of what formula the advisory panel recommends. The reality is that increasing the minimum wage will actually reduce job opportunities and not alleviate poverty.
Of the 30 communities we studied, we found that decent middle class family-supporting wages translate into vibrant communities. Unionized workers spend their pay cheques close to home. They buy at local businesses and bolster the tax base which, in turn, supports public works, community services and charities.
Time and again, those of us barely scraping by on precarious appointments in the service industry are fed the same exhausted occupational rhetoric: "Prosperity in the 'new economy' requires flexibility and sacrifice on the part of the labour force." Translation -- welcome to the precarious labour trap.
The looming LCBO strike threat has suddenly gotten all sorts of Ontarians anxious about a potentially dry next few days (or weeks). LCBO workers, who are represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), voted 95 per cent in favour of striking, and the deadline is approaching. Yet a strike is in no one's best interests. Now, this entire scenario would change if the availability of alcohol were to be completely diminished. This inconvenience may cause citizens to want an alternative to the LCBO in the event it is rendered incapable by a strike.
At CUPE we agree with the Fraser Institute's suggestion that we should to have a conversation about wages and inequality. However the real inequality problem lies between regular Canadians and the rich CEOs the Fraser Institute works with. There are several major problems with the Institute's analysis of public and private sector wages.
In every case, the government's anti-union measures are a solution in search of a problem. They are a transparent attempt to damage the financial viability of trade unions and they lay bare the hypocrisy of Conservative parties and governments who, while professing a commitment to streamline useless red tape for Canadian businesses, are ideologically driven to create a choking amount of red tape for trade unions.