I read with some interest letters from a couple of readers — Mr. Leduc and Mr. Moore — on the subject of unions, the right to strike, etc.
Both writers would benefit from doing a little research on the reason the teachers, and others belonging to unions, are resentful when the right to strike is taken away from them. While I do not agree that strikes are the way that issues should be solved, until some kind of alternative system is developed, unions do not have much choice. The current arbitration process is sadly lacking, something that has become increasingly apparent.
The reason that strikes became necessary a couple of hundred years ago or so is because the power to control the wages, labour conditions, etc. was exclusively the prerogative of company owners and the government. As the recent actions of the federal government in forcing settlement of the possible strike at Air Canada, and the closing of the Electromotive factory by Caterpillar demonstrates, there is still a need for unions to retain the option of a strike to try and protect their interests.
Until it is realized and accepted by governments and business that labour is an asset and must be regarded in the same way as the other assets of an operation, strikes will remain the only option for unions. If you were a business owner, would you run your assets into the ground without maintaining those assets in a way that they could continue to be productive? I think not. You would not be in business very long if you did so.
As to the letter by Mr. LeDuc, it would surprise me if teachers were “filling the heads of students” with a pro-union stance, and in any case, the history of the union movement should be taught as a subject of the curriculum in the classrooms. On that subject, however, I find that a great many students today lack any kind of comprehensive understanding of Civics, something which I believe should be through all primary grades and secondary education curriculums at the very least.
It appears to me that there is a sad lack of understanding today that it is necessary to think of what is best for the society in which we live with every bit of the same determination that we think of what we desire exclusively for ourselves.
In another part of Mr. LeDuc’s letter, the compensation issue, I fail to understand, unless if it is because of a lack of the aforementioned research, that unions have been the only successful way the workers have been able to somewhat mitigate the impact of the reduction of the median Ontario wage earner. Or it may be that he is not a union member, or never was, and he has seen his own income shrink over time. If this is so, I can understand his position and commiserate with him. If not, then his comment smacks of sour grapes.
The letter from Mr. Moore also seems to me to be a bit ingenuous since he has retired with one of the best pensions available to any government worker. That is not to say that his pension is undeserved — it certainly is and I very much respect what he has endured to earn it. That said, the police in Ontario, by and large, have had an organization which has been able to negotiate, without the right to strike, good salaries and benefits that have, to a large degree, served as a benchmark for negotiations with all the other police forces in Ontario.
Yes, police cannot go on strike, being considered an essential service, but until labour see they have no need to do so in order to be respected, treated and considered as an asset as something more than a “ widget,” necessary to get a job done, we will continue to see more labour strife.
I believe we all must understand why strikes happen, and, given the fact that this is the 21st century, not the 19th, it is more than time for steps to be taken to make strikes unnecessary.