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Anatomy of a Work Stoppage (Jan 16): National Post on Union’s Offer of Wage Freeze

The National Post suggests that the Employer’s position that the union’s offer of a three year wage freeze isn’t enough to stop a work stoppage may not win over the masses. That’s interesting coming from the most anti-union, anti-collective bargaining newspaper in the country.  Read this short panel discussion by NP columnists. What do you think?

To be clear, here’s where we are at:  the union has offered to accept to just roll over the past collective agreement with no increases in wages or benefits. That would guarantee no work stoppages until 2016, saving the city millions of dollars per year and assuring labour stability.   However, the Employer so far is saying that is not enough, because  what it really wants to do is fire thousands of the unionized workers and replace them with cheaper workers.  The most interesting part of the NP exchange, I think, is Goldsbie’s comment at the end, which mirrors points I have made before:

Recasting working people as elites was one of the great successes of neoliberalism. It could not have been easy work to turn the concept of “fairness” on its head so that it signifies a race to the bottom. But that’s pretty much what this is all about: the administration wants to remove the collective agreements’ “Employment Security and Redeployment” provisions so that they can more easily lay off their employees in favour of cheaper workers employed by third-party contractors.

I made a similar point in an interview with Edmonton’s Vue last summer, when I said one of the great victories “of the contemporary political right is that they have managed to convince so many working folks that they are better off without collective bargaining”, and in a blog post I did called “When Did Having No Job Security Become a Virtue?”.   Goldsbie (and I) are making the same observations in our own ways:  In a time when the wealth of the Canadian middle class is being vacuumed upwards to the wealthy due to a decline in workers’ bargaining power, how odd it is to see workers themselves cheering on employers’ attempts to replace decent paying, secure jobs with cheaper, insecure jobs.

You might expect working people to side with workers who are attempting to preserve decent jobs, rather than employers who are trying to eliminate them.  Yet the fact that the Mayors Ford (and their allies on Council) believe it is a good political move to provoke a work stoppage in order to win the right to fire their own employees and replace them with cheap labour suggests that, in fact, voters do side with this trend.

What do you think explains this?

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One Response to Anatomy of a Work Stoppage (Jan 16): National Post on Union’s Offer of Wage Freeze

  1. Ben M Reply

    January 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    People would rather that no one have what they can’t get. And people with decent jobs are still visible to those without, whereas the elites have disappeared from view, into the stratosphere. Actually I mean that literally. The super-rich live in separate neighbourhoods and spend time with one another. Ordinary people don’t see them, and so don’t begrudge them their wealth in the same immediate way they begrudge their neighbour his or her decent job.

    It would help reverse this trend if more people at least had access to decent jobs (including security – perhaps through unions, perhaps not). Being capable of attaining such a thing would, maybe, remove the temptation to destroy it.

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