Labour Views – July 22, 2015

Written by Jack Bourassa, PSAC Regional Executive Vice President, North (REVP North)

What’s important to remember when it comes to labour disputes is that when any union supports its members and stands up for their rights, their actions benefit all workers in every profession.

It helps to create an environment where standing up for decent working conditions is easier to do. It gets other people thinking that they should not have to accept low pay and bad hours where they work.

It also gets employers used to the idea that people have a right to collective bargaining. When this happens, it becomes normal to expect a reasonable deal, and workers are willing to help each other put pressure on employers who are unreasonable in their demands.

In a country where more people are employed with better pay and conditions, it puts everyone in a better position to negotiate with their employer.

Today, people seem far too easily angered by anyone who manages to get decent treatment at work, when the much more appropriate response is to be furious about all the people who do not.

Unions are the last bastion that protects workers and fights for fair pay and working conditions. Without them, people are pushed down, suffocated by the weight of corporations looking out for their bottom line and CEOs pushing to improve efficiency, no matter the cost.

The effects ripple, and if workers are pushed down in one industry, others will topple like dominos.

Public service jobs have been known to be some of the safer, well-paid jobs in our country. They should be viewed as a benchmark to strive for in other sectors, not to be torn down and trampled.

Some say job security and safe working conditions just aren’t part of today’s reality that it just can’t exist under today’s economic conditions. That real life is the pits, and we should accept it.

But the job of the labour movement is to fly in the face of all of that. To say to bad employers that what they’re doing isn’t right, and that workers deserve better.

To stand up for the people who wouldn’t otherwise speak for themselves. It’s what we should all be doing for each other, looking out for one another, not throwing stones at our neighbours.

Of course, non of this will convince those that feel people are entitled when they balk at having their job description changed overnight, or have safety measures taken away from their jobs.

But it’s crucial that in a free market economy, workers have the right to speak up when their contract is re-negotiated, and if changes are made, they have the chance to say if they can live with the amendments.

You don’t get to change them and at the same time expect the other party to continue working as they did before. It’s a process of negotiation, and as a working person one of your negotiating tools is your right not to work.

That’s why it’s important to support all striking workers, no matter the situation. The fight they’re waging is one that benefits us all.