« Estate-planning lessons from the King of Pop | Main | Are public sector workers overpaid? »

July 16, 2021

Why is striking on the rise during a recession?

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

The recession, for better or worse, seems to have formed two philosophies amongst the working world.

The most common belief is what you might expect – that is, the stakes of the world economy have forced most Canadians, by consequence, into a newfound appreciation for jobs they may have once taken for granted.

Yet the second attitude toward the downturn is perhaps still taking shape before us. And if you’ve wandered the streets of Toronto lately, you can quite literally smell it.

It appears – or at least the numbers suggest – the new mindset toward the recession is a growing feeling of resentment.

According to Stats Canada, the number of work days lost to strikes in the first three months of 2009 was almost double that of a year earlier, just before the stinking economy hit north of the border and our national unemployment rate spiked. (*Keep in mind: the data, while impressive, neglects to include major city strikes currently underway in Toronto and Windsor, Ont., as well as the ongoing halt to regular paramedic work in British Columbia.)

But, here’s a question: what’s the deal with all of this? Doesn’t philosophy number one suggest now, more than ever, we should be breaking our backs to make ends meet?

Well, apparently not, says the Canadian Press. Labour experts told CP the reason for all the striking comes down to anger workers feel for “being asked to bear what they see as the brunt of the recession.”

Indeed, the number of workers willing to strike during a parched economy is odd, and – while fighting for fair wages and well-earned benefits is certainly commendable – seems to be another indication this downturn is unlike any other.

Alan Hall, the University of Windsor’s director of labour studies, tells CP the high level of striking has perhaps come about from workers resenting their employers’ asking for major concessions while continuing to enjoy raises, benefits and often bonuses themselves.

“I think part of the reason the workers are willing to stay out in these kinds of conditions is they see the causes of the current recession and crisis as being clearly not of their making,” he says. “There’s a certain level of anger that’s out there that can be mobilized.”

So which is the case here? Is the striking trend (which, when you consider the circumstances, why would it cease?) an instance of employers taking advantage of workers at a lousy time to be one, or are employees simply picking the wrong time to put up the fair fight? Or, more likely, is a bit of both?



Post a comment


Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...