Play hardball with public sector unions, recommends labour lawyer
With the recent postal lockout, the disparity between public and private-sector employees has jumped to the forefront again.
Many Canadians in the private sector, tired of layoffs, wage freezes and rollbacks, as well as the shrinkage in some of their benefits, openly resent their public counterparts’ seemingly cushy working conditions.
Not totally surprising – particularly when you consider public sector wage increases have eclipsed those in the private sector for the past four years.
What’s worse though is that most people (including the majority of MSN readers it seems) really don’t like being held hostage by public sector unions which increase the cost of government almost expotentially.
The solution: Fire the advisors and lawyers who have brought the public to this precipice and aren't ready to play hardball, says labour lawyer Howard Levitt whom, I assume, tends to sit on management's side of these debates.
Second, if things go to arbitration, a costly choice in his mind, the government should quickly ensure that arbitrators make comparisons of salary and benefits in the private sector their main criteria in any settlement.
Finally, couple that benchmarking with provisions requiring arbritators to adjust wages up or down to establish greater parity, he says. In this way, ordering workers back to work threough legislation would actually mean something.
The result: Fewer strikes, less strain on the economy and a slowly shrinking public-private sector pay gap.
Do I hear a few amens?
What's your take? Too harsh an approach? The end of big labour? A quick slide to the bottom for middle class workers?
By Gordon Powers, MSN Money
* Follow Gordon on Twitter here.
Posted by: Gulp | Jun 27, 2021 1:55:51 PM
To Jeff Oliver. First off I am against unions negotiating for higher wages and have been ever since I took university economics courses and gained an understanding of how economics works. (It's tough to explain in this limitted space but basically it comes down to this...every extra dollar that a union member makes above the "normal" wage gets paid for by that company's customers--not the owners. Owners still make their money but customers and taxpayers pay for it.) I do however, agree with unions' fight to improve human rights, safety etc. Those issues are more important than money.
But those economics courses also taught me that you are right in one thing. Goverments should not have bailed out those banks and car companies. Not because they are rich...but because it is bad economic policy. Overpaying/subsidizing a failed businessman is just as bad as overpaying union members...but our society seems to do both. Rich people get it by lobbying--unions by whining. The vast majority of people who are neither rich nor unionized end up subsidizing it because too few of us really understand macro or micro economics.
Most people here see the issue as "rich vs. worker" which it is not. Those of you who have studied economics will know what I'm talking about. Those of you who haven't will still see this as an issue of taking from rich guys to give to workers. Sadly, that is most of you.
Posted by: McAnonymous | Jun 27, 2021 1:59:58 PM
I love these comments. Some smart...some, not so much.
The whole concept of public unions is intellectually indefensible. The "point" of unions is supposed to be collective defence of the workers from the greedy ways of the capitalist pigs who own the means of production. This dynamic doesn't exist in the public workforce. It's all someone else's money they're spending - OURS! Do you think that any beaurocrat actually gets a bonus for beating down the hourly pay of the workers? Do you think that there's any reward for performance in unions in general (let alone public unions)?
The people SHOULD rise up!! We should be demanding and end to the "right" for public employees to organize. Public sector wages (AND benefits) should simply be pegged to equivalent positions in the private sector - done and done.
Posted by: Sam DeCatt | Jun 27, 2021 2:07:20 PM
When are governments going to start working for the best interests of the country? This postal strike and the stalling tactics by the NDP has made it difficult for thousands of small businesses in Canada to make a decent living. The NDP unfortunately only has their own and organized labour interests in mind while the rest of the country is held to ransome. We, as well as several other business men I have talked to during the strike are making alternate plans to send out our invoices and receive payment cheques etc. The bottom line is that the postal union is shooting themselves in the foot with NDP help.
Posted by: Trixie | Jun 27, 2021 2:19:24 PM
Hi everyone. I haven't been here for awhile and those like Jack will be happy about that.
I was the person who suggested that suggested a long time ago apparently that everyone get similar wages. The reason I suggested that was only because we all need each other, no matter what company we work in. So, maybe Jack, we should appreciate every worker, from the least to the greatest. (BTW, I don't think we need unions to be appreciated by our bosses.) I believe bosses, CEO's are human too. They know you and I want to live a happy fullfilling life.
Lastly, thanks to Gulp for his statement. Well said.
Posted by: Tracy | Jun 27, 2021 2:45:19 PM
WEll, maybe we can all raise our children on minimum wage with no benefits!! We could all use public benefits, ie dental, glasses drugs etc. We could all stop paying taxes, union dues, ride the bus to Tim Hortons, and all live happily ever after.....
No one has put guns to the heads of employers to negotiate the wages that are given, everyone deserves to make a decent wage, some just have a union doing the negotiating.....
Scary to me, my kids likely wont have benefits or pensions....what will they do, will they ever have the income to buy a house????
Posted by: Incredulous | Jun 27, 2021 2:47:31 PM
BTW, the people that run these companies and command such huge salaries are for the most part, at the top of their particular field. They are highly educated, work incredibly long hours and shoulder enormous responsibility. They also answer to shareholders, employees, boards of directors etc. While some earn excessive compensation, the majority earn every penny, especially when one considers the sacrifices made to get there. It's a national sport to hate the rich and suggest that they are undeserving but for the most part it's just envy. Terry Matthews is a billionaire. He's founded over 40 companies and due to his smarts, tens of thousands of people have jobs. The guy is in his late 60's and still works 80 hours a week. Should we tell him to take his money and go elsewhere just because he's very rich. The guy left England for precisely that reason. In a socialist country, anyone with any initiative is held down by those who don't want to do anything. A lot of people who are heavily involved in unions come from that sort of system. They resent the rich and want to tax everyone onto a level playing field. When countries start doing that, these people take their marbles and go to another country who's only too glad to have them. It's like the old joke "how can you tell a bucket of Canadian lobsters? Easy. Because when one tries to get out, the others drag them back down".
Posted by: Dave | Jun 27, 2021 3:04:21 PM
The battle between unions and companies is archaic...it's a relic of the first half of the 20th century and before when companies did not treat workers fairly. Child labor existed, sweat shops prospered, and the middle class was only just emerging. Unions are no longer necessary. The govt protects workers, the middle class is ok (although they complain, they do mostly have their own house and a pension) so unions do what they can so they don't appear obsolete. The main purpose of union leaders to day is to try to keep their jobs! Great salaries, nice offices, out of the factory, and lots of attention. Truth is...we don't need unions anymore. Let's illiminate that cost factor (union dues) and give ourselves a raise! Cheers!
Posted by: Mark | Jun 27, 2021 4:08:52 PM
I’m a plumber working for an Ontario Municipality. Back in 1991 I chose to work at a reduce rate for job security. A plumber for the plumber union and an Automotive worker still makes more than I do. I’m not lucky I just made a good financial decision. Yes back then I could have gone after the “big bucks” but didn’t. It too late to be jealous guys.
Posted by: Lindylu | Jun 27, 2021 4:13:11 PM
A few years ago a couple of rich Hong Kong businessmen were looking to start a computer memory manufacturing company in Canada. On their way back from Toronto they had a stop in Vancouver and they and their wives fell in love with the city. So they opened their company there. They could have chosen any city in the world. Today over 150 people (including my Mom) have a job there because of these two men. These guys were already rich but wanted to be even richer. Sure, my Mom could whine and complain and say that she needs a union to take some of these guy's money but the reality is, she is thankful. These two guys have provided jobs for 150 families. Sure they are rich...good for them but even better for the 150 people who receive cheques every 2 weeks because of them. And thank you to every entrepreneur who has ever risked their time and money to start a company and provide jobs to people here in Canada...it's not easy. Please ignore the comments here of people like Tracy, Ken Lund and Kim Buist. Nothing will make them happy so please don't even bother trying.
Posted by: Ex-pat | Jun 27, 2021 4:22:35 PM
To Mad-Mike. I am not a pro-union guy but I am really not that opposed to your email for one simple reason--you work in an industry (construction) where there is real meaningful competition. You say that customers appreciate you because your work is better than other people's--good for you. They have the choice to use your unionized company or a non-unionized one. Competition keeps people on their toes. If they choose your company then good for you.
BUt the real problem is with public sector unions--they have no competition. When you go to a hospital you can't choose between a union or non-union hospital. There is no competition at all!!! Health care is one of the most important things in Canadian society and we leave it in the hands of unions, bureaucrats and politicians who don't even have any accountability to anyone but themselves. Are we crazy??
Posted by: James yarrow | Jun 27, 2021 4:38:58 PM
I don't think people relize just what unions have got us health care decent way og life etc.I work for a university and I have not had anymore than 2 percent raise in the last15 years.I have been there for 25 years and my wage has just doubled not very good considering the president has been there 4 years and his has doubled to over 350000 not bad then he has the nerve to blames all the other employees for there short fall.and still refuse to stop wasting tax dollars.If there are cuts then they will cut from the bottom not the top.the real problem is no accountability.my pension took a betting in the last few years.idont agree with some of the wages but they are negotiated and we should not help big brother dismantle what was bargained for because if they save the money they will spend the money else where and blame another group let's hold the elected accountable as they are losing touch
Posted by: Angryyoungwoman | Jun 27, 2021 5:07:36 PM
Wow, thank god we have the free market and bosses to give us health care, maternity leave, eight hour work days, weekends, sick leave, the right to refuse unsafe work....Oh wait! Those were all things won by unions and working class people! I'm just loving the idea of returning to nineteenth century labour standards and the complete and utter privatization of all public services if people like Gordon Powers and all of the union/working class people haters get their way. Here's the sad news for you, Gordon: you're not duping us, and we're not going to stand for it.
Posted by: Incredulous | Jun 27, 2021 5:11:33 PM
My final comment on this is LOOK AT EUROPE. Low birth rates, combined with an aging workforce, and ridiculous labour settlements negotiated by a succession of socialist governments have many of these countries on the brink of insolvency. Why can't people in this country see this. You can't provide public sector employees with better wages and benefits than the private sector and not have it eventually bite you in the you-know-where. Why would anyone want to work in the private sector when they can work in a secure work environment, with excellent wage and benefits, when the private sector is where all of the tax revenues come from, along with almost all of the risk. If you want to work in a job-for-life environment, with security as your priority, don't expect to be paid as well as those people who have no job security. The problem is, the vast majority of public servants want it all. Job security, excellent wages and benefits, a great pension and no pressure to produce anything more than what you did last year. Nice work if you can get it.
Posted by: karla | Jun 27, 2021 5:14:13 PM
We need to dishpan Canada post totally the thing is just unneeded for 90% of us. Leave the 10% to a couriers we would save tons of money. A week before the strike I had no junk, where are all the tree hugger environmentalist on this one hiding behind the unions. Firer the whole dam bunch. UNions are a great thing but not for the public sector cause there employer has no consequences for giving them way more then they are worth or can afford. I am tired of paying for these thugs if they want something make them pay for it tax them bastards more.
Posted by: Paul T | Jun 27, 2021 6:05:36 PM
Unions can be part of the future if they can simply find ways to alaign their goals with that of the business through value based compensation. Considering the contrast in their current objectives, this would mean a wholesale restructuring of union bargaining strategy. Sadly, current union ideals breed laziness, stifle original thinking, refute productivity enhancements, and choke out individual effort. At best, you end up with a complaicent workforce, many of whom should be flattered by that term. Union leadership already realizes this, they just spin a differnt line of rhetoric to rally the membership with words like "equality" while demonizing business whenever they earn a profit. Its' as though union leadership thinks that businesses should exist solely to employ their membership. Yet unions treat their own interests very differently. Don't agree? Just look at the hipocracy that exists in how invest their substantial pension funds. Look at what they pay their fund managers, not just in salaries, but in stock options and bonuses. Many of their pension plan assets include companies that are well run by very skilled leadership who earn millions a year in compensation. The Ontario Teachers Plan owns the Toronto Maples Leafs and yet they don't pay all of the players the same amount. Nor did they object to paying millions to Brian Burke to come in as general manager. Why they object to this kind of business practice amongst their membership is beyond me. If the union ideal of advancement through seniority were to be applied to their own investments they would have gone broke long ago. Companies need to be run by the most skilled, intelligent and resourceful people available and they must be paid well to be retained. Unions need to abandon the warm and fuzzy notion of equality and instead reward individual effort and encourage productivity. Workers on the front line should be the pioneers of inovation in productivity instead of the ones resisting it. Instead, unions focus on how they can hire more people to do less work. It's all about increasing the union membership by generating jobs, regardless of the impact on the business. As with everything in nature, there is not parity among people. Individual effort, intelligence, and capabilities need to be recognized and rewarded and, by doing so, unions could foster the most skilled and productive workforce available. The union should work WITH the employer to find ways to get better productivity out of the membership so that business can justify a wage increase. I.E. if 10 people can do the work that 12 used to do, they should earn an increased wage for the difference. This kind of cooperative thinking is the only way for Canadians to compete in the new world economy. With global options for business increasing its important that we maintain our standard of living with a new way of thinking, one where employees realize the needs and goals of the business and in return EARN an opportunity to achieve a greater salary and benefits. In short, start working with business to drive up productivity and profits with a negotiated return paid based on that performance.
Posted by: Gulp | Jun 27, 2021 6:23:26 PM
To "Angryyoungwoman" and "James Yarrow" I know an easy solution to your problems...why don't the unions just start their own companies? Or even buy out some existing companies--you'd surely get your money back from your share of the profits and in higher wages. Then the unionized employees can get their fair share of the profits and get treated the way they like. You can have more vacations, more pay, more health care, better benefits, more sick days and all of the profits. You guys could single-handedly get rid of the rich fat cats by beating them at their own game. Think of how easy it would be!! Show Gordon Powers how wrong he is!!
When unions do that...then I and many like me will shut up and concede that we were wrong about unions.
Posted by: union myth buster | Jun 27, 2021 6:55:27 PM
Wow the misinformation is running wild here (who'd of thought unions would be blamed for the stock market crash - that's a lovely reinvention of history). Unions have a legal duty to represent their members; if they don't do it, they can be (and often are) sued. They can't pick and choose which member they want to represent. Just like defense attorneys they must represent their members to the best of their ability. If a prosecuting attorney can't make their case, that isn't the defense attorney's fault. The defense attorney doesn't say, 'oh well, my guy is a schmuck anyway, so let's just move on to sentencing'. Don't blame the unions for bad management. The management needs to make their case and stick to it. Rather than take on a poor performer, a supervisor often just transfers the person to another department. This isn't the union's fault - it's because the manager is too lazy to document the facts and make the case to get the person disciplined or fired. Unions are part of the checks and balances in the workplace; we need to educate people on their proper roles and make everyone in the system accountable.
Posted by: Gord | Jun 27, 2021 7:10:43 PM
In the private sector both unions and management have to live or die with whatever agreement they arrive at. If a company fails then both parties can share the blame. The Public Sector is a much different story. Its the taxpayer that is the fall back that provides for the greed/generosity of union/employer and therein is the problem. For those fortunate to have a public sector job with gold plated benefits and job security it is too easy to tell others to join a union and demand the same. Global competition would soon bring that to a halt with job losses and less income for government to provide necessary services. We don't live in isolation from the rest of the world. The answer is for government to bring back into line the wages and benefits of its employees . That includes all public servants including,posties, teachers, nurses, police, firefighter etc and yes even Politicians. Most Canadians do not belong to a public sector union AND should not have to support the privleged public sector union members who do, to a life style that can't be sustained.
Posted by: matthew | Jun 27, 2021 7:41:16 PM
Amen!! Let's destroy the middle class, who owes its existence to unions, the middle class is the devil!!
Amen!! Let's make things easier for the greedy CEOs, they're the angels!! Amen!!
Posted by: Joe Mamone | Jun 27, 2021 7:44:56 PM
Without unions the private sector employees will make less than they do. Unions keep the Private wages up to lure top talent. People are so brainwashed these days by corporate marketing and slogans against unions. Do we want our next generation of children to have good paying jobs or work as slaves.
Stop the Upper Management thieves from their overblown salaries and buyouts. Then talk fair wages with the hard workers.