UNION UNREST AND KITCHENER-WATERLOO
I sense there is an increasing amount of labour unrest from Ontario Public Sector Workers.
Yesterday Ontario teachers held a massive protest rally in front of Queen’s Park. They are protesting the Ontario Government’s proposal to freeze the pay scale to 2012 amounts. Louisa D’ Amato, columnist for the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, wrote today that Ontario firefighters and police officers will soon face cuts.
This labour unrest has an obvious impact on Kitchener Small Businesses. Small business owners may have to pay more taxes to cover increased wages. It is important to note, however, that many public sector jobs (especially those discussed above) are vital to the community’s well-being. It is important that these positions are filled with qualified and motivated individuals.
So, which side do I take in these disputes?
My favourite writer is Harlan Ellison. One of his more pithy quotes is: “Everyone’s entitled to an informed opinion”. I fear that I don’t have one. I have no base of reference to confidently announce what is fair. I do, however, have some general comments about these labour disputes that I feel are not overtly discussed.
- Although strikes are loathsome, I still feel that the right to strike should be denied to essential services only. The right to strike and a lockout is the best “reality check” on the fairness of wages. Remember, all unionized employees can vote with his or her feet. A declining quality and quantity of public employees is a labour disruption just as much as a strike. With a strike, at least, problems are confronted directly.
- Ontario now receives transfer payments from other provinces. While I don’t think it would be productive to allow these provinces to have a seat at the negotiating table, both the unions and the government need to do what is fair to those provinces.
- In the 2011 Ontario provincial election, the Liberal government did receive a mandate to reduce Ontario’s $15 billion deficit. The Liberals said nothing about a wage scale freeze, however. Premier McGuinty should remember that there is a difference.
- The Ontario Government already has a tool in its arsenal. They could always impose a lockout. Back-to-work legislation would seem to give the government extra-ordinary powers.
- Unlike private employers, the public sector must consider the “domino effect” if it agrees to union demands. If the government agrees to a wage increase for one part of the sector, he or she will receive a great deal of pressure to permit wage increases for all sectors. Given the economic slow-down and the sizeable deficit, there is a lot of pressure on the Ontario government to entrench its position.
As I said, I am not an expert. I do welcome your comments!