As a Local President, I often hear members say that their leave was denied for operational reasons (requirements). There are circumstances when operational requirements are legitimate reasons for decisions made by management but those special circumstances are not encountered often.
The Value of Union Dues
Times are not easy financially for anyone and I fully recognize that we need to have value for our dollars and we should receive value for our dollars.
A message from Rotha Lennox, President of Local 70713
Union Membership is like an insurance policy…
How many people would buy a house or a car and not insure it against accidental loss or circumstances beyond your control? Being part of a union is no different than insuring the income that provides the means to buy and maintain those material things.
When Trouble Hits!
Having been a union representative for many years, the number of members who come to us for the 1st time after 15-25 years of trouble-free service in the Federal Government never ceases to amaze me. Generally speaking, the reasons for the meeting are because something changed and that change has negatively affected the member’s work life. The problem may stem from organizational changes or reporting hierarchy, or a manager whose management “style” makes the member’s life difficult, and it gets tougher and tougher for them to get motivated to come to work each day. Finally, the situation becomes unbearable and the member either has to leave (retirement or stress leave) or work with us to resolve the problems and restore respect and productivity.
Living With a Lack of Job Security
Coping with Uncertainty
As most of you are aware, it is a very stressful time to be a government worker. Where working for the government once felt like a sure thing – pension, salary, benefits – it is now a place of uncertainty, layoffs and short term contracts.
When I was a union steward for Local 541 of the CAW, representing workers at the ABB plant here in Guelph, I heard nearly every argument you could imagine against unions.
I had my own issues with the union. I didn’t like the culture of unnecessary and unproductive union-management confrontation that did more to hurt our public image than help us. I also had concerns with the growing disconnect between the workers and the union executives who had adopted a lifestyle not unlike the corporate executives they were paid to negotiate with.
Nevertheless, I took my role as a union steward seriously and did my best to protect the rights of the workers.
I am no longer a union member. There is no international brotherhood of freelance journalists that I am aware of, but I still sympathize with the labour movement and recognize the right and, in many cases, the need for workers to organize.
Before we look at the relevance of unions today, it would help to remember the historical contribution they have made to our standard of living.
Guaranteed work hours, guaranteed wages, minimum wage, pay equity, paid holidays, unemployment insurance, workplace health and safety legislation, universal health care, as well as many other benefits and protections we take for granted, were won through the sacrifice of average working people who organized to improve working conditions.
Some say, now that we have these benefits and protections, unions are no longer necessary. My experience suggests otherwise.
Sure, there are ethical employers who respect their workers and pay them a decent wage. Generally, those employers live in the same community as their employees. They shop at the same stores and their kids go to the same schools and play on the same sports teams. In the case of my former employer, ABB, the company had no connection to the community. The senior managers lived in Sweden and Switzerland and had little or no connection to the community here.
Right or wrong, this is the nature of a globalized economy that is driven primarily by the bottom line and anything that interferes with achieving that narrow goal is an obstacle to be removed.
The single biggest obstacle for ABB was the union, as is the case with most multinationals operating in North America. If you can drive down wages and benefits you can increase profits for the company and shareholders.
I suppose we should ask ourselves what is the purpose of an economic system. Is it to generate wealth for the few or is it to benefit the largest number of people and society as a whole?
The gap between the rich and poor is widening and the middle class is all but wiped out. Over the last four decades wages for working-class people in North America have stagnated and even declined in relation to the cost of living. In the same period, the salaries of corporate executives have tripled, quadrupled and, in some cases, risen 1,000 per cent.
Many economists equate this trend with the reciprocal decline in union membership over the same period. Some would argue this is a simplistic explanation for a complex problem but it makes sense to me.
As the average wage declines it becomes harder for working-class people to afford domestically produced goods so we drive manufacturers that can’t afford to relocate in developing countries to make cuts to wages and benefits or go out of business, thus perpetuating the steady decline.
Why do these multinationals relocate to China and other developing countries? It is not to raise the standard of living for the people there. It is to exploit a cheap workforce and take advantage of weak environmental and labour laws.
We are told we are going to have to give up many of the benefits and protections we fought for if we want to compete. Tell me again why we don’t need unions.
Fisheries and Oceans has recently completed work on a Return to Work Program document which serves as a condensed version of a Handbook recently published by the Treasury Board Secretariat. The objective of this document is to provide managers with the appropriate information and tools required to support their employees recovering from illness or injury to resume productive work as soon as their health permits.
This document and supporting information may also be helpful for employees who are transitioning back into the workplace.
Included on the DFO Intranet site link below are guides, process documents, templates and hyperlinks to other reference material which may be useful to managers and employees:
There was a time during your grandparents’ lifetime that life was much harder. What we take for granted now was not so back then. A work day was long. Fourteen hours was quite common then and there were no breaks. If you had to use the restroom your pay was docked a nickel (an hours’ wages). Weeks were six work days with Sunday off.
History of Unions in Canada
- Labour unions have existed in Canada since the early 1800s. There is a record of skilled tradesmen in the Maritimes having a union organization during the War of 1812.
- Canadian unionism had early ties with Britain. Tradesmen who came from Britain brought traditions of the British trade union movement, and many British unions had branches in Canada. Canadian unionism ties with the United States eventually replaced those with Britain.
- A key development in the growth of unionism came in 1872 when printers in Toronto went on strike for a nine-hour-day. Union activity was illegal at the time, and many prominent labour leaders were arrested. Mass protests ensued, resulting in the dropping of charges and the legalization of union activity.
- The first national labour organization was formed in 1873 at a national convention in Toronto. The organization later became the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada in 1883, a forerunner of the present Canadian Labour Congress.
- The early 1900s saw massive escalations in labour activity as workers demanded universal eight-hour days, union recognition and better wages. Between 1919 and 1920 there were over 1500 strikes involving an estimated 375,000 workers. The largest of these was the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, which involved over 25,000 Winnipeg workers. The government used strike breakers, police and army to violently end the strike.
- The early 1900s also saw the development of labour politics. In 1921 the Communist Party of Canada was founded, and in 1932 the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation was created. Both parties supported worker rights and were critical of capitalism. The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation eventually became the New Democratic Party.
- Collective bargaining was first recognized in 1937, following a strike by the United Auto Workers at the General Motors’ plant in Oshawa, Ontario.
- Justice Ivan Rand issued a landmark legal decision following a strike in Windsor, Ontario, involving 17,000 Ford workers. He granted the union the compulsory check-off of union dues. Rand ruled that all workers in a bargaining unit benefit from a union-negotiated contract. Therefore, he reasoned they must pay union dues, although they do not have to join the union.
- The post-World War II era also saw an increased pattern of unionization in the public service. Teachers, nurses, social workers, professors, and cultural workers (those employed in museums, orchestras, and art galleries) all sought private-sector collective bargaining rights.
- In the 1970s the federal government came under intense pressures to curtail labour cost and inflation. In 1975, the Liberal government under Prime Minister Trudeau introduced mandatory price and wage controls. Under the new law, wages increases were monitored and those ruled to be unacceptably high were rolled back by the government.
- Pressures on unions continued into the 1980s and 90s. Private sector unions faced plant closures in many manufacturing industries and demands to reduce wages and increase productivity. Public sector unions came under attack by federal and provincial governments as they attempted to reduce spending, reduce taxes and balance budgets. Legislation was introduced in many jurisdictions reversing union collective bargaining rights, and many jobs were lost to contractors.
Without doubt, one of the greatest impediments to career success is anger. The source of the anger can be anything from lack of restraint or self-control to being overly sensitive/suspicious to lack of self-esteem. Other factors may contribute as well but, regardless, anger must be controlled and managed or there will be consequences. The following information is intended to be helpful but people who are inclined to reacting emotionally either in writing or verbally (especially at the workplace) should definitely consider anger contacting EAP or VICR in order to get professional advice and training.