Anyone who is concerned with their basic democratic and human rights should be deeply concerned about how the Canadian government is acting toward unions and labor disputes. Collective bargaining has long been recognized as a fundamental human right and is essential to the working of any free and democratic society. The power relations between workers and employers dramatically favors, in capitalist societies, employers, particularly in a context of globalization. This inequality of power becomes deeply problematic when, as presently prevails, large corporations (particularly financial institutions) are able to operate more and more outside of the law and governments (also often operating outside of the law) begin to favor employers. The Harper government has demonstrated that it is willing to abuse the law in order to undermine the basic rights of collective bargaining. It did so earlier this year when it imposed a settlement on the Postal Workers that was a clear violation of the Supreme Court ruling in the case of HEU vs The Province of British Columbia. Now they are abusing the law by using the Canada Industrial Relations Board to actually prevent a strike at Air Canada. If an employer wants a service to be deemed essential and therefore out of the purview of possible strike action, they need to give 15 days notice and then an essential services contract is supposed to be negotiated between the parties. In basic violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the law, the Harper Government is attempting to use the CIRB to postpone a strike just long enough so that they can introduce back to work legislation before a strike even takes place.
Other than basic legal fairness, the reason that such tactics should concern everyone, and not just those who are presently facing contract negotiations, is that the power relations are slowly being tipped such that people's rights can slowly be eroded until you live in a third world economy of sweatshops and maquiladoras. Keep in mind that the flight attendants at Air Canada are NOT employees of the government, they are employees of a private corporation. The fact that the Government can take away their rights and legislate them back to work means de facto that none of us has any real rights to speak of. If we let the government take away the basic rights of collective bargaining, legislate private workers back to work and impose settlements on employees of private corporations, this means it can happen to ANYONE. It means that the government, in the abstract "national interest," can come to your workplace and tell you how much you can be paid and what hours you have to work, etc, etc. These were some of the first basic steps taken by fascist governments in the 1930s.
Until we stand up for basic rights like collective bargaining, all of our rights are at risk. All of your basic human rights owe something to the Labor movement and our neglect of labor rights will see all of those rights eventually taken away. I would say "bank on it" if the banks weren't part of the problem!
Good Morning America ....
5 months ago