Are unions a thing of the past?

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Dear Editor: Is the usefulness of unions in the protection of workers’ rights coming to an end?

My answer is yes.

The truth of the matter is that unions were the best thing that ever happened to the labour movement throughout the world because workers needed protection from being mistreated by employers and they also needed better working conditions, shorter work days and higher wages.

Unions were successful in bringing these essential changes.

This was evident in the loggers strike in 1958-59 between International Woodworkers of America  and Anglo Newfoundland Development Company.

I’ve long supported unions, however, my convictions have changed over the past few years mainly because unions are no longer about the protection of workers’ rights but about power and greed.

Unions are no longer required to ensure that workers have good working conditions, good wages, and a safe working environment because these factors are regulated by legislation and our moral values.

Today, unions are obstructing companies’ abilities to compete and prosper.

Unions are anti-competitive; they have become victims of their own success because of high wages and benefits.

The products or services that union workers produce have become so expensive they cannot compete against cheaper foreign competitors and non-union producers.

Under unions there is lacking of initiative and a noted drop in productivity from its members because there is no incentive to work at your top performance because your job is protected by your union through its contract with the employer.

Now in the 21st century, the tides have changed. Workers are not being exploited by employers — now employers are been exploited by employees. Unions have become more powerful than their employers and that is an unhealthy business environment.

Unions are not willing to give concession to save members’ jobs. Union demands are, when it comes to negotiations, driven by greed which in turn is forcing companies to close their doors as evident at the Caterpillar plant in Ontario, pulp and paper mills in Stephenville and Grand Falls-Windsor, and more recently, at the OCI fish plant in Marystown.

Unions are so set in their ways they are unwilling to bend or compromise to save a company from closing its doors.

Their egotistical leadership is preaching from songbooks of old instead of today’s realities. Unions expect companies to bow to their every whim, however, in today’s economic environment companies are making it clear to unions — ‘if you don’t work with us and only against us we will close the doors and move our business elsewhere.’

Beware workers at the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper mill.

Unions seem to think that once a company or government puts forward a positive economic year-end financial statement they are entitled to pay raises and increased benefits.

However, when companies or governments are in the red, unions are not offering to rollback their wages and benefits to help their employer survive.

Unions seem to think or at least give the impression that once they go on strike that a business must shut down when in fact during a strike, by law, an employer has the legal right to continue to operate their business with permanent replacement workers and that the strikers’ jobs are not secure when the strike is over.

This is why replacement worker legislation is an uncomfortable subject for governments because if replacement worker legislation becomes law, more companies will close their doors and take their businesses elsewhere.

Replacement worker legislation will put more power in the hands of the unions and less in the control of the companies/governments.

This type of legislation will handcuff employers to the point where their rights as an employer will no longer exist.

For governments to bring in replacement worker legislation they will have to change the laws of the land to deny an employer the right to operate during a labour dispute.

The question is: can nonunion workers be employed by a company, work for a completive wage and have benefits equal to or better than a union can offer? The answer is yes and without paying out high union dues.

All we have to do is look no further that Michelin Tire in Nova Scotia where the CAW union has tried on several occasions to unionize the plants in Bridgewater, Granton, and Waterville without success because the workers there don’t want a union screwing up an excellent relationship between employer and employee.

Companies must take note of Michelin’s successful labour relations and think hard about how they do business by following Michelin’s blueprint for success.

It is time for governments to take a hard look at the issue of labour relations between employers and employees.

They will discover that unions in general are one of the major contributors to the economic mess that the world is in today.

The European Union is in crisis and mainly because of the demands of unions in countries like Greece.

It’s time for companies to threat their nonunion employees with respect, good working conditions, fair wages and benefits that will in turn keep the powerful and greedy unions outside looking in.


Brian Pollard lives in Bishop’s Falls.

Organizations: Dear Editor, Caterpillar, OCI Michelin Tire CAW union European Union

Geographic location: America, Ontario, Stephenville Marystown.Unions Nova Scotia Bridgewater Greece.It

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Recent comments

  • Health & Saety All the Way
    February 19, 2012 - 10:01

    To Shy Guy, I am and have been a shop steward for the past 10 years in a workplace that I've been employed for 28 years. In my time I have put in 2 grievances, one because my "good old boy" supervisor figured slapping my butt has I walked by was cute. The second because equally paid casual workers were getting all the overtime instead of it being offered to unionized members and then casuals as is stated in our legislated agreement. In my workplace, full time employees must compete to get hired into a position and not one of us is related to anyone else in the workplace. But the government has put in place a policy for managers to hire Willie Nellie for casual positions, as long as the person is qualified. So, it is not surprising that all our casual employees are in some way related to managers, but there's a government policy that allows it to happen. The past 11 grievances I have supported co-workers with, have not been about money. They were about sexual harassment, against both male and female, they were about locked fire exits, they were about improper protective equipment that the employees needed to do their work. Buying safety glasses from Dollarama (not CSA approved) is not right! If I was not in the union, I would have lost my job back when I was 19, when I wouldn't let the boss feel me up. As for union employees owning bigger houses and having all the bigger toys, how they got them isn't our business, maybe inheritance or just smart with their dollars. Envy is an evil thing. I can assure you I do not live in a bigger house and I have no bigger toys, my choice, my business. I squander every extra cent for my retirement because I do not put all my eggs in one basket and assume that our government will leave my pension alone. It may not be there when I need it. It has also been my experience that union employees who are disgruntled with their unions because the union couldn't get them out of a jam that they put themselves into, usually remain disgruntled, so cheer up, there's always the old age pension to look forward too, or is there. Oh yea, I'm fighting for that too!

  • Talking Smoke
    February 18, 2012 - 18:26

    Well a great debate could be ignited between union and non-union people. Who will will in the end? It is highly unlikely that anyone will because everyone has both good and bad points. Unions do have a place and places with no unions also have a place. The challenges that all businesses face in a world that is connected through financial agreements will dictate how many businesses will survive in the future. Unions may fight for more and may even give back and get less but at the end of the day economic realities will be the final factors with respect to business staying alive or dying. And neither union business or non-union business have any control over that. Because one believes that he or she is right, doesn't necessarily mean that it is so. I recall a time many years ago where a layoff was announced at a site where I was employed. It was based on senority and the layoffs were announced. One chap who was given his notice was a family man with three children. The guy who had more senority next to him, and kept his job, was single and had no dependants. It was all done according to the union agreement. It doesn't mean that it was the right way to do it.

  • Roger MacInnis
    February 18, 2012 - 12:05

    @Mrshyguy Maybe at your "shop Stewart" classes you should have taken a spelling course. Bedsides that issue you use no examples to support your comments. How have unions "reuined" smaller communities? Most would agree over fishing and mismanagement had a much larger hand on that issue. Why do unions have a place with government employees? Our Gov't is supposed to give into the greedy govt unions? How do our lower paying nonunion jobs in the private sector support these increases in pay? Why does competing on a global market mean unions are greedy? And you speak of "big bucks" give some example of unions demanding "big bucks" in the private sector in Newfoundland ? The purity workers? VON nurses? Fish plant workers? Mill workers in Corner Brook have now gone four years with out a raise and have delt with large job losses. Most of this while working together with the unions. Sir your head seems to be in the sand and live in a nirvana. Don't mouth off with out supporting your theories. As short sighted and nieve Brian Pollard seems to be Atleast he gave examples as poor as they are. I'll leave you now to go back to your dream world.

  • dogloc
    February 17, 2012 - 15:45

    Apparently they are in Corner Brook

  • Mr. Shyguy
    February 17, 2012 - 11:15

    Excellent observations. I was a union member for 20 years with 8 years as a shop stewart. Unions in this province have reuined most of the smaller commuinities and have driver business out of this province. I agree once upon a time they had a place and still do in areas of health care and some other government facilities. But business in todays global market is not a place for unions anymore. It is all about greed. Union members make big bucks and get bigger toys and homes. Then they need and demand more money to keep up the bigger homes and bigger toys.