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Unions 2

Unions

Why Unions?

"Unions are groups of working people who join to talk to

employers about wages and conditions of work instead of workers

talking to employers on an individual basis."1 Because they

speak for everybody, unions can get a better deal for each worker

than one employee could by negotiating with the employer.

As seen in the short movie "WHY UNIONS?", non-unionized

workers talks about the unfair treatment they experience in the

work place. Through collective action, workers formed unions so

they could have a voice in deciding wages, hours, working

conditions and dealing with the many problems arises in the

workplace.

Unions are not just organizations trying to get more dollars

and cents or better working conditions for people who hold union

cards. People who don't enjoy the benefits of union protection

get benefits too. "The labour movement was in the forefront of

the struggles for public health care, for public education, for

minimum wages, holidays and employment conditions."2

1 D. Martin, Form War To Peace, Canadian Labour Congress,

Quebec, 1991, P.17

2 Notes On Unions, Canadian Labour Congress, Quebec, 1992,

P.1

Union Nowadays

"Unions are like businesses: their success depends upon

attracting and retaining buyers (new members). Recently, one of

the major problems faced by the union movement is that few

Canadians understand what services unions come into public."3

The public also don't know the union is also helping Canada in

other parts of areas such as economy, etc. The public think that

the only time unions come into the public's eye is as a result of

strike or withdrawal of services. This is because of the

impressed strikes held by the union workers. The memorable one

would be the strike held by the Toronto Transit Commission

workers back in September 1991. The lack of transportation

resulted in inconveniences among the public. The Canadian public

becomes upset over conflict. The strikes make the public forget

about the contributions of unions in other areas. "From a

marketing perspective, the union movement has positioned itself

like the nuclear industry -- it receives attention only when it

is about to blow up, melt or leak."4 Five important needs for

union movements are:

3 Alistair Davidson and Ian Mckinnon, "Unions need to study

marketing," The Globe and Mail, May 8 1984, Business section, P.8

4 D. D. Carter, Canadian Industrial Relations In The Year

2000, Industrial Relations Centre, Kingston, 1992, P.50

1) job preservation

2) health preservation in the workplace

3) day-care

4) retraining

5) financial negotiations on behalf of members

"Union leaders and members must become as sophisticated as

management to support the attempt by Canadian business to survive

fierce international competition."5 There are about four million

members of Canadian unions and 10.5 million members of co-

operatives. There are two choices: traditionally, unions have

only tried to increase their members' standard of living by

negotiating a higher wage, more benefits or fewer hours.

"The union movement has played an important role in the past

in the formation of new institutions such as credit unions.

Today, new demands on the union movement will force it to examine

its strategic choices."6 Above all, the union movement must

structure itself to aid the survival of Canadian industry and

Canadian jobs in a fiercely competitive world market.

5 Bryan D. Palmer, Solidarity: The Rise And Fall Of An

Opposition In B.C., New Star Books, 1987, P.63

6 Peter Sinclair, Unemployment: Economic Theory And

Evidence, Oxford Press, 1987, P.215

Canadian Labour Congress

At the national level, the "organization of unions" is the

Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). The CLC is the central body in

Canada and is composed of about 85 national and international

unions representing about 2.2 million workers.

Labour's Social Objectives

"The social objectives of the Canadian labour movement are a

reflection of the aims and desires of a large segment of the

country's working population."7 In some ways, the objectives are

related to the economy. The objectives are: Health Programmes -

the lack of available health care to all Canadians caused the

labour movement to redouble its long-standing efforts to have a

national medicare plan by which needed medical services would be

available to all Canadians whatever their financial means.

Medicare as a system of universal health care must be regarded as

a public service and not merely as an insurance programme under

which only a limited number of services are available.

7 Notes On Unions, Canadian Labour Congress, Quebec, 1992,

P.5

P.5

Pensions - Unions have been consistently negotiated improvements

in pension plans. By statistics, only 41.4% of employed

Canadians (50.1% of men and 33.7% of women) belong to company

pension plans. The CLC is convinced that an upgraded universal

plan would eliminate any fear and want from old age.

Poverty and Regional Disparities - The CLC has continually drawn

attention to the unjust disparities existing among various

sections of Canadian society and among different regions.

Human Rights - The Canadian Labour Congress has devoted

considerable effort to combatting discrimination and protecting

basic human rights.

Education - A basic human right, education must be available to

all Canadians. The responsibility to present a well-rounded

picture of all participating partners in the Canadian mosaic is a

basic principle of an education system.

Housing - The CLC suggests that the housing be regarded by

governments as a social need and not as a regulator of economic

activity

Taxation - There CLC suggests that there is a strong feeling

among union members that adjustments should be made to distribute

more equitably the burden of taxes.

Consumer Services - Efforts have been made to have the government

undertake an investigation of the disparity between food prices

paid to farmers and those charged to consumers.

How It Is Related To The Economy

"Unions' major objective is to bargain for a better wage.

Labour is the basic element of a country's economy. Without

labour, there will not be products which are made in Canada. If

the labour are treated unfairly in their workplace, they don't

have the spirit to work harder."8 As a result, the quality of

Canadian product will be dropped and lose the competition on the

international market. Therefore, there should be an agreement

between employers and employees. The employer side gets the

maximum profit while the employee side still gets a satisfactory

wage. However, Canada's labour get higher wage in the world.

Therefore, the cost of products are pretty high. Compare to the

international market, the price of Canadian products are higher

because of higher wages. Maybe it's a by-product of the

bargaining higher and higher wages. The Canadian products will

lose their competitiveness in the market. It is one of the

reasons why Canada is experiencing recession right now. Another

issue which affects Canada's economy is the free trade agreement

between Canada and the United States. Through the process of

this agreement, Canadian Labour movement has been trying to

reject this proposal. However, the government still passed it.

The labour movement is rejecting

8 David Edward, Times Of Trouble, National Library of

Canada, Ottawa, 1983, P.30

it because they predict that the free trade will destroy the

economy of Canada. Moreover, investors are transferring to the

U.S. because there is lower cost. Free trade is another big

reason for Canada's recession.

EDUCATION AND ECONOMY

"Chart A ( provided at the end of the report), shows that

the university tuition fee price index went up 120% for all of

Canada in the past ten years. This is the result of the

withdrawal of government funding. Individuals must pay the

difference. Federal spending in support of education and

training fell by 7.6% in 1990-91 over spending in 1989-90. The

portion of the federal budget going to education and training has

dropped from 7.3% in 1985-86 to 6.4% in 1990-91."9 The share of

federal funds going to provincial and territorial governments for

education and training has dropped from 56% in 1984-85 to a low

of 41.7% in 1990-91. The budget reflects that Canada is in a

tough economic situation. Cutbacks are necessary in order to

spend less money. In a sense, the budget is a mirror of the

economy. An increase of services or spending indicates a good

economic situation. A decrease of services or spending indicates

a decline in the economy. One of the solutions

9 Cynthia Wiggins, "Death by 1000 cuts: Public services in

peril," CLC Today, 1992 February issue, P.5

to survive during a tough economy is to cut back on educational

spending. "Some people believe that the government is heading

towards the privatization of education. Education is considered

to be a basic human right. The necessary educational programmes

and funding must be put in place to encourage lifelong

learning."10 However, insufficient funding is being spent on

education by the federal government. The labour unions keep

protesting the retrenchment strategy on education. Knowledge

means wealth to the country. If the workers are not well

educated, they may produce poor quality goods. As a result, the

country will lose its competitiveness in the world market.

Similarly, the same theory can be applied to Canada. "If the

retrenchment strategy continues, the public will cry out against

paying taxes for insufficient government services. Labour unions

continue to be concerned about the budget provided for

education."11

10 Riane Mahon, Canadian Labour In The Battle Of The

Eighties, Canadian Labour Congress, Quebec, 1983, P.168-169

11 Riane Mahon, Canadian Labour In The Battle Of The

Eighties, Canadian Labour Congress, Quebec, 1983, P.171

Investments And Economy

Investments are closely related to a country's economy.

Investment is defined as a property or other possession acquired

or invested in for future income or benefit. Unions also

establish funds to invest in business. Usually, the local union

invests the fund in a business located in the same area. Each

union uses the fund to promote the economy if possible. Examples

are provided in a newspaper called CLC Today (February 1992

issue). The worker-owned Solidarity Fund in Quebec recorded its

best year in 1991. The return on investment was 13.04% for the

year ending October 31. The cost of shares sold to workers in

1984 was only $10 per share. But it has increased to $14.80 per

share recently. Most of the shareholders are members of the

Quebec Federation of Labour. Fund managers have invested more

than $245 million in Quebec in the past seven years. They

estimate that 23,000 jobs have been created or saved as a result.

Another example is provided by unions in British Columbia.

Government, labour and business in B.C. are establishing an

investment fund for the province's working people. The Working

Opportunity Fund will be used to invest money in small and medium-

sized B.C. businesses to help diversify the province's resource-

based economy. The government is going to contribute $600,000 in

start-up money and a $2 million loan guarantee. These examples

illustrate the importance of unions in the Canadian economy.

Economic Union

"Canadians have greatly benefited from close economic

integration. Canada's economic and political union which allows

Canadians to live and grow together in a common land, has

generated economic gain for all Canadians. After the post war

period, Canada had one of the world's fastest growing economies.

The reason is that the Canadian economy is flexible in adapting

to change."12 However, Canada, like other countries, is facing

both internal and external economic challenges. By examining

chart B (provided at the end of report), it can be seen that

there has been a dramatic change in the distribution of world

exports in the past 18 years. Overall, exports in many countries

areas are decreasing. Much of the decrease has been absorbed by

Asia. Asia is the only area that has increased its world

exports. This could mean that Asia will be the leading export

area in the future. This is one of the external problems Canada

is facing.

"Therefore, economic union is being set up to enhance the

economy of Canada. Two key factors are: i) a high degree of

economic integration 2) an advanced degree of political

integration."13 Economic and political integration go hand in

hand

12 James Cronin, Work, Community and Power, Temple

University Press, Philadelphia, 1983, pp 215-217

13 Solomon Barkin, Worker Militancy And Its Consequences,

Praeger, New York, 1983, P.330

because, to maintain a high level of economic integration, each

party of the economic association must be able to modify its

policies. Economic union with political integration also

provides the structural basis for the sharing of income.

The facets of economic union that facilitate the relatively

free flow of people, goods, services and capital have had an

enormous impact not only on the structure of economic activity in

Canada, but also in raising Canadians' incomes.

Economic union raises productivity and incomes by making

available a much larger market for producers in all provinces

than the limited market. The size of the market made by economic

union is also important for generating Canada's bargaining clout.

Canada is the seventh largest industrial economy in the world.

"Economic union helps to smoothen the impact of economic

shocks, such as the grain price shock of 1986 - to the benefit of

all Canadians. This is accomplished by providing stabilization

and insurance benefits to the provinces. The economic union

provides insurance benefits in the Canadian regions. With the

many industrial structures across provinces, the insurance

principle is very important to the Canadian economy. The

stability of Canadian economy gives benefits to all Canadians."14

14 Statement On The Next Federal Budget, Ottawa, 1983, P.12

Conclusion

Most people believe that bargaining is best accomplished by

unions. However, unions get involved in all kinds of social

activities. These activities influence the economy of Canada

directly or indirectly. If there were no unions, Canadian

workers would not enjoy being among the most highly paid

labourers of the world. Without the unions, the privatization of

education might become a reality. Other than bargaining for

wages, unions also have to be socially responsible. But there is

evidence that unions are helping people other than paid members.

The prime objectives of the union is to provide better working

conditions for workers.

Bibliography

1 Barkin, Soloman, Worker Militancy And Its Consequences,

Praeger, New York, 1983

2 Carter, D.D., Canadian Industrial Relations In The Year 2000,

Industrial Relations Centre, Kingston, 1992

3 Cronin, James, Work, Community and Power, Temple University

Press, Philadelphia, 1983

4 Davidson, Alistair, and Ian Mckinnon, "Unions need to study

marketing," The Globe and Mail, May 8 1984, Business section,

P.8

5 Edward, David, Times Of Trouble, National Library of Canada,

Ottawa, 1983

6 Mahon, Riane, Canadian Labour In The Battle Of The Eighties,

Canadian Labour Congress, Quebec, 1983

7 Martin, D., Form War To Peace, Canadian Labour Congress,

Quebec,1991

8 Notes On Unions, Canadian Labour Congress, Quebec, 1992

9 Palmer, Bryan D., Solidarity: The Rise And Fall Of An

Opposition In B.C., New Star Books, Vancouver, 1987

10 Sinclair, Peter, Unemployment: Economic Theory And Evidence,

Oxford Press, England, 1987

11 Statement On The Next Federal Budget, Ottawa, 1983

12 Wiggins, Cynthia, "Death by 1000 cuts: Public services in

peril," CLC Today, Ottawa, 1992 February Issue

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