Ever so often I’ve heard off-hand comments about trade unions. I don’t want to guess where these comments come from and whether the irritants the speaker talks about are informed by the historical record.
The glittering and prosperous time of the industrial age in Britain and later in the U.S., saw thousands of jobs created and great fortunes made. What is often remembered are the fortunes made and the iconic and emblematic institutions and businesses created.
What is forgotten is the social costs of this prosperity.
We are going through a similar period of prosperity in Alberta at the moment and in some parts of Canada and there are great fortunes being made, and indeed, some iconic businesses created, but the social costs have become irritants to both the provincial and federal governments.
The old style tactics of the robber barons, the captains of industry, of accumulating wealth by expanding and growing globally has been in full swing for a while, with the complicity and cooperation of our governments.
When social irritants of children dying in care are exposed, and when the governments want to privatize and download public services for the disabled as in Red Deer to for-profit businesses, or when it outsources care for the elderly to profit making companies, I wonder what economic model they are using. How could a profit motive possibly be part of a system of caring for others in the most vulnerable of conditions?
Is getting paid for a living and reasonable wage for what you do not good enough? Why would I possibly want to accumulate wealth on the backs of people deeply in need?
Recently the Alberta Government was sharply rebuked in Court of Queen’s Bench for trying to pass Bill 46, the Public Service Salary Restraint Act, an attempt by the government to undermine public servants’ capacity to negotiate freely around wages and conditions of work.
Without a union, you are at the dictates of your employer. You can take it or leave it. If he or she is a good employer, you’re in luck. If not….well, you have to survive by your own wits.
For the future, watch the Conservatives in Ottawa deal with Canada Post. It is itching to privatize the Crown Corporation. It will whittle down the service till mail takes forever to arrive. Canadians will become disgruntled and say : “We need something better.” And the Tories will oblige with privatization. The governmental myth is that public services and public servants are too expensive. The truth is that privatization is a wealth producing, unregulated, unsupervised and an unaccountable entity and basically, as in the U.K., a failed project.