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Brandon Sun - PRINT EDITION

Labour has to reinvent itself

The headline in the Feb. 14 New York Times read: “Volkswagen Vote is Defeat for Labor in South.”

Let’s face it, in North America, as in the rest of the western world, labour is on the ropes and in the last round of the fight in representing employees. Western governments introducing traditional economic models believe the way to go about this is to increase the inequity within our society.

Point the labour laws in the direction of the employer and cut as much as possible on the big money items at the bargaining table like benefits and pensions.

This headline is a great example of workers in the U.S., and to a lesser degree in Canada, of expressing the concept of false conciseness — citizens not knowing what is in their best interest.

It’s a political-economy theory that people are unable to understand who in our institutions represent their values and interests.

For example: a person on social welfare voting to lower taxes for those who are already wealthy.

On an individual level they either start to feel helpless in their despair, or move in the direction of believing in radicalization. That the country is not motivated to move in the direction that will assist less powerful groups, citizens feel they do not have a stake in society.

Should there be a wide gap between those in need and government indifference, citizens’ expectation and real needs — particularly for young people? In Canada the youth unemployment rate is 14 per cent.

The employer has more authority worldwide based on the balance of power in or out of the workplaces. I am a moderate on these matters, but labour has failed in Canada to step up to the plate with fresh strategies to fight the right-wing agenda.

For the past 20 years in Canada and the U.S., the percentage of organized workers has dropped sharply in the private sector.

They could disappear like a 20th-century dinosaur, unless new creative strategies are developed as to why a strong labour relations system is a measure of how democratic the country really is.

Unions must and will play an important role in Canadian society.

Now in our tech age, unions have to rethink how best labour should proceed. They must understand changing needs of workers, who are very different from factory or public sector unionism.

Union leaders have lost their class awareness and application of relational tactics to manage their loss of members and authority in the greater society. The class conscience is gone since now we are discussing becoming middle class, which has hurt labour.

Unemployment could be attacked by government since in our society much is needed in public works — the billions of dollars needed for infrastructure such as roads, bridges, schools and hospitals.

Labour needs to develop new methods for a different era of employees who are highly independent and well educated. Young people full of expectations for successful careers and rightly so. We owe it to them!

We need to move toward collaborative models. We just cannot afford dysfunctional conflicts.

Employers, labour and government need to work jointly on the best direction to move forward — not either side pinning one another to the cross.

This is a major principle of the labour relations model in Canada, what is known as the tripartite model, where the key three stakeholders work to the mutual benefit of all parties through mutual gains.

ALAN LEVY

Brandon

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 22, 2014

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Let us assume that Canada Post is one of Canada's larger employers of unionized staff. Let us further assume that CP is in deep financial difficulty and needs some combination of increased revenue and reduced cost. Raising stamp prices through the roof on March 31 is highly unlikely to be part of the solution. How about reducing mail delivery to three days a week? An essential service would be maintained and at an obviously reduced cost. Would CUPW go for this to save their CP? History would suggest that the answer would be a resounding no, partly because fewer postal workers would be required. Thus we see the fundamental conflict, again and again, between the public interest and union priorities.

Do unions still have a useful role? In China we have seen workers wages raise several fold in recent years because of supply and demand and despite the absence of anything resembling strong unions. To answer the question, I think not.

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The headline in the Feb. 14 New York Times read: “Volkswagen Vote is Defeat for Labor in South.”

Let’s face it, in North America, as in the rest of the western world, labour is on the ropes and in the last round of the fight in representing employees. Western governments introducing traditional economic models believe the way to go about this is to increase the inequity within our society.

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The headline in the Feb. 14 New York Times read: “Volkswagen Vote is Defeat for Labor in South.”

Let’s face it, in North America, as in the rest of the western world, labour is on the ropes and in the last round of the fight in representing employees. Western governments introducing traditional economic models believe the way to go about this is to increase the inequity within our society.

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