6/19/11

Labour relations takes one more step back: Whither free collective bargaining?

What's striking in the threats by the federal government to legislate back Air Canada and Canada Post workers is that they came so quickly.  


This is something new.

In Canada Post's case, the threat of legislation came only a few hours after Canada Post locked the workers out.  For its part, the union had offered to accept the existing contract and continue negotiations to keep the mail moving.

Far from threatening the national economy, the Air Canada strike was (if you can believe news reports) hardly even inconveniencing passengers before the government began to threaten legislation.  

Given the speed of the legislative threat, this may well have been the plan even before the strike began.   (Indeed, one has to wonder if the government telegraphed its plan to Air Canada before the strike began, further undermining the bargaining process.) 

The result?   The employer may be able to ditch the defined benefit pension plan for new hires: the issue will be sent to arbitration.  This for a major enterprise with a strong union.   If Air Canada is successful, it raises questions about other defined benefit pension plans (like the plans for public sector workers).  

For trade unions, the problem is even more serious:  collective bargaining is the major function of trade unions, yet governments are continually increasing the restrictions on it.   






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