Erin Cardone: The value of unions is waning

Following a March column in which I chastized feminism for having taken women’s rights too far in some cases, a reader called me a Southern Albertan Bible-thumper, or something to that effect.
She was right, in a small way. I’m actually from central Alberta. The Bible part doesn’t apply to me at all, though.

Following a March column in which I chastized feminism for having taken women’s rights too far in some cases, a reader called me a Southern Albertan Bible-thumper, or something to that effect.

She was right, in a small way. I’m actually from central Alberta. The Bible part doesn’t apply to me at all, though.

Another called me a neo-conservative and some threw other labels at me, which will not be repeated here.

Dear readers, sharpen your pencils. Here comes another tirade from this central Albertan.

Haven’t we grown out of unions in Canada? Generally speaking, those days of appalling conditions for workers and no job security to speak of are gone, aren’t they? And yet, Air Canada employees are on strike and those at Canada Post are locked after after rotating strikes.

Let me clarify that some industries still benefit from unions. Heavy-industrial workers, for example, can still face frightening conditions. But they’re not on the picket lines today.

Both unions are crying about their pensions, which are so comfy, they make those of us in the rest of the middle class green with envy.

Both employers are fighting to change the pensions for new hires to a less expensive, less lucrative system in an effort to dig themselves out of whopping pension deficits, driven by a wave of retirees.

In very few cases do Canadian job sectors need unions. Unionized workers’ conditions are better than most and their safety concerns are already addressed by occupational health and safety standards. Concerns about job security? Yeah, the rest of us have those too.

But the perks of unions reach far and wide. They guarantee annual salary raises, plenty of vacation time and sick days, and, apparently, really nice post-retirement packages.

When Canada Post and Air Canada employees didn’t immediately get their way, they resorted to job action, a term coined by spin doctors which, for the sake of accuracy, should be renamed job inaction.

In Canada Post’s case, putting pressure on the employer could mean postal workers are only shooting themselves in the foot, demanding more in a rapidly declining industry. Not for the greater good. Not for customer service. Not even for better safety regulations or job security. It’s about post-retirement dollars.

Here, I give permission for you to slam me with dirty labels, like right-winger, neo-con, capitalist (although I’m sure you can be more creative). What ever happened to good, old fashioned hard work? Want job security? Make yourself indispensable. Want a pillowy retirement fund? Save. Save early. That’s what the rest of the middle class does.

Three years ago I covered a library worker strike. They wanted better pay and I begrudgingly reported the librarians sought higher salaries and shorter work hours than what many people with their education levels received. My tax dollars pay the annual wage increase they won in those negotiations (after they locked people out of libraries for six weeks) and I know I’m not the only non-union worker who’s been affected by a wage freeze since the market slipped in 2008.

A teacher strike looms this fall – next week, B.C. teachers vote on whether to accept offers put forth by their employer. They’ll seek pay raises, of course, but paired with smaller class sizes and more help from teacher’s aides for students with higher needs, making the whole idea easier to swallow for the non-unionized public.

I’m not saying all unions are useless, disruptive, greedy organizations, but some take advantage of their power-in-numbers to keep a grasp on their employers’ silver spoons, in times when many of us are lucky to still have our jobs – and others aren’t so lucky.

Erin Cardone is a reporter for the Victoria News.

ecardone@vicnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Gabriel Swift, 23, is one of three Victoria filmmakers chosen to receive $20,000 Telus Storyhive grants to produce Local Heroes documentaries. (Courtesy of Gabriel Swift)
Three Victoria filmmakers producing ‘local heroes’ documentaries with $20,000 grants

Telus Storyhive providing $20,000 to 40 Western Canada productions

Goldstream Food Bank president Gayle Ireland is the Goldstream Gazette’s 2021 Local Hero as Community Volunteer of the Year. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Two-week stint at Goldstream Food Bank turns into 35 years of volunteer service

Goldstream Food Bank’s Gayle Ireland is the 2021 Community Volunteer of the Year

Council has recommended that the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) approve a cannabis retail application by Buds Cannabis. It plans to open the store in the 9700-block of Second Street. It would be the business’ second outlet (it has an outlet in Central Saanich) and the second such business in Sidney. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney recommends approval of licence for second pot shop

Councillors also push back against public concerns about Sidney’s image

From right: Brad Cameron, BCEHS superintendent of patient care delivery for Greater Victoria, with primary care paramedics Em Funk, Tyrone Trotter, Fiona Galvin and Peter Hill at the Leigh Road station. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore paramedics didn’t waver when faced with COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. Emergency Health Services personnel are this year’s Courage and Bravery Award recipients

February is Black History Month. (Photo: Government of Canada)
Camosun College highlighting Black content with research guide during Black History Month

The collection includes a range of works by Black authors and creators

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

After nearly 10 months of investigations, Mounties have made an arrest in the tripping of an elderly woman in Burnaby this past April. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Mounties charge suspect for tripping elderly woman near Metrotown in April

32-year-old Hayun Song is accused of causing bodily harm to an 84-year-old using her walker

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives to view the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Death threats mount against Dr. Bonnie Henry, sparking condemnation from Horgan, Dix

Henry has become a staple on televisions in homes across British Columbia since January 2020

Most Read