Harper Government Should Stay Out of Labor Negotiations

For the fourth time since the federal election on May 2, 2011, Canada’s Labour Minister Lisa Raitt has said the government will interfere in a legal strike if it begins to affect the economy. She says it’s an obligation for the government.

This time she’s already putting the house on notice that back to work legislation is possible for CP Rail, even though there is evidence suggesting that the strike, which only began on Wednesday, is having little to no affect on the economy at the moment.

Lisa Raitt speaking at Sheridan College, photo by Alex Luyckx

Of course, the federal government also gets to decide if a strike is affecting the economy and have never divulged what their criteria are exactly. They’ve previously decided that two strikes at Air Canada were hurting the economy, which led to a sick-in by pilots, and a wildcat strike by baggage handlers after two workers were reportedly suspended for slow-clapping for the minister. In June of 2011, the Conservative government stepped in to put a stop to a lockout at Canada Post and imposed a contract on the workers that contained provisions harsher than those in management’s most recent offer.

Raitt was quoted in the Toronto Star as saying:  “We want to encourage bargaining at the table … But they (the union and CP Rail) have to be aware of the fact that the Canadian government will step in on the basis of the national economy and the greater public interest at some point.”

But when this government repeatedly steps in quickly for the company, putting notice of back to work legislation on the order paper just days after an action begins — even when the union is in a lockout situation — what it really means is that the management at these companies has no need to negotiate in good faith.

Why would management cooperate and bargain in negotiations when they know that the federal government will jump in and save them in the name of the economy?

Members of the union, Teamsters Canada, say they are fighting to protect their pensions and for better worker safety conditions. Meanwhile, the company saw the CEO and six board members leave recently.

Collective bargaining is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a right that was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2007. The court ruled “That the grounds advanced in the earlier decisions for the exclusion of collective bargaining rights from the charter’s protection of freedom of association do not withstand principled scrutiny and should be rejected.”

Trade unions are a large part of Canadian history and the Harper government’s actions, consistently interfering in collective bargaining could fundamentally change what unions mean to Canadian workers.


Related Stories:

Government Threatens Legislation to End Canada Post Lockout

Air Canada Employees Stage Wildcat Strike After Gov’t Intervention

Canada Post Locks Out Workers


Photo Credit: vxla


Lin Moy
Lin M5 years ago

I hate unions.

Michelle Barager
Michelle Barager5 years ago

Nancy.. Agreed :) high five lol

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L5 years ago

Michael K, you are very wrong. When unions are in place in an organization everyone benefits. I will give you a not so unique example. San Francisco hospitals have generally 6 to 8 unions they negoiate with, but none of the whitle collar workers are union. But the white collar workers benefited with excellent healthcare plans (employes did not have to contribute until the year 2000), retirement plans (vested in 5 years), merit AND cost of living increases every year and better than excellent working conditions.

The leaders you mention were wrong very wrong with their decisions regarding labor. I do think some unions have gotten out of contril, but if workers do not have unions to speak for them who will...big business executive. Without unions workers are at the mercy of their employer, just ask any upper management individual, who has been fired unfairly.

Gene F.
Gene Fritsch5 years ago

As a Canadian living outside of Canada, I hope that the Canada I left will still be there when I return. It may not be possible with religious nutcases in charge. Why Canadians voted for this snake in the grass is beyond me.

Of course one of the ways the loser is the winner is our archaic system of electing representatives. First-past-the-post actually allows the loser of a riding vote to be the winner. We need proportionla representation: 2 elections ago, a million Canadians voted for the Green party and received zero MPs while 800,000 Albertans voted Conservative and got 27 MPs..how is this fair?

Past Member
Past Member 5 years ago

Why is an article about the Harper government using American spelling in the title? Is this article written by an American? aimed at an American audience? or is it intended for Canadians? If so Amy Boughner, why is the word Labour in the title of your article spelled the American way????

Robert K.
Robert K5 years ago

And Lincoln said labor is superior to capital. I say labor should always be treated better than corporations. When corporations were allowed to exist, which many of the founders of the USA were against, they were required to serve the public interest ahead of profit. I wish we had learned something from the old timers, they were 100% right. What's good for the workers is good for every one and what's good for the fst cats is good for the fat cats.

Robert K.
Robert K5 years ago

Michael K, while I support attacks on concervatives who are basically anti-everything rational, I only support honest attacks. Of course Eisenhower wasn't a conservative, and was to the left of Obama, he also didn't force the rairoads back to work, that was Truman.

Carole R.
Carole R5 years ago

Thanks for the post.

Nancy Crouse
Nancy Crouse5 years ago

This is why unions are declining because governments are the servants of the corporate whores. Even though we supposedly 'elect' the government, Harper's agenda has been hidden until he got a majority. Now we are witnessing the dismantling of Canada and all she stands for, we sit idely by and do nothing. Other countries protest and riot but Canada just sits and says; oh well, we'll just wait until the next election.
Labour unions have been the target of the neo-cons, decimating them and screwing them when they have the legal right to strike. The agenda is this, force people to work for the lowest wage possible so the corporate whores can make more money for the pimps, the stake holders. The result is the shrinking middle-class. Who will then take the hit for the coporations and governments? The poor will not have any money so hopefully they will see that they have shot themselves in the foot. No, they will only shake the last nickle out of the poor because we don't have the penny any more so they cannot shake the last cent out of us. See, they make more money anyhow.
We have sat quietly by while govrnments have run roughshod over the unions by tearing up contracts and closing down businesses where ther are unions. this all for the almighty buck.
Canadians must begin to ask questions, storm the legislatures, anything to bring down the corporate pigs all feeding off the trough of the undermined 99%.
In the meantime, we have the neo-cons running over us all, making obscene a

Ken S.
Ken S.5 years ago

The Harper government is one of the most reactionary and regressive in Canada's history, and epitomises the authoritative regimes that began with Thatcher and Reagan - the Ayn Rand greed based neoliberal philosopy - which debases the stated aim of 'free' trade by promoting cutthroat competition, company takeovers and a shrinking economic base controlled by huge corporations, that swallow or eliminate any competition.