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What good is a union?

Dear editor, Is the usefulness of unions in the protection of workers rights, coming to an end? The answer is yes.

The truth of the matter is that unions were the best thing that ever happened to the labour movement throughout the world because workers needed protection from been mistreated by employers and they also needed better working conditions, shorter work days and higher wages and unions were successful in bringing these essential changes.

This was very evident in the loggers strike in 1958/59 between International Woodworkers of America (IWA) and Anglo Newfoundland Development company (AND).

I've long supported unions, however my convictions have changed over the past few years mainly because unions are no longer about the protections of workers rights but about power and greed. Unions are no longer required to ensure that workers have good working conditions, good wages, and safe working environment, because these factors are regulated by legislation and laws and our moral values.

Today unions are obstructing company's abilities to compete and prosper. Unions are anti-competiveness; they have become victims of their own success because of high wages and benefits. The products or services that union workers produce as become so expensive that they cannot compete against cheaper foreign competitors and nonunion producers.

Under unions there is lacking of initiative and a noted drop in productivity from its members because there is no incentive to work at your top performance because your job is protected by your union at its contract with the employer.

However now in the twenty-first century the tides have changed, workers are not been exploited by employers now employers are been exploited by employees. Unions have become more powerful than their employers and that is an unhealthy business environment.

Unions are not willing to give concession to save members jobs. Union's demands are, when it comes to negotiations, driven by greed which in turn is forcing companies to close their doors as evident at the Caterpillar plant in Ontario, pulp and paper mills in Stephenville and Grand Falls-Windsor, and more recently at the OCI fish plant in Marystown.

Unions are so set in their way they are unwilling to bend or compromise to save a company from closing its doors. Their egotistic leadership is preaching from songbooks of old instead of today's realities. Unions expect companies to kneel to their every whim however in today's economic environment companies are making it clear to unions, if you don't work with us and only against us we will close the doors and move our business elsewhere, beware workers at the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper mill.

Unions seem to think that once a company or government puts forward a positive economic yearend financial statement that they are entitled to pay raises and increased benefits however when a companies or governments are in the red unions are not offering to rollback their wages and benefits to help their employer survive.

Unions seem to think or at less give the impression that once they go out on strike that a business must shut down when in fact during a strike, by law, an employer as the legal right to continue to operate their business with permanent replacement workers and that the striker's jobs are not secure when the strike is over. This is why scab labour legislation is an uncomfortable subject for governments because if scab labour legislation is legislated then more companies will close their doors and take their businesses elsewhere. Scab labour legislation will put more power in the hands of the Unions and less in the control of the companies/governments. This type of legislation will handcuff employers to the point where their rights as an employer will no longer exist. For governments to bring in scab labour legislation they will have to change the laws of the land to deny an employer the right to operate during a labour dispute.

The question is can non-union workers be employed by a company, work for a completive wage and have benefits equal to or better than a union can offer, the answer is yes and without paying out high union dues. All we have to do is look no farther that Michelin Tire in Nova Scotia where the CAW have tried on several occasions to unionize the plants in Bridgewater, Granton, and Waterville and without success because the workers there don't want a union screwing up an excellent relationship between employer and employee. Companies must take note of Michelin's successful labour relations and think hard about how they do business by following Michelin's blueprint for success.

It is time for governments to take a hard look at the issue of labour relations between employers and employees. They will discover that unions in general are one of the major contributors to the economic mess that the world is in today. The European Union is in crisis and mainly because of the demands of unions in countries like Greece. Its time for companies to threat there non-union employees with respect, good working conditions, fair wages and benefits that will in turn keep the powerful and greedy unions outside looking in.

Brian Pollard

                                                                                                 Bishop's Falls, NL

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