Wednesday, September 21, 2005

FACT AND FICTION ABOUT UNIONS

FACT and FICTION ABOUT UNIONS
(FROM Organizing Unions by M. Cornish and L Spink)

1. Unions are wrong for the times and they don't make a difference NOT TRUE

• This myth says unions keep investment away and make it difficult for
business to trade or compete. The reality is many businesses suffer
whether they are unionized or not. 4 When the economy in many European countries was thriving a decade
ago - the majority of workers in countries like France, Germany and
Sweden were unionized. 4 Real issue for many businesses is free trade, the value of the Canadian
dollar and unfair trading practices.
• it's a mistake to accept competitiveness as the central measure of our society's worth. Rather, it is more important to think about how unproductive our society is when unemployment is high and people's skills and energies are wasted.
• And unions do make an incredible difference in people's lives:
> Means fairness, not favouritism and management can't make up the
rules as it goes along. > Union protects people from harsh and hasty discipline or dismissal -
with a grievance procedure. > Unions protect workers from lay-offs - they can't guarantee every job if
an employer is cutting back on jobs - but they fight to stop it, prevent
layoffs with early retirement, ensure the collective agreement is applied
evenly and provide, retraining.
2.
Union members have more job protection than non-union employees TRUE

• Unions provide just cause protection
4 Unions fight for better wages
4- Unionized workers have access to more and better benefits-than non­union workers
4 Union members have access to representatives to help them enforce their 1 rights to a healthy, safe, and discrimination-free workplace
4 Union members have access to workplace training, development and union educational programs

3. Union always mean a strike NOT TRUE

* Unions normally negotiate a collective agreement without having to resort to a strike. In some workplaces, the law forbids workers from striking
* The law is very restrictive on when a union can call a strike.
* Unions don't strike in a vacuum - there are two sides - one of which can
be an aggressive and unyielding employer 4 When the crunch comes - it is the union members who decide, usually by
secret ballot vote on whether or not to strike 4 Going on strike is the last resort.

4. Unions hurt productivity NOT TRUE

• Recent academic studies show that productivity is higher in unionized
firms than non-union firms. 4 The central issue on productivity is how the employer handles conflict -
not whether or not a workplace is organized. 4 An agreement a union makes with an employer about work rules can
mean a more stable work process because conflicts are worked through
bargaining and a collective agreement. 4 Unions can aid overall efficiency because of a lower employee turnover.
5. Unions are rigid. They don't like change NOT TRUE

• Usually the media only reports on problems and inflexibility in the news.
• Having a union gives employees more power and resources to respond creatively to issues in the workplace. Employees are more likely to co­operate in changes when a dear process is set out and they feel protected.
• Unions have led the way for change - WSIB, Employment Standards and Minimum Wage, Old Age Pensions, Unemployment Insurance and laws on Human Rights,

6.Big union bosses only want your money NOT TRUE

This is a myth on many counts -
* Unions aren't big, unions aren't run by bosses, and unions aren't in it for
the money + Unions are democratic organizations - they aren't controlled by union
bosses but rather elected officials who must work with an elected board -
in OPSEU the board is elected every two years.
• Dues pay for services - both centrally and with the local. Any union member may ask for and get an audited financial statement from the union.
+ Compared to businesses, unions have relatively little wealth. The head offices of all 494 unions in Canada including bank accounts, investments, strike funds are worth $1.1 billion dollars. Everyone of the first 147 top corporations in Canada has more assets than that. MacLean Hunter -which publishes McLean's magazine - alone controls more than that. The 1996 revenue of Molsons was twice that amount. Salary and bonuses for many CEO's are in the millions.
KEY ADVANTAGES TO BEING A MEMBER OF A UNION (to list just a few):

1. Negotiated pay and working conditions
2. A legally binding contract
3. Option to use Third Party Arbitration to resolve disputes
4. Job security and job protection
5. Collective strength - wages are taken out of competition with more
unions in the sector.
6. Pay and Equal pay
7. Social and political activities
8. Fun

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