Over the past 12 months, a number of pundits, academics and pollsters have suggested that support for unions and the labour movement is on the decline in Canada. Capitalizing on this perceived shift in attitude, Conservative members of both federal and provincial legislatures have taken the opportunity to advance their own agenda and arguably weaken the bargaining power of Canadian unions relative to employers. Some actions, such as repeated use of back-to-work legislation by Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt have left many wondering what the future of collective bargaining will look like in Canada and whether or not workers will have a "right to strike" going forward.
Back-to-work legislation in Canada
Government attacks against worker rights and the social wage are threatening hard-earned gains and advances for workers in Canada on many fronts and in many incremental ways. In this two-part series, we will look some of these struggles and what is at stake, with Part 1 focusing on the teachers' union in British Columbia, airline workers and the public pension. Part 2 takes a look at what must be done if we are to protect individual, public and social rights in Canada.
As governments and corporations intensify their attacks on workers' rights and the social wage, a trend of growing resistance is sweeping across Canada.
Canadian activists occupy Labour Minister Lisa Raitt's office in response to the attack on Air Canada workers. Support Air Canada Workers: http://www.facebook.com/groups/344577022247270/
Labour Minister Lisa Raitt and Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu sure can dance. Too bad Air Canada workers can't cut in...
The B.C. Liberal government is poised, once again, to violate the legal rights of workers, this time with Bill 22, which, if it becomes law, will prohibit teachers from striking and limit their collective bargaining rights.
In 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the government had violated the Canadian Charter by imposing legislative restrictions on the rights of health workers to bargain collectively. In April 2011, the British Columbia Supreme Court followed that decision to rule that legislation concerning teachers was unconstitutional, and thereby invalid, because it prohibited bargaining on class size, class composition and the ratios of teachers to students.
My mind keeps drifting back to the recent Air Canada flight attendants' strike that never happened, as a result of threats from the Harper government. I know it's already mouldy in news-cycle terms but its significance, its potential as a teachable moment, only became clear with the spread of the Occupy movements and their demand for some genuine democratic experience, versus the sham versions we now get in most elections. So return with me now to yesterweek.
When the flight attendants voted down, for the second time, a deal negotiated by their leaders with Air Canada, it's the reaction that was so illuminating. Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said: "Maybe the union misjudged, maybe management misjudged, but to do it two times in a row is a warning bell ..."