Common Myths about Unions
1. Unions are strike happy
• A union negotiates for collective agreements-not strikes. No union wants to strike, but they are sometimes necessary when there is no other way to reach an agreement. Workers will only strike if the issues are so great they are worth the sacrifice.
• A membership vote is always conducted before taking strike action and a strike can only occur when it has been approved by a clear majority of the membership.
• A strike is only used as a last resort. It is the bartering tactic which we have when trying to gain rights in an agreement. The standard of living for workers is just as important as profits and productivity for the company.
2. Unions were good at one time, but they have outlived their usefulness.
• Without unions, how many workers would have been granted a decent wage or have leisure time to enjoy it? You can't have prosperity and social justice when people are broke. Thanks to wage levels established by the labour movement, even unorganized and anti-union workers have benefits today.
3. Unions protect the lazy...the people who should be fired.
• No union contract requires an employer to keep a worker who is lazy, incompetent or constantly absent or tardy. What the union does is make sure dismissals are for "just cause"-for real reasons-not personality clashes between the boss and the employee.
• If the employer does their job, problem employees would receive proper warning and given the chance to improve. If they don't, they can be dismissed for "just cause". What often happens is they don't do their job properly and fire an employee and then blame the union for protecting them. This is not the case.
4. Unions are too big and powerful
• What is big and powerful? In actual fact, most Canadian unions are quite small, and together they represent less than 40% of the country's workforce.
• Even the largest unions, in terms of size and resources, pale by comparison with transnational corporations.
• Few governments dare interfere with "free enterprise". Business can set their prices, sell their products and throw their money into anything without restraint. Governments often give them money or tax breaks to do this. Unions receive nothing in the way of money or tax breaks, and the government often interferes with strikes, freeze salaries, reopen collective agreements and jail union leaders. Do you ever see governments try those tactics on companies?
5. Unions are always making unreasonable demands
• What is a reasonable wage demand? One that meets the workers needs? One based on the employer's ability to pay? One that's tied to productivity? Or one that the business thinks is responsible?
• The fact is that nobody has yet devised a workable formula for determining wage increases that would be considered reasonable by the workers, their employers, the public, the press and the government.
• Many employers still refuse to open their books to unions thus we are denied access to the data on profits, productivity and labour costs that we need in order to formulate "reasonable" demands. The only alternative is for unions to go for as much as they think their members are entitled to.
6. The public is not represented in-and is the innocent victim of strikes by workers in the public sector
• Unions in the public sector have to bargain directly with government officials. There are many rules and regulations that public sector unions have to follow before a legal strike can begin. It is much more stringent than in the private sector. Unions simply follow those rules.
• If the service provided by public sector workers is so essential, why are such workers so often among the lowest paid? If their jobs are so essential, why are they being contracted out and re-organized to cut positions?
• The public, as an employer, really has no more right to claim immunity from strikes than any other employer who doesn't make an honest effort to treat their workers fairly.
• Public pressure should be directed at the governments to offer a fair settlement, rather than force unions out on strike. Take a look at the demands of the union-they are most likely fair and reasonable demands