A Sneakier Way To Bust a Union
Mar 10, 2011
There has been a lot of attention on Wisconsin of late, what with Republican Governor Scott Walker attempting to gut collective bargaining and destroy the public sector union that represents government workers there. But there are other, more subtle attacks on unions taking place in other states that are going relatively unnoticed.
The Ohio Senate has recently passed a bill that basically hands over all labour arbitration decisions involving public workers directly to the governments that employ them. The bill would give public sector employers the right to unilaterally determine how much their workers are paid, the benefits they receive, and their hours of work.
But this attack on labour hasn’t received much attention at all. Ohio’s Republican Governor, John Kasich, is perhaps a bit craftier than his Wisconsin counterpart.
And of concern to Canadian labour leaders is that the Ohio example could be attempted here in Canada. The key is control over the arbitration process.
Public sector workers are already denied the right to strike in provinces across the nation. But this has not proved to be problematic since disputes that arise between these workers and their employers are decided by independent arbitrators.
Normally, arbitrators are as fair as possible to both sides and strive to reach an agreement that is generally reflective of what would have been realized had both sides continued to negotiate with each other.
But the Ohio solution is a sneaky way around this process. Under the proposed legislation, all public sector employers are deemed essential and thereby denied the right to strike. Their union rights are not removed entirely, but all they are really able to bargain for is wages.
And in the event of an impasse, independent arbitrators do not make a decision. It is the workers’ political masters that do so, basically making the entire bargaining exercise irrelevant.
For those who want to curtail union rights, the elimination of independent arbitration is every bit as effective as the Wisconsin approach. And much more stealthy.
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