Hot! Lisa Raitt’s trampling of union rights speeds up demise of labour ministry

TheGlobeandMail.com – news/national
Published Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011.    Rod Mickleburgh

Yes, Virginia, there is a federal Labour Minister. Her name is Lisa Raitt, youngest daughter of Tootsie and former union negotiator Colin MacCormack. But Ms. Raitt may not have the job long. Like labour reporters, labour ministries may soon be extinct.

Union membership is on the wane, swamped by a vast sea of low-paying service jobs and yawning indifference from a public increasingly obsessed by such weighty matters as the stock market, shopping, gossip about nonentities and the struggle to survive when there hasn’t been a new product to talk/text/tweet about in the past 15 minutes or so.

Ms. Raitt is doing her best to accelerate her portfolio’s demise. The right to free collective bargaining and the right to strike have been fundamental in this country for more than 70 years. With Ms. Raitt in charge, those rights appear headed for the trash can.

Take the postal workers, and don’t say “please.” Not only did the Lisa Raitt government order them back to work (not new), it imposed wages on the union that were actually lower than the employer’s last offer. Something like that hasn’t happened in Canada since the final daze of “Wacky” Bennett’s Social Credit government out here in the early 1970s.

Customer service agents at Air Canada, a private company, also faced back-to-work legislation this year, after only a few days on strike, with few flight disruptions. Why?

And now we have the sad farce of the current wrangle at good old Air Canada, with all sides bumbling around like a bat in a bowling alley.

This one’s been a doozy for Ms. Raitt. She vowed back-to-work legislation before flight attendants had set up a single picket line, called for a review of the long-standing federal labour code because employees twice said no to a recommended agreement (an extremely rare event), and further abused the bargaining process this week by arbitrarily referring the wrangle to the Canada Industrial Relations Board, putting union job action on hold.

This is a difficult dispute. It cries out for the cool deliberation of an independent third party to ferret out root causes and propose a fair settlement.

Yet Ms. Raitt seems more interested in trampling traditional union rights, and few among the 39.6 per cent of the electorate that voted Tory the day before my birthday likely cares a whit.

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1 Comment

  1. Kimberley Cloughley

    Correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t the union leaders and the minister on the same page? I believe they both want the employees to get to work! Twice the union recommended the membership vote to accept a negotiated conract. I’m not trying to say that I am standing with Ms. Raitt on back to work legislation, I’m merely pointing out the obvious and that is the union itself is at odds with this membership not once but twice and I’m sure that Ms. Raitt would rather have them come to a decision as a cohesive group that to have this dispute brought to her ministry. I personally think this is a case of ineffective union management!

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