by Carolyn Ciccoritti of Carleton Place
The Canadian Labour Congress has a mandate that’s Golden Rule-book 101: “What we wish for ourselves we desire for all.” I had to be reminded of this tenet recently after I found myself beefing about some of the demands of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). Once the threat of back-to-work legislation reared its ugly head I was forced to disentangle myself from the strands of sour-grapes rhetoric—some cast from my own mouth—and firmly return to my usual position in support of workers’ rights. Anti-labour spin has a way of pitting citizens who don’t have union protection against those who do, and I had shamefully taken the bait.
It’s easy to gripe when the economy is shaky and the future unclear. This, however, is precisely the time when we need to buckle down and link arms in order to keep big business and government from using their “loss of revenue” and “economic recovery” cards. Capitalism, in its very structure, creates an imbalance between those who do the working and the businesses extracting wealth from their labour. Unions were born to ensure a more equitable distribution of weight on the scales of economic justice. We have only to recall the working conditions of the early industrial age for a sober reminder of the necessity to protect the rights, safety, and earnings of employees.
Labour Minister, Lisa Raitt, claims that the CUPW is no longer simply affecting Canada Post, but that it is causing hardship to the ordinary public. I sympathize with small business owners who may see an economic hit during the negotiation period—heaven knows small business is already treading the waters of big industry competition and consumer capriciousness. I would urge Canadians, however, to consider the long-term hardship we will incur if we lose the ability to negotiate the conditions under which we will make our living in the future.
The Feds are weaving an image of striking workers hurting others in order to get what they want. What of the lock-out forced onto workers by Canada Post? Seems like a breath-holding tactic to me. The government makes no mention of the harm done by this crown corporation not only to its employees, but to workers everywhere. I don’t need to belong to a union to see that if postal workers are mandated back it will be a blow to the already threatened collective voice of labour. And don’t we all deserve to be heard?