Agree to Disagree


By Lindsay Advocate

This month, James Mulhern and Gene Balfour consider the pros and cons of unions: do they have workers' backs, or are they self-serving? File photo.
James Mulhern

Unions have workers’ backs

There are people that will tell you unions are a thing of the past, and they are no longer needed. I can tell you that until all workers stop dying for a job as the result of workplace hazards or diseases, they will always be needed. Every year, there are about 300 workers who have died on the job in Ontario.

For the last 124 years, unions have fought for and won many victories, such as weekends off, child labour laws, paid breaks, paid vacations, equal pay for equal work, sick leave, minimum wage, pregnancy leave, parental leave, the right to strike, anti discrimination laws, overtime pay, occupational health and safety legislation, workers’ compensation, collective bargaining, ending the use of asbestos, gender equality, Wesray Bill C-45, better mental health awareness in the workplace, and domestic violence awareness in the workplace.

This is only a partial list of what union members have fought for over the years. There are people who will tell you unions force business to close. Why would they put their own members on the street? There are some who would say unions protects slackers. This is another myth; it is not the responsibility of the union to monitor workers.

Another anti-union argument is that unions force everyone to pay fees. While people who work in a unionized environment and oppose unions are not forced to join the union, they are required to pay union dues. This is because every worker in a workplace who benefits from a union contract should contribute financially to these advantages. For example, if a union negotiates wage and benefit increases, they go to all employees in the workplace, not just to those who chose to be union members.

James Mulhern is the president of the Lindsay and District Labour Council.


Gene Balfour

Unions are self-serving

My opposition to labour unions, particularly in tax-funded workplaces, is informed by my economics studies in property ethics, the Canadian constitution and a 36-year career as a professional recruiter.

All employment involves a property exchange between employee and employer. Business employers provide the job, compensation and workplace needed to achieve their objectives. Employees trade their body, mind, effort, time, relevant skills and work experience for acceptable terms. Hiring new employees involves selecting people from competing choices. Individual compensation increases, bonuses and promotions are merit earned.

Collective bargaining agreements in unionized workplaces produce very different dynamics. Unions favour compliance with collective agreement rules while businesses favour productivity. In non-union workplaces, experienced job candidates are hired on merit and performance. Underperforming employees can be terminated. In tax-funded unionized workplaces that prioritize seniority and employee protection, hiring is typically restricted to short lists of available union members. Non-performing workers are not easily dismissed.

The wages, benefits and rules negotiated in collective agreements apply equally regardless of employee performance. Unions broker and enforce favourable labour arrangements exclusively for members, often claiming past negotiation successes which benefited privileged stakeholders over others. Have government negotiators effectively safeguarded the reliability, quality and affordability of public services for citizen stakeholders and taxpayers?

While “freedom to associate” allegedly protects “collective bargaining” constitutionally, what about workers’ freedom to not associate with unions or pay mandatory fees? Proven unnecessary in most modern business workplaces, has unionism become an archaic, self-serving overhead for all services funded by taxpayers?

– Gene Balfour is a retired Libertarian and PPC candidate living in Fenelon Falls.

1 Comment

  1. Perhaps the biggest threat to union organizations currently looming before us is AI technology.

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