Volume 93, Issue 19

Thursday, September 30, 1999



Unionization, only with the stipulations

Campus tank a symbol of life, preservation

Tanks cease cleansing

Driver's ed needs some schooling

Public lust setting a media standard

Unionization, only with the stipulations

In these fast paced times, some of us expect to change jobs or employers more often than we change our socks. The idea of a long-term connection with a labour union may not be a major consideration for many of us.

However, workers' unions will affect us. We might never join a union. But we may find ourselves in a management position having to deal with one. We may find ourselves concerned about actions of the Canadian Auto Workers or statements made by leaders of the Canadian Labour Congress.

In a speech given to the Canadian Industrial Relations Association this year, Ray Pennings of the Christian Labour Association of Canada stated that unions have a credibility problem.

Pennings could, perhaps, have zeroed in on the adversarial attitude taken by some unions against employers.

I, for one, doubt that workers are incapable of understanding the concerns of management and vice versa. Labour relations don't have to be reduced to a simplistic class war between workers and owners.

Among the questions Pennings raises is this one. Why do unions restrict their members' right to choose to belong to more than one union? Clearly it satisfies the territorial and power grabbing instincts of some unions to be able to prevent a union member from working in their field if they are caught being a member of two unions.

But how does such a practice raise union credibility when a worker must, for reasons of providing for their family, sometimes have to go to a second union in order to work steadily? Are unions gods to whom workers must sacrifice the well being of their families?

Apparently a few require the sacrifice of the conscience. Pennings tells that a Halifax postal worker, Philip Safire, found the union's policies and constitution offensive and did not want to swear allegiance to it. He was willing to pay dues and join the union for collective bargaining purposes only. However, as a result of arbitration, he was eventually ordered to join the union or lose his job.

There is little doubt that unions can do and have done good. However, clamping down on freedom of association and freedom of conscience is a shoddy way of doing business. It makes union representatives look like bullies in formal wear.

In a diverse society such as ours, unions need to acknowledge that they do not have all the answers so that they do not have to violate anyone's conscience. And they need to allow workers to choose freely to associate with labour organizations in ways that respect the needs and integrity of each (potential) member.

If unions can respect the integrity of persons, they may find Canadians more open to supporting them. Whatever their future, it will serve us all well if none of us signs anything that violates our conscience.

Mike Veenema

UWO Chaplain

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Copyright The Gazette 1999