Our colleagues at ALPA have ended their ten-year framework early and have commenced bargaining. We anticipate that there will be much discussion in the public forum relating to Unions and their right to strike and their overall value to society. We strongly believe that Unions are the cornerstone of fairness and justice in society. We have many challenges but overall, Labour Unions have brought more benefits, fair wages, and justice to the middle class than any other organization.
We recognize that in the past we have seen grudges and some difficult conversations in relation to the inequity of B1 passes. This created an environment in some circumstances in which our Union and the Pilots Association had some hard feelings between them.
Having our Unions and the Association pitted against one another only serves one purpose, to divide and conquer. We would like to embark on a mutually beneficial and supportive relationship with all the Unions at Air Canada and ALPA. We will stand together with our colleagues at ALPA to wish them every success as they move towards this round of bargaining.
We know that each of you are eager for the Union to get to the table, and to finally get some gains. We will need the support of all our Air Canada brothers and sisters at that time, and right now they need ours. Let’s endeavor to let them know we are with them on this, and we trust they will be with us when the time comes.
We have all been at a party or a family gathering, and the subject of Unions comes up. There are those who believe that Unions have no value. To counter the comments you may be fielding, we leave you with some points brought to you by the Canada Labour Congress in relation to Anti-Union Myths.
SIX ANTI-UNION MYTHS — AND HOW TO BUST THEM
Ever wanted the perfect response to counter anti-union myths?
Union members hear trash-talk about unions all the time. It’s okay to talk back. Read our myth-busters below. And bust away!
MYTH #1 – UNIONS ARE STRIKE HAPPY
Unions negotiate for collective agreements – not strikes. No union wants a strike, but they are sometimes necessary when there is no other way to reach an agreement. To union members, a strike means sacrifice – for themselves and their families. Workers won’t go on strike unless the issues involved are so great they are worth the sacrifice. Unions always conduct membership votes before taking strike action and a strike occurs only when it has been approved by a clear majority.
In collective bargaining, strikes are the exception rather than the rule. We repeat: the exception. About 97% of all union contracts are settled without a strike, but this fact never seems to make the headlines.
But now that you mention it, unions also absolutely defend the right to strike. The right to withhold one’s labour in unison with fellow workers is crucial to maintaining a democratic society. As workers, we trade our labour in order to provide for ourselves and our families. If we do not have the right to withdraw those services, we no longer have anything with which to negotiate – and not much of a democracy, either.
MYTH #2 – UNIONS WERE GOOD AT ONE TIME, BUT HAVE OUTLIVED THEIR USEFULNESS
The Globe and Mail made this argument on May 6, 1886! Now, over 125 years later, it is still one of the most common arguments against unions. Hmmm… Without unions, in 1886 or now, how many Canadian workers would have been granted a decent wage or have leisure to enjoy it? You can’t have prosperity or social justice when two-thirds of the people are broke. Thanks to the wage levels established by the labour movement, even unorganized and anti-union workers have benefits today.
Globalization and the growing power of big business make unions more important than ever. Unions negotiate collective agreements and improve working conditions, wages and benefits – without unions, employers would treat workers however they want.
MYTH #3 – UNIONS PROTECT PEOPLE WHO SHOULD BE FIRED
No union contract requires an employer to keep a worker who is lazy, incompetent or constantly absent or tardy. What the union does is make sure dismissals are for “just cause” – for real reasons– and not personality clashes between supervisors and employees.
Yes, employees can’t be fired as they once were when they were considered not to be as useful or productive to their employer. Women who have a union can’t suffer discrimination from their boss because the boss fears they may get pregnant, for example. In that way, unions do protect people’s jobs. That’s the purpose of a union.
MYTH #4 – UNIONS ARE TOO BIG AND POWERFUL
Hah! Comparing “Big Unions” to “Big Corporations” and “Big Government” is a favourite trick of the media and other groups like the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. “Big” and “powerful” are relative terms. In actual fact, most Canadian unions are quite small, and together they represent less than 31% of the country’s workforce. Even the largest unions, in terms of size and resources, pale by comparison with transnational corporations such as Domtar, Suncor Energy, Canadian Pacific or General Motors.
In Canada, few politicians ever dare interfere with “free enterprise”. Business can set their prices, sell their products and throw their money into anything, from advertising to a new executive washroom, without supervision or restraint. Governments will usually give them money or tax breaks to do this. But go figure: politicians feel differently about unions. Unions require legal certification, formal backing from a majority of the workers they represent and a long, complicated legal process before they can call a strike. Governments intervene in strikes, force workers back to work, freeze salaries, reopen collective agreements and jail union leaders. Do you ever see governments try those tactics on companies?
Unions are made up of all kinds of people. They’re human. They negotiate for what they can in a world dominated by business in which we all have ringside seats to the profiteering by oil companies, supermarket chains and banks. If unions were half as powerful as they are said to be, they would be able to organize millions more Canadian workers. They would be winning more of their strikes and increasing their members’ wages and benefits a lot more than they actually are.
MYTH #5 – UNIONS ARE ALWAYS MAKING UNREASONABLE DEMANDS
What is a reasonable wage demand? One that meets the workers’ needs? One based on the employer’s ability to pay? One that’s tied to productivity? Or one that the business media thinks is responsible? The fact is that nobody has yet devised a workable formula for determining wage increases that would be considered “reasonable” by the workers, by their employers, by the public, by the press and by the government. One group or another will always be unhappy. Besides, most employers – except occasionally when in genuine financial stress – still refuse to open their books to union negotiators. Unions are thus denied access to the data on profits, productivity, and labour costs they must have in order to formulate “reasonable” demands. The only alternative in our private enterprise society is for unions to go for as much as they think their members are entitled to. To some segments of our society, anything they try to negotiate is too much.
MYTH #6 – THE PUBLIC IS NOT REPRESENTED IN STRIKES BY WORKERS
People who may be hurt or even just inconvenienced by public sector strikes should make an effort to look at other sides of the dispute to determine if workers’ demands are justified. If they are justified, then public pressure should be directed at governments to offer fair settlements, rather than force unions out on strike because it might be politically convenient – or, once a strike is taken, impose “back-to-work” legislation or other strike-breaking laws.
We hope that these myth busters will serve you at some point in the future. Together, the Air Canada Unions and ALPA represent almost 30,000 employees. United with a common goal we will achieve fair wages, fair working conditions and respect for our contributions to the company. When our turn at the bargaining table comes, we can hope that meaningful and effective support from our Union colleagues will carry us forward to a successful outcome.