Monday, July 6, 2009

the Canadian Union of Public Employees

I concede that once upon a long time ago in a Galaxy far, far away during the heady days of the Wild West at the dawn of the industrial revolution; Unions did serve a moderately useful purpose. This was of course until we had a Ministry of Labour and an evolved legal system to ensure that workers are treated in a manner consistent with the Constitution. We now have Police and Government officials who enforce the labour code and ensure that we don’t send newly landed immigrants running into caves with a quart of nitro.

Nowadays, the primary purpose of Unions is to act as a collective bargaining agent. They negotiate compensation packages for their membership that rewards tenure over talent, and they erect barriers that inhibit the hiring and firing of employees. In the private sector, I support the right of workers to unionize. I feel that unionization is a hindrance to good business, but in a competitive market I as a consumer have the right to choose a lower cost item. I am no fan of the CAW, but whatever deals they suckered GM and Chrysler into signing does not matter to me, I drive a Toyota and get a better product at a cheaper price. I do get upset when the government buys ownership in GM, because under those circumstances the autoworkers union transform from a private sector union to a public union. I’d prefer that GM do the dodo.

As a consumer, I enjoy a wide variety of choices when choosing a product or service. If a particular product is crap because it was made by an untrained union worker who knows he can’t be fired, or if it costs too much because the union extorted an absurd contract from management; then I can simply choose an alternative product. Where I have accumulated a critical mass of fervent contempt is with public unions who have a monopoly over the supply of labour to critical services. They are then able to exploit our dependency on their monopolized services to engage in extortion by abruptly removing that essential service from our lives.

If the Telus workers want to strike, I can just buy a Rogers phone (which I did). But if CUPE decides to pull the plug from garbage collection, the option of going to the counter and requesting an alternative does not exist. Then once the trash starts pilling up on the streets, they take it a step further and attempt to blockade private dumping sites; which is a transparent action proving that they want to enforce suffering of the citizenry who will be paying their salaries when they are able to extort a better deal from the Government. Resolution is expedited by Government capitulating to obscene Union demands.

In addition to the deadweight loss produced by the monopolization of a labour force or industry, public employee unions are lashing tax payers when they successfully extort these voluptuous contracts from Governments. This leaves the governments with the dilemma of either raising taxes or cutting costs elsewhere (such as law enforcement or education). Do we really need a united assembly of garbage men to compete for scarce public resources? I say let’s encourage the private sector to get in the trash collection business to compete for contracts with the gluttonous CUPE.

Where have you gone Mike Harris, Toronto turns its lonely eyes to you…


  1. The private sector is in the trash collection business, and they do a fine job of it. Don't businesses in Toronto pay for waste contractors to collect their trash? In my town, independent contractors periodically partipate in a competitive bidding for residential town collection routes. It seems to work just fine. It's only in socialist wastelands (Toronto and Windsor come to mind) where CUPE controls your residential garbage collection.

  2. Perhaps there is a solution... allow competitive unions to bid for contracts rather than leaving employers with no choice but to bargain with unscrupulous unions who abuse their monopoly...

  3. Union is bad for private business worst for public employees.
    In capitalism society, if you do not like to work for others you can start your own business. When all your employees want to strike as a owner you find solution or you go bust. Public employee holding the key services to the society, when you give the power for them to unionize most will want salary + increment + benefits + pension + health care, and they have the best weapon - strike.

    It all come down to this : For local government (say the mayor) think how many days/months/years will you be there, when they ask for a crazy contract do you want to fight them or just sign the paper so you can sleep tonight?

    Canada is slowly marching towards Greek/Europe style deficits it's all because of public employees union. Vancouver have 12 school closed this year, reason : budget deficit, while we are having record income tax collected : Simple while you pay hugea amount of till death pension to thousands of retirees, pregnant teachers have 1 year maternity leave while husband have 6 months off and such..., you wasted all those tax payers money and you have deficit. Solution: make union illegal. Can it be done : No, because it's really tough how are you going to 'fight' millions of public employees. So my conclusion is we'll be like Greek may be in between 10 to 15 years. Baby boomers are retiring right now, it will be huge wave of payout to them and raising taxes is the only way we know best, another temp solution is allow huge immigration into the country so we can sell them home/land/car... and our way of life, today mainly the rich Chinese, you can see the housing market in Vancouver, so it might continue to buy us sometimes but no guarantee.