Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Postest with the Mostest

Greetings Friends,

The title of today's post doesn't make much sense, just like the fact that Canada Post has been on strike/locked out for the past 2 weeks. 

I'm pretty ambivalent when it comes to unionized labour; I've never had any experience or exposure to it in my life. My dad owned his own business and I've spent the majority of my working career under the thumbs of corporate ne'er do wells who may as well have been dictators. I've never held a union job, nor do I ever intend to. But that doesn't mean I feel there is no place in society for unions. In most cases, anyway.

You can always count on Canadians for a good labour disruption every so often. Two years ago, sanitation workers here in Toronto went on strike and there was garbage everywhere for weeks. Coincidentally, the strike happened during the summer, the worst time of year for allowing garbage to wallow in its own stink. 

Now, we've got Canada Post workers locked out of their jobs, with no mail getting through save for government benefit cheques. As I write this, Parliament is attempting to legislate the union back to work since there is absolutely no movement at the bargaining table. Here is the first test for the Conservative majority government: they're supposed to go on summer break as of Friday, but they have stated they would remain sitting until the strike is settled. The NDP (the official opposition party) is insisting that Canada Post workers not be forced to return to their jobs because they would be denied most of what they are asking for. 

Here's the problem: I agree with both sides. I think the Conservative government has every right to legislate postal employees back to work, but I also think that the two sides need to sit down and knock their heads together until they can reach an agreement they can live with. Much as we have gotten used to electronic communication, postal services are still vital to the economy, and this disruption has been a pretty big pain in the ass. I happened to be waiting for a parcel from the U.S. that earlier today finally landed in my hands via courier service from Montreal. Don't ask... 

I don't really know enough about unions to keep sitting on my soapbox about the pros and cons of their existence. What I do know is that neither side comes out a winner in any type of labour dispute. Just ask Jimmy Hoffa. 

What I also know is that protection for the working man is a good idea, but some unions take that too far. Professional athletes have no business being unionized - hence the current NFL labour dispute that involves protracted bickering over billions of dollars. That should not be allowed. If postal workers want to fight for higher wages, improved safety protocols and other benefits, more power to them. Millionaire athletes should not be afforded the same ability. If a mail carrier were to be paid by the number of letters and parcels he or she delivers, I'm sure they'd be richer than Alex Rodriguez. But that's not how it works. 

In the meantime, unions aren't going anywhere, and both sides of the table will never be at peace with each other. It's all part of the theatre we know as democracy. Or is it? 


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