FACE TO FACE: Is the Stephen Harper Conservative government anti-labour?
I'm pleased to see the Conservative government putting our nation's economic interests ahead of the demands of a relatively few disgruntled union workers.
The Stephen Harper government introduced back-to-work legislation when customer service and sales staff at Air Canada walked out in June but the two sides reached a deal before Ottawa could pass the measure into law. That same month, the House of Commons passed a bill ordering 48,000 Canada Post employees back to work. Earlier this month, the government threatened back-to-work legislation for Air Canada's flight attendants before both parties agreed to go to binding arbitration.
New Democrats and their union backers have predictably cried foul accusing the Harper government for attacking labour rights and for waging a war against unions.
Rhetoric aside, the legislation is sound public policy.
We have just come through the largest world-wide economic slowdown since the Depression and are now teetering on a double-dip recession. A prolonged work stoppage at either Air Canada or Canada Post would hurt our economic recovery - those are the facts.
It's important to keep in mind that Canada Post and Air Canada aren't two rinky-dink unionized shops in Smalltown, Canada. These are two of our country's largest companies and their services affect almost every sector of the economy.
Despite new technologies, Canada Post still processes 11 billion pieces of mail a year and is the only company that is able to deliver to every address in Canada. Small businesses, charities, rural and elderly correspondents, in particular, remain dependent on snail mail.
The Canada Post dispute, which effectively shut down the country's postal system, cost the company approximately $167 million. And that's only the direct impact; it doesn't take into account the hardship faced by the thousands of Canadian businesses affected by the lockout.
Air Canada is this country's largest airline, with 23,000 employees serving 31 million passengers a year, flying to 58 scheduled Canadian destinations.
According to one consultant, a strike lasting more than a couple of days would cost the airline about $11.7 million a day in operating revenues and $1.2 million in operating profit.
These back-to-work measures were not and are not about attacking unions or tuning back the clock on labour rights. They're about protecting our fragile economic recovery, plain and simple.
Andy Radia is a Coquitlam resident and political columnist who writes for Yahoo! Canada News and Vancouver View Magazine. He has been politically active in the Tri-Cities, having been involved with election campaigns at all three levels of government, including running for Coquitlam city council in 2005.