Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Platform: Labour and Workplace Reform

I think over the course of this post I'll manage to make alot of people mad, but so be it. I'm going to say what I think anyway. It's been a long time since there was a serious examination of labour and the workplace. The Labour movement of the early 20th century accomplished much of what we now hold as 'normal': the five day / forty hour work week, health and safety codes, pensions, overtime pay etc. The world has changed significantly since those days though and I would propose a few changes.

First: We need to start working toward a four day work week. Machines have taken over much of the work but that has translated into higher profits for employers and fewer jobs, all that labour saving has actually hurt labour in too many cases. This transition cannot be done all at once and we may not be able to do it for all workers such as in cases where there is a shortage of workers in a certain profession or in cases where there is executive decision making required from a certain person, but we need to move in that direction - to create more jobs and free up time for people to spend with their families and in activities they enjoy outside of work.

Second: The Federal Government does not set minimum wage, that's the job of the provinces, but that doesn't mean the Federal Government has no influence. There should be a Federal minimum wage which would apply to Federal employees but which would also be a pre-requisite for government contracts. If you don't pay the minimum wage you cannot do business with Ottawa. Hopefully this signal would help to increases minimum wages across Canada.

Third: Skills and education are obviously a good criteria for immigration, but only if we can put those skills to use. It is altogether harmful for Canada to allow the immigration of doctors and engineers from the third world only to have them drive taxis or push brooms. In most cases their skills are rare and much in demand in the places they are from and if we are not going to allow them to work as doctors and engineers in Canada then deny their immigration. Skills and education should only be used as an immigration criteria in cases where those skills are recognized.

Fourth: And this is going to be the one that makes people mad. I'm fully in favor of the right to unionize and collective bargaining, but we have to keep labour disputes from holding entire cities or entire student populations hostage.

I am not laying blame on either side. I'm not in on the negotiations and don't know who is being unreasonable, only that this kind of thing can't continue. Contract talks frequently start a year or more before the contract expires. That's alot of time to come to a settlement. To put more pressure on to reach a deal I would propose a system where any labour contract where agreement wasn't reached within 48 hours of it's expiration would automatically go to binding arbitration. If either side doesn't want binding arbitration (and it seems to me that neither side likes it) then all the more reason to negotiate in good faith and reach an agreement.

Before the question is asked, you insure fairness by giving each side a list of potential arbitrators. Each side can eliminate a certain number, based on the length of the list. The final arbitrator is chosen from the remaining list. Arbitration would still take a while, the right to strike is preserved, but work stoppages would be much shorter when they happened as a process to end the dispute would automatically kick in.

My Platform: Introduction
My Platform: Arts and Culture
My Platform: Poverty
My Platform: Business and Industry
My Platform: Crime
My Platform: Carbon Tax

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