Sally Fitzgibbons Foundation

Beginning the Academic Essay

Stoppage or discontinuance of work by employees for amelioration of wages or working conditions can be called as a strike. A lockout on the other hand is the brief shutdown of a business to force employees to accept without complaints certain working conditions. Commonly a strike evolves as a result of brimming grievances of the employees. Industrial revolution that gave birth to mass labour in factories and mines paved way for strikes. Since more power favoured factory owners, they could easily tag mark strike actions as unlawful. Both, strikes and lockouts have played an onerous role in building the existing working conditions in Canada.
Along with their right to associate, speak through a bargaining representative of their choice, and bargain collectively with their employer through that representative, the right of the employees to strike is vital to protecting the meaningful process of collective bargaining, ruled Justice Rosalie Abella of Canadian Supreme Court on January 30, 2015. Not long before 1892, the case was different in Canada; strikes were considered a punishable crime. Before this decision, provincial/federal government could introduce” back to work” legislation. First introduced during a railway strike in 1950, back to work legislation is a law that could forestall lockouts or prevent strike actions .
Province of Saskatchewan in 2008, passed a law that shackled the right to strike by workers considered to be cardinal by the government. The law gave government indisputable power in determining essential workers. This affected some category of workers as they were left with no competent method of dispute resolution and the government with immense power to deem anyone an essential worker.(Fine,2015)Majority of employers were against the decision of the court granting workers the right to strike. They found that this right would severely shadow their powers and give the workers an upper hand. Implications of the denial or denegation of right to strike shall be examined in this paper.
The right to is strike protected by the constitution as can be noted from above but the law foresees circumstances where most rights can be restrained. Rights to associate is one such that could be checked by the law. This could be something that can actually affect the right to strike and the implication of this shall also be delved into. Strikes mean a time of no productivity and it is something that could have a huge effect on the economic conditions, not only for the employer but also for the country if the company in question is huge. Strikes mean the formation of associations or labour unions usually and any strike that’s organised without the consent of the labour union can be deemed as illegal.
In olden days Strike-breakers were used as a tool to fight the organised employees. Immigrant workforce from around the world were arranged to work instead of the striking employees in late 19th and early 20th centuries and this often resulted in bloodshed and violence. Most provincial legislations and Canadian Labour Code positively states that the employee status of the strikers have to be kept. Indubitably this grants the striking employees a priority of right. Few provinces also have taken a firm stand in case of the strike-breakers. British Columbia has proscribed the usage of strike-breakers since 1970’s. Quebec deems subcontracting the work that is the object of strike unlawful and none but the local management personal can be used to continue production at times of a strike. Ontario and BC joined hands in adopting a similar decision in 1992, but Ontario eliminated that part from its law in the year of 1995.
Strikes, though meant to improve economic conditions at times usually mean intermission for the workforce. These times actually benefits neither the employer nor the workforce. The company travels downhill financially owing to the striking employees while they loose time away from work without actual wages or salaries. History of strikes prove that it takes only a person to turn a peaceful protest into a gory scene. Destruction mostly directed at the company by infuriated workforce would never really be limited to it.Ensuing lawsuits and amendments would only do so much as to compensate the lost time and damages.
If one thinks about the rationale of Saskatchewan provincial government, two conclusions can be drawn: 1. It is a violation of workers rights to associate and strike
2.It was a decision that thought about the greater good of the society
For example, if all the police officers were to go on a strike demanding more wages or safer work places, innumerable ruptures of law would me made and the society as a whole would turn an unsafe place to be in. To drive the point home without any chances of perplexity, the case of doctors can be considered. What would happen to a province, let alone a city if all the doctors were to go on an indefinite strike? Numerous deaths which otherwise could have be reverted would stand as a grim outcome. It would be inhumane and senseless to let such essential workforce go on a strike and put the society on risk. Any possible financial gain that would emerge as the result of the strike can blindly be chucked off weighing the implications.
It is a known fact that workforce consider unions to be their saviours. Robert Reich, the professor of public policy at UC Berkeley and a former labour secretary under Bill Clinton, in a column in the Los Angeles Times, stated that nothing but the unions laid the bedrock of America’s economic emergence and the crumbling of typical American’s standard of living has coincided with their deterioration over past decades. A vociferous supporter of unions he argued, “Good pay meant more purchases and more purchases meant more jobs. At the centre of this virtuous circle were the unions”. He also explained that union workers on an average earn more than non-union workers.
The argument in favour of the unions is that they work towards making the workplace more pleasant. This sympathy towards union arises from the thought that no matter how conflicting the circumstance is, union will always protect its members. A striking demerit is that employees will always tend to be satisfied with themselves as long as they are sure of the union covering them with a blanket of security. Instead of improving competencies or aiming higher, the work force stays rooted to the bare minimum of requirements.
Unions cannot be marked as a social evil or threat because of the fact that they may pave way for a lethargic attitude towards growth in employees by offering job security and power. No matter the number of arguments that emerge against unions and strikes, the favour for unions never diminishes simply because of the power it grands to the employees. Concerns and grievances of the employees would have paled to nothing in front of the employers who have every power to put an end to their careers had it not been for the unions. With the emergence of the unions, it now is not just an employee making demands, but a group of people with enough power even to halt the productions. Unions made sure that no grievance or concern were ignored and no employee was singled out to be a target.
Almost all employment contract favours the employer as it is made up by them and offered to a single employee at the time of his/her own appointment. Moreover, powers of negotiations are limited to a worker with a not so prestigious job. In the absence of a labour union, employees are left tongue tied with an unfair contract lest the constant threat of dismissal looms over their heads. With the arrival of unions, employees can voice out their opinions and with the threat of leading the company to a standstill in productions work towards altering unfair clauses and demands. The presence of the union itself can in fact lead the employers to drain ideas of unfair labour practices, which they otherwise may not hesitate to ponder about.
One has to think about the advantages and disadvantages of strikes before coming into a judgement about whether it should be revoked or not. No decision would seem palatable without juxtaposing the pros and cons. The advantages of strikes are:
1. The main advantage of the strike is similar to that of having a union as both have the same and intertwined goals. The optimum goal of a strike is to protest without fear the actions of employers that seem unfair. Through strikes, a freedom to raise voice against the prevailing injustice is established.
2. Strikes give workers an opportunity to carry out negotiations. Labour law mandates employers to discuss with the employees their demands and arrive at an amiable solution soon as the strike breaks out. Also, the fear of tampered reputation, client loss and paused productions lead employers to involuntarily mediate with unions and arrive at better deals.
The disadvantages are:
1. Striking adversely affects the growth of the economy. When companies and factories halt their productions, revenue of the country will be negatively affected. Some strikes tend to get chaotic and violent, where in funds will have to flow for repair and restoration of damaged goods and property.
2. Strikes pose a financial threat to both employer and employees. Loss of income and business for the employer while loss of medical aids and wages are the cost for the employee.
Like a coin having two sides the advantages and disadvantages come as a pair. Revoking or taking away the right to strike would but be a huge step. It would actually mean making changes to constitution or making changes that would affect the existing laws. Sometimes the strike would actually be of no use to either parties and innocent people would face undesirable effects. An example of this can be the case of 2017 faculty strike in Ontario, where Union and management were not willing to pay heed to each other’s demands and the hapless victims caught in between were the students whose academic year came to an abrupt standstill.
Taking away the right to strike would have severe repercussions, thinking of the advantages a strike really can have. Firstly, the employer-employee relation could go topsy turvy as the power wielding arm would become the employer’s. Workers stripped of their bargaining powers will have to comply with the decisions made by the employers no matter how absurd it might be.
The employees will also become powerless once the contract is signed and would never get an opportunity to address their concerns even though some of the provided conditions may seem unfair. The employers having all the powers would make contracts that would seem favourable and palatable to their conditions despite the impact it might have on the employees. On the other hand, supporters of anti union theories can claim that employers would never risk the chance of loosing efficient and competent employees by drawing out a contract that would force them to leave their jobs.
This claim can be contradicted by the argument that majority of the workforce involved would be partially skilled or unskilled labourers whose loss would affect the employer in no way. Also in todays world, even a skilled labourer can be replaced in the matter of minutes. Replacing few workers wouldn’t matter to employers but what would affect them is the risk of loosing the entire work force dragging the business to a standstill, ie, what happens during a strike. Eluding strikes would result in the workplace activities going on without hindrance; that would mean continuity in production. The loses that could have happened had the strike taken place could be avoided and the company would thus be generating income without any interferences. This also means that the employee still goes to work and is earning his/her wage that would have been lost in case of the strike.
Strikes calling for increased wages and better working conditions would be of use only if the company can afford it. In other words, workers going on a strike in a start up or a small firm with limited resources may succeed in getting the desired wages or ameliorated working conditions but this single act could shake the financial stability of the enterprise causing the business to plummet to its doom.
I find that right to strike is a right that should not be taken away from the employees no matter what. Freedom of expression and speech are two rights that gives dignity and respect to individuals similarly, freedom to associate and freedom to strike give employees the voice and dignity to stand up for themselves without fear of reprisals. I agree with the popular opinion that human beings are all essentially good, but I think that given the right situation and motivation, selfishness and greed can seep through the innate positive qualities.
Employers can and in most cases would turn a blind eye to needs of the employees, be it better working condition, wages or support; if the right to strike is taken away and sealed as illegal. In addition, the fact that strikes rarely occur in absence of severe disregard for workers rights proves that revoking it would only affect the employee’s life. Other than, in high involvement workplaces with profit sharing, flexible timings and cafeteria system of benefits, employees cannot be expected to be treated with all the respect and dignity they deserve. Employees will not always give up a job in the absence of right treatments, sometime that particular job would only be the one available and throwing it away would not be viable and right to strike would be their only option at having better employment conditions. I thus conclude my case that the right to strike should not be taken away.

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