In our Canadian labour relations studies, we have learned much about the positive benefits of unions, especially in the public sector. There is no doubt that one of the lasting impacts of unionization in Canada is the fact that working conditions for all Canadians have improved in both public and private sector workplace settings.
There is, however, a warning bell ringing in the private sector unionized environment indicating that this positive trend is starting to take a significant downturn.
Howard Levitt provides us with some interesting data related to the decline in unionized workers taking place in the private sector over the past few years, in both Canada and the United States.
In a competitive economic climate, the push for increased wages and improved benefits does not seem to carry much weight if the result of that push means company bankruptcy, complete shut downs, and unemployment for the company’s workers who happen to be members of a union. As noted in this article, the decision by a union not to support its own members through strike funding would have been unheard of in good economic times. It seems that private sector unions are having to make very tough decisions and forego possible wage increases or compensation benefits just to keep their members employed. Further, the challenge will continue as an increased struggle between the union protecting members’ rights and the employer needing to have flexible collective agreements in order to stay viable in a highly competitive economic marketplace.
If private sector employees and employers are able to achieve stability and viability without the traditional battle of an adversarial unionized setting, why would they choose to remain in that setting? Based on the data that we are starting to see emerge, many employees are starting to make the decision to abandon the seemingly decreasing benefits of unions with the hope that they may be better off without them.
Tough times indeed.
- If you had a choice to work in a similar position for an employer that was either unionized or non-unionized, which one would you choose? Why?
- What types of language or items in a collective agreement create inflexibility for an employer?
- What would prompt unionized employees to begin the de-certification process? Who would benefit from union de-certification in the workplace?