To the editor:
Mr. Smithson wrote on March 27 (Advice to Unions: Think Smaller, Capital News) that unions may have “paved the way for their own irrelevance” by the role their previous activism has played in the legislative improvements within the province and Canada. He referenced various Acts that are in place.
I find myself struggling with having to agree with Mr. Smithson but will do so on his one point: Yes, it is due largely to the role that unions have played that we have even minimum standards within our province and indeed within Canada.
The legislative changes he refers to (and numerous others not mentioned) were not brought into place by pressure of corporations, large or small business or free enterprise governments in any of their various permutations. In fact, most of these legislative progressions have been and continue to be opposed by these groups.
One need only look at the BC Employment Standards Act amendments related to child labour (a 12-year-old child can now work full time in B.C.), or the Workers Compensation Act related to disability pensions (they have effectively eliminated loss of function pensions), or the Labour Relations Code to see how easy it is to go backwards.
While the corporate agenda would have us believe that there is no need for unions because of the legislative protection in place, the reality is that those protections are tenuous at best. We must be ever vigilant to maintain and improve upon what are truly minimum standards. (And as Canadians do we not expect better than the minimum?)
No amount of legislation can provide for respectful treatment of people. That is why unions will always exist. Employers will always look to their employees to take less. Unions will always be there to ensure that while employees may need to settle for less at times, it is not entirely on the backs of workers that Employers maintain their profitability.
B.C. assistant regional director,