Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Public sector unions: should we allow them?

Why should Canadian society finance the taking of an entry-level job at a young age, with full expectation of staying in that job for an entire working lifetime while receiving wages at a level that one can afford to raise a family, and retire in one’s mid-fifties on a pension most Canadians can only dream about?

For most of us, the answer is simple: we shouldn’t. But for an increasing number of Canadians, the answer is: it’s our right, so live with it.

That’s correct. Members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) who hold entry-level jobs believe they have a right to everything and anything they demand and the rest of us should shut up, suck it up and pay up.

CUPW calls this a fair living wage. The average starting wage for postal workers is $23 an hour—that’s a cool (52 weeks × 5 days × 8 hrs × $23) $47, 840 a year, including paid vacation. A long-service postal worker will have about ten weeks of that time off in paid vacation, personal leave or paid sick leave. Add employee benefits and job security most Canadians could only dream of, including one of the country’s most generous pension plans complete with early retirement benefits starting at age 55 and you have a really sweet deal. My guess is the total compensation package of an entry-level CUPW member is in the range of $60 – $70-thousand a year.

As an example, CUPW members receive so generous an allowance for sick days, some have been able to “bank” several months worth and one member accumulated 402 days of sick leave credit.

But that’s not my main point. Most of us know by now that government employees, and those who work at government agencies and Crown corporations, earn far more in wages and benefits than do workers in the private sector. And my point is that it’s about time Canadians demanded a stop to this growing subset of our population pushing the rest of us around.

There are a myriad of federal and provincial laws and regulations protecting Canadian workers and the safety of their workplaces, including Human Rights Commissions and Workers’ Compensation agencies across the country. The labour union movement now controls the second most powerful political party in our House of Commons. In other words, Canadian public-sector workers are adequately protected.

So why do we need unions in the public sector?

Public-sector unions, with their “right” to strike, limit ordinary citizens’ democratic control over levels of taxation and public spending to the unions’ advantage and at the expense of other citizens. The raison d'être of public-sector unions is protection of their members’ claims on government revenue and to limit the power of our elected representatives to set the terms on which union-members will receive transfers (in the form of wages and benefits) from taxpayers. Consequently, public-sector unions have become an instrument of political exploitation.

When non-unionized government employees have grievances, they have the same recourse as do the rest of us—and that is as it should be. As some might say, if we cannot trust our government institutions to treat government workers fairly, then we cannot trust those institutions or those who work in them, and we should reconsider their very existence.

A case can surely be made for private-sector unions as a safeguard against economic exploitation, and as a party to the bargaining in the marketplace over shares of the surplus derived from voluntary exchanges between workers, capitalists, and consumers.

I find no such justification for public sector unions.


© Russell G. Campbell, 2011.
All rights reserved.
The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of political parties, institutions or organizations with which I am associated.


  1. “As some might say, if we cannot trust our government institutions to treat government workers fairly, then we cannot trust those institutions or those who work in them, and we should reconsider their very existence.”

    That’s a good point. The very institutions are rotten if they need protection from the government; therefore get rid of the institutions.

    Another way of thinking about it is similar to the Anti-Combines legislation that deals with distortions caused by a lack of competition in monopolies and oligopolies. Government unions fit that description. Therefore they should be hauled up before the Legislators and measures passed to ensure competition.

    It is ironic that Karl Marx predicted that capitalism would lead to a lack of corporate competition that would have to be carried on the back of labour that would need protection from government. Whereas the opposite has happened. Capitalism is incredibly competitive and it the government unions that ended up with the monopoly. Let’s bust it up.


  2. Public service sector Unions are obsolete and should be neutered by right-to-work legislation.

    Then we'll see how voluntary membership in the Union really is.

    Unions always preach about the democratic will of the people,but force workers to join,and don't allow secret ballots on any of their votes.

    It's a new century,let's get rid of this holdover from the last century.

  3. No.

    Let these pampered, privileged, overpaid, over-compensated, entitled public-sector workers deal with everything the rest of us have to deal with every day.
    Bust the unions and incarcerate their bosses- crooked lefty bastards that most of them are anyways.