Thursday, February 20, 2014

MPP Naqvi, Ontario’s minister for labour

The Ontario Minister of Labour MPP Yasir Naqvi would be more accurately described if his title was minister for labour. This Liberal MPP is about as pro-labour as they come and displays about as much neutrality in management-labour matters as the infamous Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour.

Naqvi insisted on a recent episode of TVO’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” that he was the minister “of” labour, not “for” labour.

“Making sure there is balance” in the workplace is a key responsibility of his portfolio, said Naqvi in answer to host Steve Paikin’s question. “As minister of labour your job is to make sure labour is healthy … labour has good paying jobs,” he explained as he talked about the distinction of “for” and “of” in his title.

Listening to Naqvi, it was all about what labour needs and nothing whatsoever about what’s fair to the employer.

I watched the original broadcast and replayed it later on the TVO website, and I really could not believe how pro-labour the minister’s comments invariably were.

The most telling of his comments was his insistence on choosing a pejorative term to describe a system many in Ontario, and elsewhere, consider fair—so called Right-to-Work. Instead of the far more common usage of “Right-to-Work” he always used “Right-to-Work for Less.” Is this the “balance” to which he so often referred?

This pro-union usage of his reminds me of how those who want to curb oil sands development, always refer to the oil sands as tar sands.

Right-to-Work (RTW) and non-RTW states in the US differ on many measures that are related to workplace wages and benefits, making it difficult to determine what, if any, the real impact of RTW has. RTW does, however, give individuals greater choice and lessens the grip unions have on workplaces in the public and private sectors.

The measure of success of RTW is not in higher wages and benefits, for that tells only part of the story, but in higher levels of employment and the general fairness and wellbeing of the societies in which the workforce lives.

Recently, the United Auto Workers’ union was rejected in a vote at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee to organize the plant. This despite the company’s lack of opposition to unions. The union also failed in an attempt to organize Nissan workers in Smyrna, Tennessee, in 2001.

Unions might drive up wages and benefits in the short term, but they also tend to drive away investment and jobs with voracious, insatiable demands for “more”, whether or not “more” is fair or sustainable. A fair wage is better than the highest wage, if the latter leads eventually to unemployment.

Thousands of workers in RTW states in the US have the “good paying jobs” Minister Naqvi seems so concerned with. So much so that, when given the choice of being organized by the UAW, they said no thank you.

Listen to the TVO episode (here) and decide for yourselves.

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