Unions are actively representing the interests of precarious workers in many ways. For example, the Guild fights to get benefits for non-permanent workers and ensures hundreds of freelancers are paid appropriately for their work.
And so we are shocked, although frankly not surprised, to see recent attempts to blame unions for the growing precariousness of people’s jobs and incomes in this country.
The truth is, a lot of the sins that are blamed on unions are in fact the employers’ responsibility. Companies are hiring more and more workers into non-permanent jobs precisely so they don’t have to give them any of the benefits that they agreed to give to their unionized staff. When things were good, companies stopped contributing to pension plans and dipped into surpluses with wild abandon; when bond rates began to drop, employers all rushed to move employees into defined contribution plans so as to completely eliminate any risk to the employer.
Unions have had to make some tough choices over the past few years. No one is excited about the compromises that have had to be made – things like two-tier pensions and benefits. In many cases the compromises were made in order to keep companies from laying off hundreds or thousands of workers.
In a context where corporations are still making millions of dollars – and paying millions of dollars to their top executives – it’s beyond rich (excuse the pun) to blame the workers if the bosses aren’t getting rich enough, quickly enough.
And it is seriously disingenuous to suggest that the poor conditions suffered by millions of precariously employed Canadian workers are caused by another group of workers.