Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Strike More and We'll be All Out

Photo Credit: FinancialPost.com
One of the curious observations when living in Canada is frequent number of job actions ordered by the various workers' unions across different industries. This week, unless an agreement is made between Air Canada and their workers, employees will form the picket line. Currently, both parties are locked in frantic talks. Strikes are not limited to airlines. Earlier this week, workers of the train company Rocky Mountaineer also went on strike. There was a postal workers strike few months ago, and there is also an ongoing teachers strike. Any observer of the various strike actions is bound to conclude that Canada is a strike-loving society. The terms of dispute almost always revolve around money. Both unions as well as the management are claiming higher ground on the basis of the good of customers, or society at large. Yet the fact is, any strike action inconveniences the general public. What makes it most irritating is that the public seems to be helpless in all of these. Air travelers with Air Canada are penalized through no fault of their own. The same can be said for residents reliant on postal services, or the transportation needs.

I think Canada is a country of plenty. It is much blessed in so many ways. It boasts a quality of life that many other countries around the world can only dream about. The recent financial crisis worldwide has left Canada with a reputation of being the country in the West with the strongest banking system. Yet, we cannot take it for granted. When good times are rolling, we can all assert our rights to be fairly treated. When times are bad, we all learn to play our part in society, to tighten our belts across the board. While I am sympathetic to the calls of the union, for fighting for their employees, I am also aware that management views the bigger picture much better, by virtue of the position and influence they have. That is the way organizations are run. Management tries to balance all the competing demands as fairly and as broadly as possible. Workers try to make their voices heard as loud as possible. If there is no agreement, the alternative is to compromise, both ways.

In Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, we learn about the foundation of wealth in terms of the value of money. Like it or not, the true worth of any nation's currency lies in the political stability, the strength of the government, and the future of the economy. If one continues to whack at the foundation of any country, especially the government, when the government loses credibility, so does the value of money. After all, all currencies are guaranteed by the national bank which represents the government's financial arm. If government credibility deteriorates, and the currency depreciates, what good will it be for additional amounts of cash?

For any job action, there is a management reaction. This causes customer frustrations and may trigger government intervention. One thing easily leads to another. The fragile economy is stalled. Foreign investors shun coming to Canada. In the event, workers lose jobs. Government loses tax dollars. The people loses social benefits. Everybody loses. Will this situation ever occur? Yes. If everybody starts to go on strike, then it will be tough. My view is that during challenging times, it is more important to exercise our responsibility, than to assert our rights.

Perhaps, the way forward is to learn the 3 golden rules of relationships between management and their workers. It is 'communicate, communicate, and communicate.' Never issue ultimatums. It will only make it more difficult for a proper resolution. For that reason, any job action or strike is due to the fault of BOTH parties. Unfortunately, the rising number of strikes that are occurring in the country only means that despite the rise in communications options technologically, people are still more disconnected than ever.


1 comment:

AT said...

Your article reminded me of my first went to Canada to study in 1978. There was an air strike so I had to travel by greyhound from Vancouver to Windsor, Ontario! That took more than 5 days on the bus as I can recall! Looking back it was a blessing as I was able to see many parts of Canada.
Agreed strike is not good for everyone.

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