January 1, 1992 -
Hard times have led to empty coffers at Queen's Park in Toronto. This reality recently led the government and its 68,000 public servants, represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), to accept an unprecedented settlement. The union negotiators agreed to keep wage increases at one per cent for the first year and two per cent for the second year. The agreement included a job security guarantee which made it palatable to the union.
What is noteworthy of this agreement is a comment by an OPSEU member that he normally would vote against any proposed settlement that is below the inflation rate. He explained his reason for supporting the government offer as follows: "I'm not sure why. Maybe because it is a New Democratic Party government. I wouldn't do it for the Liberals or the Tories." (The Globe and Mail, January 14,1992, p. A4)
This statement reveals a great deal of what is wrong with trade unionism in Canada, namely, that it is dominated by a mentality of conflict and distrust. Liberals and Tories are the enemies and their appeals for restraint can therefore be dismissed as so much propaganda. But trade union policies that are dictated by such simple-minded partisanship spell nothing but trouble. For when decisions are based on pleasing "friends" rather than a regard for fairness and the public welfare, sensible policy making becomes impossible, and all of society will bear the evil consequences.