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The Adversary System Re-Examined

January 1, 1983 -

Could it be that the hard times will force labour and management to reconsider their traditional distrust of each other? As Anthony Westell pointed out, "As long as unions take the position that inflation is somebody else's responsibility, so long will they lack political influence, and so long will the NDP be a minor party. When the unions and the NDP can put forward a coherent view of the economy that includes an incomes policy as part of an answer to inflation, then will they begin again to influence opinion and votes" (Toronto Star, Sept. 24, 1982). Richard Gwyn, in a similar vein, wrote that the union's refuse to cooperate with any kind of restraint program for fear of being co-opted. In doing so, the union movement "could continue onwards toward impotence and irrelevance." Gwyn conclued:

The adversary system is as much a part of Canada's union movement as is labour solidarity. History, and not least the historical stupidity of so many employers, has taught Canadian employees to stick together, against their employers.

History now has changed. From coast to coast, individual employers and their employees are sticking together for survival. The choice now facing organized labor is whether to join the new game and help write its rules, or to stay on the sidelines and watch the game being played out, anyway (Toronto Star, Sept. 4, 1982).