Friday, June 29, 2012

Rona Ambrose supports trade unions?

I start my vacation at the end of this week so the blog will slow during July. But just in time for one last post is a bizarre tweet from Rona Ambrose (federal Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women) last night:
Rona Ambrose @MinRonaAmbrose@lornepw I want unions to step up and support women who work in low wage and part time jobs that need their representation.
Now I’m all for unions seeking to represent vulnerable and often-exploited workers. But I have some difficulty buying this sentiment from a minister in a government that has gone out of its way to weaken the labour movement by interfering with collective bargaining on behalf of employers for the past year.

This seems to be related somehow (and I admit I find it hard to hard to follow everything on Twitter) to a conversation about Andrew Coyne’s article in the National Post yesterday cheerleading an Ontario Tory white paper that advocates ending the Rand formula.

The Rand formula allows unions to collect dues from every worker in a bargaining unit, even if a worker is not a union member. This formula prevents free-riding, whereby workers could not pay union dues but still receive the benefits of union contracts. The Rand formula differs from a closed shop, where membership is required; under Rand, you only need pay dues, not be a member.

Also in this white paper is the notion that workers’ compensation could be partly privatized in some industries. This is simply a wacka-doodle suggestion. I’ve covered this topic in my book (starting on page 161). 

Privatization can mean a lot of different things. But the basic arguments against privatizing workers’ compensation is that there is almost no evidence that it saves anyone any money (i.e., it is not more efficient) and doing so pressurizes insurers to grind the compensation of injured workers (compensating injured workers being the notional purpose of workers’ comp…).

The only group that wins when workers’ compensation is privatized are insurance companies who can now access a whole new market.

-- Bob Barnetson

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