Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A 5% wage cut? Hell no!

This week, A Better Way Alberta rolled out a nice video highlighting the effect of Alberta’s tax structure. A Better Way Alberta is a union initiative designed to identify the ways that government policy affects Albertans. The video below drives home who really benefits from a flat tax structure.

Of course, trade unionists don’t need a large budget to highlight bad behaviour, especially in the workplace. For example, when BC Government budget cuts forced colleges to lay off staff (circa 1985), the union at Northern Light College bought everyone long pink T-shirts (“official Northern Lights College Pink Slip”). I recall managers (the only workers not wearing pink) being uncomfortable: suddenly it was evident that they were (1) few in number and (2) being shunned by everyone else on-site.

Or last week, when Athabasca University demanded a 5% wage reduction from its staff. This comes after two years of wage freezes and layoff. Bargaining foundered on the employer’s unwillingness to negotiate and is now off to arbitration.

As it turns out, the university only budgeted for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) of zero per cent. Basically, the employer was hoping to stampede the faculty association into unnecessary concessions. 

The worker’s response?

A Zero COLA (“Now with five percent less wages”) can and bottle wrap. 

Nothing fancy or disruptive—just a quiet way to show solidarity and a degree of scorn for the employer’s lousy behaviour.

-- Bob Barnetson

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