On Strike

There are no winners today as 155,000 Canadian civil servants walk off the job in the largest strike actions  in years. I’ve been there before. .

More than thirty years ago I walked the picket line in a similar job action. I was an enthusiastic union supporter and believed in the cause to the point where I was a picket captain, boosting others’ morale as we paraded with our signs in the rain.

That strike cost me money in the long run. Union leadership accepted an offer for considerable less than we were asking, and without a cost of living guarantee as a hedge against inflation. That was the whole purpose of the strike, to protect the members. And, after almost three weeks of living on $50 weekly strike pay, the membership ratified the agreement.

I understand that. If I had had a mortgage back then I would probably have taken half a loaf too. But I still think the union sold out the membership in not standing firm.

This time around, there probably isn’t that much public goodwill towards civil servants, which makes me wonder why the union would push things this far. I haven’t really been following the story, but it wouldn’t surprise me to discover the government was negotiating in bad faith, that it wants this strike. The Liberals have a record deficit – saving money on salaries will help theoir bottom line, and they’ve not shown any concern about services to the public before, so why would they start now?

These days when you think of civil servants, the first thing that comes to mind is 2022 and the impossibility of getting a passport on time. (Supposedly they have fixed that problem.) It was a problem with the system, but it’s easy to blame the workers.

Especially when they don’t help their cause by whining that those who had been working remotely during the pandemic should not be required to report to work in person. A lot of people don’t want to go back to the office.

I understand that, but I wouldn’t want to strike over that. Maybe if they could show that workers at home were more productive, but I don’t know if that is actually the case.

The ironic thing about the whole situation is that workers have been told by the union they are required to show up to picket. Apparently some of those working at home thought they should just be able to picket virtually. Showing up on the picket line is seen as a hardship. I suspect that doesn’t resonate well with many people.

It will be interesting to see how long this strike lasts, and how much the public is inconvenienced by the walkout – and where public sympathy falls.

At this point I have no opinion. But now that the strike is on, I feel that maybe I should become better informed and choose a side to support.

I’m torn though. I lost respect for this union when I was a member and union leadership failed to live up to its promises. But I also have little respect for this government, which is an ethical and fiscal disaster.

If the workers get what they ask for, the national debt will increase, or taxes will go up – that money has to come from somewhere. If the government holds the line there will be a reduction in services provided. No-one wants to see that either.

See what I meant when I said there are no winners?


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