Right to strike a democratic right

Once a month, North Okanagan Labour Council President David Doran writes a column about labour issues in Kelowna's Capital News newspaper. Here's his column for July, 2002:

Contracting out, working conditions, respect and financial compensation are just some of the issues collective agreements attempt to address. These issues are negotiated at the bargaining table.

Most people can see the trend that government employers have taken with their employees. The initial offer by the workers is rejected out of hand as outrageous, the employer's offer is put forward, the employer refuses to negotiate anything further and then sits back and waits for workers to be legislated back to work.

This is called free collective bargaining!

The Toronto municipal strike is the latest example of these government tactics.

The mess on the streets of has to be borne by the party that refused to negotiate.

In B.C., the Lower Mainland transit strike was another example of the employer refusing to bargain in good faith. It was difficult for the workers to even find their employer, The regional district and contractor, Coast Mountain, both said it was the other's responsibility to negotiate a contract. Even when a mediator proposed a settlement, the employer refused. The strike went on for a further six weeks and then settled for the mediator's recommendations.

Recent history in this province shows the disregard for the public service workers' rights to free collective bargaining. Contracts have been torn up (hospital employees) and imposed, (nurses and teachers) on our public workers.

Back-to-work legislation is the tool used by the government employer during negotiations.

Public-service workers have no legislation to assist them in negotiating collective agreements.

Third-parties - arbitrators and mediators - may assist in reaching a compromise between the parties. The removal of public service workers' right to strike should not be an option when an impasse is reached during negotiations.

Public sector workers need to have the bargaining leverage that comes with the opportunity to strike; how we are inconvenienced by these strikes is part of the price we pay to live in a democratic society.


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