Thursday, September 28, 2006

Labour Pains

Once upon a time labour unions were a powerful (and often negative) force in British society.

But then in the 1980s and 1990s, the British Conservative government introduced a series of reforms which both democratized the workforce and defanged the union bosses.

Consequently trade union membership in Britain has declined and not so coincidently, Britain has become one of the top economies in Europe.

So says, Professor Len Shackleton, one of Britain’s foremost experts on the relationship between labour law and the economy, who was speaking yesterday at an event jointly sponsored by the Fraser Institute, LabourWatch and the National Citizens Coalition.

Shackleton also says Canada lags behind the rest of the Western world when it comes to protecting the individual freedoms of unionized employees.

For instance, he says in Canada, unlike in Britain, employees are forced to pay dues even if they don’t belong to the union; also in Canada, unlike in Britain, employees can be punished for crossing a picket line.

Isn’t it about time we caught up?

Professor Shackleton’s Canadian tour continues – he will be in Calgary tonight and in Vancouver tomorrow.


Miles Lunn said...

While it is true our labour laws are more restrictive than Britain, they are no where nearly as inflexible as France and Germany. Unions may not be as powerful there, but they pretty much have everything they want on their wish list such as the 35 hour working week, impossible to fire someone.

The problem here in Canada, is labour is provincial jurisdiction, so it really depends a lot on the province you are in. In some provinces such as Alberta, I suspect such reforms would be met with popular support, but in BC and Quebec where unions are more entrenched or more militant, it would be too political risky which is why despite the fact Campbell and Charest are both right leaning leaders, they haven't made these type of reforms due to fear of backlash.

rondi said...

Is he related to Ernest Shackleton?

Gerry Nicholls said...

Actually I asked him that question and the answer is no.