Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Mo Money

As we speak, the Toronto Transit Commission management is negotiating with the Amalgamated Transit Union over the wildcat strike back in May. According to the TTC, there was a $3 million loss in revenue for that day, and they want it back.

As is generally the case, there are two moral sides to this issue.
  • The union did what they did in the name of their members, and it was the right thing to do. They are elected to represent the best interests of the workers, and in their opinion, they did what they had to do to upheld their duty and their moral obligations, regardless of the law. In away, they are a modern robin hood.
  • Regardless of what happened, the Union broke the law, and the law is the law is the law. We cannot ignore the laws we don't approve of, and as a result, the Union should be held accountable for their actions.
While I'm known to be fairly leftist (I would need a computer to figure out how many times I've been called a communist), I'm definitely torn on the issue. While unions have done great things in advancing workers rights, working conditions and salary, I have no sympathy for people who knowingly break the law. So, setting morals aside, lets consider the facts of the case.
  • Workers have the right to refuse unsafe work, and management must provide personal protective equipment to the workers. A mass strike where drivers refused to work, citing the threat of being assaulted could be justified under those provisions. However....
  • The union admits that the strike was caused when daytime workers, having recently been unhappily switched to nights, showed up for their old shifts, and were turned away. The union considered this a lockout, and bus drivers respected the picket lines.
  • The courts ruled that this strike was illegal, both at the tribunal level and at appeal.
  • In our society, illegal activity is punishable by law.
So, should the union refund the money? Probably, it's the right thing to do. Will they? Not bloody likely. First of all, it's an election year for the union. Any sign of weakness will jeopardize Bob Kinnear's chances if he's running for re-election. Second of all, it's unlikely that the city will force the issue in court, as it will make labour relations worse. We're in a good labour spot right now, so I wouldn't be surprised if this issue drops off the public radar without a solution.

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