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An Observation From Our Friends In The ‘Great White North’ - The Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Has Caused A Surprising Rebound’ For Canadian Unions, ‘Participation Higher Now Than It’s Been In 15 Years’

Published Monday, January 4, 2021
by Centre For Future Work Director Jim Stanford Via The Toronto Star
An Observation From Our Friends In The ‘Great White North’ - The Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Has Caused A Surprising Rebound’ For Canadian Unions, ‘Participation Higher Now Than It’s Been In 15 Years’

Surprisingly, the Coronavirus Pandemic is positively impacting the Canadian Labor Movement in terms of the size and importance of Unions – and there’s nothing like a crisis, it seems, to remind Workers that when times are tough it helps to have a powerful ally at your back.

But there were already signs of an uptick in Union Membership before COVID hit.

The number of Workers covered by a Union Contract reached an all-time high of almost five million in Canada by the end of 2019.

As a share of total employment, Union representation rebounded slightly (after years of slow erosion) to 30.2%.

During the first half of 2020, however, Union representation surged to almost 32% - the highest in 15 years!

To be sure, that increase was driven by a disproportionate decline in Non-Union employment.

Union-represented Workers were half as likely to lose their jobs during the initial shutdowns as Non-Union Workers.

That’s because Unionized employers can’t just dispose of Staff like so much excess inventory - they must follow negotiated procedures, including notice, severance and seniority.

Workers without a Union - especially in precarious temporary or part-time roles - had no such protection.

The hardship experienced by Workers without a Union is distressing.

And it highlights a gritty reality of industrial relations.

In good times, Unions help Workers win a healthy share of a growing pie.

But in bad economic times, Unions really show their value.

When individual businesses (or the whole economy) are in crisis, employers naturally try to shift the burden onto Workers through layoffs, wage cuts and other takeaways.

So that is precisely when Workers most need a countervailing force to represent them and defend their past gains.

Without that collective power, employers can easily make Workers pay for the crisis.

It is not surprising, then, that during tough times Workers tend to particularly appreciate the benefits of Union Membership.

Indeed, the pandemic has been associated with similar upticks in Union Membership and activity in several other countries, not just Canada.

Union Membership has increased in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

Even in Union-hostile America, Union representation has stabilized (after many years of decline), and there has been a sharp rise in Strike activity.

To Continue Reading This Labor News Story, Go To: www.thestar.com/business/opinion/2020/09/05/in-a-crisis-you-want-someone-to-have-your-back.html

 

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