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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

CUPE, SC hand-in-hand in Crazytown

The issue:

Canada's top court has given the country's human rights commission the go-ahead to investigate whether flight attendants should be paid the same as pilots and airline mechanics.

Great, so we can also expect legal secretaries to make just as much as any partner in a firm, right?  Absolutely insane.  Flight attendants require seven weeks of training, paid for after you're hired by Air Canada.  Imagine how flight school students coughing up thousands for their in-air hours feel.  I'd love to hear any pro-union blogger try and defend this one.

Posted by CharLeBois on January 31, 2006 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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What boggles the mind is exactly what logic is used to create a "Human Rights" issue from a labour issue.

The sooner we put an end to this nonsense the better for everyone.

Posted by: PGP | 2006-01-31 8:27:23 AM

Woohoo! I am a legal secretary! Excuse me everyone, I'm off to the boss's office for a chat...


Posted by: RightGirl | 2006-01-31 8:29:10 AM

Also include the little known fact that if a flight attendant has a bad day, she spills a drink on someone. If a Pilot or Mechanic has a bad day, everyone dies.

Solution? Simple. Require every flight attendant to have a valid pilot's licence and fire them if they don't. Then, with zero flight attendents on the payrole, re-define the role and bust the union. Hire some people who don't think they're worth what a pilot makes.

If these people want a pilot's pay, get a pilot's licence.

What is it about judges that makes their IQ drops 90 points the day they're appointed to the bench?

Posted by: Warwick | 2006-01-31 8:30:09 AM

Challenge accepted.
As is typical of the right-wingers who regularly post to this site, your first step -- and that of those who follow you -- is to set your hair on fire. Had you done even a smidgen of research -- you know, like read the actual Supreme Court decision -- you would know that the Supreme Court didn't decide whether or not flight attendants should be paid the same as pilots. It decided a essential preliminary issue: whether under the Canada Human Rights Act, flight attendants and pilots worked for the same "establishment" even though they worked under different collective agreements. This preliminary decision is necessary to determine whether the Commission has jurisdiction to even look at the case on its merits.

The whole point of the exercise, of course, is buried deep in the judgment, in paragraph 2:
"According to one of the Commission’s binding guidelines, employees are deemed to be employed in the same establishment if they are subject to a common personnel and wage policy. This appeal centres on what constitutes an “establishment” for purposes of the Act and what it means to have a common personnel and wage policy. The issue is whether flight attendants, mechanics and pilots belong to the same establishment. If so, the female-dominated jobs of flight attendants can be compared with the male-dominated occupations of mechanics and pilots in order to determine whether women are being unlawfully underpaid, contrary to the pay equity principles in the Act."

Note that it doesn't say that flight attendants are underpaid. Nor does it suggest that, if they make the comparison and find that flight attendants are underpaid, that it follows they shold be paid the same as pilots or mechanics. (Although I think you'll be shocked how little some airline pilots actually make; in the early years, as little as $24,000/yr) Just that, based on the language of the statute and the Commission's binding guidelines, the Commission must hear the case and make the comparison.

Now, don't you feel silly. Or rather, sillier.

Posted by: truewest | 2006-01-31 8:52:14 AM

Truewest, to be fair, the rightwingers were reading a CBC article, and since the CBC is part of the vast Liberal media conspiracy, obviously they were unduly influenced by its mind-control. So they can't really be responsible for their opinions and/or lack of research.

Posted by: Buzz | 2006-01-31 9:08:04 AM

Truewest and Buzz, perhaps you should have read my post more carefully. There was a reason I asked for pro-UNION bloggers, not pro-this-latest-decision-of-the-SC bloggers. I understand the court's decision. It's CUPE's actions and intent that I'm asking you to defend.

Posted by: CharLeBois | 2006-01-31 9:19:59 AM

The self-proclaimed human rights advocates who run to the Supreme Court to validate their Marxist nonsense have too much time on their hands, and their hands on too many of our tax dollars.

CharLeBois, enjoy watching hell freeze over in anticipation of an intelligent explanation from the left about CUPE's actions and intent.

Actually, why not save time and just consult the Communist party website for your answer?

Posted by: PM | 2006-01-31 9:49:23 AM

Fine. Here we go.
CUPE represents flight attendants. CUPE's job - indeed, its duty -- is to look out of their best interests.

There is a federal pay equity statute that requires that there not be discrimination between male and female dominated jobs in the same establishment. You may not like the statute, but it is the law and a tool that CUPE can use for its members benefit.

On a considered evaluation of relative wage-scales, I presume CUPE saw that mechanics and pilots (who are represented by different unions) were getting paid way more than flight attendants, and that there was an arguable and possibly winnable case that flight attendants should be paid equally to one or both groups. They may win, they may lose, but now they'll get to make their case.

I notice you don't criticize Air Canada (who appealed the decision to the Supreme Court) for fighting this on procedural grounds instead of arguing it on the merits at the CHRC. Nor, I expect, would you criticize any company who took legal action it believed was in the best interest of its shareholders, even if that argument might not be in the interest of the broader public or its employees. But because it's a union, you think they should be held to a different standard. Odd.

Incidentally, your original post attacked not only CUPE but the SCC. Or is there some subtle distinction in the title "CUPE, SC hand-in-hand in Crazytown" that I missed.

Posted by: truewest | 2006-01-31 10:12:01 AM

THis is ridiculous. Does this mean that the Janitor at the hospital should be paid the same as a heart surgeon? The list goes on. No disprespect to flight attendants but handing out cookies and soda is not nearly as hard as landing a 777 jumbo jet in the snow.

Posted by: matt | 2006-01-31 10:25:59 AM

Equal pay for work of equal value is a contentious and sometimes elusive concept.

That said, it's hard to deny that in some workplaces jobs traditionally held by men pay better than jobs held by women; for example, when my mother was working as a practical nurse, she was paid less than an orderly, despite the fact that they did substantially the same job. Likewise, blue collar jobs tend to pay more than pink-collar jobs, largely because wages scales were set at a time when a man who worked was thought to be supporting his family while a woman who worked was thought to be supplementing her husband's income. Does anybody still believe that?

Does that mean the work done by a flight attendant's is of equal value to that done by a pilot or a mechanic. Who knows. But I can't see how you can fault CUPE for trying to make the case on behalf of its members.

btw Matt, despite your claim of "no disrespect" reducing a flight attendant's job to "handing out cookies and soda" is actually, well, disrespectful and inaccurate. It's like describing a mechanic's job as changing the oil and tightening a few screws.

Posted by: truewest | 2006-01-31 10:41:43 AM

"It's April Fool's Day Somewhere", should be a new Alan Jackson, Jimmy Buffett song......this is too ridiculous...

Posted by: MarkAlta | 2006-01-31 10:45:43 AM

"btw Matt, despite your claim of "no disrespect" reducing a flight attendant's job to "handing out cookies and soda" is actually, well, disrespectful and inaccurate."

Um, actually it isn't. I have several relatives that are/were attendant's, and while there is significant training, the actual job is pretty much at par with a waiter at a resteraunt , who work for tips.

Posted by: Stopthetrain | 2006-01-31 10:56:45 AM

And by the way, you still didn't answer CharLeBois's challenge, which I think is pretty simple -- to pragmatically defend attendants' getting paid at par with pilots. All you did was justify the Union's responsibility for filing the challenge, and the commissions' legal responsibility to hear it. Good for you. But he's asking you too philosophically defend the possibility (however unlikely) that attendants deserve to get paid like pilots..

Posted by: Stopthetrain | 2006-01-31 11:04:04 AM

"...Does that mean the work done by a flight attendant's is of equal value to that done by a pilot or a mechanic. Who knows."

Please. No, really, PLEASE.

We all know. The skill, training, lost opportunity costs, risks, stress, etc. are substantively higher for pilots and also for airplane mechanics than for flight attendants. To pretend otherwise, even as a rhetorical flourish, can most politely be described as misguided.

Posted by: xwesterner | 2006-01-31 11:14:53 AM

That actually wasn't the challenge - so quit moving the goalposts.
I don't think flight attendants should be paid the same as pilots. I'm actually surprised how little some pilots make. Suprised isnt' really the word I was looking for, given that they're responsible for not killing me when I fly with them; horrified is more like it.
On the other hand, the wage differential between pilots and flight attendants (or mechanics and flight attendants) might be greater than is justified. I don't know. But as long as there's a legal means to resolve it, I think CUPE's perfectly right to pursue it.
As for flight attendants jobs being on par with being a waiter -- there's a great Replacements song that dismisses a surly FA as a "Waitress in the Sky" --- that's only true until something goes wrong. If a customer at the local Denny's keels over, the waiter calls 911. The flight attendant doesn't have the option. And it is a rare Pizza Hut employee that has to prepare the diners for an emergency landing.

Posted by: truewest | 2006-01-31 11:19:03 AM

What bothers me is the attitude. The union is trying to get higher wages by requesting judges to answer questions on definitons and rights.

I think higher wages should be justified by proving their point by amount of training, hardships of work, risks.

As an example, if a pilot had to fly over Irak and risks to be shut down, he would deserve higher wages. In that case the flight attendant taking more risks would deserve higher wages too.

Posted by: Rémi houle | 2006-01-31 11:42:34 AM

Actually CUPE's defense wouldn't be along the lines that a stewardess, I mean flight attendant's, job is in anyway as difficult or as skill intensive but would instead lean upon the sexist --and thus human rights-- argument that the flight attendant is discriminated against in an industry that is predominantly male. And that they as a responsible collective bargaining unit are seeking the best possible outcome for their clients, as well as redress for years of “undue hardship”.

Not that I believe any of that tripe, but if its’ going before the human tribunal expect the sexual discrimination card to be played…possibly repeatedly…

Posted by: Daniel | 2006-01-31 12:04:13 PM

"But as long as there's a legal means to resolve it, I think CUPE's perfectly right to pursue it. " and I am perfectly in agreement with you. of course they must continue to justify their own existence,a nd let them feel free to do that in any way they wish. But Semantics aside, that is how I interpreted his challenge, and you indirectly answered it by responding to me. So, I'm cool with your position now.

Posted by: Stopthetrain | 2006-01-31 12:06:40 PM

A couple of observations.

Anachronistic unions are not going to settle for market wages. That’s why unions exist, to try and distort the market.

If we want the courts to stop being activists then we’d better demand Parliamentarians start doing what they’re elected to do. What’s that?

Deal with any remnants of unfairness in the workplace:
There’ll always be some unfairness but it’s diminishing as most individuals realize that for all practical purposes they are self-employed. Therefore, if they don’t like the way they’re treated they can and should move on. Unfair companies will die a natural death as no one will work for them.

What kind of environment would foster this notion of self-employment:
Full employment or close to it. Lots of competition for employees in major fields of employment like airlines. Plus a Parliament that strives to have the private sector provide workers with as many portability tools as possible: portable-pensions, health-plans, dental-plans, drug plans etc. In other words pretty much where the GOP is headed, things that go with an ownership economy.

Posted by: nomdenet | 2006-01-31 12:21:06 PM

-- "Therefore, if they don’t like the way they’re treated they can and should move on. Unfair companies will die a natural death as no one will work for them.'

The irony is, that companies die a very unnatural death when they get unionized.
My wife's former Co. was a profitable, small-medium biz with about 75 employees. Everyone was reasonably well paid, had benefits, had company Christmas parties and golf tourneys etc. As the company grew, the plant workers numbers swelled, they came under pressure to join a union. They did, a strike ensued. The company did survive that, but could survive the low production output, repeated manufacturing mistakes, and a degree of laziness that followed. After a year of this, their biggest customer bailed. Guess what? Goodbye medium, flexible, good-wage biz -- hello competing multinational buyout, layoffs, freeze on raises … and finally farewell to the union when Big Co. closed and opened under a new banner and location. Darwinism for unions..

Posted by: Stopthetrain | 2006-01-31 1:01:11 PM

Here's a question truewest:
So, I'm assuming that it is mandatory as a flight attendant to join CUPE and to pay union dues.

Let's suppose CUPE's view wins, the Airlines are ordered to pay higher wages to flight attendants, and the airlines have to lay off some attendants to cover the costs (or raise ticket prices and hurt their ability to compete), how will these members have been served?

re: sexism. As a woman, if I know that my training will be paid for as a flight attendant and the wages are the same...why would I pay to learn how to be a pilot? Newsflash to CUPE: there are male flight attendants and female pilots. Their attempts at wage parity could result in less females working towards positions which have a higher market-based wage.

I would love to a Supreme Court challenge about whether mandatory union membership and union dues are constitutional, why is this the case in many female-dominated professions?

Posted by: Angela | 2006-01-31 1:29:59 PM

Good Post Warwick - you make a LOT of sense in 6 lines. Set the standard and lay out the rules - CUPE is a Marice Stong type thing.

Posted by: jema54j | 2006-01-31 1:40:41 PM

"Equal pay for work of equal value is a contentious and sometimes elusive concept."

And who decides what is equal? Some leftist bureaucrat with an agenda or the market? The type of person who would apply for the job of deciding what is equal has already made up their minds. Equal is whatever gets their target group more money. My Mom is a doctor. She got an employment equity raise because the doctors in her University clinic were women and the boss was a man. The boss made more money so she got a raise. Let me repeat. She is a DOCTOR. The other example was in the paper around the same time. Secretaries in the Fed government were deemed to be equal to comptrollers who required an accounting designation. Hmmmm.

"That said, it's hard to deny that in some workplaces jobs traditionally held by men pay better than jobs held by women; for example, when my mother was working as a practical nurse, she was paid less than an orderly, despite the fact that they did substantially the same job. Likewise, blue collar jobs tend to pay more than pink-collar jobs, largely because wages scales were set at a time when a man who worked was thought to be supporting his family while a woman who worked was thought to be supplementing her husband's income. "

There is a difference between the same job with different names and two unrelated jobs. It ain't the same ballpark.

Pink collar jobs usually don't end up with the same sort of issues as blue collar jobs and are paid with that in mind. When was the last time there was an industrial accident in an office building? No coal mine explosion in your cubicles? How about the fact that it would be discriminatory not to hire a woman for the same job as a man would get with the same qualifications. That means if a woman wants to be paid as well as a blue collar job, she can damn well put on a hard hat and work in a factory. If this isn't her cup of tea, she can't expect to be paid the same as someone who risks losing life or limb in a dangerous environment.

The market is efficient because it rewards productivity above all else. It also rewards scarcity, skills, risk, and stuff like willingness to put in hours/overtime. Some government bureaucracy staffed by union, leftist, hacks deciding who gets paid what is a recipe for economic collapse.

So the bottom line is that if stewardesses want to be paid like a mechanic or pilot, get to school and get your licence. Then you can apply for the job you want the wages of. Companies should not have to waste time and money defending against this nonsence. These people are also unionized. They can go on strike during contract negotiations. If they signed a contract at a given rate, it would be bad-faith bargaining to go to court whining that it isn't enough.

Posted by: Warwick | 2006-01-31 1:48:16 PM

For now at least, it’s unlikely that a flight attendant would be paid the same as a pilot as a direct result of the Supremes’ judgement. What I object to is the hare-brained notion that their (pilots and flight attendants) work should be even be subjected to comparison for purposes of setting pay scales.

Are there legitimate pay-equity issues requiring attention? No doubt. Should women doing work that is ‘identical’ to male counterparts in the same organization? Obviously. But the ‘equal-pay-for-work-of-equal-value’ lunatics suggest that there is some meaningful way to compare ‘different’ professions to arrive at meaningful pay “equity” decisions.

This thinking leads nowhere but to expensive, unwieldy, unworkable bureaucratic empires dispensing ultimately nonsensical “rulings” bearing no relation to market realities. The Supreme Court ruling carries us a step further along this unfortunate path.

And as Terence Corcoran points out in today’s Fin Post - the decision co-writer is none other than Rosalie Abella who, twenty years ago, failed to get her desired result when she headed a Royal Commission on employment equity. Judicial activism at work. In Canada.

And there’s no need for public review of court appointments?! Ha!

Posted by: JR | 2006-01-31 1:58:16 PM

I'm not the best person to defend pay equity because, frankly, I share many of your concerns about difficulties in determining "equal value", the clumsy and bureaucratic nature of the inquiry.
I don't, however, share your utter faith in the market to set wages (CEO compensation and severance offer a perfect example of a market failure. Well, not for the CEOs, of course.) And, unlike you, I do recognize there are built in inequalities between blue and pink collar jobs, largely as a result of the historical factors I discussed above.
How do you address those? I don't know. Pay equity legislations is awkward. The market is inaccurate. Maybe this is something that has to be resolved within the labour movement. Oh yeah, you guys on the rigth want to get rid of it.

Which brings me to Angela, who offers me a long string of unsupported assumptions in support of her position that flight attendants should just lie back and think of England. The answer is, of course, that if a majority of the flight attendants don't like the way the CUPE is proceeding they can raise hell or and change leaders. as much as you right wingers like to bandy about terms like "union bosses" (but, strangely, "business leaders" -- talk about Orwellian) unions are democracies. Piss off the membership and you'll pay.

As for your Charter challenge, mandatory union dues have been the norm for decades -- the Rand formula, which requires both union members and those who opt out to pay dues, dates to 1946. This formula, which deals with the problem of free riders on union contracts, has been considered in a variety of Supreme Court decisions, most notably Lavigne v. Ontario Public Service Employees Union. There a majority of the court found they didn't infringe freedom of association rights, while the minority found they did infringe those rights but were justified under s.1.
Mandatory union membership is less common, although it does exist in some quarters, notably in the Quebec construction industry. The requirement was challenged in R. v. Advance Cutting and Coring Ltd. The SCC upheld the law by a 5-4 vote.

Posted by: truewest | 2006-01-31 2:24:36 PM

Another Supreme Court decision From Rosy Abella. Can we call this another "landmark" decision for her "ladyship?" Her last big "landmark" decision was on supporting anal sex for gay youth at 14 years of age. The only court this lady should be sitting on is a courtyard, where she would do less damage.

Posted by: Stephen Gray | 2006-01-31 2:28:06 PM

Errr... something that hasn't been mentioned so far. MONEY! it is in CUPE's best interest to get higher wages for it's members because... union dues are based on a % of wages! The higher a member's wages, the more dues they will pay. As my wages go up, the more my dues go up *GGrrrr*. What I don't agree with is a union using the dues of members for this crap. Sounds a bit like a
"make-work" union project for their lawyer. Hopefully with the result of higher wages for the flight attendants, and more dues in the kitty. It's ALL about the money.

Posted by: Snookie | 2006-01-31 2:30:29 PM

Truewest, you undue your own argument.

The unions are responsible for negotiating wages (which I made mention to.) If they fail to negotiate higher wages, the membership has the option to strike. If they settle, then they have agreed to a contract. If they settle only to sue for more, they have reneged on their agreement. They have negotiated in bad-faith - something an employer would be liable for. So any group of workers who are in a union can't be said to be discriminated against unless it is by their own union. You so eloquently suggest that those unions who do not adequately represent their workers will suffer for it. Well?

As for CEO's I have my problems here. Mostly, it the politicians (who retire to the private sector and end up on boards) have been unwilling to fix the corporate governance issues including the fiduciary duties of investment and pension fund managers. The problem starts with CEO's being on boards (and CEO's are regularly on the boards of multiple companies. The rest of the board is made up of former CEO's and ex-political and business insiders.) The boards set CEO's wages. Therefore the CEO's and their CEO friends take good care of each other at the expense of shareholders. In fact, a board is much like a union for CEO's.

As for mandatory dues, I have no problem with mandatory dues for negotiating wages but on what basis is "free riding" extended to political activism? A union's political activity should not be funded from mandatory dues. There are a lot of well paid union workers voting Tory (or Liberal) who do not like that their union is NDP. Let the union use worker's money for the cost of wage contracts and let them solicit voluntary donations for activities that is not related to their official duties in settling contracts.

Posted by: Warwick | 2006-01-31 2:49:52 PM

Unions are democracies? I was involved in a few union "votes" when I was a wee lad and remember well the union aversion to free votes via hidden ballots. Democratic in the same way that Saddam Hussein always won 99% of all ballots cast. Rest in Peace the 1%.

Posted by: BoomNoZoom | 2006-01-31 2:52:48 PM

You do understand that the case at issue here involves three separate unions and that it dates back to 1996. There have, no doubt, been a number of contracts negotiated in the meantime. But the fact remains that the airline, as a federally-regulated business, is subject to the pay equity provisions. Unless the union agrees to a term in the contract that they won't seek a remedy under that law, there's nothing bad faith about it.
Using union dues for political activity was the issue in Lavigne. The argument in favour of allowing this is that it unrealistic to define the unions role solely in relation to the employer, since that relationship will, in turn, be governed by outside factors, including labour legislation, that are determined by political bodies. Seems reasonable to me.

As for Stephen Gray, Abella J. co-authors a unanimous decision of seven justices of the SCC on a point of statutory interpretation and he starts foaming at the mouth. What gives? Tourettes?
BTW, Mr. Gray, when do you figure gay youth should be able to give consent? And why should it be a different age than straight youth?

Posted by: truewest | 2006-01-31 3:02:26 PM

If you want proof of how absolutely wrong in the head people like "truewest" are, take a look at the auto industry. Western unionized auto workers, who, because of union demands, produce less for higher pay, cannot compete with asian run auto companies who stress higher productivity and effienciency and achieve it through incentives and better worker morale. End result, massive job cuts (GM, Ford, etc.) and rapidly increasing market share going to asian auto-makers. Buzz Hargrove's solution: first whine for subsidies, and then when that fails, jump ship to the Liberals (probably in hopes of some kinda patronage appointment, too bad they lost the election Buzz, sniff, sniff) when it looks like the whole North American auto industry is on the verge of collapse. Yay, for unions.

Posted by: Big Makk | 2006-02-01 3:07:15 AM

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