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Friday, November 28, 2008
AUPE president stands in solidarity with federal public employees in opposition to Conservative plan to ban strikes
I reported yesterday that in addition to the long overdue plan to sell off $2.3 billion in crown assets (Stornoway?) and cut $2 billion in government spending (including subsidies to political parties), the Harper government is pushing for a “temporary removal of the right to strike in the public sector, perhaps indicating its intentions to get serious about reducing the size of government, and neutralizing the union opposition in advance."
As exciting as all of this news is, banning the “right to strike” is a bit of a misnomer. In actual fact, every employee at all times in a free society has the right to strike -- just don’t come to work if you’re unhappy with the conditions, or show up outside with a placard that reads “my boss is an asshole.” So a so-called ban on the right to strike is really just the government’s way of saying it will fire you if you walk off the job, a reasonable response from any employer.
And let’s be honest, a mass public sector strike followed by mass public sector firings is probably the best stimulus strategy available to the government. The best way to get out of a recession is to relieve wealth creators of the heavy burden of government -- cut spending and cut taxes.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty seems to understand this as he has so far not been drawn into stimulus mania and has instead been talking about spending restraint. "Without a doubt, here in Canada and around the world, these are difficult times that will require difficult choices," said Minister Flaherty. "We cannot ask Canadians to tighten their belts during tougher times without looking in the mirror. We have a responsibility to show restraint and respect for tax dollars." (I'll ignore the $75 billion in mortgage loans the CMHC bought from the banks. What could go wrong with the government buying mortgages nobody else wants during a global housing crisis? And to think, these people are in charge of managing the Canada Pension Plan. You may want to get used to the taste of cat food now.)
Harper and Flaherty have it right, for the most part, while President-elect Obama has it wrong, despite his wildly dishonest claim that his reckless spending plan enjoys the approval of both liberal and conservative economists. Did anyone ask the economists at the Mises Institute, for instance? I did.
Austrian School economist Walter Block told me yesterday that he thinks this kind of wild stimulus spending is “like throwing gasoline on a fire and expecting it to go out.” Tragically, we can expect the American economy to smoulder and stink like an inextinguishable tire fire for years to come. America is heading into a Wiemar-style hyper-inflationary period from which she may never fully recover.
But back to the “right to strike” issue.
AUPE president Doug Knight thinks the federal government’s planned one-year ban on strikes by federal public employees is not only counterproductive but could be found to be in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. According to Knight, a ban on the right to strike doesn't prevent strikes, it increases labour hostilities and makes strikes more likely to be bitter, violent and protracted.
Alberta provincial government and most Alberta health care workers labour under a no strike policy. “We have always argued that these Alberta policies are arbitrary and unfair and do not make good labour relations sense,” Knight said. “They don’t make sense here, and they won’t make sense when they are extended to our fellow public employees who work for the federal government.”
Knight is right. They don't make sense, not unless public sector workers know the Harper Conservatives are serious about constraining spending and are willing to fire employees who attempt to sabotage the government's economic recovery efforts.
As for public sentiment, if Canadians are not yet hostile to the incessant and unreasonable demands of public sector employees, they will be after a deep and prolonged recession during which the only people to get raises, severances and pensions are life-time government workers.
Here’s hoping these difficult times set the political classes back a few steps in social standing and esteem, and working class people in the private sector, including entrepreneurs, are once again respected for the wealth and opportunity they create.
Posted by Matthew Johnston
Posted by westernstandard on November 28, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink
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As the employer of these over paid federal workers, I agree. I don't think my employees should be able to withhold the services I'm paying for.
Posted by: cdn.infidel | 2008-11-28 3:13:30 PM
What makes the Mises Institute the mecca of perfect economics? Slightly biased I'd say.
Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2008-11-28 3:40:04 PM
Hayek came from the Austrian School (founded by Mises) and it is hard to ignore his influence of the Thatcher and Reagan administrations, to name two.
Ignore the Mises Institute economists if you want, but don’t call it a consensus. That’s all I’m saying, ZP.
Actually, I’m also saying the Mises Institute guys are right in their analysis that spending is not a solution to a problem caused by spending.
Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-11-28 4:51:34 PM
Selling Crown Assets may be a good thing to do on its own merits but it is hard to see how it provides any kind of short term stimulus to the economy. Funds the private sector devoted to purchasing government assets could not be invested elsewhere. Other things being equal, a recession would seem to be a poor time for a government to divest itself of assets.
Posted by: Andy Baldwin | 2008-12-03 8:20:53 AM
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