Proposed changes to Alberta labour laws will hurt Alberta workers

Without a secret ballot, union organizers may pressure workers into supporting union certification.

Alberta government unions and the Easter Bunny

Now that the province has reaffirmed its intent to lightly modify government employee pension plans, government unions will again try to divert the public from the facts.

For example, after my recent column on the ever-increasing cost to taxpayers of public sector pension plans, Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees and Marle Roberts, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Alberta), cried foul.

Right out of a Monty Python movie - Government unions and pension claims

If Canadians ever wonder why it is so difficult to reform government spending, there’s a simple reason: government employee unions.

A good example (if one can call it that) is the issue of growing government sector pension costs and the outright resistance from the unions to address the problem.

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This study examines the effects of worker choice laws in the US?commonly referred to as ?right to work? (RTW) policies?and applies the findings to British Columbia and to Ontario. RTW laws have been enacted by 24 US states; these laws prohibit collective bargaining agreements between employers and unions from forcing workers represented by a union to pay dues for its representation.

The scholarly literature generally finds that RTW laws reduce the percentage of workers covered by union contracts, and increase economic and employment growth. A new econometric analysis reported in this study finds that RTW laws in the US increase economic growth by about 1.8% and employment by about 1% in the states enacting such laws.

The scholarly literature also finds that RTW laws have the effect of increasing manufacturing employment and output. Oklahoma, which became a RTW state in 2001, shares a border with seven states, four of which adopted RTW laws earlier; the others are not RTW states. The data suggest that the faster manufacturing growth observed in Oklahoma after 2001 was due, to some substantial degree, to the adoption of a RTW policy.

A conservative application of the econometric findings reported here suggest that a RTW policy would increase manufacturing output in British Columbia and Ontario by about $200 million (0.2%) and $4.0 billion (0.5%), respectively. A conservative estimate is that a RTW policy would increase total economic output in British Columbia by $3.9 billion (about $844 per capita) and total employment by a bit less than 19,000. The respective figures for Ontario are $11.8 billion (about $874 per capita) and almost 57,000.

These predicted effects are not trivial, and the prospective benefits should engender a debate in Canada and in the provinces about the policy reforms needed to maintain and enhance competitive positions. A RTW law should be prominent among them.

Should Right-to-Work Come to Canada?

Prior to 2012, the momentum and even interest in so-called Right-to-Work (RTW) laws, or what are more accurately referred to as Worker Choice laws was non-existent. Very little reform had happened for over a decade despite the positive economic effects of such laws. Things changed in 2012 when Indiana and more shockingly the bedrock of unionism in the U.S., Michigan, decided to implement RTW laws. These tectonic shifts in labour laws south of the border have reinvigorated interest in labour law reform in Canada.

Getting past the labour-business tango: think about consumers

Around Labour Day, a plethora of news stories focus on the state of unions, and often, their interaction with business. Given the name of the holiday, the attention is understandable.

However, the focus on unions and corporations, especially where governments are involved to set policy and create legislation, often misses two other critical groups: consumers and taxpayers.

It is those two cohorts that are often overlooked and whose interests are damaged when governments assume, on purpose or by accident, that only the interests of organized labour and business matter.