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Why Unions P1 Unions Are Groups Of Working People Who Join To Talk To Employers About Wages And Conditions Of Work Instead Of

.. and training fell by 7.6% in 1990-91 over spending in 1989-90. The portion of the federal budget going to education and training has dropped from 7.3% in 1985-86 to 6.4% in 1990-91.”9 The share of federal funds going to provincial and territorial governments for education and training has dropped from 56% in 1984-85 to a low of 41.7% in 1990-91. The budget reflects that Canada is in a tough economic situation. Cutbacks are necessary in order to spend less money.

In a sense, the budget is a mirror of the economy. An increase of services or spending indicates a good economic situation. A decrease of services or spending indicates a decline in the economy. One of the solutions 9 Cynthia Wiggins, “Death by 1000 cuts: Public services in peril,” CLC Today, 1992 February issue, P.5 P.8 to survive during a tough economy is to cut back on educational spending. “Some people believe that the government is heading towards the privatization of education. Education is considered to be a basic human right. The necessary educational programmes and funding must be put in place to encourage lifelong learning.”10 However, insufficient funding is being spent on education by the federal government. The labour unions keep protesting the retrenchment strategy on education.

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Knowledge means wealth to the country. If the workers are not well educated, they may produce poor quality goods. As a result, the country will lose its competitiveness in the world market. Similarly, the same theory can be applied to Canada. “If the retrenchment strategy continues, the public will cry out against paying taxes for insufficient government services.

Labour unions continue to be concerned about the budget provided for education.”11 10 Riane Mahon, Canadian Labour In The Battle Of The Eighties, Canadian Labour Congress, Quebec, 1983, P.168-169 11 Riane Mahon, Canadian Labour In The Battle Of The Eighties, Canadian Labour Congress, Quebec, 1983, P.171 P.9 INVESTMENTS AND ECONOMY Investments are closely related to a country’s economy. Investment is defined as a property or other possession acquired or invested in for future income or benefit. Unions also establish funds to invest in business. Usually, the local union invests the fund in a business located in the same area. Each union uses the fund to promote the economy if possible. Examples are provided in a newspaper called CLC Today (February 1992 issue). The worker-owned Solidarity Fund in Quebec recorded its best year in 1991. The return on investment was 13.04% for the year ending October 31.

The cost of shares sold to workers in 1984 was only $10 per share. But it has increased to $14.80 per share recently. Most of the shareholders are members of the Quebec Federation of Labour. Fund managers have invested more than $245 million in Quebec in the past seven years. They estimate that 23,000 jobs have been created or saved as a result. Another example is provided by unions in British Columbia. Government, labour and business in B.C. are establishing an investment fund for the province’s working people.

The Working Opportunity Fund will be used to invest money in small and medium-sized B.C. businesses to help diversify the province’s resource-based economy. The government is going to contribute $600,000 in start-up money and a $2 million loan guarantee. These examples illustrate the importance of unions in the Canadian economy. P.10 ECONOMIC UNION “Canadians have greatly benefited from close economic integration. Canada’s economic and political union which allows Canadians to live and grow together in a common land, has generated economic gain for all Canadians. After the post war period, Canada had one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

The reason is that the Canadian economy is flexible in adapting to change.”12 However, Canada, like other countries, is facing both internal and external economic challenges. By examining chart B (provided at the end of report), it can be seen that there has been a dramatic change in the distribution of world exports in the past 18 years. Overall, exports in many countries areas are decreasing. Much of the decrease has been absorbed by Asia. Asia is the only area that has increased its world exports.

This could mean that Asia will be the leading export area in the future. This is one of the external problems Canada is facing. “Therefore, economic union is being set up to enhance the economy of Canada. Two key factors are: i) a high degree of economic integration 2) an advanced degree of political integration.”13 Economic and political integration go hand in hand 12 James Cronin, Work, Community and Power, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1983, pp 215-217 13 Solomon Barkin, Worker Militancy And Its Consequences, Praeger, New York, 1983, P.330 P.11 because, to maintain a high level of economic integration, each party of the economic association must be able to modify its policies. Economic union with political integration also provides the structural basis for the sharing of income.

The facets of economic union that facilitate the relatively free flow of people, goods, services and capital have had an enormous impact not only on the structure of economic activity in Canada, but also in raising Canadians’ incomes. Economic union raises productivity and incomes by making available a much larger market for producers in all provinces than the limited market. The size of the market made by economic union is also important for generating Canada’s bargaining clout. Canada is the seventh largest industrial economy in the world. “Economic union helps to smoothen the impact of economic shocks, such as the grain price shock of 1986 – to the benefit of all Canadians. This is accomplished by providing stabilization and insurance benefits to the provinces.

The economic union provides insurance benefits in the Canadian regions. With the many industrial structures across provinces, the insurance principle is very important to the Canadian economy. The stability of Canadian economy gives benefits to all Canadians.”14 14 Statement On The Next Federal Budget, Ottawa, 1983, P.12 P.12 CONCLUSION Most people believe that bargaining is best accomplished by unions. However, unions get involved in all kinds of social activities. These activities influence the economy of Canada directly or indirectly.

If there were no unions, Canadian workers would not enjoy being among the most highly paid labourers of the world. Without the unions, the privatization of education might become a reality. Other than bargaining for wages, unions also have to be socially responsible. But there is evidence that unions are helping people other than paid members. The prime objectives of the union is to provide better working conditions for workers.

P.15 Bibliography 1 Barkin, Soloman, Worker Militancy And Its Consequences, Praeger, New York, 1983 2 Carter, D.D., Canadian Industrial Relations In The Year 2000, Industrial Relations Centre, Kingston, 1992 3 Cronin, James, Work, Community and Power, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1983 4 Davidson, Alistair, and Ian Mckinnon, “Unions need to study marketing,” The Globe and Mail, May 8 1984, Business section, P.8 5 Edward, David, Times Of Trouble, National Library of Canada, Ottawa, 1983 6 Mahon, Riane, Canadian Labour In The Battle Of The Eighties, Canadian Labour Congress, Quebec, 1983 7 Martin, D., Form War To Peace, Canadian Labour Congress, Quebec,1991 8 Notes On Unions, Canadian Labour Congress, Quebec, 1992 9 Palmer, Bryan D., Solidarity: The Rise And Fall Of An Opposition In B.C., New Star Books, Vancouver, 1987 10 Sinclair, Peter, Unemployment: Economic Theory And Evidence, Oxford Press, England, 1987 11 Statement On The Next Federal Budget, Ottawa, 1983 12 Wiggins, Cynthia, “Death by 1000 cuts: Public services in peril,” CLC Today, Ottawa, 1992 February Issue.


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