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Unions Essay

1252 words - 6 pages

You don't have to go far these days to hear negative things being said about unions. Many politicians, employers and people in the media openly criticize the labour movement. They say that unions are out of touch and out of date. They also claim that unions no longer "deliver the goods" for their members. Yet despite all these criticisms and complaints, 4 million Canadian workers proudly call themselves union members (Bartkiw, 2005). In fact, one in every three working people in the country belongs to a union (Bartkiw, 2005). In Alberta alone, more than 300,000 people are covered by union contracts - an increase of over 40,000 members since 1996 (Hart, 2002). Why do so many people choose to ...view middle of the document...

If the employer breaches provisions of the collective agreement - for example, if he or she fires a worker without just cause or if an employee is being harassed in some way on the job - then the worker can take defensive action through the established grievance procedure. Union members don't have to face the boss or make their way through the red tape of labour law alone. Union representatives are there to support individual workers who have been treated unfairly. In a union workplace, about 9 in 10 unionized workers had access to a grievance system, compared to a roughly 4 in 10 in non-union workplace (Colvin, 2004). Through grievance procedures and negotiated contracts, unions protect workers from employer retaliation and, furthermore, act to dispel the notion among workers that employer retaliation is a commonplace (Colvin, 2004).Not only do unions help workers better handle grievances, unions also help to provide a healthier and safer workplace for the workers. Health and safety is a major concern for unions. Evidence clearly shows that unions lead to healthier and safer workplaces. A 2002 study showed that 79 percent of unionized workplaces reported high compliance with health and safety regulations, compared to only 54 percent of non-unionized workplaces (Stats Canada, 2002). Unions give workers a voice in making their workplaces safe by participating in decision making about health and safety through Joint Health and Safety Committees. Unionized workers also have access to training on health and safety and they have support when they challenge employers about unsafe working conditions. In cases where workers do get injured on the job, the union can help workers through the maze of Workers Compensation. Studies have shown that this support results in a higher likelihood of unionized workers receiving WCB (Workers Compensation Board) benefits. Unionized workers receive more generous health benefits than non-unionized workers. They also pay 18% lower health care deductibles and a smaller share of the costs for family coverage (Hart, 2002). In retirement, unionized workers are 24% more likely to be covered by health insurance paid for by their employer (Stats Canada, 2002). In two studies of OSHA (Occupation Safety and Health Act) and unions in the manufacturing and construction industries (2000), it's been found that unions greatly improve OSHA enforcement. In the manufacturing industry, for example, the probability that OSHA inspections would be initiated by worker...

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