Friday, 30 March 2012

Right to Work... a lifeline for Ontario industry!

Right to Work... a lifeline for Ontario industry!

Are the Liberals going to wait until the last of Ontario's manufacturing sector moves out before they act? Are we destined to move away from manufacturing and all become 'burger-flippers'?
It's sad news indeed for Ontario that Caterpillar Inc.’s locomotive operations in London, Ont., a 62-year-old plant just shifted to Indiana; a new Right to Work state two days after the Governor made the announcement. For a little history, on Jan. 1, the company locked the workers out and on Feb. 3, Caterpillar’s Progress Rail Services unit announced it would cease operations at its Electro-Motive Diesel locomotive assembly plant, citing the need to be cost-competitive in a global market and closed the plant for good, eliminating even more Ontario manufacturing jobs.

Electro-Motive Canada (a subsidiary owned by Caterpillar) initially cut its work force last summer. The company then asked for a top end wage cut from $40/hr to $34/hr. When the Union said no, the company never returned to the bargaining table, despite a photo-op by Premier McGuinty.

This isn’t just about the 700 people who lost their jobs that day. It’s not even about the 1,000-plus who will follow because their jobs as truckers and suppliers depended on the plant, or the impact on a community that already has one of the highest jobless rates in Canada. It’s not even about the harsh side of global competition and its impact on the middle class that raises unsettling questions about competitiveness in Central Canada and the future prospects of Ontario, the country’s most populous province and home to 40 per cent of its economic activity.

No, this is about the impact of the Right to Work initiative spreading throughout the United States, in fact pushing further northward that forced Caterpillar and many others to turn their backs on Ontario. Why even Wisconsin and Ohio last year passed laws stripping most public sector unions of collective bargaining rights.

It goes without saying that the Union/Liberal movement received a terminal wake-up call when Gov. Mitch Daniels and the Indiana House recently voted 54-44 to make Indiana the 23rd right-to-work state in just the latest successful legislative push targeting union power following a Republican sweep of statehouses in 2010, making Indiana the first Rust Belt state to ban contracts that require workers to pay mandatory union fees for representation..and announcing, that Indiana is now open for business. Indiana would mark the first win in 10 years for national right-to-work advocates who have pushed unsuccessfully for the measure in other states. But few right-to-work states boast Indiana’s union clout, borne of a long manufacturing legacy. Oklahoma passed right-to-work legislation in 2001 but has a rural-based economy that produces comparatively fewer union jobs than Indiana.
While Union Bosses, like Teamsters President Jim Hoffa sounded resigned to the right-to-work measure’s passage, he promised a backlash by remaining unionists with his partisan message that his supporters will rise up to challenge new legislation despite the fact that main street voters resoundingly kicked the Union/Liberal movement to the curb.

Caterpillar’s move out of Ontario may well be an extreme and brutal example but it’s just the latest in a string of closures, from AstraZeneca’s research facility in Montreal (132 jobs) to heavy-truck manufacturer Navistar in Chatham, Ont. (1,100 jobs). The London area has been particularly hard hit: Ford Motor Co. of Canada closed its doors in nearby St. Thomas last year (1,200-plus jobs) while 3M Canada has trimmed its manufacturing work force in London to 235 people from 400 five years ago. The closures are the result of fierce global competition, automation, and a currency that trades at parity compared with 62 cents to the U.S. dollar a decade ago, obliterating a key cost advantage.

In years past, the jobs have flowed to cheaper manufacturing centres, like China or India. Now, they’re just as likely to shift to the suddenly business-friendly United States. Global competition isn’t just between multinational companies. It’s also between regions, desperate to attract jobs to areas where unemployment is high and local economies have been ravaged. Why even southern Ontario is now attempting to attract Nuclear waste!

In Caterpillar's case, the locomotive jobs are only moving a scant six hours away, to Muncie, Indiana, where junior wages of $12 to $16/hr matched those of the company's offer to the London plant employees. Muncie’s own jobless rate is 9 per cent, though officials figure the real rate is double that.

While some Union Bosses may insist this is a race to the bottom, London’s jobless rate was 9 per cent even before Caterpillar closed the Electro-Motive Canada plant, well above the national average of 7.6 per cent.

Southwestern Ontario, which is the economic locomotive of the Canadian economy… is still struggling. Plants have come and gone over the years. This time seems different. For one, Electro-Motive Canada isn’t facing economic hardship. It just posted a record quarterly profit, as any of its 700 former workers will say. The plant was productive, profitable and reliable, with a stellar safety record.
It is easily forgotten that one of the causes of the evolution of the modern Ontarian urban union was the lawless suppression of workers by the Liberal party affiliated political machines, and yet it did not take so very long before the union became an outgrowth of that same political machine. And having wiped out nearly every independent industry with which it was associated, the only unions still surviving are those in control of either municipal services or provincially subsidized service providers, particularly in the medical field.

If the union began as a way to negotiate salaries and working conditions between employers and workers, the modern day union is often little more than the Ontario Liberal government and their union supporters bleeding the public dry in order to subsidize a political party and a union leadership that brings in the votes for their party.

The situation is most critical in Toronto, but many GTA budgets are almost as badly strained by the combination of municipal union contracts and the subsidized services that they are associated with and is a harsh reminder of the utter greed and ruthlessness of the union’s last stand, their death grip on public services fed by taxpayer money. These stands have little to do with worker’s rights. They have next to nothing in common with the old union image of underpaid workers protesting outside of factories. It’s still about exploitation, but it’s about the exploitation of the public by a Union-Liberal government political establishment.

As the Union Bosses of old have given way to managers and then to Liberal politicians, the Union Bosses of today are the only bosses still in the game, who enjoy wealth and power far beyond those of the average taxpayer being fleeced without his or her consent. Union rhetoric may pretend that they are contending with Mayors and Premiers, but in reality it’s the public that they’re really contending with. Even Mark Ferguson, leader of local 416 recently acknowledged that the 'public hates unions'! Their threats of mayhem and strikes have hardly any effect on Liberal politicians, but are intended to target the public, instead. And the money that they’re paid with is taxpayer money and too often, Liberal politicians are more than happy to give in.

Union negotiations with Liberal politicians that they help elect are a corrupt farce, because the money extracted from the taxpayer goes in part to the same politicians who decide whether to accept or reject their offer. In any law abiding system, this would be a tremendous conflict of interest, like sending in your real estate lawyer to act as your mortgage broker. But under our current system it is actually commonplace for unions which live off contracts with Liberal politicians, to be able to fund and work to elect those same politicians. And it represents a level of corruption that makes corporate tax shelters that Liberal pundits complain about seem almost petty. And now Ontario is collapsing under the weight of dirty contracts with unions that act like a Praetorian Guard, elevating and removing Premiers and Mayors who displease them.

The right to work in Canada, free of Union influence should be a fundamental right just like the right to vote. Under our law, if you want to get a job you have to authenticate your identity and authenticate your citizenship or your work visa to be able to work as a citizen.

That is no different than what municipalities across Ontario, and indeed across Canada do when each Canadian citizen enters their respective polling station. So why is it that a company can hire us but then we are told we have to report to some Union Boss who we didn't agree to work for?

If this was just corrupt collusion between Business Owners and Union Bosses, as has often been the case with some unions, then the only victims would be union members. But this is corrupt collusion between Union Bosses and Liberal politicians, exchanging public money for political support. And not letting go even when the public is bleeding red and there’s literally no more money to give. Unions are always at the head of the line; unions get paid, while the public is delayed. Ontario unions spend millions with their Working Families Coalition to put Premier McGuinty in place and more to keep him there. How long can the system go on before it breaks down? That doesn’t really matter as the men at the top in Ontario got there through union backing.

While many private sector Union Bosses have became virtual pariahs with union jobs either going south or being outsourced as union jobs in manufacturing dwindle down to around 20%, the Ontario public sector unions remain a tick fixed on the bloodstream of the taxpayer. You didn’t have to be a factory owner to be drained by them. You didn’t need to own a single share of stock. All you had to do was live and pay taxes in an area where public sector unions had you gripped in their claws.

The intersection of entitlements and public sector unions and the Liberal political machine meant that money was being exchanged for political support, and the folks outraged were not the ones that Liberal politicians cared about. They still made a show of driving a hard bargain, but more often they showed up at union conferences to loud cheers. Their old electorate paid taxes. Their new electorate gobbled them.

Factories were once Ontario’s largest source of employment. While still sizable as the third-largest employer after the health care and retail sectors, manufacturing has slid dramatically with over 300,000 manufacturing jobs disappearing on McGuinty's watch, and today the number of people who work in factories hovers near a 30-year low.

The recent Drummond report on the state of Ontario’s finances minced no words about manufacturing’s role in Ontario. The sector has dwindled as a share of the province’s output and employment base and this trend will continue as the manufacturing industry is hammered by a strong dollar and uneven American demand.
Statistics help tell the story:
    1. Factory employment, traditionally a source of high-paying jobs has faded to just 11.8 per cent of total employment, half the levels they were in 1976     
      2.  Census numbers this month show just how dramatically the country is tilting. Alberta tops the country’s population growth, followed by British Columbia. Ontario’s rate of growth is below the national average for the first time in a quarter of a century. 
            3. London tumbled out of Ontario’s top-10 big city list.
Much talk on the picket line at Electro-Motive Canada centred on Alberta. One former worker left for Fort McMurray just last month. Others are contemplating a similar move. For them, the Made-In-Canada era is over. If Central Canada’s cost advantage is fading, and if corporate taxes have already been cut to below those of the United States, what else can the industry do?

And this brings us to 2012 where the oppressed worker is now the taxpayer, whose income and future are being garnished by unions. The poor man standing out in the rain is not the union employee, but the man waiting to collect another check, that will be torn apart and consumed by Union Bosses and Liberal politicians. Who will then protect these folks, from the unions? 

On March 27, 2012, Ontario Liberals tabled OUR province's very disappointing fiscal 2012 budget. Due to McGuinty's inability to control his spending addiction, we will not see business taxes coming down until he is able to bring his deficit down...meaning NEVER?

Ontario has lost too many major employers with more on the way out despite much talk of lowering business taxes to help grow the private sector and create jobs. In all fairness, our business taxes are relatively low right now and really are only one of the minor problems employers face. Other than exploding energy costs, the major problem we are having in manufacturing is staying competitive in the global economy.

Manufacturers need assistance right now to help grow the private sector by removing barriers to success if we are to deal with our present provincial government's onerous accumulated debt and outrageous deficit.

Only by creating new manufacturing jobs and protecting existing manufacturing jobs to get and keep Ontarian's working is this possible! If this concept is worth exploring, I would like to suggest the formation of a 'Blue Ribbon' panel, encompassing taxpayers and business owners to delve a little deeper to perhaps make some policy recommendations

Ontario has the most educated skilled workforce in the world. We are multilingual and multicultural. Ontario may not be the source of well-paying manufacturing jobs it once was, but manufacturing will hardly fade into the sunset provided we are able to re-float this ship with Right to Work legislation and protect the Ontario worker from Union/Liberal malfeasance as I, along with many Ontarian's believe, as a province, we should produce things that people want to buy, and that our children's future is not just about oil and natural resources.


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