Like in other countries, workers in Canada formed unions that would enable them to have a uniform voice when addressing issues relating to conditions of their places of work or other issues concerning their rights. When globalization was introduced in the country, it had positive as well as negative impacts on other areas without sparing labor unions. Various impacts occurred to labor unions among them being weakening of the unions which made them unable to air and effect demands of members that they represented. However, all was not lost for them as they managed to come up with resources and strategies to conquer globalization’s effects.
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According to (Gaston, 2002), Globalization can be defined as networking that is global because it is involved in bringing together communities that had been previously isolated to acquire unity and mutual dependence. Despite the much development taking place in information, communication, technology, and financial markets, globalization has not become fully known globally. The concepts of production, as well as labor, have become very important in the study of globalization. Labor unions are associations formed by wage earners who work in a similar profession to represent the interests of their members which are particularly related to their employers.
How Globalization Relates With Labor Unions
According to (Carranza, 2002), Globalization may sometimes have positive effects on a country’s economy but when analyzed from another perspective, it appears to have negative effects on unions of those providing labor in that country. In Canada, negative effects have been experienced which have called workers to fight for their rights. These effects arise due to competition for investments in Canada that comes with globalization with the targets being low wages, tax reductions, tariffs’ exceptions as well as labor unions that lack legal protection. Globalization in Canada made use of subcontracting, outsourcing, and contracts that lasted for a short time to increase production which was supposed to put Canada and its labor unions in competition.
Ways in Which Labor Unions Were Affected By Globalization in Canada
Globalization in Canada started by stressing labor unions and introducing open economies that mobilized capital as well as increasing competitiveness. This competition was on the adoption of new ways of working, technological change, flexibility as well as modification of places of work and pressing of costs. Consequently, members exerted pressure on labor unions so that they could intervene and have damages caused by those changes reduced. Another impact was that there was the decentralization of labor unions’ bargain with companies due to the removal of national borders. The possibility of labor unions to have negotiations with national unions diminished which made labor unions become isolated and reduced capacity by which it would inflict costs on their employers.
Labor unions were also affected when managers responded to competition and started to deal with direct terms in the workforce as they neglected their traditional ways of communication with labor unions. The main intention of those managers was to shift the loyalty of the workers from labor unions to companies. At that particular time, there was a contradiction of interests between labor unions and capitalism and the aspect of globalization. That is, capitalism was concerned with competition while labor unions tried to limit the competition that was building among workers. This was caused by globalization’s neoliberal character that extended capitalistic competitiveness to take place among workers challenging labor unions. (Gaston, 2002)
Effects of NAFTA on Canadian labor unions
NAFTA was an agreement that was made between North American countries to engage in free trade in countries in North America. Even before it started its operations, labor unions, as well as politicians, predicted that NAFTA would cause animosity to occur between the various transnational labor unions among them being Canada’s. On the contrary, the labor unions came together to fight against corporations that were using NAFTA to have wages lowered and the costs of labor. After NAFTA had completed its negotiations with Canada, it got involved in operations that were a complete contrast to what the agreement was. This made labor unions fight against their operations since the agreement which had previously imposed heavy costs on employees of manufacturing industries was not bringing them any positive changes. Instead of benefiting the employees, it had lowered their wages which made labor unions come up against them. Organizations that are not part of the Canadian government have joined the labor unions to protect the working environment of the laborers as well as their rights. (Gaston, 2002)
This kind of globalization has brought a great transformation in the working environment, regulation of labor as well as unionism of labor in Canada. Neoliberal globalization threatened labor unions in Canada as it separated the policies of the government from globalization. The Canadian government failed labor unions for not protecting it from the pressure it received from international bodies like NAFTA that operated in the name of bringing developments to Canada. Another effect of neoliberal globalization was that it separated the effects of employment conditions from those that affected labor unions directly. This did not favor labor unions in Canada since there was no division between the two entities as labor unions comprised of workers who are faced with changes taking place in the society. The conditions of low salaries to workers and poverty are taken to impact the labor unions in a similar way that it impacts individual workers which should not be separated whatsoever.
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The Canadian government which appeared to support neoliberalism was threatened by the labor unions leading to the introduction of laws that saw organized labor’s influence reduced. Courts prohibited workers from giving their contribution fee, which was a share of their salaries, to their respective labor unions. The main aim of withdrawing fee payment was to weaken operations of those unions since they knew that it would negatively affect the finances of labor unions’ operations which it surely did. Another factor causing harm to labor unions in Canada is related to the violation of the rights of laborers who form labor unions. This has been in form of workers being exploited by getting very low wages as well as getting fired without notice. The workers lost their pensions and benefits which they had worked for as free trade neglected such negotiations. (Gaston, 2002)
Ways in Which Labor Unions Responded To Effects of Globalization
(Leary, 1998), argues that, Canadian labor unions feared for more exploitation and impacts that globalization was having on them which made them utilize some powers to reduce these impacts. A framework was created, based on the belief that globalization’s real impact was dependent on labor unions’ capacity to use their power of mobilization. Labor unions were therefore supposed to focus on power resources which would be important to the country’s economy. These resources of power included internal solidarity which was also known as democracy, proactivity also known as agenda as well as external solidarity. These resources of power would be useful in the operations of labor unions as well as in mutual reinforcements of those unions. Globalization had impacted greatly on them emphasizing on the need for mobilization, renewal as well as development of labor unions’ action and influence. (Carranza, 2002)
Internal solidarity is related to those mechanisms applied in the place of work to make sure that workers are united as well as the enhancement of democracy. Members of the unions are expected to participate and there should also be methods and structures through which the leaders of labor unions should communicate with workers. In Canada, democracy played a big role through which labor unions were able to identify with their objectives. Previously, democracy lacked in the labor unions’ decisions which was of much importance regarding how members perceived the unions’ character as well as its practices. An example of labor unions’ practices that needed democratic power was the issue of strikes that would be organized in case their employers failed to meet their demands.
This referred to the Canadian labor union’s capacity to cooperate as well as work with communities. This factor was involved in the building of coordination which was supposed to be both vertical wells as horizontal within the labor unions and other organizations that controlled labor in Canada. This involved participation of labor unions and their behavior in the structure of larger unions and the unions’ capacity to get resources offered by the community. Alliances are built among labor unions, social movements, and community groups to strengthen operations of the unions which incorporated cross-border operations. External solidarity enabled the promotion of agenda which would otherwise be impossible if they were isolated making it difficult for them to come up with an agenda that would consequently influence change. Another application of external solidarity would be where a state would restrict an organization that was not part of the government from redressing a complaint on low salaries, poor conditions of working, among others. External solidarity would enable labor unions to gang up with that organization and pressure a company’s administration or the state to meet their demands. (Leary, 1998)
This factor was used by the Canadian labor unions to help them shape and develop an agenda. Previously, these unions had been influenced by globalization to a point of diverting from the unions’ objectives and reacting to actions of companies. Proactivity helped them express their interests, visions as well as objectives that they planned to pursue. It was specifically concerned with the ability of labor unions’ leaders to come up with an agenda, formulate strategies through which it would be carried out, and finally communicate it effectively. (Leary, 1998)
Though the discussion has leaned on one direction of impacts that globalization had on Canadian labor unions, it occurs that there are more than just negative effects. Globalization also, directly and indirectly, affected labor unions in Canada. The positive effect was in form of developing the country’s economy and creating job opportunities for Canadian citizens. However, there was an indirect positive impact which was a result of the negative impacts that NAFTA had on labor unions. As a result, NAFTA was involved in the exploitation of workers as well as defying labor unions’ regulations which made them decide to cooperate with labor unions from other countries in North America where NAFTA was in operation. The unity of these labor unions would not have occurred if globalization which was exercised by NAFTA in their respective countries had not occurred. (Breau, 1999)
Carranza M. (2002): NAFTA and the politics of regional Economic Intregration: JSTR pp 22-25.
Gaston N. (2002): The effects of Globalization on Unions: Sejong University pp33-36.
Leary V. (1998): Globalization and Human Rights: Ashgate Pub Ltd pp12-16.
Breau S. (1999): Income inequality across Canadian Provinces in the era of globalization: Blackwell Synergy pp17-20.