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Reasons employees go on strike

Discuss about the Labour Relations Management for Public Servants Strikes.

Strike is the unilateral stoppage of work with intention to impact on negotiations revolving around wage or work conditions. Throughout the world, workers employ a number of strategies in the process of trying to achieve better working conditions and remuneration. However it appears collective bargaining is not a popular method for most workers. More often than not, they resort to go on strike. As much as this sometimes gets workers issues resolved, it does not justify such industrial action. This paper evaluates the argument of strike by focusing on some of the major reasons employees often go on strike as well as the impact it has on the business.

In his study, Hui (2016) points out that the civil servants often go on strike when the employers partially or totally break their employment agreement, do not accept some or all of the work they normally do, or even reduce their rate of work, performance, and normal output. Hence to be considered a strike, the employees’ action must be part of or a combination of agreement, common understanding, or a joint action done by the employees. The employees often take this action with the aim of trying to make the employers accept or give in to their demands. Brym, Bauer, and McIvor (2013) also points out that if the strike is legal, a party is allowed to apply to the Employment Court for an injunction of stopping it or even sue individuals for the loss caused by the strike such as the loss of working time. Strike should not be allowed due to the impact it causes, some of which include;

To say that strikes and lockouts are a legitimate part of the collective bargaining agreement would be a valid argument. For instance the right of employees to strike against employers and that of employers to lock them out in an attempt to persuade them is recognized and protected in Canada according to the Canada Labor Laws (Part-1 Industrial Relations). Whether or not a strike is a protected right is not in contention, the matter at hand is how workers go about it (Zhang, & Zuberi, 2017). This is especially important because the same labor laws provide for an elaborate and extensive framework for addressing the workers’ welfare. As such parties can resolve bargaining disputes through appointed conciliation officers, conciliation boards and commissioners and even the Federal Mediators and Conciliation services of Canada (FMCS).  Employers and workers unions have a way therefore of reaching an agreement without recourse to industrial action. With all these provided for in the constitution, there is not much reason to justify workers strike.

Challenges of strikes

Labor laws in most democratic countries world over just like in Canada recognize and protect the right of workers to hold peaceful demonstrations.  However, if the recent happenings worldwide are anything to go by, this is far from the truth. Violence is increasingly becoming the face of workers protests. From the French workers protests against the contested Labor Reform Bill-where more than two dozens of police were seriously injured and more than seven people were arrested put behind bars for the industrial action by garment workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh protesting where several dozens of people sustained injuries. An even worse case in point is the strike at BHP Billiton's Escondida copper mine in Chile that saw a fire break out and more than 300 masked people storm the site in February this year.  A close look at such events is evidence that it is increasingly become too costly to allow strikes. According to Slinn (2014), time has come when we must carefully consider labor laws and policy reform that must be abolished.

The recent few years has seen the rise in strikes by workers in essential service providing sectors. These include services such as healthcare (a case in point would be a 100-day strike by doctors in Kenya in from January 2016), education, transport and communication. In Kenya a concurrent strike by doctors that lasted 100 days led to the loss of more than a hundred lives.  Within the same period in that country, a lecturers’ strike that lasted slightly over two months caused a delay in the opening of the semester in public university. The transportation services in Greece’s capital witnessed one of the worst strikes in their history which caused serious disruptions in the major transport system in the city in September 2016. The transportation workers were protesting austerity measures instituted by government to pay back creditors on time.

Still in Canada, a month long strike during the spring involving more than 6000 teaching assistants at the University of Toronto cannot be overlooked. At the heart of the strike was the issue of graduate students funding. To this affect Deacon (2014) argues that there is need to strike a balance between the constitutional right to strike and the right to education for students. The university management fortunately won the labor arbitration case but not without an unnecessary disturbance in the learning of students. In all these mentioned cases in recent times one thing is common-crippling of essential services to the public. This is not a good place to be as it creates a multiplicity of inconvenience to various sectors of the economies of countries affected. Measuring and responding to precocity in the labor economy should involve more than just strikes (Zhang &Zuberi, 2017).

Impact on Public and Private Sectors

Künzler (2016) submits that the solution to workers welfare issues is elaborate reforms in social security .The very existence of strike as a protected right for workers in the most democracies’ constitutions is a setback. This provision is bound to and has more often than not been abused by union officials whose real intentions are usually to extort from the government. As a result union leaders from time to time declare strikes only to call them off after they are compromised by cash handouts from corrupt regimes. Abolishing strikes would effectively prevent such incidences from happening as there would not be a mechanism for such unscrupulous unionists to leverage on the government officials.

When workers withdraw their labor from whatever sector, the economy suffers as a result in the decline in economic activity in the affected sector. The recent years have been characterized by a trend where Western owned companies shift operations base to low cost labor countries in Asia such as China, Thailand, Malaysia and Mexico South America. This is partly because the workforce in these countries is less likely to go on strike hence manufactures are guaranteed of cheap and efficient labor. Industrial action is very infrequent in most of these countries thanks to capitalist hegemony and class politics (Hui, 2016).This is the example that other nations of the world need to emulate. It is no wonder that China for instance has the largest manufacturing sector ion the world. Unless there is a mechanism in place like abolishing workers strike especially in Western countries, this trend is likely to continue. This has the potential to lead to loss of jobs.

The reason why public servants were not allowed to strike in the 70’s in Canada was primarily because of the fact that the public and private sectors are not similar in a variety of ways.Brym, Bauer and McIvor (2013) describe strikes as the 21st Century anomaly. It is a global phenomenon that governments exercise a monopoly over the provision of vital services in a manner that no private sector can. Today, the government, of Canada is grappling with a wave of public sector unrest. When unionized workers in any a private company go on strike,say Ford or General Motors, people can still get the same goods or services from another provider, but when nurses, doctors or teachers down their tools the effect is that the services they provide are withdrawn.

Labour relations Management

When it is a vital sector like healthcare involved, the results are disastrous. Van Rensburg& van Rensburg (2013) raise questions to the extent that it is unethical for nurses to go on strike. As a result the public is sucked into the public sector wage disputes in a manner that can never occur in the private sector. This then becomes a front for opposing political sides to clash since politicians have a keen eye and a fat appetite for public discontent. To reclaim the veto power that the state once had over the public sector ensuring that their services were available, the ability of public servants to strike should be withdrawn. This is the only way governments can restore vital services to the people.

Another glaring difference between the private sector and the public sector is this. The former face the discipline of the bottom line, hence they have to provide goods and services at the prices that consumers would have willingness to pay (Zhang, &Zuberi, 2017). When private companies fail to achieve this it means that they are edged out of business. The latter though cannot go out of business. Public sectors are government agencies which pay their bills through taxes-they must ensure that the public gets value for every dollar paid in taxes. As such public servants cannot and should not be allowed to hold them at ransom through frequent strikes .Stern& Lehrer (2017) recommend that in modernizing labor laws, rules governing labor organizations must be explored.

Conclusion

Strikes are legitimate actions that are adopted by parties with the aim of advancing their bargaining objectives in the workplace. However, it is an action that a destructive impact on both the employers and the civil servants thus should not be taken slightly. Strike has major economic and emotional effect on the families, parties, or in the society as well. It can also significantly harm the parties involved in terms of job loss as well as loss of life and property. However, the employers do not have to shut down their businesses as they are often to hire a replacement worker during the strike. At the end of the strike, the decision of hiring back the striking worker will be determined by the reason that caused the strike.

While still on the same line of thought, it is important to note that the consumers of public services usually do not pay the total cost of labor settlements like is the case with the private firms. The taxpayer bears a portion of the cost of public sector settlement. This obviously means the cost ends up entangled in a more complex tax burden as opposed to a direct bill for a private sector that the consumers can easily understand. On a positive note, the fact that the power of unions is on a terminal decline especially in the private sector is a good indicator even for the public sector. Workers are becoming more and more confident in their own abilities and are less attracted by the idea of a third party being a mediator in their welfare issues to the employer. In the face of globalization and the growing free trade, workers and firms alike must pull in the same direction to overcome foreign competition. The interests at the end of the day ought to be aligned and not opposed.

References

Brym, R., Bauer, L. B., & McIvor, M. (2013). Is Industrial Unrest Reviving in Canada? Strike Duration in the Early Twenty-First Century. Canadian Review Of Sociology, 50(2), 227-(Robert Brym, 2013)238. doi:10.1111/cars.120.

Cake, S. (2016). Worker Movement as a Union issue: An Examination of Collective Bargaining Agreements in the Construction Sector in Alberta, Canada. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 41(3), 327-348. file:///C:/Users/Raey%20Joshua/Downloads/28275-73948-1-PB.pdf

Deacon, H. (2014). The balancing act between the constitutional right to strike and the constitutional right to education. South African Journal Of Education, 34(2), 1-15.

Hui, E. S. (2016). The Labour Law System, Capitalist Hegemony and Class Politics in China. China Quarterly, 226431-455.doi:10.1017/S0305741016000382. Retrieved from https://sajournalofeducation.co.za/index.php/saje/article/viewArticle/816

Künzler, D. (2016). Social security reforms in Kenya: Towards a workerist or a citizenship-based system?. International Social Security Review, 69(1), 67-86. doi:10.1111/issr.12095.

Slinn, S. (2014). Whither Wagner? Reconsidering Labor Law and Policy Reform. Minnesota Law Review, 98(5), 1805-1841.

Stern, A., & Lehrer, E. (2017).How to Modernize Labor Law. National Affairs, 3052-67. Retrieved from https://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/how-to-modernize-labor-law

Van Rensburg, A. J., & van Rensburg, D. J. (2013). Nurses, industrial action and ethics: Considerations from the 2010 South African public-sector strike. Nursing Ethics, 20(7), 819-837.doi:10.1177/0969733012473771. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23454981

Zhang, S., &Zuberi, D. (2017). Evening the keel: Measuring and responding to precarity in the Canadian labour economy. Canadian Public Administration, 60(1), 28-47. doi:10.1111/capa.1220 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/capa.12206/fulln

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