Saskatchewan Joint Board Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union
Statement of Principles 2013
1. Statement of Principles: Working People Need Unions
We formed our Union because we could not depend on Employers to provide us with dignity, a measure of security and a rising standard of living and, over the years, we did make impressive gains but our objectives remain far from fulfilled and with even our past gains under attack, we need Unions today more than we ever did.
2. Statement of Principles: Democratic Unionism
(a) Unions are voluntary organizations. We can only be effective if the membership knows the Union truly belongs to them. This means a Union which reflects the goals of its membership, allows the members full participation and encourages workers to develop their own skills and understanding.
(b) Internal democracy also means we view each other as equals. Racial discrimination or harassment violate our principles, undermine our solidarity and erode our strength. We not only oppose such responses but will actively work to overcome them.
3. Statement of Principles: Unions and a Democratic Society
(a) In our society, private corporations control the workplace and set the framework for all employees. By way of this economic power, they influence the laws, policies and ideas of society. Unions are central to our society being democratic because:
(i) Unions bring a measure of democracy to the place of work which is so central to people’s lives.
(ii) Unions act as a partial counterweight to corporate power and the corporate agenda in society more generally.
4. Statement of Principles: Social Unionism
a) Our collective bargaining strength is based on our internal organization and mobilization but it is also influenced by the more general climate around us, laws, policies, the economy and social attitudes. Furthermore, our lives extend beyond collective bargaining and the workplace and we must concern ourselves with issues like housing, taxation, education, medical services, the environment, the international economy.
(b) Social unionism means unionism which is rooted in the workplace but understands the importance of participating in and influencing the general direction of society.
5. Statement of Principles: Building Tomorrow
(a) Unions were born out of struggles to change the status quo. Our successes extended progress beyond unions themselves and our struggles became part of a social movement for a more humane society here and for peace and justice internationally. These struggles were first steps towards developing the confidence that change is possible and that our vision of society is not just a dream.
(b) We are proud of the leadership role we have played, aware of the difficulties continued progressive change will face and committed to building the social solidarity that can take on this challenge.
6. Statement of Principles: Equality Statement
(a) Union solidarity is based on the principle that union members are equal and deserve mutual respect at all levels. Any behaviour that creates conflict prevents us from working together to strengthen our Union.
(b) As unionists, mutual respect, cooperation and understanding are our goals. We should neither condone nor tolerate behaviour that undermines the dignity or self-esteem of any individual or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.
(c) Discriminatory speech or conduct which is racist, sexist, transphobic or homophobic hurts and thereby divides us. So too does discrimination on the basis of ability, age, class, religion and ethnic origin.
(d) Sometimes discrimination takes the form of harassment. Harassment means using real or perceived power to abuse, devalue or humiliate. Harassment should not be treated as a joke. The uneasiness and resentment that it creates are not feelings that help us grow as a Union.
(e) Discrimination and harassment focus on characteristics that make us different and they reduce our capacity to work together on shared concerns such as decent wages, safe working conditions and justice in the workplace, society and in our Union.
(f) RWDSU’s policies and practices must reflect our commitment to equality. Members, staff and elected officers must be mindful that all sisters and brothers deserve dignity, equality and respect.
7. Statement of Principles: The Family
(a) Why a Family Policy?
Life does not stop at the plant gate or the office door. Working people are citizens, community members, and, most immediately, family members. Through their Unions, workers have struggled to make progress to improve their lives, both in and out of the workplace, for themselves and their families.
(b) The Changing Family
(i) Rapid social changes, especially over the last 30 years, have transformed the very nature of the family. While for many, the term “family” still means a father and stay-at-home mother with two children, for most workers, the family is now something different.
(ii) In 1961, 65 percent of Canadian families conformed to the traditional model of a male breadwinner and an at-home spouse with children. In 1987, only 24 percent of Canadian families conformed to that model.
(iii) 63.8 percent of single mothers with children under 16 years of age are in the workforce and about 85 percent of those work full-time.
(iv) 68 percent of two-parent families in Canada with children under 5 years of age are dual income families.
(v) 16 percent of two-income families would fall below the poverty line if only the “head” of the household had paid work. The poverty rate for Canadian children under 15 is 7.6 percent.
(vi) We live in a time of change. It is also a time of stress and insecurity because our social structures and support systems have failed to keep pace.
(vii) Daily life for many families often includes the tremendous stress of juggling schedules as two or more people work outside the home with little time for household work, concern about inadequate childcare and less time to enjoy friends and family. Ironically, for many, the burden of financial insecurity remains.
(viii) As the income gap between rich and poor widens, as services like healthcare and education are eroded, working people feel tremendous economic insecurity. Much of the next generation has already been condemned to poverty. Making progress is even harder when civil liberties and union rights are weakened.
(c) Unions and Families
(i) Workers have struggles through their unions to gain more security and control in their lives. We have made great progress by placing limits on the rights of corporations by negotiating everything from wages and benefits to scheduling, transfers, layoffs and recalls, grievance procedures and health and safety.
(ii) We have also won protection like medical and dental plans and pensions so that neither we nor our families are impoverished by ill health or old age. We have protected jobs and income with seniority provisions, transfer rights and severance provisions to keep a measure of security even in uncertain times.
(iii) We negotiated paid time off the job like holidays and vacations to enjoy time away from work with family and friends.
(iv) Innovative negotiated programs like union counselling and legal service plans help RWDSU members and their families get the help they need to deal with personal problems.
(v) Pressure for other progressive changes in family policy can only increase. There is urgent need to eliminate poverty among children. Unions cannot do this in isolation but will need to work with a political coalition of progressive groups to improve life for Canadian families.
(vi) Meanwhile, unions continue to find practical solutions to changing needs. Collective bargaining and legislative goals now address family leaves, quality childcare services, care for the elderly, support for the disabled and the right to a workplace free of harassment.
(vii) Encouraging the full and fair participation of women in society means supporting a woman’s right to reproductive choice as well as continuing to struggle for programs like affirmative action and pay equity for women.
(viii) The key is for people to have choices to make the best decisions for themselves and their family. With the necessary financial and social supports, people are neither condemned to poverty nor denied a measure of control over their lives.
(ix) The labour movement has long used the language of the family. Words like “Brother” and “Sister” evoke a certain closeness, generosity and commitment to others.
(x) The Union fosters solidarity and fights for working people and their families. It is also a social and cultural institution that encourages crucial strike support and community work.
(xi) Good family policy is an ongoing need and in the coming years, the pressure for progressive change will increase. The health and well-being of our families depends on it and they deserve no less.
8. Statement of Principles: Inclusive Language
(a) The RWDSU is a social Union committed to the rights and dignity of all working people. We believe that all workers, regardless of gender, deserve the same working conditions, wages and opportunities. We know that women continue to face discrimination in hiring, training, wages and working conditions. We are actively fighting to change that discrimination. One of the tools we use to create change is language.
(b) Language is Powerful
(i) Language is a uniquely human tool. When we want to express ourselves, we struggle to find the right words. Words can wound, they can soothe, they can explain, they can lie. Words can include and they can exclude. We all know that words can be powerful. Some words are more powerful than others. Over time, words change their meanings, new words are invented while some words fall out of use altogether.
(ii) The connection between language and reality is complex. Language is our filter for understanding the world. Just try thinking without using words. Language, some would say, is what brings things to life. Without language, there is no life. So when small children say (and rightly so) “girls can’t be firemen!”, the logic of language is limiting what is possible.
(iii) We need to be using the language of equality if we are going to bring about the reality of equality. We need to talk, listen and write using words that include everyone.
(c) Collective Agreements
(i) Union bargaining committees spend hours thinking about the arguing over individual words because we know what a huge impact the words in our Collective Agreements can have on workers.
(ii) When we fight to improve the language in our Agreements, we are using words to expand the dignity, safety and security of workers. We back up our words with collection action.
(iii) In the past, many Collective Agreements included language that referred to men’s jobs and women’s jobs.
(iv) There were different rates of pay, different seniority lists for men and women. Today, this kind of direct discrimination is illegal. Our Collective Agreements have been changed to reflect new laws and, in fact, our Collective Agreements paved the way for new laws to be written.
(v) These days, more and more of our Collective Agreements use generic language. Generic means general and designates words that can apply to and refer to anyone, whatever their gender. Examples of generic terms include the words “worker”, “people”, and “union member”. Words that are gender-specific, such as “workman”, “chairman”, “man hour”, etc. are not generic. They exclude and they send loud messages about “men’s work and women’s work”. Gender-specific terms reinforce the idea that women are only an exception to the general rule. We need language that belongs to everybody equally.
(vi) Some of our Collective Agreements still contain language that is gender-specific. They use the pronoun “he” when referring to jobs that can be and are done by people regardless of gender. These agreements usually include a paragraph that says that where there is gender-specific language, that language should be understood to include both men and women. This doesn’t cut it. It’s a bit like saying “I know your name is Ralph but we’re not used to having Ralphs around here. Joe is easier to remember so I’ll just call you Joe. No hard feelings, eh?”
(vii) In many RWDSU workplaces, there have been women workers for over sixty years. Isn’t it time that our Collective Agreements acknowledged this?
(viii) Even if there aren’t any women in a workplace, Collective Agreement language should be generic, to show that the workplace is open to all workers. Why should our Collective Agreement language reinforce the Employer’s bias? The idea that “we don’t need to include everyone in our language because the Employer doesn’t include everyone in the workplace” is a weak excuse for a movement committed to social change.
(ix) Words can give us dignity, they can rob us of dignity. They can send a message that we are welcome or that we are not welcome. A Collective Agreement that uses gender-specific language doesn’t represent all workers.
(x) Language is constantly changing. It reflects changes in society and it can lead to changes in the way things work. If we challenge ourselves and others to use generic language, we are challenging the status quo.
(xi) Change is hard. Sometimes people worry that they won’t “get the words right”, that they’ll say the wrong thing or use the wrong terminology. For others, there’s a fear that by using generic language they’re letting go of something or even admitting they were wrong. Some of us are still practicing using generic language. It is taking time to get comfortable. As trade unionists, we know that it takes courage to speak out against injustice but we also know that our voices are stronger when we are inclusive and we use the language of justice.
(xii) Inclusive language in our Collective Agreement is our way of saying the workplace is open to everyone. It sends a message to Employers that the dignity and quality of everyone is on the Union agenda.
9. Statement of Principles: Human Rights – Workers’ Rights
(a) The Same Struggle
(i) Unions emerged to not only collectively protect workers from the arbitrary use of power by Employers and governments but also to create a culture of equality and dignity for all members in their ranks. Achieving higher wages and better working conditions for workers is no more important in the final analysis than achieving solidarity amongst all workers.
(ii) Human rights work within the unions is not “addition” to trade union work, it is essential to the very reason for our existence.
(b) Who are the Victims?
(i) Seldom do the wealthy have human rights problems. Rather, the victims of intolerance and discrimination, both overt and systemic, are, almost without exception, working people. Moreover, human rights abuse does not hurt all workers equally.
(ii) Working women, Workers of Colour, Aboriginal Peoples, Workers with Disabilities and Gay and Lesbian workers, these five groups from within our larger family of labour predictably suffer the most discrimination in Canadian society.
(c) Who Benefits?
(i) Employers and those who do their bidding clearly benefit from human rights abuse in at least two fundamental ways, firstly, great profits are realized through “job ghettos” and differential wage levels, secondly, divisions without our RWDSU membership over human rights issues threaten the solidarity of the organization as a whole and weaken our ability to make progress.
(ii) Because these forms of institutionalized injustice ultimately serve the profit motive and the status quo, racism, sexism and homophobia will not be eliminated from the workplace until they are eliminated from the Union.
(d) Human Rights are “Collective Rights”
(i) Unlike the legal system which emphasizes “individual rights”, the labour movement argues that “collective rights” can best protect our interests. Just as a Collective Agreement recognizes rights for all individual members of the bargaining unit, we believe that human rights are more powerful when they advance the interests of workers as a class.
(ii) Similarly, while we agree with the moral claim that human rights should be “guaranteed”, we also know that human rights can be and often have been taken away by repressive legislation. Human rights exist only to the extent that they are struggled for, won and then maintained.
(e) RWDSU Human Rights Zero Tolerance
(i) The political thrust and objective of our human rights work is that there shall be “zero tolerance” for any form of discrimination of harassment on the basis of prohibited grounds covered by Human Rights legislation.
(ii) Every member of the RWDSU will receive equal treatment under the Constitution, regardless of race, age, sex, creed, colour, marital status, sexual preference, disability, political or religious affiliation or place of national origin.
(iii) The membership at all levels of the RWDSU has a responsibility to embrace and implement this principle of “zero tolerance” in all aspects of our daily working lives. Our principles are only as effective as our willingness to live them and not just when it is comfortable to do so.
(f) The Role of Leadership
(i) Our ability to challenge the corporate agenda and its ideology depends to a large extent on the willingness of RWDSU leadership to provide the political space for all members to join in common cause. Human rights training for Local Union and workplace leadership is essential to that goal.
(ii) Divisions within can only lead to defeat, solidarity and unity within our RWDSU family is the only basis for victory and progress for the working class.
10. Statement of Principles: Environment
(a) Only One Earth
(i) Our planet faces an environmental crisis of major proportions, one which could challenge our very survival. Unions around the world are striving to address this crisis while protecting the welfare of working men and women. The RWDSU is also committed to this task.
(ii) In 1987, a highly publicized United Nations environmental report painted a picture of worldwide degradation. The “Brundtland Report” sent out an alarm for aggressive, coordinated action to begin a recovery and introduced the idea of “sustainable development”. The report challenges working people to reject the corporate choice between jobs and the environment. Workers must have the right to choose both economic security a healthy environment for ourselves, our families and future generations. To do this, we demand input into setting priorities, determining the degree of regulation over private industry and deciding who pays for clean up and lifestyle changes.
(b) The Right to Refuse to Pollute
(i) Workers’ health is not for sale nor is the health of our world and our children’s world. Our fight for a healthy and safe environment is an extension of our long-standing struggle for a safe and healthy workplace.
(ii) RWDSU will support the fight for “whistle blower” legislation to protect employees who report the crimes of their employers.
(c) Working with Allies
We will continue and extend our work with local environmental activities and organizations. Most green activists understand that workers cannot be expected to pay the penalty through the loss of their jobs for decades of corporate environmental neglect.
The corporate community and their government friends have been fast to capitalize on sincere public concern over the environment. The focus of blame quickly shifted to the responsibility of the individual citizen. While “blue box” solutions can play a role, the real issue is to get to the source of the problem and work towards a global approach to environmental cleanup.
11. Statement of Principles: Health and Safety
(a) Our Right to a Safe and Healthy Workplace
Workers have the fundamental right as human beings to work in a workplace free from harm. Even more, we have the right to health, the highest state of physical mental and social well-being.
(i) In our society, it is the Employers who control where we work, if we work, how we work and whether our work is healthy or hazardous. As we grapple with problems such as repetitive strain injuries, back injuries, boredom, monotony and stress among our members, we confront many issues which employers see as their prerogative, as “management’s rights”, the choice of materials, chemicals, processes, the pace of production, harassment by supervision, shift work, excessive overtime, work cycle times and the entire design and power structure of the workplace and production systems.
(ii) We need to shift the balance of power away from the Employers and towards workers. We risk our lives, our limbs and our health in the workplace. By contract, the Employers’ only risk is profit.
(c) Change the Power Relations – Our Workplace Base
(i) The Union Health and Safety Committees must develop their own agenda for health and safety improvements before meeting with management as the joint committee.
(ii) Joint Union Management Health and Safety
Committees must have the power to make decisions not simply to make recommendations to management. Worker majorities are needed on the Joint Committees to ensure that the health and safety needs of our members are addressed.
(iii) Our Health and Safety Representatives must have the power to shut down unsafe equipment to ensure that our members are protected.
(iv) We need to expand the scope of issues discussed by the Joint Health and Safety Committees. Ergonomics, the practice of fitting the workplace to the worker rather than the worker to the workplace, has begun to expand our horizons.
(v) Effective laws must be vigorously enforced so that unorganized workers are also protected.
(d) Three Rights
(i) In our Provincial and Federal Occupational Health and Safety laws, three rights are emphasized:
(1) The right to know about hazards of the workplace, especially chemical hazards.
(2) The right to participate in health and safety activities, especially joint worker-management health and safety committees.
(3) The right to refuse hazardous work.
(ii) Workers demanded these rights through workplace struggles, strikes and lobbying governments. We won these rights through the leadership of the New Democratic Party Government in the Province of Saskatchewan in 1972. Since then, these rights have spread throughout the nation. These rights must be strengthened.
(e) Health and Safety Environment
We must challenge management’s claimed prerogative over production and insist that toxic substances used or produced in the workplace be replaced by substances which are less harmful to the workforce and to the environment. We need to protect the health of our members and our families who live and work in our communities.
12. Statement of Principles: Unions and Politics
(a) Why Should Unions be in Politics?
Don’t we have enough to do just coping with collective bargaining and workplace problems?
(b) Unions and the World Around Us
(i) Unions don’t exist in a vacuum. Our strength and ability to service our members is affected by the general climate around us. This climate includes:
(1) Rights which affect unions as organizations, the right of unions to exist, the protection of the Rand Formula in all applicable legislation, the right to organize without harassment, to strike, to bargain over issues that affect us, for example, the opposition to wage controls and the erosion of good labour laws. (Amended June 7, 2013)
(2) Legislated standards and social programs which can reinforce collective bargaining goals, national Medicare, health and safety legislation, equal pay and affirmative action, pensions and pension indexation, voluntary overtime, plant closure legislation, unemployment insurance, fair taxation.
(3) Economic policy which affects our potential gains and our potential power. A strong economy lays the base for more wealth to share. Full employment gives us the confidence and power to take on the corporations while high levels of unemployment undermine us. Free trade threatens our jobs while managed trade makes possible job guarantees.(ii) Affecting this general climate around us is “politics”.
(c) Workers as Citizens
(i) Our lives obviously extend beyond the workplace. We are citizens and members of communities and so care about the liveability of our cities, the pollution of our environment, the schools our children attend, the availability and standards for childcare, the parks and facilities available for sports and entertainment.
(ii) And we care about social equality within our communities and within our country about the disabled, about discrimination, about the lives of the aged, about poverty and homelessness.
All this is “Politics”.
13. Statement of Principles: Lean Production
(a) In the manufacturing sector of unions, there is a common drive to what is called lean production and in workplaces as diverse as plants and offices, our members feel the pressure and stress of a production system whose logic is quicker, cheaper and faster.
(b) Our Union has always understood and been committed to an efficient and productive workplace producing quality goods and providing quality services. New technology and new work processes, we recognize, include the potential for creating a more prosperous society and more leisure time and improvements in our standard of living.
(c) But this potential never was and is not today automatic. It is conditional on the ability of working people, through their unions, negotiating how these changes are implemented and how they shape our lives. Today, we face the challenge of “lean product” which represents an attempt to limit these changes to the needs of management.
(d) It reaffirms our goal of developing an effective working relationship with management based not on any superficial partnership but on a negotiated compromise that addresses both worker and corporate concerns.
(e) And it is clear about what goals we bring to that relationship, a more democratic workplace with more worker involvement and control and better working conditions. As this statement makes clear, lean production is an obstacle to achieving those goals. Good job design, a focus on the pace of work and production standards, the content of job and ergonomics, the placement of injured and disabled workers, deepening the skills workers have, more say over technological change and more training that provides for broader worker development are our measures of progressive workplace change. Pursuing these objectives will bring us into conflict with managements who are unwilling to modify their lean demands.
(f) Lean production emerged as management’s model for changing workplaces and work practices. Traditional workplaces are “robust”, relying on buffers of all kinds, inventory, space, large rework areas, banks between operations and extra workers. The objectives of lean production aim to strip away these buffers, reduce costs and involve workers in the efforts to do so.
(g) Lean production’s twin objectives are to reduce production time (lead time) and labour costs. In the end, that means taking labour out of production and time out of labour. Despite the popularity of the book, the lean analysis is wrong on two accounts, first, in terms of what accounts for the so-called superiority of lean production and second, in suggesting that it is a “win-win” situation for workers and managers.
(h) The differences between lean companies and other companies are not found in developments such as teams, suggestion programs, small group improvement activities, multi-skilling or the like. The biggest differences are found in practices such as the massive outsourcing (contracting out) of parts and final assembly. The outsourcing is done with low wages, insecure employment and fully using production capacity. Other differences are in technical developments such as the ease of making products (simple designs, fewer parts, quick assemblies). Most important, in terms of the labour process, is work intensification, right work cycles, long hours, regimented work practices and significant managerial flexibility to use labour as it sees fit. It is here that lead production ends up.
(i) Lean Workplaces
Lean production gets applied to workplaces through programs of quality management waste elimination and continuous improvement. Whether it is TQM (Total Quality Management), Excellence, CIP (Continuous Improvement Process), Synchronous Manufacturing, TPM (Total Production Maintenance) or whether it is production workers, skilled trades, technical, service or office workers, the objective is to get lean production.
i) Quality Management means more than designing and producing the highest quality product or service. It has become a catch-all term for all the cost-cutting and intensification that goes with lean production. Quality ends up focusing on the cost of quality (can we do it without inspectors?). “Building quality in” gets workers to treat each other as suppliers and customers rather than as co-workers and “quality consciousness” ends up in new absentee programs and significant attendance demands.
(ii) Waste gets defined to mean anything which is not absolutely essential to production. The idea is to get to the lowest level of all inputs – equipment, material and workers. Company activities are divided into two major types, those which add value and those which don’t. Value added activities are those which directly change a product or service into its finished form, everything else is non-value added. All costs associated with non-value added functions are waste and are to be eliminated whether it is buffers between operations, slack time, waiting time, walking space at workstations or more generally indirect labour such as the skilled trades.
(iii) Much of the waste reduction effort involves a detailed look at jobs, work processes and work areas to rid them of non-value added operations and to achieve cost-cutting, job reductions and a tighter work effort. The more sophisticated companies launch a two-stage attack on non-value added activities, those activities that can be immediately eliminated and those that currently are necessary but can be eliminated if the production process is changed.
(j) NOTE: TQM – Total Quality Management
(i) A study of 100 British companies by Chicago-based A.T. Kearney found just one-fifth believed their TQM had produced tangible benefits.
(ii) Among 500 U.S. firms surveyed by Arthur D. Little, only a third reported their TQM programs had a significant impact on their competitiveness.
(iii) The Total Qualify Muddle Report on Business Magazine November 1992.
(k) Continuous improvement eliminates waste by changing the methods of production. Continuous improvement requires the personal involvement of workers. At issue is not only what we do but what we know. Continuous improvement relies on workers’ contributions through schemes such as suggestion programs or small group activities geared to problem solving. The goal is to get workers to support cost-cutting, to accept reducing jobs and to participate along with management in changing work processes and practices.
(l) Under lean production, even the ground rules of employee involvement have shifted. In earlier programs, there was a more subtle, even more open, approach where it was recognized that, at least initially, workers would try to improve their working environment and working conditions.
(m) Now the focus is clearly on “what benefits the company” not what benefits workers.
(n) What lean or synchronous production successfully does is change the buffers in the system. Instead of the buffers being stock between operations, the buffer in lean production is our personal time. Lean production does not do away with buffers but the buffers become less visible. Workers are the buffers. Overtime is the buffer in lean production. What starts as a seemingly neutral and commonsense change to production ends up as an assault on Collective Agreement provisions such as eliminating advance notice for overtime or voluntary overtime.
(o) Union Direction
(i) It is important for us to address the changes associated with lean or synchronous production.
(ii) Since lean production operates in different ways, it has to be addressed in different ways from the day-to-day experience of the job to the logic of competitiveness. How we strengthen and rebuild the Union in the workplace and how, as a Union, we respond to changes in the workplace are two sides of the same coin. The RWDSU strategy is to oppose lean production and work to change it through negotiations. This could mean involvement and participation but it always means resistance and change.
(iii) We have to challenge the ideology of lean production, the partnership with management and the drive to make workers compete against each other. We have to focus on the changes to our jobs and the production system and we have to respond to new managerial techniques and workplace structures (teams, rotation, etc.).
(p) Work Pace and Production Standards
(i) Lean production intends to redefine a fair day’s labour. In management’s view, there is too much slack in the system and too much idle time in each of our jobs. Within each work cycle, management wants to change how much time we work and to remove the slack time. The goal is to get as close as possible to sixty seconds of work in every minute. It is an unreasonable goal. There is a fine line between vision and illusion. Lean production helps management cross the line.
(ii) There needs to be a brake on unreasonable demands and clear limits to the intensity of work.
(iii) Workers shouldn’t have to say, as they do in lean production, that they can’t survive to retirement. Instead, the workplace should be characterized by a comfortable work pace, one that is sustainable.
This requires three elements:
1. A recognition that a comfortable pace involves discretionary time and the possibility for workers to very the job and the pace;
2. Adequate relief staff;
3. A registered (negotiated) process for changing job content and job times.
(i) Although there is renewed attention to workplace learning, company-controlled training emphasizes programs aimed at changing attitudes and providing skills which facilitate work reorganization (communication skills, working in teams, continuous improvement). Little is being provided in terms of basic skills, opportunities for academic upgrading, technical training or in the areas of critical thinking and personal development. Those are the elements of good training.
(ii) The RWDSU goal is to change the extent of training (there is not enough), the distribution of training (it is uneven and available to a selected few) and the content of the training (it is company defined). This requires a more active union role in workplace training issues, a role that is built around:
1. Training time that is guaranteed (i.e. forty hours a year) and that is available to everyone without production pressures.
2. Joint control of training programs where the content is co-determined and the delivery is based on the principles of adult education.
(r) Job Design
In the drive to lean, jobs are being redesigned. For those who claim a “win-win” situation, this means jobs which are enriched and enlarged and workers who have authority and responsibility. In reality, jobs are made tighter and more intense and workers become “multitasked”, more flexible and are assigned more indirect duties. Developing good job design means:
(i) Jobs which are constructed on the basis of deepening skill and expanding options rather than the reverse.
(ii) Workplaces with a mix of jobs and a negotiated method of moving to different jobs.
(iii) Workplaces where injured workers are accommodated without additional pressure on co-workers.
(s) More Union Input
We are not interested in becoming junior partners in production but we do want to develop an effective working relationship with management which improves the conditions of work for our members as well as the productive capacity of the workplace. There are areas of the workplace where we want more input. We want expanded opportunities to discuss production issues from a union perspective. Some of these areas include:
(i) Training committees to assess training needs and develop training programs.
(ii) Ergonomics committees devoted to improving the design of workstations and the design of jobs rather than adapting the individual to the job function.
(iii) Technology committees that focus on the design, implementation and effects of new technology that argue for skill-based technical change and advance a model of appropriate technology.
(iv) Environmental committees which discuss environmentally-sound products and production methods.
(i) In every situation of workplace change, the Union evaluates its role. We assess what we are strong enough to resist, accommodations we are willing to make and strategies for putting our own issues at the forefront. There are always questions. What kind of involvement? Where is management going? What are our goals? Can we “unionize” company programs? Should we resist them? How do we achieve our objectives?
(ii) At times, we got involved in various management programs to monitor the process but lean production programs cannot be monitored from the inside. They have to be either resisted or changed. Resistance can’t be passive nor can criticism be limited to exposing irrational management practices. Instead, there needs to be a clear statement of the difference between management objectives and workers’ interest. Similarly, if the Union is involved, it can’t be passive, that would only leave us trying to fly the plane from the rear of the cabin.
(iii) Participation must be based on advancing the interest of workers and strengthening the Union as an organization. In any process of change, this requires:
(a) A clear union agenda developed with and communicated to the membership.
(b) The resources to support effective participation.
(c) An educational program with the membership.
(d) An evaluation of the merits of involvement.
14. Statement of Principles: Re-organization of Work
(a) As a Union, we need to look behind the surface of “partnership” and ask ourselves what it really means and what the result will be. Workers belong and pay dues to our Union because they want to improve their standard of living through collective bargaining and to improve their workplace conditions through strong Union representation dealing with grievances, health and safety, human rights and equitable treatment.
(b) This “partnership” and its promises are false. For all the talk about jointness and worker control, Employers are certainly not putting true equality between themselves and their employees on the agenda. Management will continue to jealously guard the management’s rights clause and to unilaterally decide when to modernize, how much to invest, what to produce, with what kind of technology and so on. The truth is, management’s agenda is not about surrendering its power but of finding more sophisticated ways to extend it.
(c) Similarly, accepting the management agenda will not guarantee jobs. In fact, keeping workers uncertain about their jobs and, therefore, weaker, is part and parcel of the new management agenda. Our jobs will continue to depend on interest rates and exchange rates, on government policy and international developments, on the power of companies to export jobs in the name of profit-maximization and on our own ability to join others and mobilize for social change.
(d) Nor are these programs about creating a more liveable workplace for working people, in spite of the rhetoric, the real aim of these programs is to break down worker resistance to the changes management wants to implement and this includes trying to get workers to voluntarily put aside their own workplace needs and identify with the needs that management has defined, a process that will undermine past gains in the workplace.
(e) At the center of the management agenda is the ideology of “competitiveness”. Even without the rest of the management package, we have already lost if “competitiveness” is the agreed starting point. In subsequent discussions or negotiations based on competitiveness, the bottom line will always revert to “what’s good for the corporation?”. So it is critical that we reject competitiveness as the dominant criterion guiding our actions.
(f) Rejecting “competitiveness” is not the same as rejecting the importance of quality and productivity. We understand the value of quality products for other workers, consumers and ourselves. Over the years, we have had running battles with corporations over quality. We argued for more workers and a more reasonable work pace to improve quality, while foremen and supervisors, feeling the pressures of volume requirements, rejected this in favour of more output and where management has come to us with a specific quality problem, we have assisted in the search for a solution.
(g) We also understand that improved productivity, when it really is productivity not just speedup and when it is actually shared with workers, is a basic part of a growing standard of living. We have not rejected new technology but insisted that we get advance notice, proper training, a more meaningful input into the process of tech change and a share in the benefits of the greater output per worker. The facts are that Canadian workers have nothing to be defensive about in terms of our current and past contributions to quality and productivity.
(h) Competitiveness is something quite different, workers can produce high quality products, can be very productive and can even show restraint in their wage demands yet their competitiveness can be declining. The reason is that “competitiveness” is a relative concept, no mater how well we do, if others do it still cheaper or if the Canadian dollar is artificially high then Canadian workers will be less competitive no mater what else we reasonably do.
15. Statement of Principle: No To Concessionary Bargaining
We say no to giving back at the bargaining table. If the Union cannot at least maintain the current standard of living and working conditions for its members, it will become increasingly irrelevant in their lives. We are committed to a coordinated bargaining strategy for all our workplaces where it can be practical and applicable. We pledge ourselves to oppose any and all concessions at the bargaining table unless such concessions would further enhance the standard of living and working conditions for the members under their individual Collective Bargaining Agreement in their jurisdiction and further pledge to build a fighting movement of rank and filers that includes all necessary action to defend our jobs, our livelihoods, our rights and our Union.
16. Statement of Principles: Labour Day
(a) Labour Day is a holiday with an important but sometimes forgotten purpose. It was established in New York in 1882 as a day to honour work and workers and also a time to celebrate the contributions of the Labour Movement. For too many, Labour Day has become just another day off or a time to buy school supplies rather than a day to honour the hard work of school teachers, janitors, cafeteria workers and others. Unfortunately, it often takes a horrible mining disaster or a terrible attack like 9/11 to remind us of the everyday heroism and hard work of people who still labour under the earth, who go into burning buildings or who contribute to the common good by their everyday work and enterprise. There are exceptions, may cities and towns have traditional Labour Day parades.
(b) The importance of Labour Day and the moral dimensions of work and workers’ rights are at the centre of our social tradition. Do not forget how our Nation’s economy and commerce, our standard of living and even our time off are in many ways the hard won gains of workers organized into unions to bargain for decent wages, working conditions and benefits such as vacation time and health care coverage, etc.
(c) Too many people in our midst and millions around the world still lack decent work or fair wages, toil in terrible conditions and have no real voice in their economic life. Our economy is strong in many ways, despite the serious and growing problems in the housing and credit markets, however, that strength is not shared as widely and deeply as our Canadian tradition of “liberty and justice for all” and our teaching on solidarity and human dignity would require.
(d) In conclusion, Labour Day is a time to look back, look around and look ahead. It is a day to celebrate the work and the workers who are at the heart of this holiday. It is a time to recall the powerful dignity of our work and the rights of workers. It is an opportunity to remember when we have fallen short and when we have made a difference. Most of all, like New Year’s Day, it is a time to resolve to do better, to treat others justly and to defend the lives, dignity and rights of workers, especially the most vulnerable. This is a requirement of our solidarity and a way to advance the promise of our Union.
17. Statement of Principles: Anti-Scab Legislation
RWDSU is committed to the ongoing process of lobbying all government officials for the purpose of the introduction and passing of anti-scab legislation which will work towards the following goals:
(a) The prohibition on the use of scabs protects the interests of working people and their families against large Employers without any roots in the community.
(b) Legislation has existed in Quebec since 1977 and in British Columbia since 1993.
(c) Such legislation would bring a decline in the loss of work time due to lockouts and shorten their length and intensity.
(d) Employers that hire scabs are given an unfair advantage to drag their heels in bargaining and comprising a fair settlement.
(e) It would bring Saskatchewan back to the forefront in protecting the rights of working people.
18. Statement of Principles: Climate Change Legislation
(a) In response to deepening economic and climate crises, the RWDSU and its labour and environmental partner organizations strongly advocate for domestic energy and climate change legislation that will rapidly put Canadians back to work with millions of jobs building the clean energy economy and reducing global warming emissions to a level necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change. A sound energy and climate change policy can put our country back to work quickly and efficiently and put us on a path for sustained economic growth. No course of action would be more destructive than to continue the energy policies that drove oil prices to $140 a barrel in 2008, contributed to skyrocketing food prices and global food shortages and result in unsustainable trade imbalances.
(b) Global warming and unsustainable energy dependence are the foremost environmental issues of our time. They are also the signature economic issues of our day providing enormous risks to future GDP growth and unparalleled opportunities to create jobs and launch a different model of economic development.
(c) In conclusion, we recognize the range of debate within our Country today on the targets, timetables and policy mechanisms to implement comprehensive climate change legislation. We do not claim to have unique solutions nor to have the only path to successful resolution of the climate crises. We do, however, share a common conviction that any successful climate change legislation must be guided by two overriding principles, the best scientific advice on the reduction targets and implementation mechanisms that rapidly put Canadians back to work, building the solutions to reach those targets.
RWDSU – Saskatchewan