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Summer of discontent



Hockey’s back, but unless the CBC makes nice with its striking employees, or the employees themselves buckle to administration demands, there might not be a Hockey Night in Canada to enjoy it.

Meanwhile about 14,000 Telus workers are still on the picket lines in B.C., looking for a contract that addresses their fears over future job security.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation is driving a hard bargain with the province over their next collective bargaining agreement – they can’t legally strike, not since teaching was declared an essential service by Premier Campbell, but they are prepared to take other job action if they don’t get a cost of living increase.

Recently a trucker strike all but stopped shipments within the province while tens of millions of dollars in freight piled up at Vancouver ports. The truckers were demanding higher transport rates to offset rising gas prices.

There’s no pattern to all the job actions and labour issues impacting this province – some are private sector, some are public sector, some are the result of expired contracts, others are a response to economic pressures – but at the root of it all is the fact that middle class no longer means what it used to.

Gas prices are exploding due to concerns about peak oil production and competition from emerging Asian markets. A housing bubble has left many with higher property taxes than they ever dreamed of paying when they signed mortgages. Putting kids through college is more expensive, more medical costs are out-of-pocket, and personal debt is at an all-time high.

Meanwhile the economy has all but stalled, which means for the most part that savings aren’t growing, investments aren’t growing, and wages have stagnated. Our social safety nets are about to be severely tested by aging baby boomers and by the growing disparity between rich and poor in the Western World.

All these pressures, and the simple fact that a dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to, is what’s really behind all of these recent job actions.

In an effort to keep moving forward, to keep pace with the cost of living and to maintain our probably inflated standard of living, union leaders are taking action to guarantee jobs for their workers while keeping the pay hikes coming.

At the same time, in order to compete in a business climate that is increasingly globalized, and driven by outsourcing and the kind of third-party arrangements that the stock market loves, companies everywhere are demanding concessions from their unions.

Those demands have spilled over into the once untouchable public sector. People and companies are demanding lower taxes and governments have been listening, which means the public sector has to rein in costs by using the same kind of outsourcing and third party strategies as the business sector.