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The Challenges Facing Labour Unions Today

1631 words - 7 pages

Good morning ladies and gentleman. Today I am going to talk about some of the challenges facing labor unions today and how we can rise to meet them. Government policies may vary from province to province but we are fortunate enough to have some of the strongest labor legislation out there. The economic recession has been hard on everyone and unions are no exception, with the lay-offs or closures of plants and businesses, the union faces the challenge of ensuring we stay strong and effective. In the workplace there are many challenges relating to diversity, changing human resource management and organizing one of the largest sectors of workers in Canada, the service and retail industry. (Very ...view middle of the document...

Younger workers are also harder to organize as they generally are not aware of unions or do not see value in a union for them. Although the difficulties do not only lay (usage: “lie”) with the workers or employers, some unions oppose organization of these types of jobs because of the perceived threat to permanent full-time workers. (McQuarrie, 2003)
“The current size of the Canadian workforce is over 12 million workers and nearly 6 million of those workers are female” (Akyeampong, 2001) The number of women in the work force has steadily increased between 1976 and 1999 from 37.1% to 45.9% (Zukewich, 2000) Most women work in what are considered to be traditional jobs such as clerical or nursing. (Zukewich, 2000) Unions have difficulty representing their female population because of the inability of females to participate in union activities. Even though union membership is fairly equal between men and women, the lack of representation by of women make (agreement – “makes”)it more difficult for unions to adequately recognize some of the issues women face in the workplace. Another challenge to representing women in the workforce is their inconsistent patterns of employment, approximately 41% of Canadian women are involved in non-traditional work arrangements such as tele-working, part-time or temporary work assignments. (Zukewich, 2000)
Visible minority groups are another challenge facing unions today. Approximately 10% of Canada’s population over the age of 15 can be classified as belonging to one of these groups and that number is projected to double to 20% by 2006. (Taylor, 1997) Employment data also shows that adults who belong to a visible minority are more likely to have a university degree but not be employed in a professional or managerial occupation. (Kelly, 1995)
Some of the strategies Canadian unions are adopting include policy statements on issues like workplace equality, affirmative action, harassment and violence. (Hunt, 1995) Some unions have gone beyond this to more substantive actions to address workforce diversity. The Canadian Labor Congress has attempted to reach younger workers by adding a “YouthNet” section to its website. This section offers information on unions, presenting solutions to problems faced by young workers and providing hints on successful organizing campaigns. This form of communication allows young people to research unions without the fear of reprisal from their employers. Still other unions have tried to initiate education programs through the high schools to reach younger workers. (McQuarrie, 2003)
Changing work arrangements also present challenges to today’s unions. Although these new work arrangements offer advantages to both the worker and the employer, unions must now develop new ways to represent and organize these workers. Alternative forms of scheduling including flextime, compressed work weeks and job sharing present the challenge of contacting employees in these types of arrangements. Unions may...

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