It is sad when our collective intelligence fails us.
The recent labour action at the university is another example of utilizing brute force to try to resolve a dispute. Strikes and lockout still have a place and can be useful tools in bargaining in industry. It is questionable if they are the correct tools to use as we endeavour to resolve a dispute where significant collateral damage to innocent parties is the result.
In the fields such as education or health care and other fields, rather than just the employees and employers taking a severe beating, others are victimized through no fault of their own. They do not get to partake in the discussions yet in many ways are the most harmed.
In an industrial dispute, customers may be inconvenienced somewhat but there are usually alternative suppliers of the goods and services normally provided by those companies and workers. In a strike or lockout situation, the employers do not make a profit and the workers don’t take home any wages.
In the current dispute at the university, students are probably suffering the most. Completion of studies for the semester is in doubt, projects are not moving to completion, and the start of their summer break employment is delayed. While there is a financial burden on the faculty members, there is also a burden on the students. That is not fair.
Similar situations also arise in the withdrawal of services in health care and other educational institutions. The damage done to students or the pain suffered by those awaiting surgery or other treatment should not be ignored.
We would never wish to forbid anyone from withdrawing their services. That is a choice which must remain for everyone.
At the present time, member of the unions and associations representing the collective interests of their group have few options. There is no alternative to the industrial labour practices which they can utilize. It is understandable that when negotiations reach an impasse, they can only utilize the legal tools they have at hand. Understandable but heavy handed and less than efficient in that it does considerable harm to others who become victims of those actions.
In our collective wisdom we should be able to create a different method of resolving disputes. It would have to be fair to all parties. Some method similar to binding arbitration would be a start. To ensure fairness, there would also have to be an appeal mechanism so mandated terms can be reviewed by a dispassionate third party. The creation of the system must include the input from all parties and the initial application must also have a process to review and modify the agreed rules. Eventually, with experience, a credible system could be put in place.
As a civilized society we utilize a number of dispute resolution processes including the courts. We do not gather our friends together and go out and beat up the other party.
A workable system may even replace the somewhat unrefined industrial model we now utilize. That would be a bonus, but the most important dividend would be the avoidance of harm to innocent third parties. If we don’t try, we will never know.