Imagine a one page collective agreement. It has one thing on it – your wage.
At that, your union bargaining team is prohibited from negotiating a settlement above the present rate of the Consumer Price Index, regardless of where your wages are comparative to others. Only a public referendum could approve a larger increase.
There’s no grievance procedure. Vacation, benefits and pension are all decided unilaterally by the employer, as is the terms of severance. It is not collective bargaining but collective begging for most terms and conditions.
This is the situation public sector workers in Wisconsin are facing as last year’s massive demonstrations culminate in a recall vote for Governor Scott Walker in June. Tens of thousands have quit, walking away from one of a handful of States that is still experiencing negative job growth.
According to Paul Secunda, a labour law professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee, even if the recall is successful, it is unlikely the reviled anti-labour Act 10 will be reversed given gerrymandering by the Republicans who overwhelmingly control the State House of Assembly.
Secunda spoke last night as a guest of Ryerson University’s Centre for Labour Management Relations.
Not all Wisconsin public sector workers share these limitations – firefighters, police and paramedics are exempted. All were considered supporters of Walker, but took to the streets with their public service colleagues to protest the anti-labour legislation.