Overpaid talking heads from giant media corporation calls public sector employees “privileged class” on labour day

4 Sep

From their million dollar studios, from behind their stylized personal desks and in their personal cushy chair, in their overpriced silk suits and to the tune of fat salaries, Sun News pundits moan that unionized workers are a privileged class!

On the day dedicated to celebrating the solidarity of working people, Sun News took the opportunity to bash public sector unions in a cynical and pathetic attempt to drive a wedge between public and private sector working people.

In “Labour Day Lost Its Way,” Anthony Furey states “I won’t tolerate criticism of union workers in general. They’re your friends, your family and your neighbours, most of them put in a hard days work” (around 02:10). The bad guys in this equation, for Sun News, are the union leaders, who pursue agendas contrary to what Sun News is sure union membership wants. Of course, union leadership is elected by its membership on platforms and agendas they approve of. And it’s not just leaders who show up to projects and campaign events organized by leadership: the rank and file is there too! So if you’re bashing and criticizing union leaders elected, directed and supported in general by union workers, then you’re criticising union workers in general! Or does Sun News just think average union members are too dumb to notice what the leaders they elect are doing?

Furrey’s own feature is full of dishonesty as well, complaining snidely that “[t]he most villainous thing a public sector employer can do these days is take away an employee’s right to bank sick days they’ve got it pretty sweet, in most cases sweeter than the rest of us.” (02:40)

(I suppose the few who do get “sweeter deals” than public sector employees include Sun News pundits and the reactionary politicians and big business robber barons they cheer on.)

Needless to say, anyone who has worked in the public sector, particularly in public service, can tell you that conditions are anything but cushy. Public service jobs, often essential to society, are frequently exhausting, demanding and hazardous to health. Essential services usually demand their employees start serving the public very early in the day and closing very early at work. Other public employees often have to deal with waste and other filth.

I’ll give you an example. I was a lifeguard and swimming instructor in the public service for three and a half years. (Just so you know, public pools were always light-years ahead of private pools in following safety standards, sanitation quality and lots more). Water is a great medium for germs to spread through, and since lifeguards work primarily with children, whose personal hygiene is particularly popular with the flu, we get sick a lot on the job. Teachers work with children as well. Do you see how scrapping sick day banking is a slap in the face and attack on the well-being of public service workers? (Although, lifeguards at my pools were never allowed to take more than one day off per eight to 14 week session, so you’d have to come in even when you’re throwing up your lung)

But there are more “villainous” things public service employees go through.

Now of course, for a young person, lifeguarding is much better job than flipping patties, cleaning motel rooms or stocking shelves. That said, lifeguards and instructors don’t have cushy jobs. In many indoor pools, chlorine the air becomes so saturated with chlorine that people lifeguards have trouble breathing. Ever got burning eyes from spending too much time in pool water? Many instructors work in four-and-a-half hour blocks teaching directly in the water, and they’re not allowed goggles or closing their eyes in the water. Often, they’re lucky if they have a 15 minute break after almost five hours of aquatics before they have to use those burning eyes to supervise the pool as lifeguards. And if it didn’t sink in at first, yeah, they spend four-and-a-half hours at a time in water with energetic children. Children is exhausting enough. Movement in water isn’t easy, especially after 4 hours. Put those two together, that sound easy? It may be less greasy than fast food, but it’s more complex, intensive and demanding.

Then, of course, lifeguards put themselves at risk every time they have to perform a rescue. Water is deadly, and it’s dangerous even for the best trained.

During the summer months, lifeguards were not protected by the union. WITHOUT the union, our conditions were the least fair. We had to come in early in the morning, usually around 7:00, and were usually stuck there past 8:30 pm. But, we couldn’t get overtime for days like this. Very short unpaid breaks ensured that the total hours still only added up eight hours. Even if we exceeded eight hours in one day, we could not qualify for overtime unless we worked for more than 40 hours in a week, and management often found a way to keep the hours under 40.

They still managed to keep us coming almost every day. During the summer, I was lucky to get a day off every two weeks. One of my friends had a single day off over the entire summer. In an indoor pool with too much chlorine in the air.

Sweet deal right?

So conditions were much better with the union!

Lifeguarding is one of the easier public sector jobs. I can’t begin to describe the nightmarish conditions faced by ambulance drivers, paramedics, nurses, orderlies and others who have much tougher, more demanding jobs, and who labour tirelessly on our behalf.

Sun News’ commentary slams high-union density public sector employees for making more money and having more benefits than low-union density private sector employees. They overlook that the public sector jobs usually demand more training, which justifies higher wages. Nursing demands more certification than landscaping for instance.

Sun News can’t blame public sector unions for harming the interests of private sector unions. Wal-mart shut down its store in Jonquiere, Québec, putting 200 people out of work, because the store unionized! The story repeated itself at a Wal-mart store in Gatineau. It’s not unionized public sector workers who are a privileged class; it’s big business screwing over working people!

It’s not public sector workers and unions who threaten private sector workers! It’s not them cutting their wages or busting their interests! It’s big business.

Uncharacteristically and unintentionally truthful, Sun News makes it clear that higher union density means better wages, benefits and conditions for workers. So organized labour and unions are the way to go for workers to improve the lives of working people! Even Sun News concurs

So, why is Sun News so anti-union? Why do they celebrate the fall of organized unions? Are they against improving conditions for working people? (rhetorical question?)

Working people are too smart to fall for Sun News Network’s nonsense.


2 Responses to “Overpaid talking heads from giant media corporation calls public sector employees “privileged class” on labour day”

  1. nadinelumley September 4, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    The deep hypocrisy of the Tories (Harper’s Reform Party) isn’t lost on many.

    HarperCON ****WILL intervene to stop workers from getting a decent contract…

    …but ***WILL ALLOW a company to close it doors and lay off 2,400 workers (often AFTER receiving a large corporate welfare bailout cheque).


  2. nadinelumley September 4, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    As Nobel-prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has said, unions – as imperfect as they may be – are the only counterbalance we have to unbridled corporate power.

    They also provide one of the only mechanisms we have for ensuring the more equitable distribution of income necessary for the creation of a vibrant middle class.


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