Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Norma Rae I Am Not

My uninformed views on unions were kind of positive (and still are in a historical sense) before I moved to Montreal, but nothing like some strikes, some sabotage and other problems to make one less of a fan.  But sometimes the cure could be as bad as the disease.

This, of course, is another story of how incredibly messed up Quebec can be: the provincial government is trying to reform the Construction industry, which we know to be corrupt simply because construction apparently costs 30% more in Quebec than in the rest of Canada.  And no, wages are lower here, so figure that one out sans corruption.  Anyhow, as it turns out, when an employer wants to hire some construction works to build something, he currently has to ask the construction unions to provide him/her with names.  They cannot just hire any unionized worker but actually have to go through the union to get employees.  Well, that obviously is dysfunctional since the union cares far more about having more workers employed than having the jobs done efficiently. 

So, the Quebec government is trying to change that.  How?  In the new system, the government would be providing the names to the employers.  Oh wonderful, yet more bureaucracy, more power to the bureaucrats, and yet more ... corruption.  Giving the Quebec government yet more power is probably not the solution.  I am not a libertarian, far from it, but I have found that giving governments too much control over one's economy tends to increase the stakes of political competition in unhealthy ways.  Cannot we just let employers hire the best unionized workers they can find rather than being compelled to hire whoever the government/union send them?  Talk about no incentive to do a good job.*
*  And yes, in the McGill strike du semester, I find the union's demand that employment be strictly by seniority rather than merit to be most problematic.  Yes, measuring merit can be hard, but seniority is no measure of effectiveness, efficiency, intelligence or wisdom.  It just means you got hired earlier than another person who might be far more talented and/or motivated. 

Given how badly the Quebec government handles everything it touches, do we really want it to decide who should get which construction jobs?  I don't think so. 

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