Monday, February 14, 2011

In Quebec $22 for a Babysitter Makes Sense

Last Friday, Janet Bagnall, the Montreal Gazette's resident hack columnist used her amazing cut and paste journalistic talents to cobble together a perfectly dreadful piece defending Quebec's out of control unionism.

The article was so amateurish, its argument so high-schoolish and simplistic that it had me wondering if she has a blackmail tape buried somewhere in her closet that safeguards her job. 

Ms. Bagnall was arguing for a strengthening of the law banning any manner of replacement workers during a strike, in light of circumstances in the ongoing conflict at the Journal de Montreal, where Quebec's craftiest boss, Pierre-Karl Péladeau, used a flaw in Quebec's labour law to circumvent the picket line to employ contract journalists to replace strikers.

Ms. Bagnall worries that any fiddling with Quebec's sacred anti-scab law will turn Quebec into China, where workers she tells us, make a $1 a day and commit suicide regularly.

Hmmm....Not exactly a description of conditions at the Journal de Montreal where workers  made salaries ranging upwards of $60,000 to over $100,000 a year, for jobs that included a four-day, 32 hour work week, as well as six weeks of paid vacation including a 50% bonus.  LINK{fr}

As background to this story, Péladeau has set up his own  independent news agency (QMI,) to provide replacement content for striking journalists.
The cost of the non-unionized agency is a fraction of what staff journalists cost him before.
The content is transmitted electronically over the Internet and so, technically does not constitute the definition of crossing a picket line. Ha ha!

The newspaper has been publishing effortlessly throughout the strike and has been making even more money with reduced costs. Incidentally, the union's call for a public and advertiser boycott has gone unheeded. In fact readership and ad revenue is UP!

Suffice to say that Mr. Péladeau is not interested in re-hiring the striking journalists- ever!

And so Quebec's unions (and Janet Bagnall) are demanding that Quebec labour law be amended to include a prohibition against this 'virtual' crossing of the picket line.

The concept that Ms. Bagnall defends (the banning of replacement workers,) is not as natural or popular as she would intimate. In fact, nowhere in North America, other than British Columbia and Quebec are companies so enjoined and nowhere in North America are the tables so badly tilted in favour of unions as in Quebec.

The belief that a company should not be able to hire replacement workers as long as the strike is ongoing is sacrosanct in Quebec.  Of course no rule says that strikers can't find new employment during the strike and in the case of this labour conflict, workers have even set up and published a rival newspaper!

But let us examine the no-scab rule in a more understandable context.

Consider the case of your friendly neighbourhood babysitter who shows up to your door one day and tells you that the $9.50 minimum wage that you pay her is no longer satisfactory and that from now on, you'll have to cough up $18 plus benefits, for her services.
"Forget about it, " you might say in a rage."I'll hire someone else!" 

"Not so fast!" says a burly stranger standing right behind her, patiently waiting for his turn to speak.
"I'm her union rep and I want you to know we've unionized your house. Three of the five babysitters who regularly service your house have signed union cards and from now on, you can only hire personnel affiliated with the CSN, the parent union.

 "WHAT THE HELL, it's a free country, I'll hire who I want!, " you scream.

 "Actually it's not.  The law backs us up. If you want a babysitter, you must now hire a union babysitter and you must pay the going rate. " he retorts smugly.
"Your only alternative is to declare a lock-out and do the babysitting yourself. By the way, that means no calling your mother-in-law, you aren't allowed to hire scabs to replace us,  it's the law."

"So What's it's going to cost me?"

"Well, lets see. There'll be no more exploitation of these girls. From now on the hourly wage is $18 and that's for the first six hours. Anything over that is double time and by the way there's an hour of travel time added to the bill as well as another half hour, for each block of four hours as compensation for breaks that cannot be taken due to responsibilities. There are pro-rated charges for vacation and for mandatory training. You'll have to collect the union dues and send them to us directly. Here, it's all covered in this pamphlet. 

"TRAVEL TIME!!! She lives next door, you bastard! All this must add up to $22 an hour. I can't afford that, what are my alternatives?"

" You don't have alternatives, this is Quebec. If you don't like it, move your family to Ontario"
Oh by the way, does a $22 an hour babysitter sound ridiculous?

It's actually what Quebec's newly unionized day care workers cost us, more than double the price just a few short years ago when they weren't unionized. Yup,  $22 for babysitting!

There was a time when unions were needed to protect workers from the company excess, but today the government regulates all manners of working conditions, including minimum wage, hours of employment, statutory holidays and vacation, health and safety issues as well as worker recourse to unfair treatment including harassment and unjust termination,

All that is left for the union is to negotiate salaries and benefits above and beyond what the government mandates.

And so, because of the power bestowed upon them by the Quebec labour law, unions can tell the company that unless they pay workers so much, they cannot operate. The company's only recourse is to close or cave in to demands.

Incidentally, the Mafia operates almost identically, telling the company where they must buy cement and which company they must use for garbage removal. The prices of course, are always above competitive rates, but hey, if the company doesn't 'cooperate,' they will of course, be shot shut down.

Unions and the Mafia in Quebec, have so much in common that they work hand in hand, squeezing what they can from the company by way of government regulation and intimidation.

Certain neighbourhoods in the city of Montreal have been informally divided among snow removal contractors, where nobody but the designated operator can offer services, lest some unfortunate 'accident' befall the interloper. Of course prices remain artificially high under these circumstances, but I wouldn't suggest trying to hire a cheaper alternative!

I bet Ms. Bagnall is opposed to this type of gangsterism, but somehow remains firmly in favour of unions applying the same techniques.

Overpriced and under performing employees is what today's unionism is about. The stronger the union, the lower the productivity and the higher the cost.

The monopoly and unfair negotiating advantage accorded to them by the government makes Quebec the most inhospitable market for any North American company to operate in.  That is why jobs have been exported not only to poor countries, but even to the United States, as in the recent case of Electrolux, who is packing up their factory in Quebec and  moving it's 1,300 jobs to Memphis, Tennessee. Link

Ms. Bagnall has no pity for Mr. Péladeau, he's rich and his companies make a lot of money. If he's forced to dish out over the market prices for labour, all the better!
Let the rich pay!
Quebec may be the last place on Earth where this theme still resounds.

Let me finish with a story, told by Charles Adler, the syndicated radio talk show host, out of Winnipeg.
A college student is arguing with her father over his opposition to paying more taxes to support other 'less' fortunates.
"Dad, its only fair, I can't even imagine by what right someone like you, who has so much is unwilling to share."

"Daughter, let me ask you a question. How are you doing at school?

"Excellent, Dad, you know it, I'm maintaining a 4.0 grade average. I'm working like a fiend to do well. But what's this got to do with what we're discussing?

"Well, how is your friend Debbie doing, I heard she isn't working very hard"

"You better believe it, she's a party animal, skips classes and studies too little. She's flunking with a 1.8 GPA and doesn't seem to care"

"Well how about this? You've got an amazing average, much more than you need. Why don't you give her enough points to let her pass. In other words, let's lower your GPA to 3.2 and give her the 8 points to boost her score to 2.6, allowing her to maintain a passing grade. Everybody comes out better!

"Whoa, Dad, how do I come out better? I worked my ass off for the grades, I'm not giving away what I earned to some lazy under performer. I deserve the benefits of my work. How does your plan possibly makes sense for me?

"Daughter, you've got so much, why are you unwilling to share!
"Dad, with all due respect, ARE YOU RETARDED?! Are you actually suggesting that I give away my GPA average!!!!

"Daughter, I think we're more alike than you think!  
Yup, let the rich pay...
Ms Bagnall fantasizes that overpaying unionized employees, doesn't have a deleterious economic effect. She is woefully ignorant of the real world.

Tomorrow I'll tell readers about the unbelievably sad story of how a Quebec union killed its own golden goose. It isn't pretty.


  1. Love it!!! Great story!!!
    Can't wait to see how you tie in Quebec Unions with Provincial politics and how they have contributed to our downfall!

    Patiently waiting...

  2. Editor, thank you for supplying another reason we need a federal political party for the rest of us - us being those outside Quebec. Actually, you're in agreement with Howard Galganov about mostly public workers who are well overpaid and underproductive.

    Small wonder Electrolux is bolting out, and very generous of them to do so over three years. Had it been me, I would have brought in trucks from the U.S. during a Canadian statutory holiday weekend, gutted the place of all its plant and equipment and posted a note the next business day (in English) on the gates stating "you and your foolish government laws have priced yourselves out of the market, good luck and go f--k yourselves for it."

    You censored my posting a few weeks ago because I gave Ste-Thérèse GM workers the ha ha ha when a decision was made a few years ago to bring manufacturing of the Camaro back to Canada--in Oshawa, ON instead of Ste-Thérèse, QC. Not to worry--Oshawa workers are also very well paid, but not with as much overregulation as in Quebec.

    Score one for PK Péladeau. He found a way to circumvent the law.

    Actually, I'd like to add a sad tale of my own that goes back to the early 1980s. On CJAD, back in the day when it was still a pretty good radio station, there used to be a two-hour late morning talk show called Exchange, hosted by Neil McKenty.

    On this particular show, the topic I cannot exactly remember, was a caller who was unemployed but had enough money or wits to start a very small trucking enterprise. It started with just himself, but it was successful enough that he was able to hire a couple of other guys.

    He hired one guy off of welfare, the other was on employment insurance (back then UNemployment insurance), but before hiring them, he told them the wage was $8.00 per hour (circa 1982, that huge recession was not a terrible wage back then). The three of them were very happy until one day the owner was contacted by surprise.

    Turns out this "surprise" was a knock on the door by a parity committee, a quasi union body that regulates the wages of truck drivers in Quebec. The parity committee informed the owner that the minimum wage for truck drivers was, I believe, $11.50 an hour. The owner explained he is a very small business and could not afford to pay that much and stay in business, and so the committee shut him down, putting him back on welfare and the other two workers back on Employment Insurance.

    McKenty was so stunned by this story, there was such a long pause until he could say something appropriate on his own radio show. Such is life in overtaxed, overpaid and overregulated business in Quebec. What the government doesn't control, the Mafia does, and yet you admonished MacLean's magazine for writing a couple of articles in an edition a few months ago stating what you just did above, but in other words.

    I guess, too, this is why judges and crown prosecutors in Quebec are on strike. After all, they get almost double in Ontario what they get in Quebec, but how can Quebec afford to pay much better educated and qualified lawyers more when they have to pay high school dropouts and other assorted losers $22 an hour to dig ditches?

  3. One thing u could have added was the fact the babysitter can keep working somewhere else and could also claim UI. The balance is si badly skewed in Quebec it is ridiculous.

  4. Is it any wonder the past weekend Duceppe was issuing threats (open blackmail to the ROC) to bring down the government if Harper does not cave into to the ridiculous demands of the BQ. (5 billion in new federal money, etc etc.). Once again, others are being taxed for Quebec's lack of fiscal prudence and poor legislation such as referenced in the editors post.

    I hope Harper and the cons do not choose to give away the store, once again, to the blackmail of Quebec. Perhaps the ROC will voice their disapproval with Duceppe (and Quebec) if an election is forced. One can only hope.

  5. There are a few columnist over at the Gazette which are real hacks. I'm glad you pointed out Janet Bagnall. She is terrible. Not a week goes by without her writing up some sort of stupidity. She is lost in another era.

    As for your point about unions run out of control in Quebec. Oh how right you are. And just what has the great Liberal Party of Quebec since it was put into power? It has feed the beast. That's what happens to politicians who stand for nothing. Feed all sorts of beasts who one day will come back to eat them.

  6. The balance between union power and employer power is a very fragile one. It is easy to go to the extreme on either side, and end up either with union/worker excesses and abuses, or with employee exploitation by the employer.

    In Quebec, the balance has shifted way too far in favor of the unions. And what followed was the erosion of the work ethic.

    There are places in the world (sweatshops of Asia, for example), where unions are badly needed. There are also places in the world (France, Quebec), where the power of unions needs to be curbed.

  7. @Adski

    C'est bien la première fois que je suis daccord avec toi adski.

  8. A balanced is needed to be kept between unions and employers, such laws need frequent reviews, the problem is with a 40% unionized work force the power of the union is such, that governments, especially one such as Charest is fearfull to do anything about it. Other than adding to the balance towards the unions, you see it with the current Quebecor/Unions review of the normes du travail, they want to top up the unions powers even more.
    I am no fan of PKP but maybe it is time to review how deep the protection afforded to unions need refreshing and bringing sanity to the situation. Somehow with PQ lining up to be in power and Charest being a lame duck that missed the boat for reforms, we are in for a few more years of decline and union friendly government, not to say collusion with government.

  9. Unions are killing the Quebec Health care system one patient at a time.

  10. Don't get me wrong from my prior posting. I'm no fan of the anti-Semitic Péladeau family myself, but in Quebec, it's always the tail wagging the dog.

    I can in part understand why there is legislation to protect labourers and tenants as there have been tyrannous proprietors and landlords and this no doubt has to be balanced out. Sadly, with a global market, conditions tend to fall back to the lowest common denominator hence so many manufacturing jobs leaving North America.

    If someone in China doesn't want to work for $1-a-day or something to that effect, someone else will and therein lies the problem.

    Wages in North America are lowering in the private sector unless you're lucky enough to have a union job, esp. in the auto sector. The public service? Sweet, cushy jobs. If you go into the public sector in your early or mid 20s, you can retire by your late 50s and often get indexed pensions for it + full benefits.

    If you work for a small family-type business, forget benefits and pensions! Some larger businesses fetch better luck, but not like the public sector. Some of us are luckier than others, I guess!

  11. It makes perfect sense that Janet Bagnall would be in favour of banning the tactic Peladeau used. Using a little mental extrapolation, she can probably see the possibility of the Gazette doing the same thing to her. Even if she's not unionized, Peladeau's actions reduce both the potential demand for her services and her value in the market. In 21st century North America, I can't understand why, if a company can find people who are willing to work for the same rate (or less) than what striking employees are making, they aren't free to hire them. Unions: first refuge of the lazy and incompetent.

  12. To the editor, found this interesting post from Martin Masseçais-au-québec-la-carotte-versus-le-bâton.html
    Way more interesting position than the stand you put forth before ;)
    Please do not publish it, I intended it to you


  13. Before calling daycare workers "babysitters" check out the obligatory qualifications, and the curriculum required at CPEs and compare the salaries of other employees with similar training and job environment.

  14. "Qque chose de pourri said...
    To the editor, found this interesting post from Martin Masseçais-au-québec-la-carotte-versus-le-bâton.html"

    Ok EVERYONE needs to read this. This dude puts it perfectly.

  15. He wrote this in 95:

  16. To Anonymous @ 8:59PM

    People who clean snot out of noses and change diapers of preschoolers are babysitters. The qualifications are just a device to raise the profile and therefore demand to get paid more. Your post proves it. It's another Quebec con.

    A preschoolers who stays home with mom, watches Barney and Sesame Street will be smarter and healthier, considering the cesspool of germs that CPEs represent.
    You know what you call a babysitter with a PHD?
    ......a babysitter.

  17. Another one of my out-f-topic comment.

    Yesterday the group Arcade Fire won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, arguably the most prestigious award in the Grammys. They basically put themselves in the history along the like of U2, Michael Jackson or even Celine. They praised Montreal and Quebec in the show and in the post-show interview they closed it with "On vous aime, on vous aime, on vous aime", toward Montreal.

    Now this clown Louis Prefontaine argued up and down that they are NOT Quebecers.

    Who is having the last laugh now?

  18. Martin Masse gives me hope that lucid and freedom loving people are pushing back the old socialist/nationalist order. Maybe there is hope. I have been a libertarian for many years, and there seems to be change brewing.

  19. Troy @10:52

    "Yesterday the group Arcade Fire won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year"

    No Fair Troy!
    You're stealing my thunder. Just as your comment came through, I'm preparing a post on exactly that subject,
    Arcade Fire versus Louis'le connard'(my new nickname for you know who.)

    I presently have my browser open on your exact reference. Kooky eh!

    I guess I'll have to credit you for the inspiration!

  20. Wow! What a long and boring post, I am lost in it (I read it until the 22$ per hours for babysitting). It's not the post on itself that is boring (of course not!) but that annoying woman. In Quebec, people always want more out of nothing at all. That's why there so much financial fraud. And seem like most people respect that mentally, want more, on nothing. Does it make any sense? I am a New Brunswicker living in Quebec trying to understand the Quebecois and even after 5 years, I just cannot.

  21. Sunny: “I am a New Brunswicker living in Quebec trying to understand the Quebecois and even after 5 years, I just cannot”

    You understand them better than you think. You actually sum it up perfectly in the same post: “In Quebec, people always want more out of nothing at all”

    I’ve been living in Quebec for 20 years, and for a long time I’ve been getting it wrong. I thought the Quebecois were simply fighting to preserve their language and culture which was (claimed to be) under a constant assault. But things just didn’t add up. What assault? The US doesn’t give a rat’s ass about Quebec, and the RoC backed off a long time ago and even pandered to Quebec for the most part. Within Quebec, the Francophone majority had their hands on power and laws were instituted to further the interest of the Francophones at the expanse of others. This puzzled me to no end until I finally figured it out. The language/culture thing was just a cop out. It was just an excuse to justify the repressive measures that were in place to ensure the interests of Francophone PEOPLE, and not of their language or culture.

    To understand the Francophones, all you need to consider is one human characteristic: self-entitlement. In Quebec, self-entitlement is based on language. Hard work is not how you go about getting respect. Politics is. Legislating respect is preferred to earning it. It’s much easier, or at least it seems so on the surface.

    This trend has a lot of precedents in history. Trade unions, for example, were created to rectify terrible working conditions, but then morphed into mafia-like structures. Feminism appeared on the scene to rectify discrimination against women (they couldn’t vote or run for office), and morphed into a movement of self-entitlement based on gender. Christians were ridiculed and thrown to the lions in ancient Rome, while a few thousand years later, it was Christian officials, dressed in pompous outfits resembling those of Roman emperors, who presided over the executions of heretics. English (and French) aristocrats staked claim to respect and privilege based solely on the fact that they were…aristocrats. Jews suffered terribly for centuries on account of the most disgusting forms of anti-semitism, so they countered with zionism – a virulent form of Jewish nationalism and self-entitlement to land and privileges that is the root of a lot of problems in the Middle East today.

    Francophone-empowerment movement had the same trajectory. It appeared to correct an obvious social injustice, and ended up leading to the most ridiculous forms of retribution, like the banning of apostrophes through Montreal and raids on school boards on account of English keyboards.

    Every movement, even one that starts for the noblest cause, has a tendency of swinging to the other extreme. In Quebec, we have a collective example of this. 80% of our population walks around demanding reverence based on nothing more than the fact that their ancestors were the first European pillagers and rapists that embarked on the shores of the arbitrary administrative jurisdiction (today) known as Quebec.

  22. Editor,

    As they say, great minds think alike. Or maybe Prefontaine would say, contemptuous minds.

    Speaking of Prefontaine, did you know that one of the sponsors in his blog is an English summer camp for francophones?

  23. "...based on nothing more than the fact that their ancestors were the first European pillagers and rapists that embarked on the shores of the arbitrary administrative jurisdiction (today) known as Quebec."

    Hé oui! nous sommes le Canada car vous oubliez que nos ancêtres ont construit ce pays d'arrache-pied dans des conditions extrêmes.
    Pas VOS ancêtres adski mais les nôtres.
    En passant adki (l'historien) tous les pays de ce monde ont été bâtis suivant le même modus operandi,nous ne sommes pas différents.

    Après vingt années parmi nous adski et vous êtes toujours un immigrant reject?Pas terrible mon ami,faudrait vous adapter un peu plus.

    1. Hi… I agree with you. Your comment is really helpful

  24. "Stephen Harpon said...

    [...] vous êtes toujours un immigrant reject?"

    Never ceases to amaze me

  25. I am happy to find your distinguished way of writing the post. Now you make it easy for me to understand and implement the concept. Thank you for the post.