As we read the reviews of the riots in Paris over higher taxes, and read of accounts of Facebook employees turning against their CEO, we are once again reminded of the fact that there are tipping points in corporations and similar points in governments, which, when reached, cause people to respond in unexpected ways.
As we view our own culture we realize that a significant percentage of employees today are part of the labour movement which is unionized. There is the expectation of always receiving more and more in any labour negotiations. Governments, which are stewards of the funds and resources of this society, often act as if there is no limit to such funds, and that they can use their taxation powers to cover any increased contract demands.
Governments have a service to fulfill in society. “The balance between public and private sector employment is of policy importance given the importance of private sector wealth generation as the foundation for resources that are used for public sector service provision and subsequent employment generation.” (Fraser Institute publication, 2015.) The question which needs answering is this: Do we need one government employee for every five employees in the private sector? Such a ratio speaks of gross inefficiency if nothing else!
When we couple these two concepts of tipping points and labour negotiations I am wondering if it isn't time for a new approach to employer–employee relationships. The private sector is very aware of the balance that needs to be maintained between employee productivity and profitability. These employers are also well aware of market conditions which dictate limits to pricing of product and services within the competitive market.
I am reminded of an old cookbook of Mennonite origins whose title has stuck with me over the decades, More with Less. The thesis of the author was that we, in the developed countries, need to be more concerned about the percentage, kind, and volume of the food we consume as compared to that of less fortunate cultures and societies. The author advocates that we need to eat simpler foods in order that there is food for more people.
I'm wondering if it is time for governments to take such an approach, that is, to demand increased efficiencies providing more services for less money. Necessarily into this equation comes the issue of labour and labour costs. Is it not time for the governments of our country, at all levels, to adopt a practice used in private industry and business whereby they actively seek and ask for employee input, with remuneration, for suggestions on how the role that they play can be done more efficiently and reduce cost and waste.
Recently, while in hospital, I was very capably cared for by the nursing staff. As I was there, I asked a nurse whether or not she observed places where savings could be made in her job and from her perspective. Her immediate response was to suggest, “Oh, yes! But we are not asked.” The reality is, with top-down management these suggestions are not generally invited. As such, costs continue to rise and, I might add, employee morale suffers.
When we think of the many facets of our society in which our governments are involved, police forces, healthcare, education, government's offices at all levels, we realize that employees could contribute to considerable reduction in costs or at least stabilization in costs, with their suggestions.
Private business does not keep employees when business declines. Governments appear reticent to make such difficult decisions. Private corporations actively seek ways of doing more with less. I believe it is time for new steps of efficiencies, of reduction in labour force, of reduction or at least stabilization of remuneration, and decreasing taxation levels before we too, follow the example of France, and rise up against governments which think that their practices can go on indefinitely.
A recent headline in Ontario mentioned the fact that small businesses and corporations are burdened with some 380,000 pieces of legislation. Why does anyone want to be in business under such governmental intrusion? Remember the fact that governments do not produce one penny of profit but consume profit dollars and borrowed funds, seemingly ad infinitum. It is business that does generate profits and it is that profit which grows a country.
Unions have a place; historically they evolved when employees were exploited. That is hardly the scenario today in our culture. From what we read in the media and what we observe of unions are work stoppages, strikes, and threats, all demonstrating that the relationships between governments and unions are anything but collegial. Is it not time for unions to step forward in order to retain their employment by making suggestions as to how their wage and benefit demands can be met through efficiencies? The tipping point may be closer than any of us want to dream – government and private citizens alike!
David Sloss, Meaford