Many readers will know that the first registered trade union in India was the Madras Labour Union founded in 1918 and the oldest and largest trade union federation in India is the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) set up in Bombay in 1920.

However, long before that, the British had passed the Factories Act in 1881, and the exploited textile workers started organizing informally to protest harsh working conditions.

Around the world, workers began to voice their protests through strikes.

So the British passed the Trade Union Act of 1926 which established rules and regulations to monitor trade unions which were rapidly multiplying.

By India’s independence in 1947, there were over 2700 unions in India.

Thus as desis, we are well acqu-ainted with unions.

But perhaps our impressions of unions are coloured by such events as the 1974 railway strike across India and the 1982 Bombay textile strike both of which brought the country to a frustrating stalemate.

Here, in present day Toronto, we have recently experienced long, agonizing strikes at our colleges and at York University.

So, before we lay blame on either side – management or workers – we need to take a look at how strikes come about.

All workers in public organizations across Canada from air-traffic controllers to nurses, correctional workers, teachers, border guards, health care workers, ship mechanics, electrical workers, etc., are unionized and their working conditions are governed by their collective agreements.

What many people do not realize is that those collective agreements are signed by both the workers’ union and the management, meaning that both sides have their actions governed by that document.

The word ‘collective’ needs to be remembered and respected by both sides.

When a contract comes close to expiring both sides need to sit down at a table to negotiate a new agreement.

The workers will ask for new concessions and management will ask for new restrictions.

Collective agreements that are successfully and smoothly negotiated without a strike are done so by days of earnest talks and lots of genuine give and take.

However, occasionally, there will be cases where either management or union will play hardball and act aggressively to the detriment of the agreement and to the public.

For example, management may refuse to come to the table after initial talks knowing that if the workers go on strike the organization will save money on wages.

After a lengthy strike some of the money saved will then be used by management to make a few concessions.

On the other hand, unions also may walk away from the table over particular demands that they feel they cannot let go, thus sending their members to picket lines at the cost of their wages.

Often, the general membership on both sides may not all agree with their negotiators but have to go along with the decisions of their elected representatives.

An arbitrator can look at both sides,  amend demands and then force a vote by unionized workers.

Organizations which avoid strikes are usually those where respect for the collective agreement is strong.

Throughout the year managers and union leaders in those workplaces sit down at regular meetings to discuss issues and problems and work out solutions together.

When confrontational attitudes exist between management and union then difficult negotiations will definitely follow and strikes become highly probable.

Bad workers and bad managers exist in almost all organizations.

Weak leaders let those situations fester and boil over into untenable labour crises.

A good CEO will be acutely knowledgeable about conditions in every level of the organization.

Knowing your managers and workers, being aware of tensions, talking to your teams on the front line, being fair and firm and not being afraid to confront problematic situations and people – these are the qualities and habits of CEOs that serve organizations well.

Dr Vicki Bismilla is a retired Superintendent of Schools and retired college Vice-President, Academic, and Chief Learning Officer. She has authored two books.



Dear Didi,

I was raised in a home where girls and boys had distinctly different opportunities, where it was okay for boys to do many things, but not girls. I vowed I would not raise my kids like that but recently, I heard my husband rebuke our son, telling him “not to cry like a girl”. When I discussed it with him later, he said I was over-reacting. Am I? – Conflicted 

As parents, you have to be on the same page or your children will get mixed messages which will confuse them, especially when they are looking for consistency in a world that is ever changing for them.

At the same time, you have the right to react whichever way you want to a parenting decision that your partner is making without your consent. The relationship between a father and son is a unique one and as mothers we sometimes have to look on as they form that bond. However, it is important to discuss what you both want your son to emulate from his father since children usually learn how to treat others from their parents. Talk to your husband, ask him about his relationship with his father – the good and the bad. Ask him what he wished had been different and discuss what type of relationship he wants to have with his son.

Also, introduce the concept of words like actions leaving a lasting mark. Share your stories of what you saw and heard in your home and why hearing your partner say those words affects you so much. My father actually cried a lot, he was a very sensitive man and also very strong. He never classified crying as a “girl” thing and he had five girls. Now my husband is also the same and we are raising a young son. There are times when our boy is quite emotional because he doesn’t know what he is feeling. It is those times that we encourage him to let it all out, so we can talk about what’s up-setting him. But also, I encourage my husband to have the alone time with our son so they can talk it out. We are on the same page, but sometimes I have disagreed when I feel my husband is being too hard on our boy or he is using old-fashioned terminology which reinforces a difference in power dynamics.

However, in the end I can’t tell him how to raise our son, I have to trust we are co-parenting with the same goal in mind. It has to come from my partner and being a male feminist is something that has not always been encouraged in our partriarical society.

The times are a changin’ and boys are under a lot of scrutiny so we can either support them by being the change we want to see in the world, or continuing to reinforce the gender power imbalance that will continue to be challenged in years to come. I know which one you will choose and I believe you son will thank you for it!


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Fear is an awful thing. Fear paralyzes. Fear holds you in its grip. People are afraid bad things will happen to them because God is not happy or because people might do “black magic” on them. 

People go to temples to do their rituals, to perform their rites.  They try to satisfy their gods. They do things for the gods so that the gods will do good things for them.  We might call that bribing or manipulating the gods.  People come with their fears in order to relieve their fears.  And they leave again in fear.

Fear just doesn’t go away. 

They put special “good luck charms” in their purses or under their pillows at night. This is their way of controlling evil spirits from making bad things happen in their lives. To live in fear is an awful way to live.

I share these things with you because I hear about them a lot. Many share their fears with me. It makes me sad to hear that people believe others who tell them to “keep this oil” or “keep this letter closed for three days” and good things will happen to you.

But why do so many people believe them?  Those who believe their stories are being controlled by them. Why not believe what God says in His Word? He made us and He is able to take care of us! The problem is people know deep down that there is something wrong in their relationship with God.

The answer to all your fears is believing in Jesus. He is God’s answer! Have no doubt about it. This is the truth! Christ paid the full penalty for the sin of all who believe in Him. The Bible says that through His death on the cross “He destroyed him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and freed those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

Christ made perfect satisfaction to God for the sin of all who believe in Him. One young lady shared with me this past week, “I now believe in Christ. I no longer feel the need to bribe God. He loves me in Christ. I no longer fear evil spirits or demons.”

The Bible says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…”


Reverend Tony Zekveld can be reached at 416-740-0543 and tzekveld@primus,ca.

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