Blunt lessons about banks and beer

Brian
Brian Jones
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This week, breweries and banks have provided Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians) and Canadians with a few blunt lessons on the downside of globalization.

For more than two decades, globalization has been the Mother Teresa of politics — sainted, beyond criticism and bringing succour to the poor. In fact, globalization went one better than Mother Teresa, because it helps the rich, too.

RBC ignited outrage across the country when former employees went public with their complaint of being replaced by foreign workers. To be clear: the foreign workers in question were brought into Canada, rather than the Canadian jobs being shipped out, which is globalization’s usual method.

Foreign workers replaced several dozen RBC IT workers. A TV news clip showed an angry customer going into an RBC branch to close his account.

There were calls for the federal government to tighten restrictions on foreign workers.

This is indeed a rotten situation. But Canada has been moving toward it for 25 years, ever since votes were cast for Brian Mulroney and his free-trade policy.

Shipping jobs out or bringing foreigners in has the same result: they put Canadians out of work.

 

Rejecting independence

The truly strange and irrational aspect of the globalization debate — such that it was, because it seems to be over for almost everyone but the anarchists — was that it scorned self-sufficiency.

We didn’t need to make widgets. We could buy cheaper widgets made in China or Taiwan or Pakistan or Panama or Bangladesh or India or Honduras or dozens of other countries where workers’ rights are but a child’s daydream.

Canadians, according to the globalization theory, would be freed from their factories to work in the new “knowledge economy.”

Presumably, Canadian IT workers are part of said knowledge economy. Correct that: they were part of it.

Canadians have been suckered by politicians who believe their own bombast.

The overriding economic philosophy among corporate executives and too many politicians is that an economy without workers is a worthy goal — specifically, without Canadian workers or, barring that, without well-paid workers.

Despite broad public anger, RBC’s action makes perfect sense in a globalized economy. It is, after all, what people have been voting for since the 1980s.

Meanwhile, the bosses at Labatt Breweries in St. John’s apparently thought it was a good idea to instruct their employees to train workers who would replace them in the event of a strike. The employees refused and walked out, and are currently on a wildcat strike.

The mind reels, and then reels some more upon news that a judge ordered the workers to stop interfering in Labatt’s daily business because, he said, they would do the company irreparable harm.

Apparently, in a globalized knowledge economy, being replaced on the job does not qualify as doing irreparable harm to a worker.

But then, in the globalized mindset, a worker is merely another cost, an irritating expense that, though sometimes necessary, must be cut or minimized whenever possible.

Boardrooms in Canada and elsewhere are stocked with MBAs and CEOs who must have skipped Economics 101. They don’t know, or don’t care, that a thriving economy depends on consumption and that, in order to consume, consumers need a decent income. Even ultra-capitalist Adam Smith and ultra-socialist Karl Marx agreed on this. (Their disagreement was, of course, about the production side of the equation.)

Casting aside bank workers and brewery workers and other workers will eventually but assuredly destroy the base of the economic pyramid, and the whole thing will crumble. We are seeing some of this already on a worldwide scale.

Someday, a CEO somewhere will lament about the once-worthwhile free enterprise system, “The arse has gone out of ’er.”

 

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at bjones@thetelegram.com.

 

 

Organizations: RBC, Labatt, Canadian IT The Telegram

Geographic location: Canada, China, Taiwan Pakistan Panama Bangladesh India Honduras

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  • mainlander
    April 12, 2013 - 13:26

    "Boardrooms in Canada and elsewhere are stocked with MBAs and CEOs who must have skipped Economics 101. They don’t know, or don’t care, that a thriving economy depends on consumption and that, in order to consume, consumers need a decent income". Well said. I am an MBA who did not skip Economics 101. However, it seems many in the corporate world skipped it, along with Ethics 101. This is the reason why I cannot stomach to work in a for-profit institution of any kind. I have found that profit=greed & in the race to get to the top, everyone with a "do the right thing" mindset gets trampled.

  • Newfoundlanders and Labradorians you have to make a stance on ravages of Outsourcing.
    April 12, 2013 - 09:49

    Mr. Jones you have written an excellent and informative column, now that you have, it would be wonderful if we could get those afflicted by the ravages of globalization to read the truths contained within your column. Also the two comments, thus far, are right on! My question is how are we going to get the Canadian masses to understand that the way globalization has been structured over the past 30 Plus years, where the Politicos, Corporates and Judges have supremacy over how globalization is to work, is what is destroying Canada's economic and social status and the reason it is dipping into almost third World status, at this very moment. The province of Newfoundland and Labrador was afflicted with "Outsourcing" the most damaging component of Globalization for 500 plus years and as we all know we have not been able to share in the vibrant economies that have been created throughtout the World we deal with, despite our well endowed natural resource base. My Message to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is that you have to rise up and make a stand on the Evils of Outsourcing. It destroys your chance of creating an economy. The only ones who gain are the Politicos, Corporates and Judges, etc. People might ask why Judges, well Judges are appointed by government and their bias is towards how Governments want to see the chips fall! It is time for the electorate to learn how the systems work. They all work in Unison to put the electorate in their place and make them poorer-off.

  • Agreed
    April 12, 2013 - 08:51

    It's like the draggers that ruined the breeding grounds and then they wondered what happened to the fish. If companies continue to replace workers with lower paid workers, eventually the ones left can't afford to buy the company's products. This results in lower profits and then ..... no company. There needs to be a balance between salaries and profits. I have no problem with profits but I have a problem with excess profits at the expense of the workers. The banks are ridiculous. They make record profits every year and continue to raise fees.

  • Politically Incorrect
    April 12, 2013 - 08:45

    Globalisation didn't happen in a vacuum, it wasn't foisted upon us: we knowingly elected the parties that introduced the Free Trade race-to-the-bottom economics that we have largely accepted as an “inevitable reality.” Opponents were either naïve or dangerous radicals. But those opponents were right: governments became subservient to corporations who (sic.) in turn, assumed the reins of the economy and with it, social policy. Living standards stagnated or decreased for the working class while organised labour was reduced to playing a rear-guard game. It only continues because the ruling class has very successfully divided the working (“middle”) class to the point where lowered wages, benefits, layoffs, evictions, attacks on the unemployed, etc. are not just justified, but endorsed by the very people who, while not immediately, may very well stand to be affected by them.