Sunday, December 30, 2012 | Categories: Michael's Essays
(Photo Pin / PeoplesWorld & Glen Scarborough)
Random dispatches from the front lines of capital versus labour, torn, as they say from the news headlines.
A public service striving to answer the age-old question "Which side are you on?"
Item #1: Federal and state prosecutors in the U.S. have chosen not to indict the London-based bank, HSBC, on charges of corruption, drug-cartel and terrorist money laundering. They fear that a criminal prosecution would topple the bank and thus threaten the entire financial system.The bank has been ordered to pay a fine of more than a billion dollars, but will face no criminal charges.
We got used to saying a bank was too big to fail; now the mantra is too big to prosecute. Bankers like HSBC would mug a Boy Scout for his apples if it helped the bottom line. They would steal the tires off an ambulance if they could find a jack. It's worth recalling that in the 2008 meltdown, not a single banker spent any time in durance vile.
Item #2: Canadian banks have reported record profits this year, better than the most optimistic forecasts. As a result, the Christmas bonus pool overflowed to the tune of $10.3 billion. Leading the way was RBC's Santa package of $3.6 billion, up from last year's $3.3 billion.
Said one banker: "It's going to be a reasonable year." I should say so: HO HO HO.
Item #3: Meanwhile, the attack on organized labour continues apace. In Michigan, birthplace of the American labor movement, the Republican-controlled legislature passed a so-called right-to-work law that outlaws union dues check-offs for workers in a unionized workplace. This substantially weakens trade unions in their efforts to organize, and in the end probably drives down wages. Similar legislation has been passed in Indiana.
Item #4: In Ottawa, the House of Commons approved a Private Member's bill that would require unions to reveal their internal financial structures. Bill C-377 passed even though Canada's Privacy Commissioner called the bill a significant privacy intrusion.
Unions are like private clubs; they exist for the benefit of their members. No public monies are involved. There is nothing in the bill ordering corporations to make public their internal finances. The five brave Conservative MP's who voted against the bill are currently seeking political asylum in Cuba. And yes, I must disclose that I have been a member of one union or another most of my working life.
My first prediction of the new year: Governments will continue to gut public-service unions, such as teachers and hospital workers -- and in the private sector, companies will demand more clawbacks and lower wages from their work force. And healthy bonuses for bankers? They will continue to grow like ironweed.