The Delicate Dance of Trust
/ Author: CLAC Staff
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The Delicate Dance of Trust

During times of disagreement, trust provides the foundation for resolving differences

By Henk de Zoete, National Board President

It’s a truism to say that trust is an essential part of human life. We know that trust is a precious commodity that can be easily broken, often with devastating consequences. When that happens, it is not easily—sometimes never—restored.

Labour relations is no exception to this truism. When CLAC and an employer sign off on a collective agreement, both sides do so trusting they will be true to what they’ve agreed to. And, while there may be times of disagreement and misunderstanding, a relationship based on mutual trust provides the foundation for resolving differences. Without that, parties may seek to take advantage of each other and ultimately wind up in a contest of tit-for-tat arbitrations, predictably resulting in winner-loser outcomes.

At both a personal and local level, it is important that stewards and CLAC representatives be of one mind and voice after an issue has been discussed and a course of action has been decided on. I once experienced a situation where we had been making progress on establishing trust with a difficult owner-operator of long term care facilities. The stewards committee had decided how to deal with a grievance situation and was making a proposal to the company when one of the committee members—without warning—spoke out against it. This steward’s opposition was based on a completely untruthful telling of what the grievance was about and our proposal to resolve it. It took some time for the committee to restore the trust and confidence that had just begun to take root with the company.

When this happens on the management side, it can be even more damaging, as when management distorts the facts or misrepresents an understanding reached to resolve an issue. A breach of confidence that occurs during negotiations can be devastating and result in months of hard bargaining being rejected.

A deliberate breach in the solidarity of a bargaining committee’s agreement and the distortion of a contract settlement can not only result in a contract being voted down, but an entire bargaining committee, representative included, having to be replaced. Shattered trust then has to be completely rebuilt by a new team.

The theme of CLAC’s National Convention this year was Building Trust. Delegates discussed many aspects of trust and how it is built, how it can be strengthened, and how to avoid damaging or losing it. As a union, CLAC makes certain commitments to you, our members: effective representation, just collective agreements, respect for the dignity of workers and work, fair compensation, safe working environments, insurance and retirement benefits, education and training, mental health support, and many other things that enhance members’ lives and well-being.

Members trust CLAC to make good on these promises. To ensure that your trust is not misplaced or broken, CLAC’s National Board is responsible for making sure the organization delivers on its key commitments. We carry out the “quality control” function within the organization, making sure that core values, principles, and responsibilities are being carried out for the benefit of all members. In this way, established trust is maintained, enhanced, and strengthened.

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