Undoubtedly, anyone following my articles these past few weeks must have assumed that sooner or later, my rants would lead to a discussion about unionizing all golf course employees across Canada.
After you settle back down into your chair, please allow me the disclaimer that I am not in favour of unions in this situation. However, as a component of employer/employee relations, I will try to present a case for it and wait to hear your comments.
One doesn’t have to travel very far to buy a newspaper and read of the horrors attached to the clothing manufacturing business in India. People are dying in the name of corporate profits. Child labor is rampant and deplorable working conditions are the norm.
Yes, this is the extreme scenario but it does tell the lengths that big business will go for shareholder profits if they are allowed to conduct their affairs unregulated.
Over the past 20 years or so, major corporations and well-heeled investors entered the golf business in Canada and United States.
A once pleasant, enjoyable, relaxing pastime that produced steady returns on investment gave way to the bottom line. Golf courses became marketing tools for subdivisions and wealthy opportunists competed in the “mine is more expensive than yours” Olympics.
Along this wild ride of oversaturation, not one of these giants stopped to analyze the golf market. All they hoped for was that baby boomers would do as predicted, play golf in their retirement.
Oops! Big mistake. They didn’t.
The result is a glut of magnificent, overpriced, expensive-to-maintain, too-difficult-to-play grass nurseries. Worse still is the fact that these cash money pits can’t be re-zoned or used otherwise because the home buyers purchased in a golf community.
So now comes the tough part.
The same companies/investors who built such wonderful communities are now stuck operating a golf course and they have no idea how to do it. This results in the only thing they know how to do and that’s cut expenses.
We eventually arrive at staff budgets and then staff working conditions and then staff perks etc. Before too long, we boil this story down to my concern and that’s mistreatment of staff.
I agree the above scenario is only one road to staff mistreatment and that there are many others because every golf course business is slightly different from any other.
However, the net result is that we are quickly passing the time when people worked in the golf business because they loved the atmosphere, loved to play golf or simply loved working outdoors.
Sure, management exploited, them but most employees were happy, so it didn’t matter, but times are changing. Corporations, owners, boards of directors and managers are constantly searching for one more dollar to enhance the profits. In so doing, I see more and more abuses of staff.
I see staff working 75 to 80 hours a week because they feel threatened by job loss. I see staff eating meals at the service counter. I see insufficient staffing that allow washroom breaks. I see reductions in staff that prevents adequate service levels.
In short, I see the pendulum swing of expense reductions beginning to create unfair labor relations. Further, job opportunities for dismissed or unemployed personnel are non-existent. Staff is boxed in.
Perhaps, it is time for golf course employees to form a union. If management can’t treat people properly, maybe the people should treat themselves properly.
Can you imagine being employed in the golf business and having a maximum number of hours that you can work and actually receiving overtime pay for additional hours?
How about taking your family to the beach on a statutory holiday? What about a pension plan, a medical plan or a dental plan? Or how about job security, with no threats from overzealous presidents.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to take a washroom break without carrying the phone into the cubicle with you? Annual contracts negotiated by inexperienced board members with personal agendas would cease to exist.
The whole plan could be called Dawn Days for the dawn of a new era and the golf business would never be the same. If a strike took place, the greens wouldn’t be cut, food and beverage would close, there would be no starting times, and club storage would be locked.
If you think this isn’t possible, think again.
I’d bet any union would welcome the numbers that golf in Canada could provide. Maybe, it could be a recreational facility employees union and include curling, tennis, hockey, baseball, volleyball, bowling, soccer etc., which might get the numbers up to 500,000 or so.
Once the strike was over green fees would increase by about 150 per cent, F&B would double, service levels would be likely and patrons wouldn’t tolerate the atmosphere.
Now back to my original position of a couple of weeks ago. All golf course businesses have only three assets, those being the property, the patrons and the staff.
How important are corporate profits at your club? Would your staff be better off working for you under the current employment agreement, or would they be better off supported by a union?
As for the last choice, I don’t want to find out.