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Fewer strikes are not the only measure of union bargaining strength (Downturn Brings New Bargaining Tactic: Do Nothing - Report on Business, July 8).

The soaring number of workers involved in major strikes is also an important barometer of times of trouble. The stubbornly high proportion of "illegal" strikes (close to one in five) is a significant indication of labour relations in Canada, too.

The labour movement's effect on social policy should be the real test of their influence. Look at the connection between unions and workplace health and safety trends. Between 1970 and 2005, there was a decrease of almost 50 per cent in injuries and fatalities, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. A government

labour study concludes health and safety committees supported by unions had "a significant impact on reducing injury rates."

As a pay-equity specialist for Canada's largest union, I know women in unions make about 10 percentage points more than their non-union counterparts in the same occupations.

Both examples suggest the real value of unions is giving workers a decisive voice in shaping the future of our community. On that score, their strength is growing.

Tom Baker, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Toronto

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