Love of money should not override rights of Royal Bank employees

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To the Editor:

Well, it took nearly a week for the big boss of the Royal Bank of Canada to apologize for his organization’s plan to fire 45 of its Canadian employees — after they had trained foreigners to do their jobs. His published letter of April 11 (read it at CBC’s website) argued that the bank had done nothing illegal but implied that the policy it had followed was morally wrong.

We must all hope that he was sincere about the second point because that is the crux of the issue.

Remember how, in the late 18th century, Scottish lairds drove their tenant farmers off their estates because raising sheep for wool became more lucrative, or how the Luddites of Lancashire were displaced by more efficient weaving machines in the late 19th century?

What’s the connection between those two historical events and the Royal Bank affair? In all three cases, human beings lost their livelihoods (and in the Scottish case, their homes) because their landlords or their employers saw a chance to make more money by getting rid of them.

I’m not arguing that new technologies (or kinds of land use) should never be introduced when they involve fewer jobs for human employees. That would be misguided “reverse Luddism,” and detrimental to the best interests of society as a whole.

But human beings are not just machines, to be suddenly cast aside if cheaper or more efficient ways of getting the job done come along. They are, well, human beings — men and women who, as long as they are loyal and do their jobs properly, are entitled to expect respect, decent treatment and, yes , loyalty, from their employers.

In other words, they should be entitled to keep their jobs until they reach retirement age, given the option of alternative, comparable employment or well-paid early retirement or otherwise shielded from the steamroller of “progress.”

The love of money may not be the root of all evil. Indeed, the love of money can be a motivator of human progress. But the love of money, if unbridled by self-restraint, is the cause of far too much evil, especially when it is yoked with economic and/or political power, as is so often the case today.

So what’s the remedy? The love of money must be curbed by politically enacted and governmentally enforced restraints, so as to ensure that it does not override the legitimate expectations and rights of people like those Royal Bank of Canada employees.

Peter Hepher