Labour Day Message

Over the past five years, Canadas economy has lost over 300,000 of its best-paying jobs and continues to lose hundreds more every week. These were jobs with good salaries. They offered benefits that helped people raise healthy families and plan for a decent retirement. They came with incomes that supported local businesses and paid for social services that raised everyones quality of life.

The communities where these jobs used to be are feeling the loss. Fewer and lower incomes means less tax revenue to pay for municipal services like roads, transit and social services. It means theres less money available for things like dinner out, new clothes or family vacations. For most it also spells the end of their familys dental and vision care plans, extended health care benefits and the end of pension security.

At a time when personal debt loads are at an all-time high, savings at a historic low and too many Canadians saying they are only a few pay cheques away from poverty, a jobs crisis like this should have the governments undivided attention. Instead, nothing is being done.

How many of the countrys best paying and most skilled jobs must we lose before the government wakes up and realizes its current employment policies are a failure? How long do they think they can hide behind temporary economic booms, like the one in Albertas construction industry today. Or is their plan to have us all working at call centres once the factories have closed?

We need to make more than phone calls to maintain the quality of life Canadians enjoy, that we want for our kids and that attracts smart, talented and productive people from around the world. Hard-working Canadians want good jobs with good wages and benefits to raise their families, because the true strength of the country rests on the quality of life of its workers

In May, the Canadian Labour Congress Made in Canada Jobs Campaign culminated with a rally on Parliament Hill that was a successful show of solidarity in the face of an escalating crisis in the manufacturing sector. It got the governments attention, but not enough to force it into action.

Working people across the country who want good, family and community supporting jobs for themselves and the next generation of Canadians must unite and call upon all levels of government to focus on long term job strategies, training policies and trade deals that benefit Canadian workers. We cannot and will not accept the loss of good jobs as inevitable. The government needs to take responsibility for jobs and take steps towards protecting the future for our workers.

Canadian workers, industry and business have the ability to compete with other manufacturing markets around the world. We have the skills and the people. What we lack is a plan.

Every country takes steps to protect its industries. Why isnt Canada doing the same? The staggering loss of manufacturing jobs ... 100,000 this year alone! ... is the result of our governments flawed pursuit of free trade agreements and their eagerness to please foreign trading partners at any cost. Vital sectors of our economy are being irrevocably damaged by this neglect. Still, government does nothing.

Of course, they can only see the statistics which, by themselves, make it too easy to explain away this crisis as nothing more than a natural evolution of the Canadian economy. New jobs are being created to replace those that are lost. The unemployment rate is holding steady at a 33-year low of 6.1%.

But these numbers are deceiving. Just because all seems quiet does not mean all is well. The vast majority of the new jobs being created pale in comparison to the jobs that have been lost. Too many of them are part-time, precarious or of the self-employed variety (which means they pay less and offer fewer benefits, if any). The proportion of people who work for low wages in Canada stands among the highest within the OECD as the gap between our richest and poorest citizens widens.

What working people must do is make governments and the people we elect see the impact their failed policies and inaction has on our lives.

Is it really too much to ask that every worker has enough money in their pockets to take their family out to dinner once in a while, to enjoy some of what they earn from work instead of owing it all to the bills, the banks and the boss? Are living wages, dental plans and pensions beyond our reach unless we make it to the board room?

Great strides were made to protect the rights of unions this year. On June 8th the Supreme Court protected the right to collective bargaining under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and sent a strong message to governments at all levels that the rights of their workers cannot be arbitrarily taken away. It strengthens the position of every union across the country at the bargaining table, which is a good thing for working people.

The goal of every union is to protect workers from exploitation, unfair wages and unsafe working conditions. Unionized workers earn an average of five dollars per hour more than non-union workers. They also enjoy benefits like pensions, health plans and disability insurance through the collective bargaining of their union in addition to higher job security, better protection from harassment and discrimination at work.

Where unions exist, everyone in the community reaps the rewards. Jobs that pay fair wages and give their workers benefits, a health plan and a pension not only take care of a single person, they take care of entire families and support communities. When working people do well, business does well and Canada does well.

If more of the people we elect to public office were reminded of this fact more often ... and working people do make up a majority of Canadas voters ... imagine the difference it could make. Call your elected representatives: your MP, your municipal councillor, and your representative in the provincial legislature. Tell them to focus on providing good jobs, with decent wages and benefits, for working people.

As always, the Canadian Labour Congress wishes you a Happy Labour Day and thanks you for your continued support of Canadas labour movement.