This last week in April offers a chance to reflect on the struggles facing working people in Canada.
April 28 is Canada’s National Day of Mourning for Workers Injured or Killed on the Job.
Next Monday, May 1st, is recognized around the world as International Workers’ Day, commemorating the struggle for a standard eight-hour work day.
WORKERS FACE MANY CHALLENGES
In 2010, over 1,000 workplace deaths were recorded in Canada. About 3 workers per day lose their lives in an average year; hundreds of thousands are injured annually.
- Many workers die years after workplace exposure to such substances as asbestos, still mined and exported by Canada.
- Right Now—a worker at a BC sawmill was killed this week, and dozens more were injured in the explosion. It was the second such sawmill accident in Canada this year. Workers have a right to safe workplaces.
According to Stats Canada, 26,200 Saskatchewan people are unemployed and looking for work.
In March, the unemployment rate for First Nations people was 20.5 per cent – an increase from 13.9 per cent since the end of 2007.
- Right Now—The March 29th federal budget cut 19,200 jobs in departments ranging from Agriculture to Environment. Thousands more workers may be affected by the cuts. Workers who wish to work have a right to employment.
LOWER BENEFITS & WAGES
- Changes to Employment Insurance in the 1990s leave many workers ineligible for assistance; fewer than half who pay into the system are eligible to collect from a system they paid into.
Long waiting periods for benefits mean some people can’t pay their bills; particularly vulnerable are part-timers, the self-employed, and mothers on maternity leave.
- Right Now—While Saskatchewan MLAs receive an automatic 2.8 per cent increase in their wages, the provincial government refuses to raise the minimum wage to a livable level, or index it to the rate of inflation, though Saskatchewan’s minimum wage is the third-lowest in Canada. Workers have a right to a liveable wage and fair benefits.
WORKERS’ RIGHTS ATTACKED
- On February 6th, a Saskatchewan court found the provincial government’s labour legislation violated workers’ Charter Rights to bargain effectively; the government continues to fight the decision.
Last fall, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that some 2,300 employees—mostly women—had been denied equitable pay by their employer, Canada Post. The case had taken 28 years to resolve. Meanwhile, the federal government has changed the rules, making it harder for unions to represent workers in pay equity cases.
- Right Now: The Public Service Alliance of Canada alleged this week that the federal government is encouraging employees to “volunteer” to be laid off after the March 29th budget, in violation of a collective agreement negotiated between the employees and their employer (Parks Canada). Workers deserve to have their collective agreements respected.
E-mail the Federal and Provincial Ministers of Labour to say you want action to support workers’ rights: Saskatchewan Minister of Labour Relations, Don Morgan: firstname.lastname@example.org; Federal Minister of Labour, Lisa Raitt: email@example.com.
Attend the Regina & District Labour Council’s Ceremony remembering workers injured or killed on the job: Regina City Hall, April 28th, 1:30 pm. For further information, email firstname.lastname@example.org