Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

WORKERS’ RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS

Posted by strattof on May 5, 2016

The last week in April and the first week in May offer a chance to reflect on the struggles facing working people in Canada.  

Today, 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 

DANGEROUS WORKPLACES

  • In 2014, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 919 workplace deaths occurred, or 2.5 deaths every single day. Among the dead were 13 workers aged 15 – 19, and 25 workers aged 20 – 24. 
  • In the same year, 239,643 claims were accepted for lost time due to work-related injury or disease. 
  • This month, a Saskatchewan company (Big Sky Farms) was ordered to pay a $98,000 fine in connection with a 2014 workplace fatality, during which a worker was thrown from the cab of a tractor. Workers have a right to safe workplaces. 

LOST JOBS

  • According to Stats Canada, Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate has risen. 5,300 fewer people were working in March of this year than in March of last year. 
  • Also in March, the unemployment rate for First Nations was 23.7 per cent. 
  • This month, the Leader-Post reported this: “On a month-to- month basis, Saskatchewan saw the biggest percentage increase in EI recipients among the provinces in February, increasing 3.5 per cent to 16,740 from 16,170 in January.” Workers who wish to work have a right to employment.

LOWER BENEFITS & WAGES

  • Changes to Employment Insurance in the 1990s still 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, the most recent federal budget has left workers in southern Saskatchewan out of an extension of EI benefits. Meanwhile, Saskatchewan’s minimum wage is $10.50/hour. Many jurisdictions in North America, including California and New York, are moving towards a $15/hour minimum wage, as part of the #FightFor15 campaign. Workers have a right to a liveable wage and fair benefits. 

WORKERS’ RIGHTS NEED DEFENDING

  • In January 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Saskatchewan’s Essential Services Act violated workers’ Charter rights, after a long legal battle in which the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour played a major part. The court found that the right to strike is a constitutional right.
  • The government subsequently negotiated changes to the act, together with representatives of the labour movement.
  • Right Now, workers’ struggles go on here in Regina. At the Best Western Hotel on North Albert, workers—many of them new Canadians—remain on strike after many months. Meanwhile, efforts continue to organize sessional lecturers at First Nations University of Canada, who are paid much less than their colleagues at the University of Regina, who do the same work. Workers deserve to have their collective bargaining and basic human rights respected.

TAKE ACTION

 

 

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