Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

HAPPY LABOUR DAY!

Posted by strattof on September 1, 2016

Labour Day is an annual holiday to recognize the economic and social achievements of workers. In Canada, it traces its origins to December 1872 when a parade was staged in support of the Toronto Typographical Union’s strike for a 58-hour work-week. Since 1894, it has been celebrated on the first Monday in September.

Today, Canadians tend to treat Labour Day as the last holiday weekend of summer. But whether we are barbequing on the patio or cheering on the Riders in the Labour Day Classic, we can take a moment to acknowledge the many accomplishments of Saskatchewan workers.

We might also spare a thought for the many challenges faced by today’s workers: lack of respect for workers’ rights; growing unemployment; dangerous workplaces; and an inadequate minimum wage.

LACK OF RESPECT FOR WORKERS’ RIGHTS

In January of 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that the Saskatchewan government’s Essential Services Act was unconstitutional. The law as written took away the right to strike from many workers, and thus weakened their ability to bargain freely with their employers. In consultation with groups representing the labour movement, the government was forced to re-write its bill to conform with the Supreme Court decision.

Just this week, groups representing the affected workers appeared in court in Regina to argue for damages arising from the government’s original decision not to respect workers’ rights.

The problems are not limited to Saskatchewan’s workers. Ontario employs the largest number of temporary agricultural workers in Canada under a 50-year-old program called the Seasonal Agricultural Workers program (as well as the Temporary Foreign Workers program). Under this program, workers are bound to a single employer, cannot bargain freely, have ineffective means for addressing workplace safety issues, and cannot expect their employers to bargain with them in good faith. They have no prospect of gaining permanent-resident status.

As a result, these are among the most vulnerable workers in Canada. A review of the conditions of these workers is promised for the fall, but the pressure must be put on the federal government to see their rights are respected.

DANGEROUS WORKPLACES

In 2015, 32 Saskatchewan workers were killed on the job or due to workplace injuries or illnesses. Many more became ill or injured.

Just this month in our province, there have been three workplace deaths of young people in their 20s:

  • A 21-year-old construction worker died of injuries at the site of the Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon.
  • A 27-year-old mining worker died at the Agrium Potash mine in Vanscoy.
  • A 29-year-old worker died at an oilfield site near Alameda.

All workers deserve to work in safe and healthy workplaces. Families and friends should not see a loved one leave the house for the last time in the morning after losing them to a workplace injury.

INCREASING UNEMPLOYMENT

Unemployment continues to rise in Saskatchewan. According to Stats Can, in July, there were 38,600 unemployed people in Saskatchewan, a number greater than the population of Moose Jaw. This represents an additional 5,600 unemployed people over the previous year.

The unemployment rate rose from 5.4% to 6.3% from June to July, while in June of this year, the number of EI recipients had risen by 20% over the same month in the previous year.

While some new jobs are being created, the Sask Trends Monitor reports that many of these are of lower quality (low-paying, part-time) than the jobs that have been lost.

The government has placed a large amount of the blame on falling oil prices, but maintaining an economy based on cycles of boom and bust contributes to economic insecurity of workers just as poor-quality, low-paying jobs do. We must work to build an economy in which all workers enjoy economic stability and security.

AN ADEQUATE MINIMUM WAGE?

  1. Beginning in October of 2016, Saskatchewan’s minimum wage will rise by 22 cents to $10.72, placing it among the lowest in Canada.
  2. Across North America, cities, states, and provinces are joining the $15 and Fairness campaign, which seeks to ensure a minimum wage of $15 per hour as a first step towards ensuring that all workers can have a livable wage.

TAKE ACTION

  • Endorse the $15 and Fairness campaign at http://www.15andfairness.org/take-action/#endorse
  • Let Premier Brad Wall know you want Saskatchewan to have the highest (not the lowest) minimum wage in Canada: premier@gov.sk.ca or 306-787-9433.
  • Attend the LABOUR DAY FAMILY PICNIC, Monday September 5, noon – 3:30 pm, Legislative Building: Sponsored by Regina Trade Unions. Free food, entertainment, and fun!

.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: