Canadian Labour Congress

Canadian Labour Congress

September 01, 2005 15:38 ET

Canada's future depends on good jobs

Labour Day Message from President of the Canadian Labour Congress Attention: Assignment Editor, Business/Financial Editor, City Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor OTTAWA--(CCNMatthews - Sept. 1, 2005) - Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, issued this statement for Labour Day 2005

Canada's future depends on good jobs that pay good wages. Good jobs provide people with the means to provide for their families, to put down roots, plan and build a better future. They allow workers to exercise their citizenship in full, with time to contribute to their communities and build a better society. Good jobs, with family-supporting wages, are the foundation upon which prosperous and progressive countries like Canada are built.

Look to our own history. You will see that Canada's best years came when our people had jobs they could count on. Those were the times when we grew as a country. Those were the times when we built schools, colleges and universities, expanded our public infrastructure and invested in services for the public good. These investments continue to pay out in social and economic benefits for generations.

So, where are the investments that will lift the next generation? - We don't see them. Every day we are told things are getting better. Job creation is up. Unemployment is down. Yet, youth unemployment remains stuck above 13 per cent. When young workers (age 15 to 24) find jobs, they earn 25 per cent less than their parents did when they were that age. To make matters worse, the incidence of racial harassment at work is on the rise. And young workers of colour, even those that are born, raised and trained in Canada have more difficulty finding jobs.

Are good jobs with family-supporting wages a priority for government? - We don't see it. Right now, 30 per cent of Canadian workers expect to lose their jobs in the next couple of years. Forty per cent of all new jobs created over the past year were temporary contracts. Self-employment generated another 25 per cent. In both cases, these jobs are typically insecure and carry few benefits, if any. Working people know that few of us are better off.

This is a national tragedy.

In recent years, governments have drifted away from the basic values of Canadians. They stopped listening to the majority of their constituents, women and men who work for wages, and submitted to the calls of the affluent and rewarded wealth instead of work. Lower taxes for corporations and for the already well-off were more important than lower unemployment. Instead of creating opportunities for Canadian workers, those tax breaks added up to billions in foreign tax havens - over $72 billion by last year.

The labour movement mobilizes to reverse these trends. We seek a fair share of the wealth created from our work to improve the quality of life of all Canadian families. Our history and our record of successes teach us that when working people do well, business does well and we have a better country. That is why, today, we call on governments to lead the way and put good jobs and living wages for all citizens back at the top of the agenda.

It's time to repair the damage of recent years. Wage protection and pension protection against insolvency, restructuring or bankruptcies must become a reality. The peace of mind of working parents when their children are well cared for, raises their productivity: the urgency of a national child care system rests on sound economic reasons. Better skills and better training opportunities are a national priority: the responsibility of governments and employers not primarily individual workers. Even our health care system, an important competitive advantage, faces repeated attacks, from privateers' intent on getting rich by piggy-backing on the public system. These issues have a huge impact on our lives at work, but they are beyond what we can bargain into our collective agreements; these issues demand political action.

It is time for governments to defend and enforce the rights and freedoms of its working citizens to belong to unions and to bargain collectively when they so choose. These are rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, yet to this day, workers are forced to exercise them in secret to avoid employer retaliations. Workers want to see governments that react forcefully when companies like Wal-Mart trample on our constitutional rights with their economic might. We want governments that promote good working conditions, stability and financial security; and are not afraid to speak up when a public service like the CBC locks out its employees and its audience. Governments that are on their side when employers, like mining giant Cominco in Trail, B.C. or Le Château hotel in Bathurst, N.B., are grinding them for concessions. We seek governments that promote better labour laws, because employers like Telus use today's laws to bully Canadian citizens who work for them. We need governments that raise the skills that workers need to adjust and prosper through technological changes or the consequences of ill-conceived trade agreements.

The majority of Canada's citizens are workers, just like our membership, who want governments that make good jobs and living wages a priority. Governments that reward the hard work of Canadian workers and respect them. Working women and men, and their unions, want to provide the next generation of workers with a good start in life, something they cannot do without good jobs that pay family-supporting wages. But this cannot happen unless working people continue to demand it from those we elect to represent us and the corporations that use the services and infrastructure paid for by our taxes to make their profits.

Working Canadians must make it clear to our elected representatives that the strength of this country rests on the quality of life of its citizens, the majority of whom work for wages to earn a living. Our voices and our priorities must be heard and acted upon. That's how our democracy is supposed to work.

Governments must act in the interest of the majority, the citizens who work for wages.

(end of statement)

The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents three million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada's national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 137 district labour councils. Web site:
/For further information: Jean Wolff, 613-526-7431 and 613-878-6040/ IN: ECONOMY, FINANCE, LABOUR, POLITICS, SOCIAL

Contact Information

  • Jeff Atkinson, Canadian Labour Congress
    Primary Phone: 613-526-7425
    Secondary Phone: 613-863-1413