Ontario Federation of Labour

Ontario Federation of Labour

September 02, 2011 22:28 ET

Putting Good Jobs on the Ballot: OFL Statement on Labour Day, 2011

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 2, 2011) - This year, Labour Day falls on the eve of the Ontario election writ drop and anxiety about the future of jobs is on everyone's mind. For the first time in history, today's children may find themselves less well off than their parents' generation. Job losses, two-tier wages and increasingly precarious employment could mean that the good jobs, decent benefits and retirement security enjoyed by past generations will be gone before today's youth enter the workforce. On October 6, Ontario voters will have an important choice to make about the kind of province that we want for our children.

"Like Prime Minster Stephen Harper, wannabe Conservative Premier Tim Hudak is trying to secure a majority by capitalizing on the financial anxiety of average voters and convincing them that he is the only choice," said OFL President Sid Ryan. "It is time that voters shaped this election around our own priorities. We can choose more of the same policies that plunged the economy into an historic recession or we can choose investments in good jobs and public services that can grow our economy and ensure that everyone has a decent standard of living."

The succession of labour disputes that have characterized the summer of 2011 are simply a foreshadowing of what to expect from a Hudak government that shares Harper's eagerness to erode the labour standards and workers' rights that were won by past generations. Ontario simply can't afford the devastating cuts and layoffs that would result from bringing hardline, Harris-style Conservative governance back to the Ontario legislature.

The corporate tax cuts and heavy investments in the financial sector that have characterized Stephen Harper's response to the global economic recession of 2008 have resulted in record profits for corporations, but this recovery has not made its way to average working people. Canadian unemployment rates shot up from 6% to 8% since the recession began and today 200,000 more young people are unemployed. Yet, many of those who are fortunate enough to find employment have seen good and permanent jobs replaced with part-time and temporary ones. In the community college system, where support workers have recently been forced on strike over the wages and benefits of new hires, part-timers now outnumber full-time employees. This conversion of good jobs into precarious ones has a devastating impact on many communities, especially those in regions of the province where manufacturing job loss has meant that the public service has become the largest employer.

Like Harper and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, at the top on Hudak's agenda is something called the "austerity plan" and, simply put, it is a Conservative scheme for exploiting the economic recession to justify the sale of public assets, cuts to public services and a roll-back of labour standards. While corporate tax cuts, lower wages and privatization will increase the profits of big businesses, they will translate into further job losses and a weaker social safety net for working people. Harper and Ford have already started rolling out the cuts and layoffs, so one doesn't need to try too hard to imagine the massive layoffs in store for Ontario if Hudak is elected to manage Ontario's $17 billion deficit.

"It would seem that Hudak would do well to listen to Harper's own Finance Minister who only days ago was forced to plead with a flush Canadian business community to invest their earnings in the shrinking Canadian economy," said Ryan. "Hudak's austerity program will spell the biggest disaster for the next generation of workers who will never experience the job security, wages or pensions of their parents' and grandparents' generations."

Concern about the impact of two-tier wages, benefit concessions and pension cuts on the next generation has been at the root of all of this summer's labour disputes, in which steelworkers, postal workers, auto workers, college workers and many others have pushed back against attempts to pit the workers of today against the workers of tomorrow. By bringing this optimistic and principled spirit from the bargaining table to the ballot box, workers can inject real issues into the election and demand new investments in good jobs, public services, secure pensions and strong communities.

"This election must be fought and won on the issue of the future of work in Ontario. This Labour Day, Ontario workers need to send a message that any politician vying for office had better table a clear vision for creating good jobs for the next generation of workers or risk defeat at the polls," said OFL President Sid Ryan. "Doing so can mean the difference between three levels of pro-corporate governance and a progressive Queen's Park Legislature that can defend the next generation."

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