"On this International Day for Persons with Disabilities we show our respect and solidarity for people with disabilities and the gains that have been made. But if we want to achieve truly equal of all Canadians, we must continue our work to ensure no barrier is left." - James Clancy, NUPGE National President.
Ottawa (03 Dec. 2013) – More than 4.4 million people in Canada live with disabilities – over 14 per cent of the population. But even those who have jobs are twice as likely to be living in poverty as people who do not have disabilities.
Unions have helped workers with disabilities break barriers such as discrimination and lack of accommodation
Different barriers to employment and inclusion exist for different people. The word “disability” can mean many different things. It can include physical disabilities (like hearing or visual impairments), mental disabilities (like depression, anxiety or addictions), chemical and environmental sensitivities, episodic, recurrent or chronic disabilities (like HIV/AIDS, diabetes and arthritis) and learning disabilities.
Discrimination and lack of accommodation are often greater barriers to employment than the conditions people live with. Unions have helped break barriers and open doors by pushing for human rights legislation that protects workers with disabilities from discrimination. Workers have access to paid sick leave, extended health benefits and long-term disability benefits if and when they need them.
Because workers got together to demand fairness, Canadians living with disabilities have the right to be accommodated at work – to get the tools they need to do their job. This makes the workplace more accessible and fair for everyone. For many, even the smallest adjustments to schedules, work stations or other workplace rules can make a huge difference to keeping a job or working safely. Unions have a duty to make sure workers receive the accommodations they need, and seek fair treatment without fear of reprisal.
Yet many barriers remain. Fear of stigma and discrimination keeps many silent, especially for people with chronic illnesses, mental health issues or other invisible disabilities.
The federal government must develop a plan to implement the Convention to promote and protect people with disabilities
"It has been three years since Canada ratified the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities," said James Clancy, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). "Yet we have seen very little effort made by the Harper government to create a plan to promote and protect the rights of workers with disabilities and to ensure they have access to decent work.
"Not only that with government cuts, federally and provincially, we are seeing more and more people with disabilities losing access to the support they need in the community to fully participate. Cuts to home care, attendant care, independent living arrangements, provision of technical aids and accessible public transportation have all made it more difficult for people with disabilities because services as services are privatized they become unaffordable for many who need them," Clancy said.
"On this International Day for Persons with Disabilities we show our respect and solidarity for people with disabilities and the gains that have been made. But if we want to achieve truly equal of all Canadians, we must continue our work to ensure no barrier is left."
NUPGE joins with the Canadian Labour Congress, and the other affiliates, provincial and territorial federations of labour and labour councils to continue to work with allies in disability rights organizations to break barriers and open doors to make workplaces more inclusive and fair for all workers.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE