May Day has long been a day to rally and march for a better world. This May Day we cannot march but we can rally ourselves around that better world and commit ourselves to action. We must ensure that the lessons of today lead to change tomorrow.
Ottawa (1 May 2020) — International Workers' Day - Solidarity Now! Solidarity Always!
Around the world and here in Canada, workers are facing unprecedented uncertainty and immense hardship. COVID-19 has targeted the most vulnerable, both physically and financially. NUPGE has documented how the mass lock down of our society has exposed dangerous inequities and shown just how precarious the lives of many of our citizens have become. The critical importance of public services has become apparent as we deal with the worst public health crisis in living memory. This May Day the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) encourages all workers to stand in solidarity to ensure a better world after COVID-19.
A public health crisis fueled by austerity
While the pandemic is a public health crisis, it has been exacerbated by decades of austerity and attacks on public services and public service workers. This has left us without the needed investment in health care and undermined our ability to stand strong against the virus. The virus has been allowed to spread because the only thing that blocks its path, a strong public health care system, has been cut to the bone. The price we are paying for these cuts is exponentially greater than if we had properly funded our public services. Austerity has a price and tragically, the poorest and most vulnerable have been made to pay the most for the tax cuts, deregulation and privatization that have further enriched the wealthiest.
A better post-COVID-19 world
We must ensure that the future does not replicate the mistakes of the past. Great upheaval can lead to positive social change. The Great Depression and the Second World War empowered citizens who demanded pensions, better health and safety regulations, unemployment insurance and a social safety net. Austerity as part of a right-wing agenda implemented over the last few decades has left that social safety net shredded. Today is the moment to take back the power and implement a vision of social and economic justice, workers rights, and climate justice as part of a restructuring leading to a better and more just tomorrow.
This May Day rally for a better world
May Day has long been a day to rally and march for a better world. This May Day we cannot march but we can rally ourselves around that better world and commit ourselves to action. We must ensure that the lessons of today lead to change tomorrow. There must be no going back to business as usual after this. The flaws have been forever exposed. Governments acting to support those impacted by this crisis is commendable. A more sustainable solution, however, is greater income equality and social and economic justice.
Respect and protection for our frontline workers
NUPGE represents a high percentage of the workers who are on the front-lines of the pandemic and this May Day, we commend their courage and dedication. We must not allow their courage and compassion to lead them into illness and suffering. Employers must be held accountable when workers are left without the protective equipment they need to do their jobs. Health care workers are getting sick and dying because they do not have access to proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Every day, these workers go to work and are not sure if they will bring back the virus to strike their families and communities. Employers have an obligation to these workers to provide them with the equipment they need to do their jobs safely. We are also very concerned that many workers will suffer long-term harm from this crisis, and we continue to stand up for their rights as they work on behalf of all of us.
Much of the world does not have the same level of workers' rights or labour rights as Canada does. Even as we are facing serious attacks on our rights in Canada, we must also stand in solidarity. This struggle for a better world must not only be a national fight; we are stronger if we stand together internationally as well. This is why as a member of Public Services International (PSI), NUPGE is working with our sisters and brothers from all over the world. PSI has put out a position statement on the COVID-19 Emergency - PSI priorities and perspectives that outlines the issues on behalf of the 30 million public sector workers of PSI.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 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