Labour Day 2020: Moving forward for strong public services and workers' rights

“The pandemic has shown the critical importance of protecting and strengthening labour rights.” — Larry Brown, President, NUPGE

Happy Labour Day
Happy Labour Day

Ottawa (04 Sept. 2020) — Labour Day is normally a time to celebrate the gains workers have made to improve our lives, create strong communities, and provide support for our most vulnerable in society. This Labour Day, in the midst of a global pandemic, the gains we have made are at grave risk, even as Canadians can see the critical importance of supporting frontline workers and protecting public services.

Now is the time to be bold

The response to the pandemic is only as good as the workers and services who are on the frontlines. We are still very much in the midst of the crisis, so we must ensure that our frontline workers and public services are strongly supported. The risk is that some governments will use the fiscal fallout from the pandemic to cut the very people and services that keep us safe and protect our communities. We must not allow this to happen. We need more investment in public services and workers, not less, this is clear.

Now is also the time to be bold in moving forward an agenda of strong public services. In health care, this means demanding universal pharmacare and that long-term care be a public service covered by the Canada Health Act.

We need to have long overdue conversations

It also means that we extend sick days for all workers, that we protect collective bargaining rights, and that we review our employment insurance program, which covers only a fraction of workers. The CERB is leading to a debate on implementing a universal basic income program in Canada — and this conversation is long overdue.

Child care is again back in the spotlight as parents try to manage the pandemic and continue to work while caring for small children. There are a host of other initiatives that are also being promoted. The bottom line is that austerity should remain dead, long after this pandemic is over. It harms both families and communities and none of the strict measures have proven effective.

We cannot return to the old normal

Overall, now is the time to push forward on some critical areas. This even includes reforming criminal justice and taking other bold steps forward, such as the work on Indigenous rights, investing in a green economy, and seriously addressing the climate crisis.

Labour has been at the forefront of many progressive campaigns, and even more is needed for us to weather the current pandemic. Even our fight for workers’ rights is ongoing. It will be important for us to fight against those governments who are willing to attack workers and public services. In provinces like Alberta and Manitoba, the attacks have already begun.

The pandemic has shown the critical importance of protecting and strengthening labour rights​

We know that there are big conflicts on the horizon as regressive governments try and use this crisis to roll back hard-won rights. We must not allow this to happen. Labour Day is a good opportunity to reflect and gather ourselves for the coming conflicts.

“The pandemic has shown the critical importance of protecting and strengthening labour rights. The importance of our core workforce and public services has never been more apparent. Frontline workers keep our communities safe and deserve our respect and gratitude," said Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). "This Labour Day we must reflect and recommit to protect workers and public services. We must also ensure that all workers’ rights are respected because this is what keeps workers safe. We must ensure all our workplaces are safe. Critcially important frontline workers must be supported, as their work supports our communities. Public services must be supported and properly funded. This pandemic has highlighted our strengths and exposed our weaknesses, and we must not shy away from acknowledging either.”

Issues and Campaigns


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