"In hostile environments like these, it's easy to be frustrated and cynical. But we know that when we work together, no challenge is too big. On this Labour Day, as we take time to recover from our struggles and celebrate our gains, we look ahead to see what more can be done to improve our lives, the lives of our neighbours and our entire community." — Larry Brown, President, NUPGE
Ottawa (01 Sept 2017) — Every Labour Day we celebrate the gains workers have made to improve our lives, create strong communities and provide support for our most vulnerable in society. But as with the good, comes the bad, so it is also a time to reflect on our challenges and renew our strategies to fight for fairness for workers everywhere.
"It's only through our constant pressure on all levels of government that we have seen some signs that life is looking up for some," said Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).
Workers see efforts pay off with improved labour legislation
"We've seen governments put forward timelines for increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour," said Brown. "B.C., Alberta and Ontario have all commited to making this happen; it's on the agenda for other provinces as well. Wages have been stagnant for years which hurts families, communities and the economy. Some governments and businesses have realized that raising wages, especially for low-income workers, creates an environment where workers can contribute to their community and plan for the future."
"We are still looking for a national strategy to combat rising inequality, but raising the minimum wage is a step in the right direction," continued Brown.
There has been the adoption Bill C-4, which repeals the anti-worker legislation Bill C-355 and Bill C-525, adopted by the Conservative government under Prime Minister Harper.
Government has a responsibility to live up to and promote free collective bargaining and organizing rights
After too many years, we've finally seen the federal government adopt ILO Convention 98: The Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949. The National Union was a vocal proponent of ratifying Convention 98 for decades, with campaigns directed at the Minister of Labour, as well as at the Prime Minister. "The Convention reinforces the right to collective bargaining and protects all workers from anti-union discrimination, including being forced to give up union membership in order to get a job, or job termination for participating in union activities," said Brown. "Now, by adopting the Convention, the government has a responsiblity to uphold free collective bargaining rights by promoting them at home and around the world."
In bargaining and in legislation, we've seen the adoption of new language that supports women fleeing domestic abuse. By providing the opportunity to break a lease more easily and offering leave provisions, women have more options to help get back on their feet. "We've been pushing these ideas at our bargaining tables across the country," said Brown. "And it's working."
"We need to recognize that our work, and the work of those across the labour movement, have made these moments possible. We need to reflect on our struggle and celebrate our victories," he said.
But we shouldn't get too comfortable.
While we see these advances in labour legislation, we also see governments that want to stand in the way of labour progress.
Not all roses for labour: cuts and anti-labour legislation still remain in parts of Canada
"Just a few days ago, in Nova Scotia, the government imposed its Bill 148 which strips public service workers of the right to free, collective bargaining. In other provinces, where governments have interferred with workers' constitutional rights, we have launched court challenges, and won," said Brown. "The labour movement, led by the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU/NUPGE), is taking up this fight to ensure labour rights are protected."
In Saskatchewan, Premier Brad Wall has announced he is retiring from politics. And while it is a relief to many, it doesn't undo the harm he and his government have done to people living in Saskatchewan or to the public services they rely on.
In Manitoba, despite the Progressive Conservatives campaigning on a promise to improve public services, workers find themselvese fighting back against cuts to many areas and cuts to public service jobs. This is on top of facing wage freezes and wage caps.
"In hostile environments like these, it's easy to be frustrated and cynical. But we know that when we work together, no challenge is too big," Brown said. "On this Labour Day, as we take time to recover from our struggles and celebrate our gains, we look ahead to see what more can be done to improve our lives, the lives of our neighbours and our entire community,"
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 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