“Governments have recognized that decent work is essential to reducing inequality, but most have been slow to take the action needed to promote it. The growth of decent work requires action by the labour movement.” — Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Ottawa (06 Oct. 2017) — This year the focus for the World Day for Decent Work is the need to increase minimum wages. The goal is minimum wages that allow workers to earn enough to live on.
World Day for Decent Work was started by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and is based on the fact that reducing income inequality and building an economy in which everyone has a stake requires decent, safe, secure, well-paying jobs.
“Governments have recognized that decent work is essential to reducing inequality, but most have been slow to take the action needed to promote it. The growth of decent work requires action by the labour movement,” said Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).
The world needs a pay rise
In 2017, the slogan for the World Day for Decent Work is, “End Corporate Greed: The World Needs a Pay Rise.”
Around the world, wages are not keeping pace with rising living costs. A poll conducted by the ITUC found that over 84 per cent of people thought the minimum wage in their country did not provide a decent standard of living. That included 81 per cent of Canadians.
Corporate greed a barrier to decent work
What stands in the way of efforts to raise minimum wages so they will provide workers with enough to live on is greed.
Major corporations producing goods in Asia make a profit $17,000 (US) for every supply chain worker there. A $50 (US) a month increase would give workers the hope of a living wage. The impact on profits would be minimal. But if improvements come it will be because of the labour movements Asia fights for +50 campaign, not a recognition by corporations that it is immoral to be pocketing record profits when their workers are struggling to survive.
The situation is no different in Canada.
In every province except Alberta, a person in a big city, earning minimum wage will be living in poverty – even if that person is working full-time. Even with the proposed increase in the Ontario minimum wage to $15/hour, many workers will still be living in poverty. Yet CEOs of large corporations have been arguing a minimum wage increase is unaffordable.
Among the wealthy CEOs claiming that a $15/hour is too much include Galen G. Weston, a member of the second wealthiest family in Canada. His family has an estimated net worth of $13.22 billion. But getting even richer comes before paying workers a living wage.
Decent work goes hand in hand with reducing income inequality
We are not going to reduce income inequality without an increase in decent work. And we are not going to see an increase in decent work without tackling one of the main causes of income inequality – the control large corporations and the wealthy have over how the economy operates.
“When we fight for fair minimum wages, we are fighting for decent work, but to do so we must take on the idea that the desire of large corporations and the wealthy to accumulate more and more and more should come ahead of the needs of working people,” said Brown.
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