President's Commentary: Unions have always been about fairness | National Union of Public and General Employees

President's Commentary: Unions have always been about fairness

The Fairness Express is on the road on Labour Day to remind Canadians of the need for fairness.

James Clancy, former President of NUPGE

Ottawa (29 Aug. 2014) — Labour Day is often celebrated with a barbeque or picnic at home or in the community. It comes towards the end of summer when the full bounty of the gardens and fields is available to us. The day always reminds me of the great wealth of this country. No one needs to go hungry — there is enough for all!
However, we all know that there are those who do not fully share in the harvest. That the natural wealth this country offers us is not shared fairly or equitably. 
This Labour Day the Fairness Express will be in Kamloops, British Columbia, and Calgary, Alberta, to discuss these issues with Canadians. It is all the more appropriate on Labour Day because unions have always been about Fairness.

An initiative of the National Union and its Components, the Fairness Express is a national bus tour that is listening to, and talking with, Canadians about income inequality — its causes and solutions.  
Fairness for workers
Trade unions have always been about defending the rights of workers on the job; their right to fair pay and treatment. Unions ensure workers have a voice in the terms and conditions of their employment and are not simply dictated to by the employer.
This call for fairness for workers extends to the legal framework within which they work; their right to join a union of their choice and collectively bargain. 
And, unions fight for fairness for workers when they retire to ensure that a lifetime of contribution is acknowledged and rewarded.
Fairness for a society
The union movement has fought for fair and equal treatment for all. They were central to the fights for equal pay for women, for same sex benefits, parental leaves, against workplace discrimination based on identity and more. 
Unions, on principle, demand equal treatment for people regardless of sex, race, creed, sexual orientation and political or religious beliefs.
Unions are about people getting a fair share of the wealth of a nation. Reducing the gap between the rich and the rest of us. About giving people a fair shot at the good life.
Fairness means that all of us, the rich included, contribute to the wellbeing of all members of Canadian society. That the tax system is fair and impartially administered. 
It means that unions fight for public services to provide the helping hand to all of us when it is needed. Public services, I like to call them the great equalizers, allow people fair chance at realizing their dreams. 
And we argue for the need for an economy that is built around fairness. That everyone has a good job. That talented youth are able to develop and utilize their skills the best they can. 
Unfortunately, there is still need to fight for fairness
But fairness remains an elusive goal in Canada. We have seen decades of attacks on the rights of workers. Our tax system is less and less fair.  Our public services have been cut to the point that public sector workers struggle to meet the needs of their clients.  And our economy seems centered around creating the lowest paid and least valued jobs possible.
However, the Fairness Express has shown us that while our governments might have given up on fairness, Canadians haven't. Across the country they have talked about the need for fairness. Shared their stories of struggle and their dreams of a better future. We have heard the same message again and again and again. It is time to turn things around.
In keeping with this spirit, this Labour Day the National Union commits to continue the fight for:

  • Public services: We need to keep fighting efforts to turn public services over to corporations for for-profit delivery. Public services should be delivered to people on the basis of need, not on their ability to pay.
  • Fair wages: Workers deserve to paid fairly for their work. We know that joining a union is the best way to see improvements in their wages.  Governments need to recognize that labour rights are human rights and restore the freedom of workers to form unions and bargain collectively for better wages and benefits.
  • Retirement security:  More than 1.7 million retired seniors are living on the edge of, or in, poverty. Directly related to this is the fact that two-thirds of Canadians do not have a pension plan. It is time to improve the Canada Pension Plan benefits to ensure that every Canadian has an opportunity to retire with security and dignity.
  • Jobs: Our unemployment rate is unacceptably high. The situation is worse for young workers.  It is time for a modern industrial strategy that puts good jobs, people and nature at the heart of our economy. A strategy that recognizes that labour, government and business all have a role in building a fair and sustainable economy.
  • Tax fairness: Governments have repeatedly told Canadians that there is not enough money to fund public services like health care, education and social services. Meanwhile, these same governments have been giving away billions on tax cuts for profitable corporations and wealthy executives. It is time that everyone paid their fair share of taxes and to maintain and expand those public services that millions of Canadians depend upon.

I remain committed to fighting for fairness.  My union is dedicated to demanding fairness for all. 
Will you join us?
In solidarity,
Signed, James Clancy
James Clancy
NUPGE National President


James Clancy is the National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), 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

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