May Day is an historic time to celebrate the labour movement and everything workers around the world have accomplished. It is also a time to renew the fight for labour rights across this country. Common Causes is doing just that.
This Saturday launches a Week of Action for Workers' Rights. With actions happening across the country, we are standing with our sisters and brothers in the union movement to send a strong message to governments everywhere that attack workers.
Right-wing governments across the country are mounting attacks on workers rights. The Saskatchewan government is rewriting labour laws to revoke basic worker rights. Under Bill 85, employers no longer have to provide two consecutive days off in a work week, making the right to the weekend a thing of the past. It dramatically decreases the numbers of employees eligible for union membership, and allows for serious governmental interference in the bargaining process.
In Ontario, the Liberal government is attacking workers. The Liberals' Bill 115 stripped the right to collective bargaining from educational workers while their attempts to bring in wage freezes undermined workers' ability to keep up with the rising cost of living. Tim Hudak's Conservatives have floated a number of white papers proposing drastic changes to labour relations, including an attack on automatic dues check-off -- a policy designed to weaken unions and put downward pressure on wages.
Federally, the Harper government's track record of workers' rights is dismal. So-called austerity measures are undermining workers' rights and eroding our much valued social and public services. The austerity agenda also increases the criminalization and racialization of our communities, ratchets up colonial and environmentally racist practices against Indigenous peoples and lands, and supports wars that are killing innocent civilians.
Under the Harper government, exploitative temporary worker programs continue to expand. Workers are forced to pay thousands of dollars to work low wage jobs with little workplace protection and no path to residency in Canada.
This government believes that there are thousands of people who are good enough to work here but not to have the right to build a life here. The Harper government has also raised the age of retirement, refused to expand the Canada Pension Plan and rammed through back-to-work legislation against striking or locked out Air Canada, Canada Post and Canadian Pacific Railway workers. This government has done nothing to support workers abandoned by transnational corporations that outsource jobs. This government is not working for workers.
The Harper government's attacks on workers are exemplified by cuts to the Employment Insurance program. The principal changes will require that most unemployed workers, after a fixed number of weeks, must apply for jobs that are outside their normal occupation and that pay 10-30 per cent less that the jobs from which they are laid off. This is bad for the Canadian economy and workers, and will undermine the ability for employers to keep skilled workers in seasonal industries.
We need to stand together to fight back against measures like these that create a race to the bottom for all workers -- all under the guise of necessary "austerity."
Common Causes' Week of Action for Workers Rights kicks off on April 27 with mass demonstrations organized by the Québec Coalition against Employment Insurance Reform to challenge regressive changes to the federal Employment Insurance Act that have serious negative consequences in every part of the country.
From April 27 to May 1, Common Causes invites you to take action in your community. There will be locally organized events and actions from coast to coast during the Workers Week of action, including actions in front of MP offices organized by the Canadian Labour Congress, and May Day events in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Montreal and Halifax.
Please contact us at forcommoncauses[at]gmail[dot]com if you are planning an event in your community or if you would like to get involved. All confirmed events will be posted on the website and in our online promotion: www.commoncauses.ca
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