More than 350 labour leaders met for a one-day summit on Friday, March 22 in Toronto to talk about how their members can advocate for greater fairness for all Canadians.
“We met to reaffirm our resolve that all Canadian workers have the right to share in the benefits of their hard labour,” says Ken Georgetti, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. “The message is that people have to be fairly compensated for their labour and that legislative rights must be protected and enhanced,” Georgetti says. “Fairness is a basic Canadian value. It is a right, not a privilege and we will promote it in every corner of our country.”
Georgetti says that labour leaders are alarmed at the extent to which governments are undercutting the wages and security of Canadians. He points to decisions by Ottawa to provide big tax breaks to corporations while cutting back on front line public services, raising the retirement age from 65 to 67, reducing access to Employment Insurance and interfering with collective bargaining. “Governments and some corporations want to reward the greedy and exclude the needy,” Georgetti says.
“The recent budget allows the tax breaks and cuts to public services to continue, but does nothing to improve access by the unemployed to EI benefits,” Georgetti says. “Our message is that people have to be fairly compensated for their labour and that legislative rights must be protected and enhanced.”
Georgetti says that workers and their unions are well placed to be part of the solution to the problem of growing unfairness. “We helped to win things like health care, unemployment insurance and the Canada Pension Plan. We have helped to raise the standard of living and to build a large middle class in Canada by negotiating fair wages, benefits, and working conditions for millions of Canadians.”
Georgetti says that this “union advantage” is worth a cumulative $793 million per week that is added to the Canadian economy.
He adds that both the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development say that access to broadly-based collective bargaining is the only way to build a healthy middle class in a country. “The gains that union members make at the bargaining table spill over into creating healthier and more prosperous communities for everyone.”
Georgetti says that union members can be good ambassadors in a campaign for greater fairness for all Canadians. “We are going to have conversations with our members in the workplace and on the shop floor. We will also ask them to reach out to their families, friends and neighbours.”
Following the Summit, the CLC welcomes 1,400 delegates to a conference featuring workshops focused on organizing and communications. The aim is to equip union members to engage in the public debate at every level.
The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.3 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada’s national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils. Web site: www.canadianlabour.ca Follow us on Twitter @CanadianLabour