Stop Harper’s low-wage plan

Following is the opinion of Hubich, president of the Saskatchewan Federation  of Labour, along with his provincial and territorial counterparts.

It has become clear that the federal government, supported by a number of  employer organizations, has a plan for transforming Canada’s labour market in  ways that will profoundly hurt Canadians.

It’s a four-prong strategy which includes the dramatic expansion of the  Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), the erosion of Employment Insurance,  raising the country’s retirement age, as well as a systematic effort to  undermine the ability of unions to stand up for the rights of working people and  improve their standard of living.

Taken together, these policies will suppress the wages and incomes of  Canadians rather than address the real problems in Canada’s job market.

As provincial and territorial federation of labour leaders, representing more  than three million workers from coast to coast to coast, we are calling on the  premiers to stand with Canadian workers against this cheap labour strategy.

Canada’s premiers touched on some of these issues when they met in Halifax  last week at the Council of Federation. We think it is critical that the  following issues be front and centre when they come together this fall to talk  about the economy.

. TFWP is not immigration – it’s exploitation. These workers, many of who are  desperately seeking a better life, are being used to create an underclass to  drive down the wages and working conditions of Canadians. It’s not fair or just  to them or to their Canadian co-workers. The recent decision By the Harper  Conservatives to allow employers to pay temporary foreign workers 15 per cent  less than their Canadian co-workers is a blatant example of its lowwage  strategy.

With 1.3 million unemployed and several hundred thousand more discouraged or  underemployed Canadians, our focus should be on providing opportunities for  Canada’s unemployed and underemployed.

. Instead of tackling unemployment, the Harper plan has been to attack the  unemployed. The Conservative government’s changes to EI are clearly designed to  force workers to take low-paying jobs or have their unemployment benefits cut  off. This is not about helping the unemployed find jobs – rather it is about  serving them up to low-wage employers.

. Increasing the country’s retirement age to 67 has nothing to do with the  sustainability of our social programs or with retirement security. It is rather  about forcing older workers who have struggled with low and medium wages  throughout their working lives to work two more years. It is about expanding the  pool of desperate workers who have no choice but to work for less.

. Unions are one of the few mechanisms to protect the rights of working  people and improve their standard of living. What unions achieve at the  collective bargaining table lifts the floor and improves living standards for  all workers. Unions also fight for and are instrumental in making gains for all  society, like the establishment of Medicare, health and safety laws, and fair  minimum wages.

But the Harper government has a clear plan to attack unions. The government  has undermined collective bargaining in the federal sector, and emboldened  employers to drive down wages and attack pensions in the private sector. In  addition through legislation like Bill 377, the Harper Conservatives are  attempting to rob unions of the ability to use their resources to defend their  members and civil society.

So what is the solution? Canadians need our country’s premiers to denounce  this low-wage agenda and stand up for what is in the best interest of working  people.

When the premiers meet this fall to discuss the economy, we believe the  labour market ought to be front and centre in that discussion. They must  denounce the exploitative expansion of the TFWP. They must collectively demand  that Ottawa invest more in training to bridge the skills gap, so that unemployed  Canadians can fill available jobs.

Premiers should also call for improvements to Canada’s EI program as fewer  than 40 per cent of unemployed Canadians are currently eligible for benefits. We  need our premiers to challenge the notion that Canada must increase its  retirement age to 67. What’s really needed is pension reform that will allow all  Canadians to retire in dignity such as improving and enhancing CPP. And finally,  the premiers should recognize and defend the important role unions play in our  society and our economy.

The provinces have power. Our premiers understand that Canada is more than  the sum of its parts.

Canadians need our premiers to push back. And when they do, Canadians, the  vast majority of us, will be with them.

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One thought on “Stop Harper’s low-wage plan”

  1. One more step of the path of slavery our children will live

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