Posted: Tuesday, 28 August 2012
Unionized workers across the country are celebrating Labour Day this year by standing up for fairness on key issues facing all Canadians.
Workers are proud of helping to build a better Canada but there is still much to be done.
Whether it’s improving workers’ wages, creating jobs for the unemployed, ensuring every Canadian can retire with security, providing childcare for working parents or making taxes fair, we have a long way to go.
The Canadian Labour Congress and its 3.3 million members invite all Canadians to join with us to improve our country.
Let’s start with wages: workers need fair pay for a fair day’s work.
For most Canadian workers, their real wages only went up by $2 an hour between 1981 and 2010, after pay is adjusted for inflation.
It means that over close to 30 years, average hourly wages rose from $19 to just $21.
Wage stagnation has robbed working people of their ability to get ahead.
Fortunately, there is one way to get a real raise in Canada – by joining a union.
The CLC has just completed a study using Statistics Canada data that shows that on average unionized workers receive $5.11 an hour higher pay than non-union workers.
That wage difference benefits unionized workers but it also means they have $793 million more to spend every week – much of it at local businesses in every community.
So union wages mean a stronger economy for everyone.
And for women workers the union advantage is even bigger – 53% of non-union women earn less than $13.33 an hour, whereas close to 94% of union women earn more than $13.33 an hour.
That not only delivers more income during their working career but also higher pensions in retirement.
The union advantage is something that has always helped workers but it’s also good for business and our economy.
We believe all Canadian workers need a real raise – but joining a union is the only way to guarantee one.
However, you can only get a raise if you have a job.
Not only is Canada’s unemployment rate unacceptably high at over 7%, there are also 5.8 unemployed workers for every vacant job.
And that unfairness is even worse for young people.
While the official youth unemployment rate is over 15%, the real youth unemployment rate tops 20% when underemployment is considered.
Unemployed Canadians want and need jobs but it’s up to employers and government to help create them.
Canada’s union members are also standing up for fairness on retirement security.
Retired workers should enjoy their golden years in dignity and respect.
Yet there are 1.7 million seniors living on the brink of the poverty line in Canada – a shameful situation.
The federal Conservative government’s only answer is to make Canadians work even longer – until they are 67 years old – to qualify for Old Age Security.
But over two-thirds of Canadians have no pension plans, so working two more years won’t change that.
We urge the federal, provincial and territorial governments to adopt the Canadian Labour Congress plan to improve Canada Pension Plan benefits.
A small increase in premiums over time would make sure future generations receive a livable $24,000 a year from CPP.
Working parents face another challenge outside the workplace: an extreme childcare shortage for their kids.
It’s time for a national not-for-profit childcare program to ensure affordable, accessible and safe services are available to all parents.
Lastly, while the concerns of working people on wages, jobs, retirement security and childcare are not being addressed, big business keeps getting huge tax cuts.
And the rest of us pay for those corporate tax breaks through higher personal taxes and cuts to our needed public services.
The federal government gave up $13 billion in revenue this year alone due to cumulative corporate tax cuts given since 2006.
Yet these businesses have no obligation to create jobs or invest in Canada in return.
That’s just not right. Big business should pay its fair share of taxes.
Labour Day is Canada’s holiday to celebrate the contributions of working people in building this great country.
But if we stand up for fairness, we can make Canada even better for everyone.