OTTAWA – International Workers’ Day, known internationally as Labour Day and May Day is celebrated by workers around the world to honour the contribution that workers make to society.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the immense daily contributions of millions of essential and frontline workers to ensure our collective wellbeing and safety. Health care workers, grocery store employees, municipal workers, delivery staff, agricultural and food processing workers, transportation workers, teachers, childcare personnel, telecom employees and so many more.
“This crisis has underscored the fact that many of the workers who are risking their lives to care for us aren’t paid enough,” said Green Party Interim Leader Jo-Ann Roberts. “These are the unsung heroes and heroines of this pandemic. Once we move into the recovery phase, we need to make sure this changes so that essential workers receive fair and equitable wages.”
Ms. Roberts pointed out that the Green Party has long argued that Canada needs a universal Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI) program to replace the current patchwork of income supports, such as disability payments, social assistance and income supplements for seniors. Payment would be set at a “livable” level for different regions of the country. “We need to ensure that all Canadians have their basic living needs met. GLI would bolster the incomes of those workers currently earning minimum wage,” said Ms. Roberts.
“The tragedy we are seeing in seniors homes across the country is a direct result of the lack of respect for the workers who do this vital work,” said Green caucus labour critic Paul Manly (MP, Nanaimo-Ladysmith). “One care home in my riding changed owners multiple times and each time the workers were laid off, the union was decertified, and then the workers were re-hired part-time at lower wages with no benefits. This tactic was repeated in privately owned care-homes across the country. Workers with part-time jobs in multiple care homes have led to the rapid spread of Covid 19 in these long-term care homes.”
Mr Manly said that International trade has created a race to the bottom for workers rights, wages and safety. “With each trade agreement that Canada has signed we have seen the hollowing out of our manufacturing sector as good paying jobs go overseas to countries with lower wages and standards,” he said. “In this crisis we are seeing the consequences of globalization. We rely on other countries for personal protective equipment for health care workers, for pharmaceuticals and even for food through the globalized supply chain.”
Mr. Manly noted that the new labour chapter in CUSMA (NAFTA 2.0) is a step in the right direction. “It protects the rights of workers in Mexico and brings their standards up towards the standards in Canada and the US. Respecting workers rights and the value that workers bring to our communities is a key lesson coming out of this COVID-19 crisis.”
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