Sharon DeSousa

Happiness is a strong labour movement

Although we’ve dropped a point since last year (now number 6 in the ranking), Canada is still a happy country, as shown in a recent report that ranks all countries on a “Happiness Index.” But one fact that doesn’t get much airplay: the even happier countries are all heavily unionized, with far less social inequality.


This isn’t a surprise; there is abundant documentation showing that high levels of unionization are linked to a country’s wealth and social security. Despite this link, which even the conservative World Bank has had to admit to, we continuously hear in the media that our economy would do better without unions.

Why is this message so prevalent then? Shouldn’t politicians, the media and business be championing for increasing union density? Well, unions fight for decent wages and benefits for our members, meaning that those at the top have to share some of that wealth created by our labour. Because of this, unions have been under attack for a long time and recently there has been an even greater push against organized labour.

We’ve all heard the arguments; wages are too high, we can’t afford pensions, workers have to expect less, etc. And these days there are more than a few politicians willing to promote this corporate agenda.

When the Harper government passed its huge omnibus Bill C-45 last year, rejecting every single amendment proposed by the opposition, one of the casualties was the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. This law mandated that construction contractors with the government had to pay their workers the prevailing wage, and overtime after forty hours of work a week.

That hardly fitted in with the current corporate/government cheap labour strategy, which has been stated a few times already by Robyn Benson.

The adoption of this corporate agenda by politicians can be seen here in Ontario also. Recently, we have seen a Progressive Conservative private member’s bill introduced that would allow construction giant EllisDon to be able to hire non-union workers. Just to give you a sense of the massiveness of this company and the extraordinary profits it makes, this past April the company’s stated revenues have soared by three-and-a-half times—to $3.1 billion a year.

For the PCs, it appears that the promise of generous donations might have something to do with the advancement of this Bill. EllisDon has been lobbying hard, and since it’s one of the biggest fundraising donors to the provincial governing Liberals, it’s no surprise that they fully endorse this Bill (not to mention some family connections).

A former Ontario Liberal Party president founded EllisDon. His spouse served in the Cabinet of David Peterson’s Liberal government, and their son, formerly chair of the Ontario Liberal Fund, just happens to be CEO and president of the company. According to PC MPP Randy Hillier, EllisDon gave the Ontario Liberal Party more than a quarter of a million dollars in the period 2004-2011.

The lack of integrity that we are witnessing in the Ontario legislature is sobering: it faithfully reflects the grim political reality we are facing across the country. Some of us might already know from bitter experience that neither Liberals nor Conservatives have our best interests at heart—but their collaboration has seldom been as obvious as this. Two parties, but one sad message. Can you see the difference? I can’t.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Sharon DeSousa published on September 13, 2013 2:49 PM.

Cheap labour chronicles: 25,000 Canadian workers Targeted was the previous entry in this blog.

Lies, damned lies and statistics is the next entry in this blog.

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