Robyn Benson, PSAC

Good jobs for all

Good jobs.jpg

This past weekend I attended the Good Jobs Summit, organized and hosted by our sister union Unifor, with several partners, including the Canadian Federation of Students, Ryerson University and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

In Unifor's words, they wanted to start "a national conversation on how we create good jobs in Canada. We know there are solutions to the stagnating economy, growing precariousness and few opportunities for young people. Together we can find them."

The fact that such a summit had to be pulled together by the community indicates just how far removed the Harper government is when it comes to solving economic and social problems--problems that are getting worse.

Canada is in the middle of a jobs crisis: we just don't have enough jobs that provide a secure income, decent wages and reasonable benefits. Instead, the labour market is being flooded with precarious work. Young workers and new Canadians are increasingly hard done by when it comes to secure employment, and women continue to earn on average 30% less than men. We continue to see widespread abuses: illegal unpaid labour, for example, and a deliberate strategy to exploit temporary workers in order to drive down wages.

Harper and his corporate friends may want us and our children to live this nightmare, but we aren't about to let them get their way without a fight. I spoke at the Summit about public services and public workers, and the erosion of our rights and working conditions. I explained that the PSAC is bringing to this round of bargaining with the federal Treasury Board proposals to hold on to jobs and to improve the quality of work life in the public service. We want more good jobs in Canada for the workers of today, and we want them to be there for the workers of tomorrow.  Good jobs in the public sector help the economy, and they also make sure that there are qualified workers in place to deliver high quality services to the public.

Despite greater total wealth than ever before, our country offers a bleak future for young people. Rather than working to create good jobs with decent working conditions, our government preaches austerity. Rather than trying to set an example with its own employees, it hacks away at its workforce, cutting thousands of jobs (and therefore public services) and replacing permanent jobs with term employment. As for working conditions, it's presently trying to abolish paid sick leave, and it passed measures a year ago to gut health and safety rights in federal workplaces. And our pensions may be next on the chopping block.

The situation is urgent, and the only fix is for unions, student and youth organizations, anti-poverty groups and others to unite and organize for change.  Unifor's job summit brought more than one thousand people together to talk about the problem, and there was strong consensus on what has to happen. We need to push for stronger legislated employment standards, more public investment in both physical and social infrastructure, and more emphasis on green job creation. 

We need stronger public procurement policies, so that governments turn to Canadian manufacturers when they need trains, buses or light rail.  That means we need to fight giveaway trade deals like the one proposed with Europe, because those agreements will make it much more difficult for every level of government to insist that those with whom they do business create jobs in Canada. 

But to really make change we need more than good ideas about what we want government and others to do. We have to build a powerful movement that demands action. There was agreement at the Summit that this is the logical next step, and that regional and local forums on good jobs will shortly be organized.  PSAC must be a part of those further meetings, and we must continue to point out that the public sector and public sector unions can play a central role in this movement for good jobs.

The national conversation has begun--and as far as I'm concerned we can't move to action quickly enough.

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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on October 8, 2014 12:24 PM.

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