Robyn Benson, PSAC

The environment is a union issue



Climate Jobs Justice.jpg

This past weekend, PSAC members joined with other union members and grassroots activists in a nationwide mobilization for jobs, justice and the climate. The marchers in Toronto alone numbered more than 10,000.

So why is this a union issue? Why get involved?

First, through its affiliates, including the PSAC, the Canadian Labour Congress represents 3.3 million workers in Canada. Together with their families, that’s a pretty large chunk of the population. When the environment is degraded, we are all affected—to coin a phrase.

Secondly, unions are created to fight for their members, and we fight on many fronts. When it comes to collective bargaining and our day-to-day working conditions, the Harper government has been abusing its power. Bill C-59 allows it to short-circuit collective bargaining. health and safety standards have been lowered in federal workplaces. Unions can be heavily fined for representing members with pay equity claims.

It’s obvious to most members that our union has to get politically involved if we are to represent the membership effectively at the bargaining table, or, more generally, in the on-going fight for fairness, equity and safety in the workplace—and in our communities. And so we join with others to defend the environment, as our front-line workers in that area are being steadily cut back. And so we join with others to defend the environment, as our front-line workers in that area are being steadily cut back.

In the period 2010-2017, Environment Canada plans to eliminate fully 21% of its staff, including 338 employees from the climate change division. Many of those jobs are already gone: for the workers remaining, it’s an impossible uphill climb. Then there’s Fisheries and Oceans: 30% of the staff enforcing regulations for species at risk have already been let go, and $100 million has been cut from the water protection budget.

The government has almost abandoned the regulation of our waterways, gutting the Navigable Waters Protection Act to help out its friends in the energy industry. The number of protected lakes in rivers in Canada have shrunk from 2.5 million to only 159 lakes and rivers.

Things have gotten so far out of hand that a federal court found last year that both the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans have been acting unlawfully by failing to enforce the Species at Risk Act.

Public services are essential to protect our environment, and our union has always fought hard for quality public services for all Canadians. But to deliver those services, we need sufficient public service workers—and we need a government committed to preserving and improving our quality of life. It’s hard to imagine anything more central to that goal than keeping the environment clean and safe. But the Harper government is trying to drag us all in the opposite direction.

This affects our members, not only as federal public sector workers, but as citizens. It affects their families, and future generations of Canadians as well. Together, we can turn this around. It’s the union thing to do.


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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on July 10, 2015 2:39 PM.

A government without rules was the previous entry in this blog.

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