This was published in the Brandon Sun this morning.
As we mark Labour Day on September 5th, we should perhaps reflect on the current state of Canadian society and our economic prospects. We are justifiably proud of our framework of laws governing labour relations, employment standards, minimum wages, and safe workplaces. We are also proud of our many public programs that guarantee us access to educational opportunities, health care, and benefits to survive in retirement such as Old Age Security and CPP.
Unfortunately, we tend to take the things we enjoy for granted with little knowledge or appreciation for how they were achieved. As a working person and trade union activist, I have always considered the labour movement as the conscience of society. Our vision and our actions are inspired by a belief that together we can achieve social justice, eradicate poverty, stop racism and establish programs that ensure all families have the necessities of life – a roof over their heads, food security, health care, etc. – and make the world the place we want it to be.
At the present time, crisis conditions in the North American economy and across the globe have had a negative impact on thousands of families through job loss, wage cuts, and the erosion of their savings and pension benefits.
As we look ahead to the coming year, the Brandon & District Labour Council can take pride in the fact that many of the projects we have fought for in recent years are now coming to fruition. The Construction Industry Wages Act has been restructured to ensure construction workers in Brandon and rural Manitoba now get the same minimum wages in their trades as their counterparts in Winnipeg. A new Workers Compensation Board office is coming on stream to provide services in this part of the province, and very soon we will have a Worker Advocacy Office up and running to assist people who need help accessing services and advocacy for appealing denied benefits such as CPP, social assistance and workers compensation while they are unemployed.
In the next year and beyond we will be seeking to preserve the gains that we have successfully lobbied for in Manitoba over the past decade, including: regular increases to minimum wage, improvements in employment standards, and an extension of these benefits to agricultural workers; safer work places with more inspections and harsher penalties for failures to comply with legislation; more services “outside the perimeter” for people in Brandon and rural areas of Southwest Manitoba without taking a step backward.
Also we will be promoting initiatives at all levels of governments to adopt policies and programs that will generate economic growth, create quality jobs that pay living wages and provide working families with the resources they need to ensure their children get the benefits of a decent education and opportunities for recreation and other related activities.
Locally we will be working with everyone in the community to support and stimulate our local economy that includes small business, family farms and the rejuvenation of downtown. These efforts will continue to involve us in campaigns to support the Canadian Wheat Board, keep federal Service Canada jobs in Brandon, and bring new industry to Brandon.
As a final point I would note that all of the measures that we support and promote are consistent with what governments say we should be trying to achieve in Canada. First, working people have always understood that there is no future in cutting wages, destroying quality jobs, and attacking unions. Our proposals will raise wages and incomes in the community, which in turn will improve business conditions in the economy. Second, we have also understood that there is no future in blaming particular segments of our population for the problems that arise during periods of economic crisis – immigrants, union members, public sector workers, etc. Our proposals will improve living conditions for all members of our community, leaving no one behind, which will in turn nurture our pride in being citizens in a progressive and visionary community.
In conclusion, as the struggle continues to protect and improve our standard of living, have a Happy Labour Day.
Jan Chaboyer is the President, Brandon and District Labour Council.