The Garden Plot

My Labour Day Message

Tomorrow, I will join brothers and sisters in Halifax as we come together to celebrate Labour Day 2013.  As often happens when we are all together, it is a time for reflection: to record our successes, our failures and to chart plans for the future.

Over the course of my young life, the labour movement has observed a world with economic realities that people would have laughed at if suggested in the 1970s.  The pressure of a post World War 2 economy; and the present globalization model have pushed the labour movement to face challenges that no one could have prepared for.  When you couple this with successive governments that have been anti-labour, ergo anti-people—our movement is at a crossroads.

During my lifetime, we have seen campaigns by governments and anti-labour lobbyists to draw people away from unions.  It has been an attempt to fear monger, to spread misguided facts and to drive a model to convince people that profits over people is the ‘correct’ approach.   By government and anti-labour lobbyists some younger workers have been led to believe that unions are bad, corrupt and do not have their best interests at heart.   These perspectives have, from my view allowed governments to slowly chip away at hard won battles that veterans of the labour movement achieved for all workers.   Furthermore, the lack of union leadership to reach out and engage younger members has further caused a rift and left a ground that is fertile for the ill ideas of anti-labour individuals. 

In Canada, over the last several years we have all been witness to successive attacks on the collective bargaining process, reduction of benefits and a general hard line by the Federal government in relation to organized labour.  Closer to home, with our own provincial government, labour has been privy to a luke-warm to cold relationship. Aside from the First Contract legislation, which I feel is a positive change; the present Nova Scotia government has:

1.       Only provided very modest wage increases

2.       Reduced the size of the civil service

3.       Outsourced jobs within the civil service

4.       Blocked a paramedic strike from even happening.

Decisions like these are not in the best interests of workers ,whether they are union or non-union.  It sends a clear message to employers, that the government is on their side and will act in the best interest of employers over workers.  When you consider the attacks the present Federal government has executed on workers whether it be back to work legislation, poor bargaining practices or EI claw backs—it is all hands on deck.

The labour movement needs to modernize.  We as a movement, need to acknowledge the economic and policy realities we face.  However, we must unite and collectively face these together as united brothers and sisters across Canada.   Organized labour in Canada must do a much better job of reaching out to younger members,  and put succession plans in place.  Equally important is education, we all must work harder in our personal lives to educate friends and families about:

1.       The assault on workers

2.       How profits are being valued over people

3.       How government policy impacts the labour movement

4.       The power anti-labour lobbyists have.

Lastly, brothers and sisters, I feel it is time that we as organized labour in Canada let go of the partisanship.  We must truly come together, all unions across our amazing nation and stand together in the assault we are witnessing on workers.  To blindly put faith in any one political party is an insult to the labour movement; and it is been shown again and again that regardless who is in power-our interests are secondary.

On this labour day, brothers and sisters let us finally throw out partisan stripes and come together as the strong, united Canadian labour movement that I know we are.  Let us modernize to address the economic realities we face,  while we continue to champion workers rights.   Together, we can accomplish anything! People first, always.