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While this Labour Day is a time for serious reflection, it is also a time to celebrate all that Canadian working people have accomplished.

In the aftermath of one of the worst financial crises since the Great Depression, many workers have lost their jobs. Others have been forced to fight for pensions and benefits they believed were secure. Today, we are proud of those women and men who have stood strong against employers who have tried to use the recession as ground cover to roll back the wages and benefits that working Canadians have worked for years to attain.

Even during challenging times, we must never forget all that the labour movement has achieved. Pay equity, non-discrimination policies in the workplace, a 40-hour workweek, and fair pensions and benefits are all the hard-won achievements of working Canadians – and it’s part of what makes our country great.
There are still many challenges ahead for workers. Even as some economists declare the end of the recession, a tough bargaining climate will remain for working people. Workers’ wages have already been stagnant for the past 25 years. And as some employers use the recession as an excuse to demand further concessions from workers, the gulf between the haves and the have-nots in our country will grow wider.
As the income gap grows, unions, which typically reduce this disparity, have come under attack. But workers’ wages did not trigger this recession, or any other economic crisis in our history.
There are very real, very urgent labour issues in this country that all levels of government, and the labour movement, need to work together to address. We need a long-term industrial strategy to address job loss in our key manufacturing sectors, and we need to offer training for workers who have lost their jobs so that they can re-enter the workforce quickly and with pride.
We need to keep good-paying jobs in Canada. We need to plan for the reduced labour markets that will follow the wave of baby boom retirements. We need to find a way to ensure pension security for this generation, and the next. And we need to continue to put pressure on our federal government to improve employment insurance – now.
Canadian workers will make it through this recession, but we will have to work together. Now, more than ever, the idea of solidarity – unity, cooperation, community – must resonate with all working people across Canada, across all sectors and all fields.
Happy Labour Day!