As workers across Canada celebrate the last Labour Day of the millennium, the pundits will no doubt declare that unions are irrelevant. But the experience in Canada shows workers need unions now more than ever.
While CEOs award themselves bloated bonuses and shareholders reap record dividends, workers have seen their purchasing power tumble.
Over the past decade, public sector employers have moved to freeze wages, cut staff and dismantle services. Workers are being paid less to do more. Reeling from work overload and the stress of not knowing whether they’ll have a job tomorrow, workers 0061006e0064 the public they serve 006100720065 forgotten in the rush to restructure, to downsize, to privatize.
Meanwhile, the federal government sits idly by risking thousands of Canadian jobs while corporate high flyers determine the future of our airline industry. And privateers are on the offensive everyday courting politicians, eager to reap huge profits by taking over the delivery of essential public services like health care, education, social services and yes, even our water.
Much of this is a result of economic globalization where the rights of capital are enshrined in trade agreements and the rights of workers and elected governments are under attack.
While corporations push for tax cuts that benefit only the well-off, the labour movement is fighting to raise the standards of working people and scoring important victories at the bargaining table, negotiating wage increases for the first time in years, and putting equality issues on the front burner once again.
It is CUPE and other unions in the airline industry who are insisting that the needs of Canadians 006e006f0074 corporations 0063006f006de first, and that the government act now to ensure that Canadian communities, consumers and workers are protected.
We’ve also succeeded in mobilizing opposition to private hospitals in Alberta and PEI, for-profit ambulances in Ontario, private highways in
New Brunswick and corporate-controlled schools in Nova Scotia and we’re leading campaigns in hundreds of communities to protect public services for people.
And that’s why an ever-increasing number of workers are joining unions. In the past year, CUPE alone has grown by 15,000 members to represent 475,000 women and men across Canada.
Defending jobs and public services, improving wages and working conditions, fighting for workplace safety and an end to discrimination. The challenges that confront us are as daunting as ever.
But workers can be buoyed by the progress we’ve made over the past year. As we confront the challenges and economic upheaval of the new millennium, unions will play an even more vital role.