8 hour day R.I.P.?

The campaign to achieve an eight-hour day was one of the most important formative struggles of the labour movement. But our increasingly connected life through smartphones and the Internet is blurring the lines between work and home. Sixty-one per cent of workers surveyed by said they check or respond to emails during non-office hours. Half said they are expected to in other ways outside of ordinary work hours. The majority of employers and employees now think the idea of working 9 to 5 is a thing of the past.

Stronger unions, greater equality, stronger economy

Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) now agrees: stronger unions lead to greater equality in society. Their analysis found that not only do unions increase incomes of low and middle incomes throughout society, but they also contain the income shares of the very wealthy. Others say that Canada’s higher rate of unionization slow the growth of inequality in Canada compared to the U.S. Because the IMF, World Bank, OECD and most everybody else now agrees that rising inequality has been bad for the economy, this means that stronger unions not only lead to the greater equality, but also a stronger economy.

$15 minimum wage spreading

More and more jurisdictions in the U.S. are introducing $15 per hour minimum wages. This year Los Angeles and San Francisco joined Seattle with legislation to ensure all workers within their boundaries get paid at least this amount per hour. This past summer New York State committed to increase the minimum wage for workers at fast food chains to $15 per hour by 2018 in New York City and by 2021 state-wide. Not only is there momentum in other cities and states—including Oregon, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Boston—but the U.S. Democratic Party also has a $15 per hour minimum wage in its (non-binding) platform for next year’s elections. At current exchange rates a $15 per hour in the U.S. would be the highest in the world, and equal to almost $20 per hour in Canadian dollars. In Canada, the new NDP government in Alberta has committed to increasing minimum wages to $15 per hour and the federal NDP has also promised to provide a $15 minimum for federally-regulated workers. 

Canadians living paycheque to paycheque

According to a BMO survey, while the average amount Canadians have in emergency savings has increased to $41,700, one-quarter are living paycheque to paycheque, 29 per cent have only enough to last a month and 56 per cent have less than $10,000 available in potential emergency funds, while one in five have more than $50,000 in emergency savings. As with income and wealth, the emergency savings held by Canadians has become increasingly inequitably distributed. That’s why we need better universal social programs—including Employment Insurance, public pensions and social assistance.