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Employment recovery on the agenda

On October 7, four unions including the Fédération des travailleurs du Québec (FTQ), the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ), and the Centrale des syndicats démocratiques (CSD) celebrated World Day for Decent Work, organized by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

This year’s celebration comes at a time of slow recovery from the employment crisis with no real end in sight. Every job lost is a human tragedy. Across the globe, 34 million jobs have been eliminated and 64 million people have been plunged into extreme poverty since the recession began in 2008.

We will not allow austerity budgets and cutbacks in public services to become the main tools to end the crisis. Employment recovery is far from being a sure thing. And the jobs that have been created recently are of a much lower calibre than those that were lost at the height of the crisis,” insisted Michel Arsenault, FTQ President.

Lower Quality Jobs

Quebec has actually been able to recover a number of jobs since the beginning of the recession, but it’s often at the expense of full-time work. According to Statistics Canada, between November 2008 (before the recession) and August 2010, 22,000 full-time jobs were lost versus the 75,000 part-time jobs created.

The manufacturing sector, known for its high-quality jobs, reported the most dramatic drop with 25,000 manufacturing jobs cut between January and August 2010. In all, as many as 42,800 jobs have been lost since October 2008. No region was spared.

Austerity Will Have an Impact

Economists with the Desjardins movement expect job recovery to be fragile this fall both on a global scale and here in Canada. According to the experts, the end of government stimulus packages will temper growth by the end of 2010 and throughout 2011.

According to Desjardins, the initiative to return to a balanced budget in Quebec will leave its mark. The end of the federal recovery plan, the decline in investments in infrastructure, and cuts to programs will limit government spending in Quebec. Household spending will be reined in by the increased tax burden with the hike in Quebec’s Sales Tax (QST), new user fees, and the $100 health contribution expected next year.

The Quebec government couldn’t have chosen a worse way to increase revenues than by implementing these highly regressive measures that maim the public sector. While several countries, including the United States, are extending their stimulus package in the face of an anaemic recovery, our governments have instead embarked on an unrealistic race to return to a balanced budget,”said Claudette Carbonneau, CSN president.

To top it off, in an effort to offset the emerging deficit, the Harper government decided to put an end to the additional five to twenty weeks of regular benefits for long-tenured workers and to increase Employment Insurance (EI) premiums.

In addition to the misappropriation of the $57 billion surplus, the number of people eligible for benefits has drastically dropped yet unemployment levels remain high. The Harper government should instead try to maintain, and even improve, the programs introduced last year,”claimed CSQ president, Réjean Parent.

According to the four unions:

  • Growth and decent jobs, rather than austerity, are essential tools in the fight against poverty and the economic crisis
  • Quality public services are essential for a decent life and must not be reduced to stabilize the budget
  • The financial sector must pay for the damage it has done and start focusing on the real economy and human needs

Societies around the world are at a crossroads: either we break with defective past policies that are at the root of the crisis and face a future that is more fair, prosperous and sustainable; or we fall back into the injustices and misery of the past and risk a potential rise in poverty and massive unemployment on a permanent basis,” concluded CSD president, François Vaudreuil.