Toronto—Working people across the country are riled up. They have a right to be. Whether they work in a factory, a hospital or in an office, their standard of living over the last decade has fallen, their wages are stagnating and the social programs they value are under attack by tax cutting governments. Government and employers are increasingly showing their contempt for workers and devaluing their contribution to our growing economy.
The industrial hourly wage increased by only 1.8 % for the entire decade. Public sector workers have seen wage freezes and wage cuts. But, in many provinces workers are fighting back. Since the last Labour Day holiday we have seen nurses, health care workers, teachers, paramedics and social services and municipal workers strike to defend their rights in the workplace and for fair wage increases. Its the beginning of a wave of labour unrest that will swell as federal and provincial governments continue to attack workers rights and keep wages low as they push the free market policies that will increase the privatization of our social programs.
In Ontario this Tuesday, regressive changes made by the Ontario Tory government to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) laws that provide the base-minimum protections, ensure non-union workers rights are enforced and that minimize health and safety risks become law. A change was also made to the Occupational Health and Safety Act that increases the risk of injury and death in our workplaces.
Its a real kick in the teeth to all workers whose labour has contributed to Ontarios economic growth, and who will now be subjected to the worst employment standards laws in the country. Those hit hardest are Ontarios working poor, in low-wage, non-union jobs who have not seen an increase in the minimum wage and are now seeing a government sanctioned rent increase of 3.9 per cent and a Premier and his Cabinet defending a 30 per cent wage increase for themselves.
For more than a century, working people in Canada have fought for the gains they now have in the workplace. They are not prepared to sit passively while governments systematically attack and eliminate their workers rights. Canadians should brace themselves for a period of labour unrest as more and more working people realize they have not benefited from our economic boom.
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