20 August 2012

Is our federal government anti-worker?

Among other unwarranted assaults, the 2012 federal budget took a shot at working people. It introduced rules which will require most EI claimants to accept jobs at much lower wages and will allow employers of temporary foreign workers to pay less than the prevailing Canadian wage.

The budget followed a pattern of behaviour by this government. Last year, following a lockout by Canada Post, it legislated postal workers back to work at a lower wage increase than even the employer had offered.

Also last year, U.S.-based Caterpillar Inc. humiliated its workforce by locking them out and demanding a 50 per cent pay cut or else. When it didn't get what it wanted, it closed its plant and cashiered its workers. The Conservative government was content to stand by and watch this abuse of its citizens without apparent concern.

Now the U.S. giant Target has bought out Zellers and up to 13,500 employees will lose their jobs. Many will be re-hired to work for Target but with no guarantee they will be offered more than starting conditions. So far, not a word from their government defending their interests.

We might expect a Conservative government to be employer-friendly, particularly a Harper-led government, but the Labour Minister at least ought to be a voice for workers in the Cabinet. After all, it isn't unheard of for a Conservative Labour Minister to be a spokesperson for the interests of workers. Michael Starr, member of John Diefenbaker's Conservative cabinet, is considered to be one of the most worker-friendly labour ministers we ever had. However, Mr. Harper's Minister of Labour, Lisa Raitt, clearly has no interest in emulating the Honourable Michael Starr.

Mr. Harper and his cabinet colleagues talk a great deal about jobs, but one wonders if their concern is about providing rewarding opportunities for working people or just providing warm bodies for employers. Considering Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's infamous comment, "There is no bad job," I get the distinct impression it's the latter.

1 comment:

  1. Do you really have to ask, Bill?

    The Labour Minister is not the voice of labour in the Harper cabinet. That portfolio is positively Orwellian. It is to control labour, to deny it the power of collective bargaining notwithstanding the International Declaration of Human Rights to which Canada is notionally bound.