Labour Day blues: An activist says there's less to celebrate this year
- September 4, 2009 3:53 PM |
- By Your Voice
Submitted by Kelly Harrington
About/Bio: I'm the president of the Saskatoon and District Labour Council. I'm a volunteer in my community, having just completed a six-year term on the volunteer board of directors of the United Way of Saskatoon and Area. I work as a union representative. I'm also a member of Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union local 397. I have lived in Saskatoon my entire life and I believe every citizen of our great city should have access to food, shelter and a decent quality of life.
My take: Our local labour council is having a barbeque in Saskatoon to mark Labour Day, but there is less to celebrate this year than most. More than 1.5 million Canadians are unemployed and young workers have been hit harder than others.
Being unemployed is devastating to individuals and their families but it also hurts our communities because those without work have less money to spend in the local grocery or hardware store. Yet the federal government refuses to make employment insurance available to hundreds of thousands of unemployed Canadians who paid their insurance premiums thinking that the program would be there for a rainy day. The federal government simply has to make EI accessible to all workers who need it.
While people are reeling from job losses, they have also seen their pensions and retirement income go up in smoke in the past year. The fact is that most of us won't have enough money saved to support ourselves in retirement and the economic crisis has made things worse. More than 60 per cent of working Canadians don't even have a workplace pension plan. They rely on the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, and whatever they can save for themselves. The promise that RRSPs will provide security in retirement has proved to be false. RRSPs remain beyond the reach of many Canadians, who cannot afford to put much money into them.
The best way forward is to improve the Canada Pension Plan rather than to continue handing our money over to mutual fund companies that charge outrageous fees for managing our pension savings. Unions have launched a campaign to double the benefits of our public Canada Pension Plan over the next seven to 10 years. The CPP already covers the vast majority of working Canadians, it's safe, and it provides people with an good sense of the income they can expect in retirement.
The economic mess that we find ourselves in was caused by CEOs and big shot bankers who made irresponsible investments, but now they are trying to shift the blame to ordinary working people. They want us to take pay cuts and to give up on our hard earned pensions. I don't see them taking pay cuts or giving up their fat bonuses. If workers don't have money to spend in their communities, the economic crisis will drag on for longer and it could get worse.
So this Labour Day, let's make a pledge to fix employment insurance and to protect and improve pensions. That would serve the interests of all Canadians.
And let's celebrate our day. Our free BBQ runs on Monday, September 7, 2009 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 in Victoria Park, next to Riversdale swimming pool, in Saskatoon.
All News blogs
- G20: Protesters, police, and civil rights
- Riot police surround G20 protesters in Toronto. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)Submitted by Paul ManlyBio: Paul Manly is a filmmaker and community organizer based in Nanaimo, B.C. My story: I started my trip to Toronto at the Peoples Summit, which brought together... Continue reading this post
- G20: A voice from Malawi
- Dorothy Ngoma at Oxfam's Gender Justice Summit. (Allan Lissner/Oxfam Canada)Submitted by Dorothy NgomaDorothy Ngoma is the Executive Director of the National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi and a member of the W8, a parallel organization to the... Continue reading this post
- Bangkok protests: A Canadian shares her story
- Thai police walk the streets to clear any remaining anti-government protesters on in Bangkok, Thailand. (Wally Santana/Associated Press) Submitted by Elaine SaulnierBio: Orignally from Montreal, Elaine Saulnier now lives and works in Bangkok, Thailand.My story: I've been here in... Continue reading this post