Ottawa·Photos

Here's what marchers at this year's Labour Day parade are fighting for

Everything from international trade deals to the local job market topped the minds of participants in this year's Labour Day parade.

Ottawa held its first Labour Day parade 22 years before holiday was officially recognized

Workers, local unions, and other advocacy groups marched from Ottawa City Hall to McNabb Park on Sept. 3, 2018, as part of the city's annual Labour Day parade. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Everything from international trade deals to the local job market topped the minds of people taking part in this year's Labour Day parade.

The annual parade got underway just before noon Monday, with workers, unions, and advocacy groups marching from Ottawa City Hall to McNabb Park on Gladstone Avenue.

Ottawa was one of the first cities to host a parade, according to the Ottawa and District Labour Council, with the first one being held in 1872.

Canada did not officially designate Labour Day as a holiday until 22 years later.

Here are some of the main labour-related concerns that matter to participants in this year's parade.


Aisha Abdunnur was among the dozens who marched in the Ottawa's annual Labour Day parade on Sept. 9, 2018. She's hoping Ontario's PC government will honour the previous Liberal government's pledge to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Minimum wage

Ontario's minimum wage was raised to $14 an hour this year, but labour advocates like Aisha Abdunnur argue it's still not a living wage.

"So many people are still kind of working towards being able to just pay for their basic needs," said Abdunnur, who was marching with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN.

The minimum wage was set to rise again to $15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2019, but the newly elected provincial government has vowed to axe that plan and instead offer a tax benefit.

"It was a big shock, honestly," said Abdunnur. "But we're still fighting."


Sean McKenny, president of the Ottawa and District Labour Council, speaks with a reporter at the annual Labour Day parade in Ottawa on Sept. 3, 2018. He said he hopes a new NAFTA deal will be good for workers across North America. (CBC)

NAFTA talks

With the municipal election on the horizon, Ottawa and District Labour Council president Sean McKenny said candidates should look beyond minimum wage to attract high-paying jobs to the city.

"We think jobs that pay above minimum wage are jobs that we need to create here, where people feel good about going to work each and everyday," he said.

But McKenny also has an eye on the NAFTA negotiations that could affect workers both in Ottawa and across North America.

"We think it's important that workers in [all three] countries end up being the winners of any type of agreement," he said.


Richard Brown, a school support staff worker and a negotiator with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, takes part in Ottawa's Labour Day parade on Sept. 3, 2019. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Safe workplaces

Workplace safety is the main concern for Richard Brown, a school support staff worker and a negotiator with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation.

Brown said violence in schools is an increasing concern for both school support and maintenance workers.

"We've had members who've been beat up throwing garbage out at night," he said.

Another concern for Brown is the fact that past budget cuts have led to a lack of school staff able to fill in when someone falls ill.


Richard Hudon takes part in the annual Ottawa Labour Day parade on Sept. 3, 2018. The 74-year-old lost part of his leg in a workplace accident when he was 17. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Proper compensation

Richard Hudon lost part of his leg while working in construction when he was 17. 

He said he was told at the time to use a saw that had no safety guard.

For him, Labour Day is about workplace safety and ensuring those who are injured on the job are properly compensated.

Now 74, Hudon said he's had difficulties getting replacement prosthetics covered by the provincial government.

"All of the workers still have to fight to maintain what we've gained," he said.

Photos and files from Amanda Pfeffer