As the cabinet retreat adjourns and all parties prepare for the return of Parliament next Monday, Canada’s unions are urging cooperation and collaboration focused on helping struggling families.
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December’s CPI numbers showed that inflation is moderating in Canada, but workers continue to see their wages lagging. According to the Bank of Canada’s most recent survey, Canadians are cutting down on their spending by fear of higher interest rates and the specter of a looming recession.
“I hope that Governor Macklem and the Bank of Canada are seriously considering pausing rate hikes this year,” said Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress.
“Let’s hope they are just as quick to start reducing rates as they were hiking them. If we are thrown into a recession, that would initiate massive job losses and downward pressure on wages.”
Across the country, the effects of the Bank of Canada’s interest rate hikes are apparent. Big banks are expecting tens of thousands of people to default on their mortgages, and food banks are reporting a massive increase in usage.
Meanwhile, before noon on January 3, Canada’s top CEOs had already pocketed the average workers’ annual salary.
“Parliament will resume next week and we’re at a crossroads. The rising costs of food, housing, and prescription medication are affecting everyone, meaning more and more people must make difficult choices – buying food to put on the table or buying the medication their kid needs. No one should have to make that impossible decision,” added Bruske.
“We are seeing public health care failing across the country – we have ERs shutting down, children’s hospitals are swamped, wait times for critical surgeries just keep getting longer and the worst recently happened when people died while waiting for care in an emergency room.
"At the heart of the crisis facing our health care system right now is the critical shortage of workers – the government needs to address this, and fast,” said Bruske.
To tackle the never-before-seen staff shortage, the government must invest in health care workers with better pay, benefits, pension plan and working conditions.
Canada’s unions are asking the government to invest in addressing the underutilization of internationally educated health care workers with meaningful and faster licensure and certification.
Canada’s unions will be urging the government to increase investments in health care and to strongly oppose the privatization of our care systems.
The Prime Minister needs to call a First Ministers’ meeting and work with provinces and territories to put in place programs like pharmacare and dental care for all to help alleviate some of the costs families are facing, ultimately helping reduce the impacts of inflation.
Canada’s unions will be pushing the government to fix the shattered Employment Insurance (EI) system. This must start with restoring temporary EI measures until permanent improvements can take effect.
Canada’s unions will also be calling on Parliament to pass anti-scab legislation, quickly. Workers don’t just need anti-scab legislation, they need strong anti-scab legislation. The government has an excellent model for this legislation in NDP MP Boulerice’s private member’s Bill C-302 and the Canadian Labour Congress are urging all parties to work together to pass this Bill.
Senators must also act swiftly to pass Bill C-228. This Bill will safeguard the hard-earned pensions of millions of workers and pensioners.
It will also ensure that super-priority is given to pensioners and pension plan members in the event of an employer becoming insolvent, meaning they will have to pay pensions before addressing other financial liabilities.
Senators have a historic opportunity to restore fairness for workers and pensioners and ensure the injustice faced by Sears, Nortel, and Stelco workers is never allowed to happen again.
“Parliamentarians working together, across party lines, is key to progress. Cooperation between the New Democrats and the Liberal government resulted in significant gains – and Canada’s unions will continue to push for more cooperation to tackle the pressing challenges ahead of us,” said Bruske. ■