POLITICS

Ken Georgetti Says Harper Majority Changes Sharpen Union Opposition

03/24/2013 03:38 EDT | Updated 05/24/2013 05:12 EDT
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Conservative leader Stephen Harper waves to supporters gathered at the Telus Convention Centre in Calgary, Alberta, May 2, 2011 as he celebrates the election of a Conservative majority government in the federal election. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper won re-election Monday at the head of an elusive majority government, the first for his Conservative Party since 1988, television projections showed. In a ground-breaking election full of firsts, the left-leaning New Democratic Party was on course to surge past the Liberals, who governed for most of the last century, and become Canada's official opposition. Capping a disastrous night for the separatist Bloc Quebecois, their leader Gilles Duceppe lost his seat two decades after he was first elected to parliament and the party was set to be reduced to just two seats, from 47. AFP PHOTO / GEOFF ROBINS (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)
TORONTO - The head of a major labour group says changes brought in by the Harper government dealing with working Canadians is galvanizing union opposition to the Conservatives.

Government decisions such as raising the onset of old age security and lowering the cost of temporary foreign workers are not only making things harder for workers but also spurring the labour movement into action, says Canadian Labour Congress President Ken Georgetti.

"This is a turning point," he said in an interview Saturday.

Georgetti said a weekend "political action" conference in Toronto that the CLC put together brought together union leaders to talk about the problems facing labour. He hopes it will lead to new campaigns to protect the rights of not just organized labour but all of the country's workforce.

"What we're doing here is saying (that) going forward we're going to be a lot stronger and a lot more aggressive in asserting and maintaining our rights and trying to achieve the same rights for all working people in Canada," Georgetti added.

Georgetti said that since Stephen Harper's Conservatives won a majority nearly two years ago there has been a big shift in how the federal government treats workers.

"I think there's something now. Since this government's had a majority they've been systematically taking rights away from working people."

"This government has said very clearly that the rights of workers are secondary to the interests of business," he said.

The labour group hopes the gathering will lead to fresh pressure on hot-button workforce issues such as the tightening of employment insurance rules.

Attendees were offered hands-on workshops on a variety of topics. They included outreach strategies to aboriginals and recent immigrants, how to frame campaigns on labour issues to ensure maximum impact and making the case for publicly provided services.

"The focus is on change right now," Georgetti said.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair spoke at the conference Saturday and said his party is the only one organized labour can count on to defend workers' rights.

"We will fight. We will work with you," he said, in a speech tuned toward an expected 2015 federal election.

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