This Labour Day over twenty-five thousand union members will march on the streets of Toronto with the Labour Council to celebrate the achievements of the labour movement. It is the largest parade on Labour Day in North America -- a testament to the determination of workers to mark our place in Canada's largest urban centre.
Millions of workers across Ontario lack access to paid sick days and job protection. For many, taking a sick day is simply not an option. This gap in access to an important protection disproportionately affects people in low-wage jobs and precarious work, a sure signal about the unfairness of employment standards.
The brazen attempt to force employees to work for less is part of a broader trend of employers pushing two-tier agreements at the bargaining table. After seeing these kinds of agreements in place in the United States, employers across the Canadian manufacturing sector have been pressing younger workers to settle for lower wages and fewer benefits.
Imagine that Canada is a retail store in which 100 people work. 10 managers make $80,000 per year. One manager of the 10 trumps them all: he gets over $190.000. The other 90 people -- a majority of whom are women -- work as salespeople and cashiers, or in the stock room. 45 of them make less than $30,000 per year. Many make less than $20,000 per year. This is the retail landscape in Canada.
It is unthinkable anyone would lose their life over $112 bucks of gasoline. The dragging death of gas station attendant Jayesh Prajapati after he was run over by a driver fleeing the station without paying is another tragic reminder of how senseless and avoidable some crimes are. We may only hear about the fatal incidents of gas theft, but according to the Toronto Star, between July 2009 and 2010 there were 1,618 reports of gas thefts in Toronto. That is more than 30 opportunities a week similar incidents could occur. Liberal MPP Mike Colle rightly sensed there is an opportunity to update Ontario's laws to require motorists to pre-pay for gas they pump.
Labour Day is so much a part of our culture that we rarely pause to consider its purpose and meaning. Labour Day is often more associated with fairs and a long weekend, than its original meaning -- a celebration of workers. How has the meaning and structure of work changed since the late 19th-century?