THE BLOG
12/20/2018 12:06 EST | Updated 12/20/2018 14:26 EST

This Christmas Will Be A Tough One For Workers In Canada

Despite a few bright spots, the rights workers have struggled for many years to gain are under increased attack.

As we head into the holiday season, the many challenges facing Canadian workers are weighing heavy.

Despite a few bright spots, the rights workers have struggled for many years to gain are under increased attack, both in the workplace and outside. As we gather with friends and family over the holidays, we should remember such workers, and resolve to fight for them in the new year.

Leading the attack on workers, of course, is Premier Doug Ford in Ontario, but he's not alone.

In November, Ford brought in legislation repealing a much-needed update to labour laws in that province to recognize workers' needs in an ever-more precarious job market marked by low wages and contract or temporary work.

Ford also cancelled a planned increase to the province's minimum wage, dashing the hopes of the province's lowest-paid workers to better provide for their families and build a stronger future.

MARTIN OUELLET-DIOTTE/AFP/Getty Images
Ontario Premier Doug Ford attends a meeting of Canadian premiers on Dec. 7, 2018, in Montreal.

Besides seeing their rights at work and opportunities to earn a better living being threatened, Ontario workers today are returning home to find the supports they need also being chopped.

Cuts to educational programs in Ontario that provided supplemental support with the curriculum and even jobs, for instance, will hurt working families hardest. Privileged families can afford tutors and have the connections to get their kids jobs that those who need such programs do not.

In Alberta, politician Jason Kenney seems anxious to catch up to Ontario's backward march, promising the Calgary Chamber of Commerce he'd move fast if he became premier to reverse the progressive labour law changes made by the current New Democratic Party government.

Pressed for details, Kenney failed to provide any, again taking a page from Ford, who refused to release a detailed policy platform during the Ontario election. Still, this is a guy who once tweeted about the joys of overworking non-union workers.

Not all the uncertainty facing workers today comes from government.

Of course, not all the uncertainty facing workers today comes from government.

American tariffs on softwood lumber, steel and aluminum continue to put thousands of jobs at risk across Canada. Many, my union included, are working hard to get those tariffs lifted, but it still makes for a stressful holiday season for the many families and communities that rely on those industries.

In Nova Scotia, workers at a pulp mill go into the holidays with their way of life under attack from groups who are quick to criticize the efforts to clean effluent from the plant, but concern themselves less with all the good jobs that will be lost if the facility is forced to shut.

Via Rail is sending nearly $1-billion worth of work out of the country, rather than finding a Canadian supplier for new rail cars. In other words, rather than give the job to workers who might actually ride the trains they build one day, the heavy-subsidized company chose to give it to workers who never will.

In Thunder Bay, workers making the new Toronto streetcars for Bombardier are worried about future contracts at the plant, which employs about 1,100 workers.

Such betrayals make for a stressful holiday for many workers.

On top of all that was the pre-Christmas announcement by General Motors that it will shutdown its assembly plant in Oshawa after 100 years, despite the company being bailed out by the people of Canada a decade ago.

Such betrayals make for a stressful holiday for many workers. Sure, unemployment is low across the country, but average wage increases are well below inflation, and have been falling every month since last spring.

There are some bright spots. Voters in British Columbia are currently voting on bringing in proportional representation in that province. In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador have all brought in legislation for leave from work for victims of domestic abuse.

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These are positive moves, of course, but they are outweighed by the threats facing Canadian workers.

All progressives must work together in the new year to ensure the difficult holiday season does not become an even more difficult 2019 for Canadian workers.

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