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Labour Day: A message from the Canadian Labour Congress

For Canada’s unions, Labour Day is our time to celebrate our work and the everyday victories we win to make life better for everyone. This year, Canada’s unions have much to celebrate.
Labour Day

For Canada’s unions, Labour Day is our time to celebrate our work and the everyday victories we win to make life better for everyone.

This year, Canada’s unions have much to celebrate.

After nearly a decade of pushing for improved public pensions, Canada’s premiers finally agreed that it was time to expand the Canada Pension Plan. Later this year, the federal government will put legislation before Parliament to implement the first increase in retirement income benefits in half a century.

Without the support of the provincial government and many municipal councils across B.C., this may never have happened. But it was B.C.’s unions, working with pension experts and seniors’ groups, who convinced those municipalities and the province that it was time to strengthen public pensions.

Today’s seniors still need help to avoid falling into poverty. Many are working long into what they thought would be their golden years, only to find the jobs, like their private pensions and savings plans, don’t deliver the goods.

It is young workers who will benefit most from an expanded CPP. Faced with the same hostile job market as their elders, and record levels of debt, today’s youth needed a new way to save for retirement. Changing the CPP will make a big difference when the time comes.

Victories like this are what get trade unionists out of bed in the morning. For Canada’s unions, making life better for working people is, and always has been, a labour of love.

The Canada we want has always been a country based on fairness, equality, and cooperation. It’s one where a day’s work is fairly compensated, where nobody has to choose between their job and their health, and where after a lifetime of work, no one should face retiring into poverty.

It’s one where working people have the stability and security to make plans for the future. Where our race, our gender, our bodies, who we love and how we live aren’t used against us. Where we are free to come together and work together for everyone’s benefit.

This is why unions in B.C. are coming together with community organizations, anti-poverty groups and others in support of efforts like the “Fight for15. It’s only fair.” campaign.

Like retirement savings, we’ve learned the hard way that good jobs don’t just happen. They need to be cultivated — seeded, nurtured, and protected, which is why Canada’s unions are encouraging governments to restore the conditions required to grow the good jobs people need.

Raising the minimum wage to a living wage, then tying it to the cost of living is a good place to start. It’s also time to restore and protect sick days for all workers, so nobody has to choose between losing their job and their health.

The country and the economy we want are within reach. We only need to work together to succeed.

The same can be said for our continuing call for the federal government to ban asbestos.

From construction materials to brake pads, asbestos-laden materials are still in daily use. Imports of asbestos into Canada are also on the rise. Buildings — hospitals, warehouses, rinks, community centres — contaminated with asbestos remain unregistered, keeping the people who use them and work in them at risk.

Today, more than 2,000 Canadians die every year from asbestos-related disease. It is the leading cause of workplace-related death and it costs our health care system $1.7 billion a year.

Winning a comprehensive ban will save lives and prevent the pain, suffering and heartache endured by too many today. Canada’s unions have been working with employers and governments for 40 years to protect people from this killer. We’re working with the new federal government to get the job done.

Good jobs, safe workplaces, fairness and equality are the basic ingredients of a better future. These are the things that unions believe in and work for every day. For us, it truly is a labour of love and it’s what motivates us to parade in the street and celebrate in the parks, playgrounds, and community spaces across Canada this weekend.