By Doug Nesbitt
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was given a standing ovation at the 2nd Unifor convention in Ottawa yesterday. But not all Unifor members were cheering on the love-in between the Prime Minister and their national union president, Jerry Dias. There are plenty of Canadian workers already fed-up with business-as-usual and inaction during a crisis.
After ten months in power, the Trudeau Liberals are presiding over a series of major crimes and fiascos on the labour front that they could help resolve in favour of hundreds of thousands of workers through decisive action. Instead, major corporations, Harper-appointed wreckers in the public service, and employers are reaping the rewards. Here are six quick reasons why labour has no business holding a Liberal love-in.
1. Not turfing Canada Post’s Harper crew
The Trudeau government has done next to nothing in clearing out the Harper-appointed management at Canada Post. They sent Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra a letter asking him to resign shortly after the election. Chopra said no. The Liberal reply to a request for a resignation? Nothing. Were they even serious or was this some hollow gesture to placate labour and people fighting to defend our public postal service? Now Canada Post management has instigated a protracted labour dispute, to wreck the pensions of postal workers when there is absolutely no financial reason to do so, and to ensure that the government’s review of the public service and restoration of home mail delivery is derailed through this nastiness.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers is also seeking to resolve a gender pay equity problem at Canada Post. Rural Suburban Mail Carriers, who are predominantly women, are paid far less than their urban mail counterparts and management is refusing to budge. Trudeau, the supposed feminist, has said and done nothing about this issue.
If the Liberals had cleaned house, we likely wouldn’t be in this mess.
2. The US Steel robbery
In Hamilton, thousands of Hamilton steelworkers continue to be denied pensions and retiree benefits as US Steel continues to try and extract every penny it can from the former Stelco steel. US Steel, and bunch of judges, as well as the Harper and now the Trudeau governments refuse to disclose the secret deal between the government and US Steel that allowed the corporation to buy the Stelco in 2007. As judges block the retiree benefits for tens of thousands of Hamilton steelworkers, US Steel is pushing for executive pay bonuses. The Liberals are not intervening, contributing to this outrageous injustice by refusing to disclose the US Steel deal signed by the Harper government, or doing anything to reform the ridiculous bankruptcy laws in this country which allow corporations to rob pension plans.
3. Repealing employer restrictions on Temporary Foreign Worker Program
The Liberals are looking at loosening employer restrictions on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, even though the country has been putting up some dismal economic numbers in recent months – the worst since the Great Recession in 2009. In trying to curry favour with employers, the Liberals are floating the idea of repealing some of the restrictions that the Harper Tories had to reluctantly put in place a few years ago following a rash of employer abuses of temporary workers that came to light through some good investigative reporting.
4. Phoenix Falling: The federal payroll nightmare
Over 80,000 federal government workers have been without paycheques or faced major pay problems since February – thanks to the colossal failure of the new Phoenix payroll system implemented under the Harper Tories. There was already a lot of noise before the system was even implemented that there were going to be real problems, but the Liberals have only started to act in the past month. They say they are going to repair the system by October, but both union and government analysts are saying this won’t happen. What is it going to take for the Liberals to solve this problem? A union policy of “No pay, no work”?
5. Employment Insurance robbery
Back in March, Trudeau’s Bay Street Finance Minister Bill Morneau did some minor adjustments to Employment Insurance to help out some regions around Alberta and Saskatchewan (while leaving out Edmonton) but the Liberals have made no commitment to restoring EI as a universal program where everyone who has paid in has access. Back in the 1990s, the Chretien/Martin Liberals followed on Mulroney’s footsteps and gutted EI coverage from about 85 percent of the unemployed to below 40 percent. For twenty years, 40 percent or less of the unemployed have been able to get EI despite all of us paying for it. Each year, billions of dollars of EI money that doesn’t get paid out has been used by Liberal and Tory governments to balance budgets, pay for tax cuts, and other promises. Don’t expect the Liberals to tell the truth about how they’re financing their tax cuts or P3 corporate infrastructure handouts – through the robbery of Employment Insurance money.
6. No $15 federal minimum wage for you!
Finally, let’s not forget that during the election, Justin Trudeau wrote off a $15 federal minimum wage, keeping at least 60,000 federally-regulated workers earning poverty wages. Trudeau cowardly passed the buck to the provinces saying the provinces should raise the minimum wage because it would help more workers. So much for leadership, Justin!
That’s just the big stuff happening right now. Look out for more Liberal failures on rail and food safety, P3 infrastructure projects, corporate theft and mass layoffs. Labour won’t get anywhere by accepting Trudeau’s sugar-coated crumbs because when push comes to shove, the big money interests that have always backed up the Liberals will get the whole pie.
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