Elaine MacDonald writes: On Labour Day people will gather as they always do to celebrate the great gains of the past: an 8-hour workday, a 40-hour week, sick leave, pensions, maternity leave, compensation for workplace injuries and so much more. Thanks to the efforts of a strong united labour movement, and the wage and benefit gains they made, income disparity in Canada decreased steadily during the last half of the twentieth century. That was cause for rejoicing then and it’s reason for hope now.
The currently increasing income disparity is not the default. It hasn’t always been, it shouldn’t be now and we have to correct it for the future’s sake. Changing times bring new challenges and the challenge we face now is that growing disparity and the social ills it brings in its wake. As the gap between the 1% and the rest of us, the 99%, grows, workers’ organizations like local labour councils, the Workers’ Action Centre and the Ontario Federation of Labour are calling for an immediate increase in the minimum wage. At $10.25 an hour and frozen for three years, the current wage leaves workers 19% below the poverty level. Shame. No one should work full time and live in poverty.
In the labour movement, we’re calling for an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $14.00 an hour. This rate would put a worker 10% above the low income cutoff poverty line. We call further for an automatic annual cost-of-living increase, and the right to a 35-hour work week. Together we have to start to turn the tide that is leaving the poor getting poorer, the rich getting richer and the middle class growingmore insecure daily. This Monday, when we celebrate the great gains of the past, let’s remember that a fair and equitable society is possible and let’s remember that we can’t build that a fair and equitable society without giving working people a fair recompense for their labour. Fair is fair. When the price of bread gos up, wages must too. End the freeze. $14.00 an hour now.
President of the Cornwall & District Labour Council