Celebrating our accomplishments
August 26, 2008
Source: Canadian Labour Congress
Printer friendly version
Canadians have a lot on their minds as they take time to relax, share
time with family and friends, and celebrate the one day of the year
dedicated to those of us who work for a living.
While not all of the news is good - soaring fuel costs, the continued
loss of manufacturing and forest industry jobs, an acute lack of
affordable child care and the growing gap between the people at the top
of the income pyramid and the rest of us - we have some remarkable
achievements to celebrate this year.
For the first time in nearly a generation, there's a new federal
government program in place that benefits every single worker in Canada.
Over the summer, the Wage Earner Protection Program started offering
help to workers who are owed wages and vacation pay from bankrupt
As many as 20,000 workers each year lose up to $50 million in unpaid
wages and vacation pay because their employer files for bankruptcy. Now,
workers facing this situation can apply for help through Service Canada
and the federal government will cover up to six months worth of unpaid
wages and vacation pay. Then, the government will seek to recover the
money from the bankrupt employer.
This new program is something to celebrate. It took four years of hard
work and determined activism on the part of the country's unions to
convince federal politicians that such a program was needed.
But that's not all that was accomplished by giving working people the
confidence to sit down with their Members of Parliament to tell their
stories. Two additional goals got scored - a hat trick! - that will also
make a difference in people's lives.
In addition to new protections for their earnings, working people also
have new safeguards for their retirement savings. New regulations are
coming into force that designate a "super-priority" status for workers'
pension contributions in bankruptcy.
Employers routinely fall behind in pension contributions, leaving
workers with smaller pensions than they've earned or no pension at all
because of corporate bankruptcy. While persistent employer underfunding
of pension plans remains a big problem, these new protections are a big
Thirdly, new rules are coming to protect the contracts that working
people and their unions bargain with employers. This puts an end to a
growing trend - employers asking for, and getting collective agreements
cancelled during bankruptcy proceedings. No longer will an employer's
signed contract with workers regarding salaries, fair treatment,
benefits and other obligations be treated differently than an employer's
other contracts. Balance and fairness. Finally.
So take Labour Day to celebrate these three remarkable achievements.
They would not have been possible without so many working people taking
the time to talk , face to face, with their elected officials. Once that
happened, the big money lobbyists in Ottawa didn't have a chance.
Just imagine what else is possible if more working people did the same
thing from now own. We could change our country for the better and
finally have a Canada that works for working people and our families.
Maybe then, all those things I mentioned at the start of this message
would get taken care of.
Happy Labour Day!
by Ken Georgetti
Ken Georgetti is the President of the Canadian Labour Congress, which
represents 3.2 million working people in every province and territory,
from coast to coast to coast.