Monday September 4, 2023 | VICTORIA, BC [Updated 16 pm]
Socioeconomic analysis by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
On this Labour Day in 2023, various comments are being posted for the public to appreciate and perhaps better understand the importance of labour workers in Canada, as most of Canada enjoys what seems like the last official day of summer on the Labour Day long weekend.
Labour Day Monday is a statutory holiday across Canada.
The importance of workers met with heightened awareness during the pandemic years, when frontline and essential workers in particular were acknowledged for their contributions to the workings of the economy. The pandemic also shone a light on disparities in the workplace, as many people were able to ride out the dangers of the pandemic by working from home.
The cost of living increases due to inflation over the past 18 months have put pressure on workers to seek wage increases.
Various aspects of the workplace have been changing since 2020 — not only legislatively but in people’s choices about how to experience the world of work.
This year labour strikes made national news, particularly federal workers but also it the shipping sector at the Port of Vancouver.
A combination of the experience of the pandemic, falling real wages, and a fundamental demand to have a say are fueling stronger union activity, says Jim Stanford, Economist & Director, Centre for Future Work.
Celebrating overall economy:
And while Labour Day today celebrates workers and the labour movement, within that is a celebration of the economy that keeps all of us sustained (though arguably many people now fall between the cracks).
BC’s premier — now echoed by Ontario’s premier — have written letters to the Bank of Canada in recent days, to ask for no more interest rate increases that (after 10 rate hikes in 18 months) have made economic sustainability nearly impossible for many people and small businesses.
Recognizing and utilizing older workers:
Slowly the Canadian economy is realizing the importance of older workers. Many seniors are still working past age 65 due to financial necessity though also many because their lived experience is valuable to society and economy.
The employment sector may need to begin finding new ways to accommodate older workers, including with new job descriptions that support those workers in ways that also benefit the employers. Developing more of these mutually-beneficial working relationships will have positive benefits to the overall economy as well as the overall health of the older worker sector and perhaps even the well-being of businesses where they are employed.
A federal tax credit for older workers might be an honourable recognition of their contribution to the continuing economy.
Statements by elected leaders & governments:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted on social media today: “Today, we recognize the historic contributions of the labour movement, and we celebrate its essential role in building a stronger country. And to all of Canada’s workers, who are some of the best in the world, we say thank you. Happy Labour Day, everyone!” | Read the full Prime Minister’s Labour Day Statement 2023
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland posted in social media today: “On this Labour Day, we celebrate dedicated union workers from coast to coast to coast. You are doing the hard work of building Canada every single day—and our government is proud to stand with you. Happy Labour Day!”
In BC, Premier David Eby and Minister of Labour Harry Bains issued a statement on Labour Day, celebrating the accomplishments of working people as well as the labour movement that stands up for them. “Workers deserve safe workplaces and fair treatment. Our government has made significant improvements to support safe workplaces and provide meaningful protections for workers,” the statement reads in part.
As well, the BC NDP government says that new employment standards for young workers came into effect earlier this year to ensure a safe experience for people taking on their first job. Also, as of January asbestos abatement contractors must be licenced and must ensure the people performing the work are trained and hold a valid certificate. Improvements have also been made for injured workers, say Eby and Bains.
Notably, the minimum wage increased again this year, to $16.75 per hour effective June 1, 2023. The NDP says they are also “putting money back in people’s pockets through cost-of-living and affordability credits”.
Today the BC Legislature posted in social media, with a photo of workers from 1912: “Today, we honour workers past and present, like this team that helped build the Parliament Buildings back in 1912!”
BC United official opposition has posted: “To the dedicated workers who’ve built and continue to drive our province forward, we extend our heartfelt gratitude. Your commitment to British Columbia is truly remarkable.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh: “Today, on Labour Day, let’s celebrate all the achievements workers have fought for in this country,” he released in a media statement.
The NDP point out that workers are organizing to demand better wages and fairer working conditions. Singh notes the rising cost of living as seen through inflationary impacts on the cost of groceries, gasoline and housing. Working through the Liberal minority government, the NDP delivered 10 paid sick days for federal workers.
Singh added in another social media post: “The one thing more powerful than the CEO & billionaire class – is you – the working class.”
NDP House Leader Peter Julian points out that 30% of Canada’s workforce is comprised of unionized workers. “Organized workers contribute so much to our economy and make sure that economic benefits stay in our communities. Their contributions make our country a fairer, safer, and better place for all.”
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre posted on social media: “Make Canada work for all the (extra)ordinary people who do the hard work. Happy Labour Day.”
Local MP Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan-Malahat-Langford) posted in social media today: “I’m proud to stand in solidarity with the Labour Movement and its unions today. On LabourDay we honour the sacrifices previous generations made (sometimes with their lives) to fight for workers’ rights and enshrine them in law. That fight continues to this day. Celebrate what the labour movement has fought for, delivered, and is still fighting for.”
Local MLA Mitzi Dean (Esquimalt-Metchosin) posted in social media today: “In recognition and appreciation for the workers who make a difference in all our lives today and every day.” Her post was accompanied by photos of women in the labour force over the years and in various occupations.
Capital Regional District (CRD) Chair Colin Plant today pointed out on social media that he is a member of the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) and that he thanks everyone working in Saanich (where he is a city councillor) and at the CRD. “As I look at the history of the Labour movement I’m thankful for the gains society has made as a result of unions,” said, pointing out that work days/weeks are shorter than in days gone by.
Next-gen agriculture and farm workers (June 26, 2023)
Day 10 of federal workers on strike picket line (April 28, 2023)
Federal workers on picket line in View Royal (April 24, 2023)
Labour Market Outlook rolled out with pitch to young & returning workers (February 8, 2023)
Older Canadians delaying retirement could benefit workplaces (June 16, 2022)