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Human Rights Day: equitable COVID-19 recovery requires investment in care

Canada’s unions are marking International Human Rights Day by calling for long-term investments in the care sector.

“Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights” is the United Nations theme for this year’s International Human Rights Day, which is observed December 10.

“It is critical that Canada’s COVID-19 recovery efforts tackle the human rights failures that have been exposed by the pandemic. Significant government investments in the care sector will help level the playing field for those most affected by this virus,” said CLC Executive Vice-President Larry Rousseau.

“We welcome the federal government’s recent commitments to invest in public care systems. Canada must focus on creating better jobs, improving working conditions, and addressing the deep disparities within our economy,” he added.

The pandemic has demonstrated how our communities rely on precarious, low-wage work and unpaid labour in critical care sectors. This includes child care, early childhood education, elderly care, mental health, and other social care services that serve the health and safety of our communities.

Many of the workers in these sectors are Black, Indigenous, women of colour and recent immigrants. While this work is deemed “essential”, it is undervalued and workers face poor working conditions, violence, harassment and numerous other risks to their health and safety. They also face a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 and a lack of job security and access to benefits.

“This global crisis has laid bare what we’ve been saying for years: systemic discrimination and marginalization have put certain groups at a disadvantage. Entire communities are having a much harder time recovering due to unequal access to opportunities and services such as employment, health care and housing,” said Rousseau. “Long-term investment in care is crucial to disaster-proofing our economy, safeguarding our social safety net against future crises, and ensuring our collective well-being.”

Sign our petition urging the government to increase investments in our public care systems so we can move forward together and build a more sustainable and inclusive economy.

Canada’s workers engage MPs during first-ever Virtual Action Week

By Hassan Yussuff, as published in National Newswatch

On any given day of a normal year, Parliament Hill is buzzing with people lobbying elected representatives. According to the federal government’s lobbying commissioner, there were 18,728 monthly communications reports submitted in 2019 20.

Those communications reports were generated in large part by paid, registered lobbyists working with large corporations.

This year, there are far fewer meetings on the Hill but that doesn’t mean that elected representatives aren’t hearing from anyone. They are. And we want to make sure they’re hearing from workers, too. We know that pressing issues are mounting for many workers and communities across the country. In the past six months, people have seen their livelihoods disappear or they are staving off disaster, all while worrying about their health and the health of their families.

Workers want to see governments make decisions that will improve their lives and move Canada forward. They want to trust the government will make decisions based on the needs of everyday working people and of their communities. We only need to look South to see what can go wrong when governments let down their citizens.

In 2019, a study done by the OECD showed trust in government is falling worldwide. In 2019, only 38 per cent of Canadians said they had confidence in the government. The good news is that it has gone up since the pandemic made government more central to our lives than ever, according to a report from Samara Canada. Trust in government now stands at 59 per cent. This should not be taken for granted.

One of the best ways to maintain trust is to encourage citizen engagement in decision making.

This is why we are organizing the first-ever virtual lobbying effort, National Action Week. It’s an opportunity for workers from across the country to participate in our democracy, even in the midst of a pandemic. We are helping them reach out to their elected representatives to tell decision-makers what needs to happen in their communities.

Our hope is that our week of action will not only allow for conversations that will build trust in our democracy, but that these meetings will open the door for further conversations. Knowledge sharing is also essential for trust in democracy, meaning elected representatives should provide information and answer questions from their constituents – and constituents should know to ask questions.

After all, so much has changed and Members of Parliament need to hear from their constituents on what they need to focus on. Millions of people who were employed in March are now dependent on the government for support. As we continue to respond and as we move towards a recovery stage, the Minister of Finance has indicated the government is willing to make more and longer-term investments to provide economic stimulus, given historically low interest rates.

The most important thing right now is to move government investment into those sectors that will offer the most benefit to the most people across the country. The Prime Minister talks about building back better, and there are priorities that can’t be ignored if this government plans to improve the lives of those most affected by this pandemic.

The government made clear in September’s Speech from the Throne that it is listening to the concerns of workers and their families. The speech promised investments to create new jobs, accelerate the implementation of universal national pharmacare and focus on child care and long-term care. Workers across Canada are trusting that the government will include all these investments in the next federal budget and go even further, including raising the federal minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour as promised in the last federal election.

Those who have been working on the front lines without proper protective equipment, those who have watched their loved ones suffer in for-profit long-term care homes, parents who have been stuck with no options for child care, women forced to choose between career and family after all these years of progress deserve support. These workers know where investments need to go and so should their representatives.

They are ready to bring their stories and experiences directly to policy-makers. It’s up to those making decisions to listen carefully and act accordingly in the best interests of the nation’s workers and their families.

Hassan Yussuff is the president of the Canadian Labour Congress. Follow him on Twitter @Hassan_Yussuff

Canada’s unions launch nation’s first-ever virtual lobby week

OTTAWA – Hundreds of workers from communities across Canada are meeting virtually with their MPs this week, part of the country’s first-ever national Action Week, organized by Canada’s unions.

Participants will be calling on elected representatives to push for federal investments towards job creation, health care and child care, among other necessary programs. Over 200 meetings are scheduled.

“The pandemic continues to disrupt our lives in a myriad of ways. Our governments have an integral role in making sure that workers and their families get through this ongoing crisis,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff. “Workers know they have to advocate for solutions that centre their experiences and which address the systemic gaps this pandemic has revealed. Right now, the only way to do that is virtually and workers are stepping up in a significant way to do what it takes to be heard,” said Yussuff.

Canada’s unions are calling on the federal government to disaster-proof the economy.  This includes committing to shovel-ready projects that create stable, well-paying jobs, as well as investing in job training for workers, particularly those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, including racialized workers, women, and people with disabilities. Unions are urging the government to start by implementing its promised $15 minimum wage in federally regulated workplaces.

The pandemic has also demonstrated the need for a more resilient and comprehensive public health care system. Canada’s unions have long called for the implementation of single-payer, universal pharmacare, particularly urgent now considering that millions of people in Canada have lost access to drug benefits and are struggling to pay for their prescription medications.

“There is no going back to business as usual,” said Yussuff. “On the contrary, we’ve managed to weather this pandemic better than some countries by working together and taking care of one another. MPs will be hearing directly from their own constituents this week on how they can continue to support working people and their families going forward.”

To arrange an interview, please contact:
CLC Media Relations
media@clcctc.ca
613-526-7426

Canada’s unions join Global Day of Action on Care

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the vulnerability of Canada’s care system. On October 29, Canada’s unions are joining together the International Trade Union Confederation and global unions for a Global Day of Action on Care.

Workers around the world want investment in public health and care services including mental health, child care, early childhood education, elderly care and other social care services that serve all our communities. In Canada, unions are also calling for a federal Care Economy Commission.

Decades of austerity-driven fiscal policies and a market-based approach to the delivery of care have created inequities and gaps.

“We have been sounding the alarm about the crisis in care services for years,” said CLC Secretary-Treasurer Marie Clarke Walker. “The added pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded these problems. Our economy is relying more than ever on unpaid labour, and on precarious, low-wage work done by women, a disproportionate number of whom are racialized.”

Canada needs care-focused solutions for the recovery. These solutions must meet the needs of our most vulnerable, create better jobs and disaster-proof our economy and our social safety net against future crises.

The proposed federal Care Economy Commission would study, design and implement a care strategy for Canada that would:

  • Create a broad and inclusive labour market strategy to achieve high-quality, equitable care jobs;
  • Examine paid and unpaid care work and develop a roadmap to meet the increasing demands for care; and
  • Reduce and redistribute women’s unpaid care work by improving access to public care services for children, the elderly and people living with disabilities.

“This pandemic has shone a light on what’s been broken for too long,” said Walker. “We need to rethink our approach to care. Strong public care systems – whether health care, child care, long term care or care services for persons with disabilities – are central to the well-being of individuals, families and communities.”

Canada’s unions are calling for a Canadian plan that’s rooted in our way of doing things – and that means taking care of one another. Public investments in services – not austerity – are a key part of a robust response and recovery that ensures our collective well-being.

Canada’s unions welcome employment gains, but urge continued focus on jobs

OTTAWA – Canada’s unions welcome the job gains reported in the September findings from Statistics Canada’s monthly labour force survey released today, but are warning that expanded government investment will remain crucial to a full economic recovery.

“Despite ongoing gains, the latest numbers continue to signal medium-term risks to Canada’s labour market,” said Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). “We are seeing increases in long-term unemployment, and young people, low-wage workers, women and racialized workers continue to struggle in this job market.”

While unemployment rates declined further in September, new rounds of layoffs are threatening the aviation, hospitality, accommodation and food service sectors. The federal government did pledge that it would create 1 million new jobs in last month’s Speech from the Throne.

“Now is not the time for austerity. The government must work quickly to ensure immediate action on job creation,” said Yussuff. “There needs to be focused investments on programs that will show immediate benefits for employment, like a national, universal public child care program.”

Canada’s unions are also calling on the government to take advantage of low interest rates to build a green economy through innovative infrastructure projects.

After the 2008 global economic downturn, Canada’s government failed to invest in the economy and it took years for workers and their families to bounce back. With the COVID-19 crisis, Canada’s unions are calling on all levels of government to resist calls for austerity and to instead expand investments in working people in order to ensure a robust recovery.

To read more about the directed investments the CLC is calling for, visit canadianplan.ca.