Canada’s unions stand with India’s farmers and farm workers

Canada’s unions stand in solidarity with farmers and agricultural workers in India as they continue to protest recent reforms to agricultural laws that deregulate the industry and leave farmers and farm workers vulnerable to exploitation by international corporations.

“Deregulating local produce markets will have a devastating impact on farmers, farm workers and food security in India,” said Canadian Labour Congress President, Hassan Yussuff. “We stand with the international labour movement to support workers who are taking to the streets to protest these reforms and fight for their rights.”

India’s central and local governments passed three farm acts in September. Taken together, these acts threaten to impoverish millions of small farmers and leave millions more farm workers unemployed. Farmers’ unions have been protesting since August, escalating to a national general strike on November 26, 2020.

The government of India has also proposed reforms that undermine unions and violate international labour standards that India has ratified as a member of the International Labour Organization.

“The government’s legislation leaves farmers and workers at the mercy of large multinational corporations and global commodity price swings,” said Yussuff. “We deplore the fact that some states in India are also using the coronavirus crisis as an excuse to suspend labour laws and attack workers’ rights. The international community has to stand up.”

The protesting farmers are making several demands, including asking that the new farm laws be repealed; that all repressive measures taken against protesters cease; and that movement leaders who have been arrested be released. Other workers’ unions in the country have joined the protests in support of the farmers.

Canada’s unions mark World Day for Decent Work with a call for a robust economic recovery plan

COVID-19 has exposed flaws in social protections in Canada and around the world. The effects of this pandemic on health, employment, income, gender and racial equity are all the more catastrophic because of pre-existing gaps in our social safety net.

Before the pandemic, ever-increasing globalization meant many workers were employed in precarious, low-wage work with few, if any, benefits. Now millions of people across Canada and around the world have seen their jobs disappear. We need a worldwide recovery focused on secure employment and social protection.

This context serves as the backdrop for the annual commemoration of the World Day for Decent Work today, October 7.

“It’s clear that we need a recovery that is focused on shared prosperity and sustainability,” said Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. “Better jobs are at the core of a robust recovery and that is true both nationally and internationally.”

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is calling for a new social contract to ensure a strong global economic recovery. Canada’s unions have similarly launched Forward Together: A Canadian Plan, a campaign calling for a similar focus on better jobs and reducing inequality.

“With millions of jobs lost across Canada, and hundreds of millions globally, we have to turn our focus to job creation. That includes focusing on secure employment, living wages, the universal right to collective bargaining and occupational health and safety,” said Yussuff. “The current economic model has failed working people. It’s time for us to rise to the challenge we’ve been presented with and to move forward, together.”

The CLC is marking the World Day for Decent Work with a webinar that aims to explore the issues at stake. It will be held on Wednesday, October 7 at 2 PM EDT. To register, click here.

Read ITUC’s statement on A New Social Contract for Recovery and Resilience here.