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End-of-year unemployment data shows need for continued support for workers

“Even as the vaccine roll-out begins, we can see that the tough times aren’t behind us yet,” said Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff. “The end-of-year unemployment data remind us that strong government support continues to be a vital lifeline for workers and their families who are struggling through the economic shock of the pandemic.”

The December Labour Force Survey, released today by Statistics Canada, shows higher than expected job losses last month. Unemployment rose to 8.6 percent, with employment down 63,000 and job-market participation dropping for the second month in a row.

“These are unprecedented times. The important public health precautions implemented over the past year have had an exceptionally hard impact on workers,” said Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. “Workers in Canada need to know that when the virus is contained, they can count on decent jobs, with good wages, and adequate benefits to help their families bounce back.”

Facing another round of shutdowns as COVID numbers rise, many workers across the country worried that their financial forecast is getting bleaker. Recent reports have revealed stories of personal support workers checking into homeless shelters and other workers failing to claim the federal government’s sick leave program out of fear of reprisal.

“Investing in Canada’s workers is a direct investment in our economy and it is vital to an economic recovery. The federal government must remain focused on income support and assistance to ensure that workers’ jobs are protected,” said Yussuff. “As we invest in a healthy recovery, Canada must also prepare for the long-term future by disaster-proofing our economy so that we are ready when the next crisis hits.”

Lessons from 2020: The pandemic brought out the best in Canada’s workers

“Canada’s unions are marking the end of 2020 by looking back on all that has been accomplished to protect workers and their families through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The world has been forever changed, but people across Canada have come together to focus on our collective good.

Though the pandemic is not over and there is continued uncertainty, I have no doubt the people of Canada will continue to come together to do what is best for our families, our communities and the future of the country.

Over the course of the last few months, workers and their families have spoken out. Hundreds of thousands of people took action – writing to their MPs, holding meetings, sharing stories – and as a result the federal government created several important programs.

Throughout this pandemic, we have been reminded of the power of activism. When people come together to raise their voices, great things can happen – like emergency benefits, paid sick leave, and real discussions about the future of child care and long-term care.

This holiday season, Canada’s unions call on people across this country to recognize the thousands of frontline workers who have kept our communities running throughout the pandemic. Many of these people who will be working through the holidays. Honour them by continuing to heed public health guidelines.

This has been one of the most challenging years any of us has ever faced. As we mark the end of 2020 and all the challenges it posed, we can look toward 2021 with hope and optimism.

There are still challenges ahead. We need to remain vigilant to ensure that Canada continues to invest in people. But this pandemic has reminded us what it means to work together.

Personally, and on behalf of Canada’s unions, I wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday season.”

Hassan Yussuff
President, Canadian Labour Congress

Canada’s unions call for pathway to permanent residency for all migrant workers

Canada’s unions are marking International Migrants Day by calling on the federal government to offer a pathway to permanent residency to all migrant workers who wish to apply.

The federal government recently announced that it will be accepting applications for permanent residence from refugee claimants working in the healthcare sector. This important announcement recognizes the crucial contributions refugee workers have made to the safety and wellbeing of communities across the country, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Canada’s unions are concerned that the eligibility criteria are too narrow.

“While we applaud the government’s recent announcement, the option to apply for permanent residency should be available to migrant workers in all sectors,” said Hassan Yussuff, CLC President. “The pandemic has shown that migrant workers provide essential services. All migrant workers deserve the opportunity to stay in Canada and to have their human and labour rights protected, just as any other worker.”

This week, the federal government also announced that it will allow seasonal migrant workers from Trinidad and Tobago – stuck in Canada due to COVID-19 travel restrictions – to apply for open work permits. This grants them job mobility, and gives them access to healthcare and employment insurance while Canadian officials negotiate their return home.

Although this is a step in the right direction, it highlights the vulnerability of migrant workers.

Migrant workers face insecurity, discrimination and often work in dangerous conditions. Their precarious position leaves them dependant on employers and makes them especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. The pandemic has only made this worse.

During the initial quarantine period earlier this year, migrant workers reported wage issues, food insecurity and a lack of required public health measures in their accommodations. By the month of November, nearly 2,000 migrant workers on farms across Canada had fallen ill with COVID-19, and three had died.

“The federal government must also ensure that migrant workers have comprehensive worker protections to prevent exploitation, abuse, mistreatment and discriminatory workplace policies,” said Yussuff. “These workers have been doing critical work throughout the pandemic to keep our families and communities safe and cared for, while they faced instability, insecurity and unfair working and living conditions. It’s past time for their efforts to be recognized and valued.”

Canada’s unions believe that all workers in Canada should be treated fairly. Migrant workers deserve a fair future just as all workers do. Our country’s recovery depends on the expansion of equal rights and protections for all workers so we can ensure a better, more inclusive, and just economic recovery.

Canada’s unions welcome federal government commitments on climate change

OTTAWA – Coming on the heels of the government’s climate accountability legislation, today’s 2030 climate emissions reduction plan contains significant announcements for working people.

Expanded investments in energy efficiency, conservation and large-scale retrofitting of residential and commercial structures will create significant numbers of new jobs and require expanded investments in skills training and growing Canada’s construction trades.

Green and climate-resilient infrastructure investments will also mean an expanded skilled trades workforce.

“Labour will be looking to the federal government to make good on its commitment to supporting local job creation, skills training, apprenticeships and decent wages for workers, especially to those historically underrepresented in the skilled trades sector, including Indigenous workers, racialized workers and women,” said Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress.

“Canada needs strong Just Transition measures to assist workers in resource communities and fossil fuel-dependent economies to access new job opportunities in clean energy, green transportation, efficient buildings and conservation if Canada hopes to meet and exceed the targets and prevent the worst outcomes of climate change.”

Canada’s unions welcome the government’s emphasis on domestic manufacturing, including developing Canadian supply chains for low-emission building materials, clean tech, and aerospace and automotive investments, and leveraging the power of public procurement. Additionally, unions are noting the crucial commitments made today towards bringing Indigenous communities into the process.

Despite today’s heavy emphasis on market signals and the private sector, public investment and planning will be vital to meeting Canada’s emissions-reduction targets.

“Today’s commitments towards public transit, including the domestic procurement of ZEV public transit and school buses, demonstrate progress,” added Yussuff.

As for increases on the price of carbon, unions are urging the government to ensure that the burden is fairly distributed, with low- and modest-income families protected.

Furthermore, the CLC welcomes the Government of Canada’s commitment to deliver on the country’s G20 commitment to phase-out all inefficient fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 and its commitment to explore border carbon adjustments on imports.

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

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

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.

Latest job numbers signal bleak winter ahead

OTTAWA – Canada’s unions are raising the alarm that many workers are facing a bleak winter of unemployment and under-employment with no immediate relief in sight.

November’s labour force survey released today by Statistics Canada showed high rates of long-term unemployment. A total of 1.5 million people are currently unemployed and looking for work; 400,000 have been without work for six months or longer. Another 317,000 workers dropped out of the labour market altogether last month.

“The scale of the jobs crisis has been without parallel in recent memory,” said Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. “The second wave of this pandemic is making life very difficult for many workers, many of whom have given up trying to find work for the time being. Beyond the immediate emergency supports that are helping to put food on the table for these families, government stimulus will be key to putting people back to work.”

The survey also showed that women continue to bear the brunt of child care responsibilities, with 55 per cent more mothers with young children working less than half their usual hours compared to this time last year.

The federal government has made commitments towards the creation of one million jobs and investments in skills and training.

“We’re heartened that the government has promised to make investments in long-term care and child care, two areas that employ significant numbers of women, including many who are racialized,” said Yussuff. “However, time is of the essence and workers need to see concrete actions.”

A recent study showed that investment in early learning and child care would create 200,000 new jobs in child care provision and another 80,000 indirect jobs, including 8,000 construction jobs. It would also increase women’s participation by as many as 725,000 additional workers.

Austerity policies implemented soon after the 2008-09 global economic downturn led to sluggish growth, prolonged unemployment and growing precarity in Canada. In our current crisis, continued income support and expanded public investments will be crucial to help people weather the pandemic’s second wave and to move the nation towards a strong recovery.

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

Darryl Flasch – Winner of the 2020 Carol McGregor CLC Disability Rights Award

Every year on December 3, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Canadian Labour Congress will recognize a union member for their disability rights activism.

This award is named in honour of Carol McGregor, an outstanding disability rights activist, member of BCGEU/NUPGE and the CLC Disability Rights Working Group―and who was much loved by all those who worked with her. Carol passed away in 2006.

In 2020, the award recognized the lifetime achievements of Darryl Flasch, a member of the British Columbia Government and Services Employees Union (BCGEU/NUPGE). As an active trade unionist since 1990, Darryl has dedicated 30 years of his life to removing barriers and ensuring the inclusion of workers with disabilities in his workplace and in the labour movement. He also worked tirelessly to advocate for more tools and resources within his union, including accessibility audits, in order to build a labour movement and communities that are inclusive of all abilities.

Workers with disabilities must help shape Canada’s Disability Inclusion Strategy

Canada’s unions are marking December 3 – the International Day for Persons with Disabilities –by calling on the federal government to include persons with disabilities in Canada’s economic recovery strategy.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s unions have collaborated with disability rights coalitions like the Include Me Campaign, to highlight the unique challenges and barriers faced by persons with disabilities during this health crisis.

“We know that the current health crisis has intensified the discrimination and stigma towards workers with disabilities. Hard-won workplace accommodations are at risk when the office becomes virtual, and workers with disabilities are at a greater risk of being laid off or having their jobs furloughed,” said Larry Rousseau, CLC Executive Vice-President.

“It’s critical that we shine a light on the challenges faced by persons with disabilities during this pandemic, especially those whose experiences are amplified by multiple marginalized identities including women, Indigenous and racialized people, and those in the LGBTQ2SI community.”

Even before the pandemic, unemployment rates ranged between 35 per cent for people with ‘mild’ disabilities to 74 per cent for people with ‘severe’ disabilities. High levels of poverty and unemployment have only worsened for persons with disabilities in the midst of this crisis.

Meanwhile, the reliance on affordable housing, income and health care supports is greater than ever – programs for which funding and availability already vary greatly across the country.

The federal government’s throne speech earlier this fall highlighted many new and important initiatives to help address the disproportionate impacts of this crisis on persons with disabilities. This included a new Disability Inclusion Plan, which would feature:

  • A new Canadian Disability Benefit modelled after the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors;
  • A robust employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities; and
  • A better process to determine eligibility for government disability programs and benefits.

“While we welcome the new disability inclusion strategy, we are also calling for the voices of workers with disabilities and their unions to be at the forefront,” added Rousseau.

“These discussions will guide the design and implementation of this strategy and must ensure that it adequately addresses the barriers to employment and economic security that workers with disabilities face.”

The federal government can help alleviate anxiety by investing in jobs and collaborating with unions on initiatives like a robust employment strategy for persons with disabilities, making long-term care part of public health care, supporting a child care strategy, and implementing national pharmacare.

Learn more about the CLC’s Forward Together campaign at canadianplan.ca.

Canada’s unions mark World AIDS Day by calling for universal pharmacare

Canada’s unions are marking World AIDS Day by calling on the federal government to implement single-payer, universal pharmacare. This call has taken on new urgency, given that millions of workers have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and are now struggling to pay for their prescription medications.

World AIDS Day is observed every year on December 1, in support of those living with HIV and to remember those lost to HIV/AIDS. This year’s theme is Global Solidarity and Shared Responsibility.

Workers here in Canada and around the world have long called for meaningful investments in public health care, protections for frontline workers and global access to medicines and vaccines. The global response to the COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS pandemics must aim to eliminate stigma and discrimination and ensure the protection and promotion of human rights.

“No one is safe until everyone is safe,” says CLC President Hassan Yussuff. “People living with or affected by HIV have been made especially vulnerable by the COVID pandemic, and not only in terms of increased health risk but in terms of access to the medications they need.”

The pandemic has drastically impacted the lives and livelihoods of workers around the world, highlighting strong connections between access to health care and social inequality. It has exposed existing racial, gender, social and economic inequalities, hitting the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest.

Between 2014 and 2018, the number of new HIV infections in Canada rose by 25.5%. Globally, in the last year, 38 million people were living with HIV and 25.4 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy, 1.7 million people became newly infected with HIV and 690,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses.

“Canadian unions are pushing back against austerity and privatization measures to ensure a robust response and recovery that ensures our collective well-being,” said Yussuff. “The current strain on our public health care system threatens access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care. Now more than ever, we need a Canadian plan that’s rooted in our way of doing things – and that means taking care of one another.”

To write to your MP on this issue, click here.

Fiscal update’s emphasis on investments will spare Canadians further economic hardship and spur recovery

Canada’s unions say the federal government’s fiscal update will help the nation’s workers weather current health and economic hardships through the pandemic.

Today’s update extends critical income support and economic measures to help Canadians and businesses. While today’s commitments on key priorities remain modest and reflect past promises, the government has signalled it will make further investments as the recovery begins to take shape.

“Canada’s workers and their families are staring down a harsh, frightening winter of economic uncertainty in the midst of a health crisis that shows no sign of letting up,” said Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).

“They have received assurances that their government will help them make ends meet and safeguard their health and well-being. However, it’s clear that many essential investments will be required around critical priorities like child care, pharmacare and towards key industries to ensure a rapid recovery.”

The federal government made numerous commitments towards workers and their families, including:

  • The promise of improved working conditions and measures to support retention and recruitment of care economy workers and early childhood educators;
  • Creation of new national standards for long-term care and a $1 billion fund to improve the quality of care;
  • Green economy investments, including support for home energy efficiency retrofits and the goal of planting 2 billion trees;
  • Limited sector-specific support for the hospitality and aviation sectors;
  • Measures to tax the multinational digital giants and improve tax compliance;
  • The creation of a Federal Secretariat on Early Learning and Child Care; and,
  • The announcement of a task force on modernizing the Employment Equity Act.

Canada’s unions join other experts and stakeholders in emphasizing that the priority must remain on returning Canada to full employment rather than on reducing debt.

“Harsh cuts in the past have put Canadians more at risk today. We need only to look at the state of long-term care, the erosion of public health capacity and an insufficient Employment Insurance program,” said Yussuff. “This is why we have been calling on governments to disaster-proof the country to help us withstand future crises while we recover from this one.”

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