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

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.

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

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.

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

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

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Canada’s unions join Global Day of Action on Care

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.

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