|September 4, 2006
A Labour Day Message from Ken Georgetti, President of the Canadian Labour Congress
|This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Labour Congress.
When a milestone like this is reached, it is only natural to look back and marvel at what we have accomplished. And what a difference
unions have made in people’s lives!
Over the span of two generations, the unions of the Canadian Labour Congress have improved the way we work and how we live.
Many of the benefits that were first bargained in collective agreements one workplace at a time are now enjoyed by all Canadians and
their families. In fact, they have become so much a part of everyday life that most of us simply take them for granted. Thus, today
Canadians enjoy the security of the Canada Pension Plan, overtime and holiday pay, or universal public medicare. But in 1956, these
were only dreams for most workers unless they belonged to a strong union.
The same is true for laws promoting health and safety in the workplace, including the right to refuse dangerous work. Laws to protect
people against harassment and discrimination, maternity and parental leaves, student loans and, most recently, protection against
bankruptcy – all won through the political action of a united labour movement.
We have changed our society and our country for the better. Our workplaces are safer. Our families are healthier. Our incomes are
more secure. Canadians enjoy a quality of life and an equality of citizenship that is admired the world over.
Oh yes, it is time to celebrate!
Yet as we savour our accomplishments we know much remains to be done. We know there are a few people with power and
influence who want to turn back the clock. They want to take away these benefits that add so much to your quality of life. We also
realize that belonging to a union still makes a difference for every woman and man who works for wages.
Union membership means better pay, benefits and pensions. It means having someone in your corner, backing you up, looking out
Every day, the unions of the Canadian Labour Congress continue the work of improving the quality of life for all Canadians. To be
clear: our work is the advancement of justice, fairness, equality and opportunity for everyone.
Every other household in Canada is home to a union member. Their struggles as workers, as parents and as citizens point the way
toward what, I’m sure, we will be celebrating as achievements when the Canadian Labour Congress reaches its centennial.
Working people need access to quality, universal, affordable child care and early learning for our kids. We need public health care to
be strengthened, so it’s there when we need it, and expanded to help us manage the cost of drugs and home care. We need real pay
equity for women.
More pressing than ever, we need governments to wake up and ensure continuous opportunities for training for all workers. We need
our politicians to listen to the real owners of this country, the majority of whom work for wages.
Canada needs a national jobs strategy. Outsourcing all the jobs might make sense for today’s global corporations, but it’s no way to
run a country.
Canada also needs fairness and balance in collective bargaining. It’s time to change our laws and put an end to scab labour. It’s
time for people to let our politicians know that they must make it illegal to hire scabs. If you’ve never contacted your Member of
Parliament before, this is the time to do it. Tell them to support anti-scab legislation and tell them to do it this fall.
Working people need to reassert the power they have as citizens – as voters who actually represent the majority. Making working
people’s issues vote-determining and who will champion them the real ballot-box question, would improve politics in our country for
Fifty years from now, some of us may still be here to savour the achievements yet to come and like today, we will find it nearly
impossible to imagine a Canada without a universal child care program or pharmacare, without continuous skills development and
Here’s to the next fifty years.