KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – As the new year begins we know, we have much to do, but when we take a minute to look around, we see lots of positives that give us hope that we can achieve great things in 2018.
We just wrapped up one of our best conventions ever, where delegates passed a two-year action plan. We signed off on a solidarity pact at our convention, meaning that together the four Atlantic Federations of Labour will fight austerity at all levels and take on issues federally and provincially together when it makes sense, whether its red tape reduction, domestic leave, higher minimum wages, employment insurance or labour standards. We have a tremendous collective voice of almost 200,000 workers in the Atlantic region, so be assured we will stand together to take on any challenges in the Atlantic provinces.
Here at home we have had a few small victories, like getting the McNeil Liberals to allow the unions standing in the Court of Appeal on Bill 148, and also to see the entire bill go before the court. We are looking forward to getting our day in court. The recent arbitrator decision to grant two years onto the McNeil’s wage restraint bill was good. Remember also that the government said they didn’t want an arbitrator to make decisions and it breaks the pattern the Liberals set. We are heading to the supreme court on Bill 30 and 37, the imposed home support legislation and essential services legislation, so stand by on those two cases.
When we look at what’s happening in provinces and across the country we have some hope that when our unions come together, we can make gains, The PTSD improved coverage in Nova Scotia is a good start. We hope the Liberals will see the importance of giving at least five paid domestic leave days in future legislation and improve the definition of the leave. We are keeping an eye on mine safety with recent reports in media and issues at the Donkin mine. Our focus will also be on the temporary worker program and work to ensure our workers who are qualified and capable of doing work will be the first hired. We will be working on the red tape reduction and ensure standards are lifted up to the best in the Atlantic region.
We hope that we will see some success in making improvements in Occupational Health and Safety laws especially when a worker dies in a workplace accident. There needs to be more movement to enforce the Westray Bill, and we need to see criminal investigations by police in such cases. We will continue to fight privatization and work to ensure that unionized trades are on the front line in any infrastructure projects. We will be looking to fix a few things with the Workers’ Compensation Board, such as mandatory insurance for companies with fewer than three employees, and ensure coverage for all workers. We will continue to help injured workers through the Office of the Worker Counsellor.
We will continue to work on poverty reduction and elimination. The fight for $15 is ramping up, and the usual crap from the right wing is playing out. It’s funny how the right wingers look to pit worker against worker but never say a word when the corporate CEO compensation package list comes out. How can CEO’s continue to get pay packets and packages that are far higher than anyone else, but the sky is falling rhetoric from them is nil on those CEO increases? When workers at the bottom look to get an increase in the minimum wage, well look out, the world may end according to them. It seems people forget that it’s workers who shop in local business. With pay cheques going backwards for most people we will see the economy continue to drag along as more people have less spending power and wages spiral downward.
One the more significant projects we will be taking on will be looking to make some changes to labour law in Nova Scotia. It’s important to know that these standards have not seen a complete updated since 1972. Yes, there have been some piecemeal changes, but that’s about it. We will see some movement on a Workers’ Action Centre in the next while, and that will be important for workers who need help. Yes, we will also stand up and defend our rights to free and fair collective bargaining and defend our charter rights under the Constitution.
These are just a few items we will be looking at in the coming year, and we know we have much to do. We have never been afraid of hard work and fighting uphill battles. We know we can make gains as long as we work together, with all our unions and others. We encourage you think critically about things and not be so fast to buy into the same old sound bites that we hear over and over. Things have not gotten better for workers in the same way they have for the corporate elite in our country. Having workers who toil to earn those profits get a little bigger share of the wealth isn’t a lot to ask.
As we head down the road together in 2018 I ask that you consider this: things can and will change when we all come together and work collectively to get the kind of province we want.
Danny Cavanagh is the president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour.
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