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Year-end message from NS Federation of Labour president Danny Cavanagh

More and more people believe that the economy is thriving for the rich – well that’s because it is. They also think that much is being done to help the rich and therefore hurting workers. The corporate control in our provinces and federally over our politicians is creating hurt for many in the so-called middle class and many of the political decisions are forcing more people into poverty. The coming year will not be much different unless we have a shift in how we, as taxpayers, think and start to demand better from our politicians.

The Festive Season is supposed to be a time of joy, for people to come together with families and friends to celebrate the season, to reflect on the past year and embrace the year ahead with optimism and hope. Sadly, many workers are becoming more and more discouraged. We see and hear the same old sound bites of how the right-wing policies will see us all do better, and that just isn’t true for the 99%.

I think we all understand that no matter what, union members did not create the poor economic situations the province and country are in. Those were created by the political choices of our elected politicians. Those were created by the closeness of politicians to the corporate elite and big business. Health, education and other sectors are in crisis and blaming workers is not the answer.

Rather than blame workers for what’s wrong why not work together to solve the issue, to make things better for all? 

The McNeil Government identified public sector wages as the biggest threat to the province’s finances. The Liberal Government does not understand basic economics – public sector wages are not a threat, they come back as tax revenues and economic growth as workers spend money in their local economies across Nova Scotia. In our province union members’ total employment income in NS is at about $6.54 billion and those unionized workers pay around $816.94 million in net provincial taxes.

Workers in unions are an important part of the local community and economy because that’s where they spend their pay cheques. Their incomes support local businesses (which create local jobs) and bolster the local tax base, which supports public works and community services that add to everyone’s quality of life.

Reducing the standard of living for most Nova Scotians seems completely contrary to what is needed if we are to truly chart a path for much-needed social and economic development in this province. Unfortunately, it fits right into a pattern for the McNeil Government of going after the rights and benefits of working people. The rights and benefits of working people include a safe working environment as safe and healthy workplaces are good for workers, families, business and for the bottom line for all of Nova Scotia and our future. Protecting our workers in this way will ensure our province will not only retain workers but will attract them from other places.

Our Federation of Labour just had our 50th Convention where over 200 trade unionists from across Nova Scotia and beyond came together to brainstorm ways to protect workers’ rights, address intimate partner and workplace violence and ease the stress on members who work in health care, long term care, home care and education and other sectors of our workplaces and economy. We talked about the crisis in health care which is harming workers and patients and resolved to lobby for changes to ease the unbearable stress and burnout many members are experiencing.

We heard from educational assistants who are being assaulted in the classroom by children who have no mental health supports and said they would lobby to have mental health included as a critical component of a safe workplace.

We will take action on social issues like clean water on our First Nations Reserves, the environment and child poverty. We will vigorously oppose any anti-worker legislation that threatens free collective bargaining and will work to rid workplaces of sexual harassment and assault. We renewed our commitment to fight for a $15 minimum wage and Universal Pharmacare, and to oppose the privatization of public services, speaking out against P3’s such as highways and hospitals and the contracting out of hospital trades, maintenance and operator jobs in highways, healthcare and education and other sectors where privatization shows up.

Our delegates left the convention energized, with solid plans to educate and mobilize our members on a wide range of issues over the next two years. We are ready to take on the work of a united labour movement over the next two years and beyond.

On behalf of the Executive Council and our affiliated members of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, I wish you all precious moments with your family and friends during this festive season and I hope that 2020 brings you peace, health and happiness. That’s together as we head into the New Year, we will work together so we all can get the kind of province that’s a great place to work, live and raise our families.  

Danny Cavanagh, President

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