KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) We are pleased to see the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) extended, and we question those who claim that there is a lack of workers.
The food service industry only brought back half of its workforce. Other industries are struggling to open, including the film industry. After taxes, CERB is about $415.00. The minimum wage in Nova Scotia is $12.55, you would have to put in 39.8 hrs a week to get $500 gross. CERB is not rich by any stretch of the imagination. Getting workers to come back to work deserves a new conversation: let talk about the low wage economy, that far too many employers offer low wages, no reliable hours like 40 hrs a week and a lack of benefits.
Calling out workers as wanting the money and not working is unfair. It seems to me that the business community has received as much if not more in handouts than workers on CERB. The number of those who applied for CERB may be a real reflection of those who have been left behind by the failing EI System and the real unemployment rate.
Our message to low wage employers is workers are understandably reluctant to accept the health risks of serving customers and possibly bringing COVID-19 home to their family. The safety for them and their family far outweighs working at a low wage job for a few hours a week on erratic scheduling, for minimum wage or a few pennies more.
Many of those same employers fought hard against a higher minimum wage, sick days, improvements to employment insurance, minimum labour standards, pensions and health and safety laws.
Accusing workers of being addicted to handouts is hypocritical while you’re lined up at the government trough for handouts – shame on you.
Complaints about labour shortages should make us pause. It’s time to change the world of work because the low wage economy attitude of many employers is not going to work any longer.
Those on the front line are taking on the risk of catching COVID-19 and are unwilling to take that risk for jobs that pay pennies in today’s economy.
Many people believe our governments are far too cozy with employer organizations and corporations. Many taxpayers are feed up with the sound bites and actions that too often put profits ahead of people.
It is sad that front line workers are lifted up as heroes and are given a $2.00 increase, only to have it taken away a few weeks later.
The reality is the same big box stores that threw a few crumbs to its workers were raking in millions more in profits and the two dollars premium was really meant to keep people working at the risk of catching COVID-19. Now they claw back that $2 when COVID-19 is still here and worse yet, a second wave is around the corner. So much for being a hero.
There is not a shortage of workers, there is a shortage of employers that will change how it treats its workforce. This must change.
Danny Cavanagh is president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour
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