Working people in Saskatchewan have a proud history of undertaking important initiatives that have made life better for everyone in our province. After decades of struggle, the people that live and work in Saskatchewan won protections for people’s health and safety at work, decent work standards, and the right to participate in economic democracy by joining unions. It is working people’s struggle for fairness at work that we commemorate on Labour Day each year.
Though working people and their organizations have contributed, in no small way, to the establishment of pension programs, statutory safety measures, and labour standards like weekends, sick pay, and the eight-hour workday, it is working people that are now coming under attack as a part of a cheap-labour, low-wage agenda. The idea is simple: ensure that wages for working people are driven down in order to drive up profits for corporations and corporate executives.
One of the ways that some governments and corporations are pushing the cheap-labour agenda is by turning to the exploitation of temporary foreign workers (TFWs). In fact, the number of TFWs in Canada has risen from a total of 150,000 in 2006 to potentially more than 350,000 today. For a period of that time, employers were even permitted to pay migrant workers up to 15 per cent less than the average Canadian rates for the same work.
In order to resist the low-wage agenda, our governments must extend workplace rights and find ways to provide quality employment opportunities to as many people as possible. Unfortunately, in Saskatchewan this is not always the case. As a recent example, earlier this year, the government passed the omnibus Bill 85, which will establish the “Saskatchewan Employment Act,” and it could have serious implications for working in our province. Visit the SFL website for more information.
There is still much work to be done, and Labour Day is an important occasion to renew our commitment to addressing important issues. It is up to all of us to take up the struggle for fairness that so many Saskatchewan people began decades ago.
Larry Hubich - President, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour