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labourcouncil

Dear Editor;


The perpetual pilgrimage to the altar of the very destructive low wage economy by great swaths of business community advocates, Conservative / neo-Liberal government leaders, a percentage of businesses and business leaders has gone on uninterrupted for decades and far too long. Perpetuated by organizations ideologically married to worker suppression, this deliberate action was put in place to explicitly undermine the collective strength of workers. The destructive success of this action is measured by winding back and stopping improvements in the standard of living and rights for more and more workers. The attacks on minimum wage increases in Ontario by these same organizations provide an excellent example of work to keep workers from improving their standard of living.


The low wage economy is at least partially defined as the intentional "off shoring" of well paid jobs, such as manufacturing, and the embracing of work that is typically paid the minimum wage or marginally better, contract based while being unrepresented with little or no ability to work on their own behalf to improve their wages or working conditions. Such an economy generates jobs, but these jobs are often precarious and incapable of supporting a family or providing enough income to permit spending beyond necessities. The low wage economy produces many undesirable things. It ensures that workers are intimidated, workplaces are less safe, workers are paid a minimum wage that has not kept pace with inflation for decades and where unionization is more difficult.


It is important that the reader understand just what the minimum wage is. It is the wage that employers must meet as a minimum. If given a chance the employer would pay as little as possible.


Since late November when Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, became law organizations standing in opposition to changes such as the increase to the minimum wage have worked desperately to tell the world that economic apocalypse in coming. Not that this is the first time. The same method of fearmongering and division was used when workers were granted the 40-hour work week, overtime pay, paid vacations, and the right to refuse unsafe work to name but just a few. Despite attempting to undermine these progressive changes with imaginary threats of near economic cataclysm none of these improvements lead to anything but a better life for workers and their families and by extension the communities that these families live in. This is exactly what lays ahead of us with the increases to the minimum wage and other such improvements recently passed in Ontario as paid sick days.


Although the recent changes to employment standards and labour law that have resulted in such changes as increases to the minimum wage have come under the watch of a Liberal government in Ontario, no undue amount of credit should be given to this government. Changes to employment and labour law come about because the Labour Movement and their allies see that the best place for society is a place where all workers benefit from such changes. Organizations that stand in opposition to these changes often bring up the alleged burden that business owners will come under. Yet, these same organizations decline to talk about Ontario workers that choose every month between paying rent or food as the years of steadfast opposition has held the minimum wage at an artificial and damaging low level.


Some of these same organizations are shills for the Ontario Progressive Conservative party and lead people to believe that these changes, which are still modest as compared to the work that must be done to assist workers in Ontario, would be undone if the Conservatives were elected in Ontario. People in Ontario need not be fooled by this attempt at mock heroics. The Ontario PCs have been a source of regressive legislation towards workers in Ontario for many years. The Ontario PCs will not become the hero of small business, but will simply do as they did in 1995 and undo the Ontario NDP progressive changes in labour law and employment standards law of the early 1990's.


In the end, the broader social well being is improved when workers can afford to live and even purchase the goods and services they work in and provide. To think otherwise is to deny the existence of the greatest period of modern prosperity, that period right after the end of the second word war. This time from the end of the war until the mistaken turn towards the austerity agenda saw the standards of living for workers steadily improve while fairly taxing all facets of society with the corresponding development of infrastructure (both bricks and mortar and social such as healthcare and education) and an ever-increasing rate of unionization.


Austerity and regressive policy towards workers is a failed policy. Once legislators and policy makers understand this and move towards policy and legislation that benefits all workers the more the likelihood of a prosperous society.
Dave Trumble
Vice-President Grey Bruce Labour Council

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