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Sisters and Brothers,

Workers around the world will mark March 21 as the day to recommit to building a world where all its peoples are free from racial discrimination in all its forms.

And this year, as our communities face another assault through cuts to public services and social supports, it’s even more important that we consider the impacts of cuts on all members of our society, especially racialized people.

March 21 was declared the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1966. The date was chosen in honour of the 69 people killed in Sharpeville, South Africa, in 1960, when security forces opened fired on a peaceful demonstration protesting apartheid “pass laws” that limited the movement of Black South Africans.

While much has improved since those times, the real work we need to do collectively to end racism is far from over. We encourage all CUPE Ontario locals to take a moment to reflect on what we have done to overcome racism in our workplaces and our communities, whatever sector we work in or whichever part of the province we live in.

This year, we face a major assault against public services and the broader public sector, generally. The McGuinty Liberal government wants to cut its way to a balanced budget. All signs point to a barrage of cuts that will rival the brutal slashing and restructuring of the awful Mike Harris Conservative government of the 1990s.

We can’t let the Liberals get away with it, especially knowing that racialized communities stand to suffer disproportionately more from public service cuts.

This is true in two ways. First, its important to understand that all available data proves that in Canada today that, the darker your skin, the less financial resources are at your disposal.

In fact, racialized workers earn less on average per hour than other workers, even when they perform similar work and have similar or higher education and training. Racialized women suffer a double burden. On average, working women earn only 71% what men make, according to the Equal Pay Coalition. The Coalition points out that the “pay gap increases substantially when intersecting with other forms of discrimination. Racialized women earn 36% less than men and aboriginal women earn 54% less.”

Second, cuts to public services endanger our members’ jobs. The majority of our members are women, and in large and urban centres, in many of our sectors, a huge number of our members are racialized workers. This means the job cuts being proposed target women and racialized workers disproportionately.

All of this means that the growing gap between rich and poor is not just widening, it’s in black and white. Some call it “economic apartheid“.

The austerity agenda will just make things worse. Cutting public services and social supports will place extra burdens on all communities, but especially on those that struggle every day with the indignity and oppression of racism.

Sisters and brothers, make no mistake. This so-called “austerity” agenda is doubly dangerous to racialized people and their communities. Not only is the diversity of the workforce of the broader public sector under threat with these cuts, but the communities that most need supports will find it harder to access them.

We cannot – and will not – let this stand. On March 21, let us recommit ourselves to ending racism in our society as we tackle the austerity agenda.

In solidarity,

Fred Hahn, President                 Candace Rennick, Secretary Treasurer