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Toronto, Ontario. The Ontario government can help meet its goals for lowering poverty by fully restoring labour rights and the right to organize, according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario.
History has proved that unionization is a poverty fighter. Union jobs pay on average $5.00 more than non-union jobs and offer the pensions and benefits that workers need to live and retire in dignity and security, says Sid Ryan, CUPE Ontario President. If Dalton McGuinty is really serious about eliminating poverty, then he must fully restore the rights of workers to organize, rights that the previous Conservative government took away from workers.
Among other losses, the Harris government took away the right of workers to signify in writing their agreement to form or join a union. To exercise their democratic right to join a union, workers have instead been forced to hold a public vote, allowing employers to campaign against unionization and harass and intimidate them in the process, says Ryan. Our signatures are good enough to get a mortgage or a marriage license, but they aren’t good enough to join a union under these repressive laws.
Since the laws were changed, unionization in Ontario has declined to 28% and the number of new unionized workers each year has fallen to 11,608 in 2004-2005 from 32,116 in 1994, according to the Ontario Federation of Labour. Ryan adds that shortly after the 2003 election, the McGuinty government pursued a purposefully divisive tactic of restoring the card check system for the building trade unions, but not for any other labour sectors.
One need only look at the significant increases in the wealth gap to realize that poverty is deepening because good jobs are being lost and people are forced to work at low wage, precarious work that can’t possibly sustain them and their families, while corporate owners get wealthier, says Ryan.
What’s needed is a living wage that will put food onto the tables of Ontario’s workers working in low wage jobs. We need a return to the labour laws that were in place for decades and that allowed Ontario workers and its economy to grow and prosper.