June 8, 2012

Volume 42, No. 22

CAW Economist Debunks "Myth" of Labour Shortage

CAW Economist Jim Stanford testified recently that Canada faces years of continuing surplus labour supply, not a looming labour shortage.
Stanford appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance regarding the federal government's omnibus budget bill, Bill C-38 on May 31.
He tabled data showing that Canada's labour market has recovered only marginally from the worst days of the 2008-09 recession. Since July 2009, when the recession bottomed-out, the employment rate (which measures the proportion of working-age Canadians holding a job of any kind) has recovered barely one-fifth of the ground it lost during the downturn. 
"The oft-made claim that Canada's labour market has fully recovered from the recession is blatantly and empirically false," Stanford said.  "In fact, the labour market remains almost as weak as during the worst days of the downturn."
The decline in the official unemployment rate mostly reflects a decline in labour force participation by Canadians, not stronger employment conditions, he noted.
Because hundreds of thousands of non-working Canadians are excluded by definition from official unemployment statistics, the standard unemployment rate badly underestimates true unemployment, Stanford argued.  He presented the Committee with estimates of actual unemployment, which he pegged at almost 2.3 million Canadians, or over 12 percent (see table). 
"Canada continues to experience a condition of severe and chronic underutilization of our labour supply," Stanford said.  "It is simply not credible to speak of a 'labour shortage' that somehow constrains our economic growth.  This feared labour shortage is a myth invoked to justify painful and unnecessary cuts to important social programs."
"Government policies aimed at compelling labour supply (including proposals to defer Old Age Security, cut Employment Insurance benefits, and dramatically expand the Temporary Foreign Worker program) are motivated not by a labour shortage, but by a desire to suppress wages."
The omnibus budget bill would alter over 60 pieces of federal legislation, including major changes to Old Age Security and Employment Insurance.

GM Oshawa Closure Ignores Workers' Sacrifices, says CAW 

CAW President Ken Lewenza is calling the decision by General Motors to close its consolidated assembly line in Oshawa short-sighted. 
"General Motors should instead be focusing on utilizing its Canadian facilities as it seeks to further rebuild the company," said Lewenza.
"The decision to close this very productive line and put 2,000 more workers out of a job is ill thought-out and could damage the company in the long run. It is also a betrayal of the tremendous work and sacrifices by our members that went into keeping General Motors afloat in 2008-2009, when the company was on the verge of bankruptcy," he said.
"It appears today that General Motors has a very short memory," said Lewenza.
A recent study by the Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research found that General Motors may have to boost capacity in the coming years to keep pace with demand for vehicles. 
Lewenza said this latest closure announcement flies in the face of what may actually be the best course of action for the company - using existing capacity well into the future.

GM will close the facility as of June 2013. The workers at the GM in Oshawa are represented by CAW Local 222.

All Parties Agree on Need for National Auto Policy, says CAW

CAW national and local leaders met with all three major political parties on June 5 in Ottawa to press for a national auto sector strategy.
During the series of meetings, all three parties agreed that the auto sector is important to the Canadian economy and a national auto policy is needed. 
"We need a clear policy framework moving forward to nail down the next generation of investment to keep producing and keep Canadians working," said CAW President Ken Lewenza, after the meetings.
The CAW met with Official Opposition and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, NDP Finance Critic Peggy Nash, NDP Trade Critic Don Davies, Liberal Party Leader Bob Rae, Liberal Industry Critic Frank Valeri and the Conservative Auto Caucus MPs, chaired by MP Ben Lobb.
The union delegation included CAW National President Ken Lewenza, CAW Economist Jim Stanford, Membership Mobilization and Political Action Director Jenny Ahn and the three chairs of the CAW master bargaining committees: CAW Local 222 President Chris Buckley (General Motors), CAW Local 707 President Gary Beck (Ford) and CAW Local 444 President Dino Chiodo (Chrysler).
The lobby sessions were building on the CAW's Re-think the Economy, Re-think Canada's Auto Industry campaign, which kicked off on April 16. 
See the entire list of proposals at: http://www.rethinktheeconomy.ca/resources

A Closer Look at Harper's EI Rollbacks

A clear sign the federal government was moving ahead with new attacks on unemployed workers was Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's comment on May 14 that, "There is no bad job, the only bad job is not having a job." He continued: "I drove a taxi, I refereed hockey. You do what you have to do to make a living."
In less than two weeks, the Conservative government announced sweeping changes to Canada's EI system which have raised multiple questions and deep concerns from workers, unions, the unemployed and many businesses.
To provide greater clarity on what these changes will mean for unemployed Canadians the CAW has prepared a Questions and Answers document. To read the full document, please visit:  http://www.caw.ca/assets/images/EI_questions_June_2012_.pdf

Rallies Opposing Bill C-38

On Saturday, 54 rallies were held across the country in front of Conservative MP offices.
In Essex,  people rallied in front of MP Jeff Watson's office. Bill C-38 would make sweeping changes to over 70 laws and has drawn criticism across the political spectrum.Photo by Sue Gibbons, CAW Local 444.

Fisheries Act Changes Threaten Commercial Fishing Communities

B.C. fishermen and fish plant workers are calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to immediately withdraw habitat protection changes to the Fisheries Act, contained in the Conservatives massive omnibus budget bill.
The United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union (UFAWU-CAW) and the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation say the suite of changes will reduce current fish habitat protection and put B.C. fishery jobs in jeopardy.
The two organizations have memberships based in the commercial fishing industry on the B.C. coast, an industry that employs more than 12,000 people in various fisheries and the fish processing sector.
"The proposed changes to the Fisheries Act would allow some alteration and disruption of fish habitat, which could be at critical times of the year when salmon are spawning or young juvenile salmon are in our streams," said David Lane, Executive Director of the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation.
"Protecting only fish habitat related to a fishery is hairbrained and unworkable in practice," said Irvin Figg, President of the UFAWU-CAW.
"A Chinook salmon caught in the sports fishery off Haida Gwaii or a pink salmon caught by the commercial fishery on the North Coast could have come from any number of watersheds. Literally thousands of streams in B.C. have not been studied enough to make a definitive link to a fishery, given that fishing can take place a thousand kilometres from a salmon spawning bed," Figg said in a June 5 media release.
The UFAWU-CAW and the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation have written Prime Minister Harper asking for the current Fisheries Act fish habitat provisions to remain in place.
To find out more, visit http://www.bucksuzuki.org/

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