Fighting for Good Jobs

August 30, 2010, 5:07 PM EST


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Delegates to the CAW-TCA Joint Council debated a new discussion paper called Fighting for Good Jobs that, among other recommendations, calls for the union to sponsor a national Jobs Summit to discuss the creation of good jobs in a post-recession economy.

The 17-page discussion paper, unanimously endorsed by Council delegates, examines the steady decline in job quality for Canadian workers over the past 30 years. The paper links this trend to the rise of labour market flexibility policies and programs promoted by an increasingly dominant neo-liberal political and economic ideology.

Neo-liberalism, a political-economic orthodoxy championed by right-wing economists, policy-makers and Conservative governments in Canada and around the world, has largely been characterized by policies aimed at deregulation, privatization, shrinking the size of government, promoting free trade and unmanaged global commerce as well as shifting major decision-making power over labour, environmental and social standards to the for-profit sector, to name a few.

In his introductory presentation on the paper David Robertson, Director of the CAW Work Organization and Training department, noted that along with the rise in neo-liberal policy making and the decline in job quality and security has come an overall drop in the standard of living for workers.

"There's no clearer sign of economic failure under this neo-liberal agenda than the fact that workers' wages have remained stagnant over the past 30 years," Robertson said.

The erosion of good jobs has clearly impacted workers in all sectors of the economy, including the auto industry which has shed over 55,000 high-paying jobs in recent years, Robertson said. Today, 1 in every 3 Canadian jobs can be identified as 'precarious' (temporary, contract, part-time or self-employed), and there are currently 1 million part-time workers actively looking for, but can't land, full-time jobs.

CAW Local 414 member Johanna Lehmer spoke about the challenges retail workers face, particularly those in the supermarket sector who have experienced a dramatic decline in wage and benefit rates over the last 15 years, deteriorating to a point where they now mostly offer low wages and part-time hours for workers.

"There are very few jobs in the retail sector that provide much more than the minimum wage, particularly for newer workers," Lehmer said. "This is a major problem especially since more laid-off workers are looking for jobs in the retail trade, one of this country's few growing economic sectors."

Including the call for a national job summit, the paper commits the union to organize community-based 'Good Jobs' forums, host regional roundtables on winning back the right to organize workers (including through card-based certification), engage the National Union in Politics Committee in a special political mobilizing session and for the national office to develop a new Good Jobs in the Green Economy workshop.

CAW Local 2200 Recording Secretary and Youth Committee Chairperson Travis Harrison said the union must set the bar high for workers, who are eager to win back good jobs in the wake of financial and economic collapse.

"There's a real appetite among workers around the world for a new sustainable economic model, one that supports the quality of life we all deserve," Harrison said. "It's become abundantly clear over the past years that the current system of global capitalism, guided by the policy framework of neo-liberalism, simply cannot deliver that."

Click here to download the Fighting for Good Jobs discussion paper

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