Labour Day is a holiday to celebrate and recognize the achievements of Canadian workers. As public service financial officers, you should take pride in the work that you do. Your work contributes to the stewardship of Canadian tax dollars and ensures accountability in the delivery of government programs and services.
Labour Day is also a time to commemorate the contributions of labour movement pioneers who secured many of the rights we take for granted today such as the five-day work week, minimum wage, and occupational health and safety standards.
To this day, the labour movement continues to be instrumental in maintaining adequate working conditions, economic parity, and a healthy middle class of working citizens that is necessary for a strong and equitable democracy.
Today, the labour movement is facing a challenging period in its history. Recently, labour – and particularly the public service – has been under attack by a global anti-union movement. These anti-labour proponents suggest the economic hardship many nations face is a result of excessive labour demands rather than the unchecked greed which nearly collapsed the global economic system in 2008.
The Conference Board of Canada released a report recently showing that the economic gap between the wealthy and the poor is widening. These types of gaps have led to violent labour unrest in the past. If the trend continues, we run the risk of history repeating itself.
There are certain fundamental rights that are essential for our society to function. We must stay vigilant in defending our workplace rights or we risk losing them. As much as we wish to feel safe in Canada, it would be foolish to be complacent.
The Association is witnessing multiple attempts to limit Canadians’ collective bargaining rights, including pre-emptive back-to-work legislation, bills in the House of Commons forcing unions to be subject to public scrutiny that no other not-for-profit organization is subject to (including national political parties), and proposals to undermine unions’ ability to generate revenues.
There is no question that Labour organizations, like all organizations, must evolve with changing times. This does not justify these attacks, nor does it mean that organized labour isn’t making the necessary adjustments to meet the needs of the next generation. Labour has an obligation to all people, not just its members, to ensure that government is held accountable for developing legislation that protects citizens from exploitation and unsafe working conditions.
As we in the FI Community recognize the value we bring to Canadians in celebration of Labour Day, we cannot lose sight of the challenges facing labour movements in other parts of the world. They will undoubtedly impact us.
If we do not pay attention to what is happening globally, the pattern of exploitation will inevitably wash up on our shores. Before you know it, all the gains our predecessors fought to secure for workers will no longer exist. As much as we should celebrate our history in the labour movement, we must all stand on guard against those who oppose sharing in Canada’s prosperity.
Milt Isaacs, CMA, CPFA
President, Association of Canadian Financial Officers