Bruske: Workers and their families are falling behind, and our inadequate social safety net is failing them. Workers expect the government to throw them a lifeline.
OTTAWA – Canada’s unions are calling on the federal government to invest in workers in its budget to be released on March 28.
“High inflation is eating away at workers’ hard-earned pay cheques, the relentless pursuit of higher corporate profits through price increases is worsening the affordability crisis, and our care system is crumbling. Our government must learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and use Budget 2023 to put people first.” said Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress.
Balancing our economy
Workers want the government to restore balance in our economy – the eye-watering cost of day-to-day necessities means workers and their families continue to struggle. Food prices show no signs of slowing down while grocery giants report super-sized profits.
‘’What workers need from this government is to be put first,‘’ added Bruske. ‘’This should start with tackling excess profits by raising taxes on the wealthiest, and most profitable corporations, and closing tax loopholes. Some of Canada’s largest corporations took significant amounts of pandemic-related wage subsidies and reaped in record profits, then transferred billions of dollars to shareholders and avoided billions more in taxes. This must stop.” said Bruske.
Investing in public programs
Crushing workloads and excessive overtime are causing burnout, forcing health providers to leave their professions, and causing a critical shortage of health workers. Canada’s unions urge the government to keep experienced nurses in their jobs, bring them back to the public sector, and recruit nurses where needed most.
‘’We hope to see some sizable investments in Budget 2023-24 to tackle Canada’s health care workforce crisis. Chronic understaffing has left health providers feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and overlooked, and patients and families face extreme wait times because hospitals and health facilities are over capacity,‘’ said Bruske.
‘’American-style, for-profit clinics drain resources from our public health care system, cost more and drive up wait times with life-and-death consequences. Our public healthcare system should be universal, based on need rather than the ability to pay,’’ added Bruske.
Putting workers first
In September 2022, the special measures put in place during the pandemic expired – leaving thousands of workers behind. Workers are now urging the government to help those who stand to lose their jobs in the event of a recession and permanently strengthen our faded Employment Insurance system by making COVID-19 simplification measures permanent and by reducing entrance requirements.
‘“Decades of defunding has resulted in only two in five unemployed people having access to EI,” said Bruske. ‘“We want Budget 2023 to signal the government’s return to directly funding a portion of EI benefits to support improved EI access, higher benefit levels, and simplified rules and procedures.’’
Canada’s unions are asking the government to prioritize sustainable jobs and expand public investments in renewable energy production, green building construction, and public transportation, which offer significant economic opportunities. Workers must be at the decision-making table. There must be pathways into these new jobs, accredited training for workers in high-emitting sectors, and good jobs must be created and protected as we reduce emissions in every workplace, sector, and community.
“We cannot afford to ignore the looming threat of the climate crisis. As economies around the world decarbonize, jobs and work will change too. Workers expect the government to invest in low-carbon industry and technology across sectors and across the country,’’ added President Bruske.
Housing for everyone
The rising cost of homes and rents is taking a toll on workers whose wages are not keeping up. Workers want their government to make serious efforts to combat financial speculation in housing, starting with taxing house-flipping and vacant properties to capture windfall real estate gains that go to the wealthiest Canadians.
Canada’s unions are calling on the government to put in place ambitious and direct funding for the construction of new, non-market, affordable public housing, including social housing and co-ops for all, including Indigenous peoples, survivors of domestic violence, and people living with disabilities—particularly for marginalized groups.
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