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Observing Labour Day in the Right Spirit

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Awaiting a New Dawn

As we head towards the last official weekend of summer and the end of the school holidays, I’m thinking that I should do something special this Labour Day, September 7th, seeing the angst of many of the folks in the community. A single working woman wedded to her profession, I’ve never felt the need to ‘nest’, and boy am I glad, considering the travails of job retrenchments, tuition, and just plain keeping families in basic food and clothes. Folks are desperately trying to downsize so that they can make the mortgage, and a pretty profit in one fell sweep; students on loans are relentlessly attempting to make ends meet – it’s all very heartbreaking!

 
And Walmart Canada’s decision not to increase the hourly wages is shocking to say the least, especially as the economy seems so stagnant as compared to that of the US’s.

 
“Walmart Canada, the country’s biggest general merchandise retailer, isn’t considering hiking Canadian workers’ pay, it said Thursday, saying its hourly pay is competitive and that many front-line workers collect compensation that’s ‘significantly above’ minimum wage already.”

 
Now, everybody knows that this is not true. The fight for increased hourly wages is not just restricted to Walmart, but across industries in Canada. This, among the horror stories of gender discrimination in wages, sexual harassment, race violations, and overtime being gypped off immigrant workers.

 
“Tim Hortons has expanded oversight of the use of temporary foreign workers at its franchises and taken over two locations in Fernie, B.C., and Blairmore, Alta., months after several employees told CBC News the owner of the two franchises took advantage of their status as temporary foreign workers to cheat them out of overtime pay.”

 
The coffee shop chain, Tim Hortons, employs migrant workers, and those who initially brought up the claims of overtime pay theft last December, were Filipinos working at the Fernie Franchise, in addition to being threatened and manipulated by their boss. Tim Hortons claims to have terminated their relationships with the franchisees who fail to comply with employee standards requirements.
With its coal mines closed, Blairmore is considered Canada’s ghost town, with the last of the thriving mines closing in 1983, where grandpa had slaved his life away if I remember the stories right. My parents live in Dubai, but I came back to Canada to become a nurse, and I am at the Crowsnest Pass Health Centre working as a trauma nurse. My sister has followed suit and goes to the MacEwan University in Edmonton, studying Arts and Communications. Enjoying herself thoroughly, she works part time at the MCDONALD’S as a cashier – she has joined the tirade in uplifting the hourly wages, fighting injustice in any way she can. She has been spending the last few weeks of her holidays here in Blairmore with me, and regales me about the latest on the employment scene, telling me that the $15 an hour minimum wage issue should be an election issue that would possibly turn Stephen Harper’s chances of being elected again around. Because, according to her, though this can apply only to federally regulated workers, if a political party genuinely cares about raising the wages of low-income workers, then it is their responsibility to use every available policy lever at their disposal, from establishing a decent federal minimum wage to restoring the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act.

 

 

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According to economists, achieving such a standard would be a crucial step toward winning a $15 minimum wage for every worker, in every province in Canada, because –

 

1. A $15 federal minimum wage would directly improve the wages of over 135,000 federally regulated workers who earn less than $15 an hour; these workers include bank tellers, airline workers, transportation workers, and railway workers, who are responsible for the health and safety of passengers and communities and the well-being of the environment and natural resources. Such workers will have more disposable income and, as customers, will help stimulate economic activity that will in turn create more jobs.
2. Raising wages for low-income workers in one sector of the economy helps raise wages in other sectors. A $15 federal minimum wage will indirectly help thousands of other workers.
3. Federally regulated workers comprise a greater proportion of the population in some provinces than in others, which means the effects elaborated above will have an even greater, more positive impact on the provincial economy.

 
So, the minimum wage debate is the acid test for a political party’s commitment to decent work, never mind if they are banks, pipeline companies, or telecommunications firms. Therefore, the attempt to discredit the $15 federal minimum wage proposal by railing against the constitutional arrangements of Canada (over which no political party has control) is clearly a red herring, according to RANKANDFILE.CA

 
As Canada goes forward to a new dawn in its economic climate, I’m sure everyone has their fingers crossed for a better life for her citizens, which implies better wages. While many don’t think of the repercussions of the minimum wage debate, spare a thought for the less fortunate who are the turning wheels of our country. And I pledge to buy stuff sold by Canadian retailer in Canada; I have already placed an online order for Roman Blinds, from Zebrablinds.ca. I have ordered them with moisture repellent, blackout liners seeing as we’re headed towards cooler months, and I’m so fed up of my faux wood blinds. Have a great holiday, this last weekend of summer!

 

 

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