Workers unite against austerity

Written by Patrick Colford on April 23, 2019

Nursing home workers and other workers rallying for fair wages and against austerity budgets in 2019. Photo from CUPE NB.

Workers in New Brunswick are preparing to defend their hard-earned rights in the workplace and beyond.

In the coming months, we can expect Premier Blaine Higgs to continue and make changes that will hurt New Brunswickers. For example, lowering the quality of public services, leaving more of us facing poverty whether we have a job or not, reducing the quality of education in the province and taking away workplace rights.

Let’s take a minute to look at some of the Higgs government’s “accomplishments” to date.

The Higgs government rolled back the independence of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal, weakening it. If WorkSafeNB policies do not respect existing legislation, what remedy will injured workers then have? This is a government that characterizes its workforce in the recent budget speech as “suffocating the economy.” It abolished the tuition free program for low income university students, making post-secondary education less financially accessible. We all know that higher education helps individuals climb their way out of poverty. The Higgs government also announced that it is cutting funding for low-income housing and halving the budget of the New Brunswick Women’s Council.

The Government of New Brunswick must change its course to ensure that quality public services are available to New Brunswickers. Government also has a responsibility to create good-paying, steady jobs where workers are treated fairly. Government decisions should also make sure that New Brunswickers do not fall deeper into poverty. New Brunswickers need this government to improve quality of life in this province rather than making cuts that leave so many New Brunswickers struggling. Now is the time to demand better from our government.

We know that when we organize together, we win. We won significant changes when we stood with community partners. Together, we fought hard and won changes that are making life easier for working New Brunswickers, including first contract legislation, domestic violence leave, recognizing violence as a workplace hazard, and so much more.

The New Brunswick Federation of Labour’s message to the workers of this province is this: together, we can take on the challenges that we face ahead. Let’s work together to not only protect but to improve public services, protect society’s most marginalized populations, and make sure that workers’ rights are guarded as human rights.

The labour movement has long advocated for changes to improve the lives of working people and their families, from bargaining for greater rights in the workplace, to making it easier to join a union, to taking on social issues like racism, domestic violence and LGBTQ* rights.

When we stand together, we can build a better New Brunswick!

The Blaine Higgs government has shown how little it values working people and vulnerable New Brunswickers. His is a government driven by ideology.

It seems like Premier Higgs and his government are more interested in helping their friends: big business and the richest in the province. Millionaires who, each second, make more than a minimum wage worker does in an hour. The Blaine Higgs’ government is working for only some people, not all of the people. It’s up to us to stand up for both the marginalized and ordinary New Brunswickers. Now is the time to join a growing movement. Let’s unite in solidarity!

Patrick Colford is the president of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour.

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