On behalf of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour (NBFL), we wanted to thank New Brunswick women for their contribution to the economy and society. New Brunswick women now work in all sectors of the economy and play various roles in the community.
We wanted to particularly recognize the contribution that our female affiliates make to the New Brunswick labour movement. Your work to improve workers’ rights and working conditions makes a difference in the lives of all New Brunswick workers. Our affiliates have also been actively involved in the women’s movement to advance women’s rights in the province. This advocacy has led to numerous positive changes in the lives of women.
Now, more than ever, the labour movement must work with our community partners to maintain and to advance women’s equality. Unfortunately we now need to also focus of maintaining certain rights; otherwise the status of women will regress. We have already seen this happen over the past year. In 2011, shortly after International Women’s Day (IWD), the provincial government announced that it would be abolishing all of the public funding allocated to the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women. In spite of widespread opposition to this decision, the provincial government has yet to replace the advisory council with a publicly funded alternative to advance women’s rights in the province.
Another issue that will require out attention is pay equity. The provincial government promised to complete job evaluations for child care workers, home support workers, transition house workers and community residence workers. It also committed to fund any necessary wage adjustments. In two of the sectors, child care workers and home support workers, the pay equity evaluations have been completed since 2010 but the government refuses to reveal the results. We must continue our work to make sure that the New Brunswick government keeps its promise to New Brunswick women on this important issue.
Luckily thanks to the advocacy of labour and social justice movements, the provincial government decided not to go ahead with a two-tier minimum wage system for servers working in licensed establishments. As we know, it is mostly women who work in this industry. Our vigilance sometimes does pay off!
The federal government has also made some bad decisions that will impact the status of women. It is in the process of dismantling the long gun registry. The long gun and handgun registry were put in place following recommendations made by women after the Montreal Massacre. Time will tell how abolishing the long gun registry will impact domestic violence rates in Canada. The government is also toying with the idea of cutting retirement benefits for seniors – making them wait an extra two years before they qualify for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement. Women and seniors with low incomes are over-represented in Canadians who depend on Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement to make ends meet in their retirement. The labour movement must continue promoting its vision of retirement security for everyone.
One way that governments can evaluate how their policy and budget decisions will impact women and men differently is to conduct gender based analysis of their major decisions, including their budgets. This type of evaluation is important because the lives of men and women are still different and government decisions will impact our lives differently. For example, lowering corporate and personal income taxes for the wealthy will have little impact on the lives of New Brunswick women because 40% of us do not pay taxes because our income is too low. Investing in public services is more beneficial to women than investing in tax cuts.
I have no doubt that our female affiliates will continue their work to improve the lives of New Brunswick workers and women. In November the New Brunswick Federation of Labour will recognize one of our affiliates for her contribution in the labour movement at the Second Annual Women in Leadership Gala in Moncton.
It’s as 19th Century American Poet Emma Lazarus said: “Until we are all free, none of us are free.”