On behalf of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour (NBFL) and our 40,000 members I want to wish all New Brunswickers Happy Labour Day. I also want to take this opportunity to offer my sincere thanks to all New Brunswick workers who devote their time, energy and talents to improving the economic well-being of their communities.
This year was a difficult one for workers, especially union members. It was marked by several labour disputes and cuts to federal and provincial programs. Currently three labour disputes are ongoing. The Public Service Alliance of Canada – Union of Canadian Transportation Employees (PSAC UCTE) Local 60601, who work at the Fredericton Airport, are on strike since February 13th. The workers represented by the Canadian Media Guild in Saint John are trying to secure their first negotiated contract with their employer MBS Radio Station and have been on strike since June 25th. Also, the City of Moncton locked out its transit workers on June 27th, workers who are represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1290. I invite all NBFL affiliates to show their solidarity and support for these brothers and sisters.
In March, both the federal and provincial governments announced funding cuts and cuts to programs. The federal budget announced the loss of 12,000 public sector jobs. It also announced $5.2 billion in cuts to public services over the next three years. These cuts will impact the level and quality of services received by Canadians. It will also impact our local economy. In addition, rather than improving the retirement security of Canadians, the federal government is raising the age of retirement from 65 to 67.
Hence this year, on Labour Day, workers from coast to coast to coast are standing up for fairness and improved working conditions. Our struggle for improved social programs, workplace safety and labour laws is more important now than ever. The labour movement is under attack in Canada. Some provinces are studying the possibility of implementing right to work policies. Right to work provisions exist in several states in the United States and have resulted in significantly lower wages for workers and dismal working conditions. Unionization benefits workers. In Canada, 31% of all employees belong to a union. On average, unionized workers earn $5.11 more an hour than their non-unionized counterparts. This union advantage translates into $793 million more circulating weekly in the economy: money that supports local businesses and community services.
Here is a brief highlight of what the NBFL has been working on over the past year. In November, the NBFL organized its biennial political education conference. Over 60 union members from both public and private sector unions met over two days to discuss how unions can engage their members in the political process and what types of actions are needed to advance the quality of life of all New Brunswick workers. This year, the NBFL also organized its mid-term conference called, Less taxes = Less Services = Less Money in Our Communities. Given the recent cuts to programs announced by both the federal and provincial governments, the 134 delegates to the mid-term conference discussed how the governments’ right-wing agenda impacts their daily lives. Cutting taxes to the wealthy and corporations leads to cuts in programs and jobs. It affects the economy of local communities.
Most recently, the NBFL organized its 12th annual Blair Doucet Youth Summer Camp at the Moncton campus of Université de Moncton. The camp ran from August 6th to 10th. This year 23 campers came together from across the province to learn about the history of the labour movement, their rights as workers and to have fun and make friends. Thanks for all the financial contributions and volunteer hours that make this camp possible.
Also, I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who showed their solidarity over the past year by coming out on the picket lines and rallies organized in support of our striking and locked out brothers and sisters.
Our struggle is not over. A lot of work remains to improve and protect the rights of New Brunswick workers and their families. The NBFL will continue to work towards a society that includes a fairer system of taxation to reduce the growing gap between the rich and poor.
I will need your help over the upcoming year to improve several laws and policies; such as protecting our right to organize collectively by including the right to first contract arbitration in labour legislation. The NBFL also needs your help to mobilize against the right wing agenda influencing governments.
Finally I hope to see NBFL affiliated members at the Second Annual Women’s Gala scheduled for November 3rd at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Moncton.