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New Brunswick workers concerns
Union Labour Issues
Under the New Brunswick Federation of Labour (NBFL), an affiliate of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), union workers and labour organizations in New Brunswick organize to educate each other and take action to protect their rights.
Labour unions are struggling on a number of issues across the province, including:
- protecting jobs and wages for working people, including restricting New Brunswick government sponsorship of corporate activities that cause wage and job josses such as the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA] and Public Private Partnerships [P3s].
- protection for student, seasonal and part time workers
- lack of skills and training opportunities for workers and their children, including literacy and language training programs, employment insurance reform, bridging programs for workers with disabilities, internationally trained workers and Aboriginal workers, lack of strategies to address skills shortage i.e. apprenticeship programs and affordable education and skills training
- protection of worker health including strengthening and enforcing Occupation Safety and Health Acts, protection from hazardous workplace exposures, whistle-blower protection and legal and professional support for injured workers
- closing the wage gap for women and workers of colour
- lack of attention to new job creation through conservation and energy efficiency, phase-out of non-renewable energy and better public transportation
- strategies to stop loss of workers pension income, including stopping companies from selling companies and assets to avoid their pension obligations, making changes to the Bankruptcy Act to protect pensions, increase Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS) benefits available to retiring workers
- support for early learning and child care programs, including a permanent system of quality, not for profit child care, decent wages and benefits for child care workers
In April 2010, minimum wage in the province rose to $8.50 per hour; the provincial government is gradually phasing in increases in minimum wage to reach $10.00 per hour over a number of years
Non Union Workers Issues
Not all workers in the province are protected by labour unions and the workplace issues of non-union workers often go unattended, such as:
- It is reported that a number of teaching assistants in schools in the province have been the victims of violent assault from students.
- Employees in fast food restaurants are paid very low wage, are expected to work without enough rest breaks and to work an extra half an hour without pay per day to clean the workplace premises.
- Non-union workers on probation in union shops are given some of the dirtiest, most dangerous work; many leave the workplace before achieving union status and are replaced by more probationary staff.
- nepotism and political appointments in monopoly businesses and government jobs result in poor management and drive good businesses - and jobs - away by wasteful spending, offering inadequate training
New Brunswick labour unions, privatization and political activism
New Brunswick labour unions are strongly encouraged to support local political action to ensure a legislative agenda that benefits working people and their families and reflect the needs of the majority of Canadians.
It is held that right wing media and politicians condemn political activism by labour but look upon political involvement by business as selfless civic duty. Economic shifts toward globalization are changing the nature of business with practices such as out-sourcing and technology-intensive employment eroding traditional resource-based and industrial manufacturing enterprises.
Across the country, government policies favouring the privatization of public utilities and social services such as health care, education, garbage collection, drinking water purification and care of the elderly not only threaten union jobs, but private bottom-line thinking risks the lives and safety of all citizens. They maintain that public services are both more efficient and less costly than private services.
In 2004, the Canadian Parliament adopted Bill C-24 to reform election finance laws. the bill prevents unions and corporations from making large financial contributions to political parties. Labour leaders advised that although the new law limits financial support for corporate Canada's favoured Liberal and Conservative parties, it also limit's worker's abilities to support their traditional political ally, the New Democratic Party (NDP).
Union members are now encouraged to exercise their right to political participation outside of election time, exercise their collective voice and participate in greater numbers to influence political platforms, politicians and government policy. Electoral reform initiatives such as proportional representation and vote swapping are being given some consideration, although leaders have yet to agree on a model that would best serve workers and their families.
The Canadian Labour Congress urges its affiliates in New Brunswick to focus their political involvement in four areas of activism:
- co-ordinated non-partisan political action strategies during elections
- issue-based election campaigns to help their members make better choices in elected representatives
- ensure the accountability of elected representatives through advocacy and lobbying
- connecting with federal and regional electoral politics - support union members or community activists as candidates for elected office with candidate training, strategic analysis, recruitment of organizers and internet-based campaigns.