September 7th 2015
On Labour Day 2015, the Communist Party of Canada sends its warmest greetings of solidarity to working people across the country, especially to all those engaged in struggles against attacks by employers and right-wing governments.This year, Labour Day takes place during a crucial election campaign, in the context of an economic crisis that creates deep hardships for working people in Canada and across the capitalist world.
The challenge faced by the organized labour movement is to play a major role in defeating the Harper Conservatives, and to work beyond the election to build a mass movement that can reverse the austerity agenda imposed by big business.”
The anti-people impact of neoliberal policies continues to unfold. Even before the 2008 meltdown, the largest corporations and banks were consolidating to downsize production and raise labour productivity, and to attack the wages, benefits and living standards of workers. Real incomes for working people have been declining for decades. While official jobless figures remain at about 6.8%, employment patterns are shifting dramatically. Part-time jobs now account for 80% of net job creation, and nearly 20% of workers hold part-time positions, up from 12.5% in 1976. There are now 1.1 million workers in precarious, temporary contract positions, earning lower pay and few benefits. Mass layoffs have hit tens of thousands of workers this year in the manufacturing, service and retail sectors. Youth unemployment remains two to three times the general rate of unemployment, and even higher among those from racialized and indigenous communities. Housing is increasingly unaffordable for millions of families, and the pay gap between men and women for work of equal value is again widening.
The true aim of PM Harper’s “economic action plan” is to enhance corporate profitability and the concentration of capital through a wholesale transfer of wealth from the working class, small farmers and primary producers, Aboriginal peoples, women, new immigrant communities and migrant workers, youth and the elderly. And it’s succeeding: the top 1% of Canadian pre-tax income earners now capture 37% of overall income growth, and swallow up 12.2% of the country’s income pie.
The austerity strategy includes undermining the universal public healthcare system, EI, and pensions; cuts to social transfers for education and social welfare; new attacks on labour laws, equity programs, and environmental protections; and more wars, more covert surveillance, and more police and prisons. The rights of labour to organize, to free collective bargaining and to strike are being steadily curtailed through restrictive legislation and back-to-work orders. New pro-corporate trade deals are being finalized, like the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the EU, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, which target sovereignty, democracy, the environment, and working people. Free speech and civil liberties are being restricted by so-called “security” measures, such as Bill C-51, which threatens all those who undermine “the economic or fiscal stability of Canada” – a clear reference to trade unionists, environmentalists, and indigenous land defenders.
There is a growing militant opposition among workers and the broader democratic movements. This is reflected in workplaces, around the negotiating table and on picket lines, and also on the streets – among Aboriginal Peoples struggling for their just national rights; around opposition to tar sands extraction and fracking; among youth and students, especially in Québec, against tuition increases, police violence and austerity; in the opposition to the end of urban home postal deliveries; and the mass mobilizations against C-51. It includes the “Fight for $15” labour/community battle to raise the minimum wage; the battle against Bill 1 in Nova Scotia; the militant struggles by CUPE locals at York and the University of Toronto; job actions by teachers in B.C. and Ontario; and the recent negotiations in Ontario involving UFCW (Loblaw stores) and Unifor (Metro stores), where these unions worked hard to achieve significant improvements for part-time workers, including closing the wage gap.
These examples show that the trade union movement has the numbers, the experience and the organizational strength to play a leading role in building a far broader and more coordinated fightback.
A new mood of resistance has emerged in the Canadian Labour Congress, where President Hassan Yussuff was elected after endorsing the action program of the “Take Back the CLC” movement calling for labour unity and militant action. In Ontario, the OFL under President Sid Ryan has played an important role in building labour coordination and solidarity around major trade union battles, and in forging the Ontario Common Front with social allies in the communities.
In Québec, three main labour centrals (FTQ, CSN and CSQ) have formed a ‘front commun’ to negotiate collective agreements for 450,000 provincial employees. There is wide support in Québec for the concept of a broader coalition of trade unions, feminists, popular and environmental groups and student associations, using escalating tactics such as a political strike against the austerity program of the Couillard government.
But there remains a sharp divide over tactics and strategies. Activist and militant “social union” forces support independent labour political action, while collaborationist, business union leaders favour “contracting out” labour’s political role to the NDP, hoping to resurrect the so-called ‘social contract’ between labour, business and government. Underlying these choices is a more fundamental question: “Which way forward for labour – class struggle or class collaboration?”
The answer requires an understanding that as the systemic crisis of capitalism deepens and matures, there is no other way forward except to ‘unite and fight’ against the offensive waged by monopoly capital and its governments, and to advance a real alternative and line of struggle to achieve this goal. The next stage in the fightback begins with defeating the Conservative government, which has been a disaster for workers, Aboriginal peoples, women, youth and students, pensioners, immigrants and racialized communities. But working people don’t need a new Liberal version of the Tory pro-war, big business agenda. And unfortunately, despite raising some useful measures such as a $15/hour federal minimum wage and a pan-Canadian child care program, the NDP refuses to reject the capitalist “free trade” deals, or to demand an end to participation in U.S.-led wars.
As shown by the recent example of Greece, where the “radical” Syriza government has imposed the pro-corporate policies demanded by European finance capital, fundamental change requires mass working class action to break with the entire system of neoliberal economics, capitalist trade deals and imperialist military alliances.
In this election, only the Communist Party of Canada has raised a true People’s Alternative: jobs and higher wages, defence of labour rights, expanded social programs, one million new housing units, nationalization of resources and the banks, cuts to carbon emissions, scrapping “security state” laws, justice for Aboriginal peoples, full gender equality, military spending cuts, and higher taxes on the corporations and the wealthy. A vote for the Communist candidates is a powerful demand for such fundamental changes. Ultimately, to win a genuine People’s Alternative, we need a longer-term fight, and a powerful People’s Coalition of the working class and its allies outside of Parliament. The organized labour movement must become the core of such a coalition, which could break the power of the big corporations and open the path towards a socialist Canada.
On Labour Day 2015, the Communist Party of Canada urges all workers – organized and unorganized, employed and unemployed, of all national origins and genders – to unite against the corporate agenda, and to fight for a world free from exploitation, oppression and war!