May 012024

May Day 2024 marks the rising struggle of workers against low wages and falling living standards, after years of austerity, high prices and gargantuan profits by the biggest national and transnational corporations.

A year and a half of high interest rates by the Bank of Canada has enabled the big banks, landlords, developers, loan sharks and big corporations to make a killing, while workers fought to keep their homes and savings, and small businesses fought to stave off bankruptcy.

The number of strikes in 2023 surpassed the high benchmarks set in 1986, as workers rejected the sweetheart deals demanded by employers and voted by large majorities to hit the bricks for better deals. Workers in unions that had never or rarely gone on strike went on strike last year, including a cross-Canada strike by 155,000 federal public service workers represented by PSAC.

In Quebec, the Common Front strikes led to more than half a million workers on an unlimited general strike, many without strike pay, and with final settlements that were supported by slim majorities in votes.

Workers in the private sector also struck, with workers in the auto sector approving deals by slim majorities, facing the threat of massive layoffs and closures with the advent of electric cars and battery plants. Even small groups of workers staked out a fighting position taking on big corporations. Workers at Windsor Salt were out for almost 5 months, facing a transnational corporation that tried to starve them out and break the union, before being forced to negotiate a contract that was acceptable to the striking workers.

This year, the struggle for better wages, pensions and working conditions continues. With governments and corporations colluding to drive down wages and living conditions and privatize public services and social programs, workers are facing an attack of massive proportions.

This includes the government’s decision, supported by all parties in Parliament, to increase military spending to $58 billion annually by 2029, with even more increases after that to meet NATO’s demand for military spending to equal 2 percent of GDP. This is on top of the $70 billion spent on fighter jets and $300 billion committed for warships, and the funds spent on the war in Ukraine, plus nuclear submarines if Canada joins the AUKUS group.

Who will pay for these lethal weapons that produce nothing but could destroy the planet? It won’t be the arms industry, which will make billions in profits. It will be working people, who will see universal social programs – like Medicare, EI, CPP and OAS, public education and public services that workers won after long struggles – privatized and dismantled. And young people will pay, some with their lives, in growing aggressive military pacts like NATO, NORAD, AUKUS and others.

And everyone will pay with the increased danger of a global war – a nuclear war – and the further destruction of the planet with increased and catastrophic impacts on the environment and the planet, and the increased mass migrations of people caught in wars and environments crises that will follow. Shamefully, there are no voices in Parliament today that are speaking up for workers: for peace, for jobs, for good wages and livable pensions and incomes, for the environment, for affordable public housing, for action to roll back prices and corporate profits and interest rates, to curb corporate power.

These are urgent issues that Poilievre and the Conservative Party are cynically exploiting to win the next election. Their claims that they are a workers’ party are a lie, as their pro-corporate policies and anti-labour record shows. Just like the Liberals, both speak for big business, but the Tories also have links to the far right. The Bloc Quebecois also speaks for business, while the NDP says it speaks for labour while at labour conventions, but not while in Parliament and not during elections.

Right-wing NDP influence in the top echelons of the labour movement aim to block independent labour political action, in favour of business unionism and carte blanche support for the NDP.

It doesn’t have to be this way! Mass united labour political action can stop this runaway train to disaster.

What’s urgently needed is mass independent political action by labour, farmers, women, youth, the unorganized and unemployed, the Communist Party and all those willing to fight for a People’s Agenda and a People’s Recovery from austerity, profiteering, privatization, war and the war on jobs and wages, pensions, EI, Medicare, education and the environment.

Today, we have an unpopular minority government which can be pushed to make significant concessions, provided labour and its allies take on the job. This would open the door to a federal election in which the fight for a People’s Agenda and Recovery would be front and centre, instead of a contest for power between the pro-war, austerity-driven Liberals and the pro-war, austerity-driven Tories.

This May Day let’s demand united mass political action that can unite the whole working class against war and reaction, for peace, progress, environmental action and conversion of military to civilian spending on Medicare, social programs, job creation, affordable housing, the environment and much more.

Unity can win!

Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada