·  by Sheri Benson, NDP MP for Saskatoon West   ·  NDP & The Hill Times

NDP Federal Labour Critic Vows to Push for Improved Labour Rights

OTTAWA – NDP Labour Critic Sheri Benson (Saskatoon West) has told the Hill Times newspaper that she will push the Liberal government to not only fulfil its commitments, but will also stress the need for EI reform, strengthening public pensions and reinstating a federal minimum wage and setting it at $15 an hour.

“Canada’s history shows us that no one has done more to help the middle class and those trying to join it than organized labour,” said Benson. “Throughout the last century, organizations like the CCF and NDP have worked in solidarity with progressive organizations around the world to help drive the greatest reduction of inequality in human history. 

“Working together, we have changed the way people work and live. Weekends, worker safety, jobs with a family-supporting salary, and a pension one could retire on are now most people’s expectation, not the exception. 

“While we are proud of these accomplishments, there have been growing warning signs. Income inequality has been getting worse now for decades. Worker’s rights have begun to erode. And for the last decade, the Harper Conservatives made no effort to mask their contempt towards workers. Their record is clear: bargaining rights were eroded; funding to public healthcare was slashed; public services—even home mail delivery—were cut; the retirement age was raised; collective bargaining negotiations were sabotaged; and unbalanced, anti-union back-to-work laws were rammed through Parliament. 

“After promising to end the previous Liberal government’s practice of raiding employment insurance funds, Conservatives instead continued to use this money—paid for by workers and businesses—for general revenues instead of for workers’ benefits. 

“Like so many progressive Canadians, our first priority during the last election was putting an end to the anti-labour government of the Conservatives. Now, our attention turns to the lofty promises made by the Liberals during the campaign, and whether the new government will actually fulfill its commitments to work alongside organized labour to strengthen the middle class and respect the rights of hard-working Canadian workers and their families.

“The new government must introduce fairer and more balanced labour laws and repeal bills that weakened workers’ rights, including Bill C-377 and Bill C-525. And the government must move quickly to restore good faith bargaining with public sector unions.

“From raiding the EI fund to ignoring collective bargaining rights and imposing contracts, the Liberal Party’s track record in government is not good when it comes to working with the labour movement to respect workers’ rights. 

“The Liberal platform committed to immediately reinstate the tax credit for contributions made to labour-sponsored funds, which help support economic growth and help Canadians saving for their retirement. But while the Liberal government did move immediately to extend a tax break that mainly benefited people making between $90,000 and $200,000 a year, their promise for quick action on labour funds is now under review until the next federal budget.

“The NDP, Canada’s progressive opposition, will keep pushing the government to fulfill its commitments, better respect labour rights and help working Canadians through proposals like EI reform—including putting a firewall around the EI fund; strengthening public pensions and reinstating a federal minimum wage and setting it at $15 an hour.” 

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