In response to the federal government’s release of its Sustainable Jobs Plan legislation (Bill C-50), Marty Warren, National Director of the United Steelworkers union (USW), made the following statement:
“Overall, there is a lot for workers to celebrate in the government’s new Sustainable Jobs Plan outlined in this bill, but too many questions still need to be answered before any ‘Mission Accomplished’ banners can be raised.
It’s clear this legislation would not have been possible without the influence of the NDP through its Supply and Confidence Agreement with the government. It’s our hope that this collaborative process continues in support of amendments that will strengthen the plan to create and maintain good, sustainable, union jobs, as well as the supports needed for negatively affected workers.
USW members are encouraged to see a commitment to create good, high-quality jobs in low-carbon industries, as well as creating and supporting existing jobs in comparatively low-carbon sectors, including for industrial workers.
Still, this legislation fails to outline the comprehensive industrial strategy the USW and other unions have been calling for, and that workers need. This includes investments in clean technologies, commitments to bring offshored manufacturing jobs back to Canada, requirements to use products manufactured or sourced in Canada in domestic government infrastructure projects and a strategy for the international promotion and export of products produced in Canada with some of the lowest emissions and highest employment standards in the world, such as Canadian steel, aluminum, cement, lumber and critical minerals.
The legislation addresses some of the obvious issues around departmental co-ordination that could complicate the effective implementation of a genuine jobs plan, but some questions still remain.
A seat at the head of the proposed partnership council for organized labour, equal to that of industry, is encouraging. More clarity is still needed, however, on how the proposed secretariat will be governed and how exactly it will be empowered to enforce the co-ordination of the various affected government departments. In particular, since the structures in this bill fall under the Natural Resources department, we need to see more clarity on how supports and economic intervention will be accessed through other relevant departments. Specifically we need an assurance of access to and incorporation of adequate labour market analysis as well as the ability to create targeted workforce policies including training, retraining and pension bridging, though Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).
Much of this will come in subsequent regulations and funding announcements, but given the government’s record of ignoring similar bodies, such as Canada’s Net-Zero Advisory Body, our union remains concerned about how this legislation will be implemented and how much influence the council and its chairs will have over future government actions.
The USW, along with other labour unions, will remain vigilant to make sure the stated goals and specific policy proposals are met. We must ensure that this goes beyond a decent framework and truly results in the creation and maintenance of good, family-supporting union jobs in a sustainable economy where we protect the water we drink and the air we breathe.”
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