Skip to content

Rights now under attack

Workers, unions are fighting back around the world

Over the past year, unions and union members around the world have faced unprecedented challenges from right wing governments and employers who are looking for someone to blame for the most recent economic crisis.

Governments are wrongly pointing the finger at public sector workers, and in response, are cutting public services and public sector jobs, deregulating and privatizing services, attacking workers' pensions and benefits and severely limiting workers' rights, such as the right to free collective bargaining. This along with corporate tax cuts and corporate bailouts is the road map directing right-wing governments to economic recovery.

The truth is, workers have done their part during these difficult economic times. Members of the B.C. Government Employees Union who work for the provincial government settled for an agreement with a net zero-and-zero increase.

Over the past decade wage increases hovered around 0.15 per cent when you take inflation into account.

Yet despite these sacrifices public sector workers are still being blamed and workers and the public punished with cuts to public and community services.

Workers, communities, and unions are fighting back around the world. Last summer saw hundreds of thousands of people all over Europe - Greece, Spain, France and Italy - demonstrating, demanding the economic recovery not be on the backs of ordinary people. Also, in February and March, 2011 a number of demonstrations bringing out more than 100,000 workers, families, seniors and community groups marched in Wisconsin in response to the draconian measures Governor Scott Walker rammed through the legislature to curtail the strength of unions.

People in cities in 50 states across the U.S. protested in solidarity, fearing the attack on unions in their community was merely a matter of time. And, at the start of April, British Columbia, Washington State and Oregon labour movements organized a protest at the Peace Arch, at the Canada-U.S. border in solidarity with workers in Wisconsin and around the world demanding an end to the attack on workers' rights. The collective actions of the labour movement more than one hundred years ago won workers, unionized or not, many basic rights we take for granted - the eight hour day, health and safety laws, the right to join a union, the right to free collective bargaining, safe and decent working conditions, and a minimum wage. In Canada unions also fought for and won the Canada pension plan for all workers, an insurance system for unemployed workers, and a universal public health care system. These hard-won rights are now under attack. But we are not going to let them take these rights away. Together we will fight to defend them. Together unions and the community are fighting to bring an end to corporate tax cuts and demanding a fair taxation system that will afford quality public services for all.

That's why unions matter. Darryl Walker is president of the BCGEU