Layoffs should be a concern

Announcement of layoffs of unionized workers at the New Horizons Seniors’ Care facility by Park Place should be cause for alarm

The recent announcement of layoffs of unionized workers at the New Horizons Seniors’ Care facility by Park Place should be cause for alarm for anyone who cares about our seniors, who will receive a lower quality of care.

When this company took over a seniors’ home in Duncan they hired back very few of their workers, then claimed there was a labour shortage, and applied through the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to bring in workers willing to work for much lower wages.

But this issue is much bigger than that. This layoff should concern anyone who cares about our community, our local economy, and our society.  This is an example of how the application of an anti-union political ideology can so negatively affect our local and our Canadian society.

The public needs to connect the dots to see who gains from this change in attitude toward unions, i.e. corporations. Decent wages, good working conditions, job security, pensions etc. do not promote the corporate agenda to make maximum profits.  There has been a concerted effort over the last few decades to convince the public that unions undermine our economic performance. This is not backed up by any unbiased evidence. In fact, when workers earn better wages they spend more money, which creates more jobs and expands the economy.

Non-unionized workers in the private sector have been encouraged to resent unionized workers in the public sector. Instead of trying to raise the standards for all workers, there is a clear campaign to try to drag those with decent working conditions down to the lowest level, a race to the bottom.

This ideological shift has allowed corporations and right-wing governments to make dramatic changes that have resulted in a much larger gap between the richest Canadians and the rest of society. According to Statistics Canada, the top one per cent of our citizens now earn an average of 10 times the average income of other workers, a massive increase over the last 30 years.

Strong evidence from Europe demonstrates that areas of higher levels of unionization have lower levels of poverty because of the higher floor for low-end wages and the narrower gap between the top and bottom wage levels.

More and more companies in Canada now employ mostly part time workers who receive no benefits. Some people work two or even three part time jobs to try to eke out a living, and many of them still exist below the poverty level. The irony is that while corporations earn greater and greater profits at the expense of workers, it will be more and more difficult for people to afford the goods that the corporations produce.

A good example of corporate greed is Ikea, owned by one of the wealthiest families in the world. Yet they have locked out their unionized employees in Richmond, B.C. because they would not agree to a tiered wage structure that would pay lower wages to new employees. Just how much is enough profit for an already wealthy corporation?

The middle class evolved because of the union movement beginning after the Depression, and even more notably after the Second World War. We can thank unions for minimum wage laws, benefit plans, maternity leave, pensions, health and safety standards, and even weekends to name a few achievements. Unions have also promoted other decent working conditions, as well as social programs, human rights, and public services that benefit all citizens.

Unions are more important now than ever before, not just for unionized workers, but for all Canadian workers. The community of Campbell River needs to support the workers at New Horizons who are the latest victims of the anti-union movement, and the seniors who will suffer as a result.

Union is not a dirty word. We need to remember who benefits when people believe that.

Elaine Thompson

President

Campbell River District Teachers’ Association