Our 30 days of devastation
In thirty days, 2500 jobs were lost in GM’s Oshawa plant, 1500 at Maple Leaf’s three plants in Ontario and another 2500 via Bombardier layoffs in Quebec. That’s a mindboggling 6,500 jobs lost in less than a month. In Quebec, Bombardier, heavily subsidized with public monies, announced layoffs heading into the holiday season. Despite Quebec’s commitment to Bombardier through these subsidies, the company has not reciprocated. Working people bear the brunt of these hardships.
GM workers in Oshawa are facing a similar bleak reality. It’s not hard to imagine just how much of our lives depends on our jobs, our means of existence. Decisions of this magnitude should not be made in a corporate boardroom when the company has received public money -- money that didn’t go into social programs, communities, healthcare, or other services that could have used $700 million, and the $14 BILLION in tax cuts that GM enjoyed.
Postal workers have been legislated back to work and mediation by a government that initially critiqued the Conservative government for ending a CUPW strike. Workers are being penalized for fighting for safe workplaces, pensions, and for wanting to be paid for hours worked. One of the few powers unions have is the right to strike, and that power is never exercised lightly, without consideration for the community, union members and the employer. There are times when it’s the only means of sending a message. This power is being taken away.
Who will hold these companies accountable? Who will hold government accountable for promises they made in exchange for our votes?
In all three cases, provincial, federal, Liberal, Conservative governments are complicit in eroding worker’s rights -- and in the erosion of our communities. Public money is neither the government’s, nor a corporation’s; a subsidy is not a plea, it is a commitment and permission to operate a business and use a communities’ resources, human and otherwise, for our mutual benefit.
What more will be lost before working people act? Livelihoods, security, well-paid employment, safe jobs, pensions, thriving communities? What more will they remove? We are witnessing a slow erosion of our rights as working people, rights that ensure that our means of existence, our work, and our jobs are protected. Workers’ livelihoods are seen merely as obstructions to the bottom line, obstacles to corporate restructuring.
We have forgotten the power we hold as citizens and workers. We built these corporations, and the government is accountable to us. An injury to one union is an injury to us all; if governments and corporations we subsidize won’t honor their commitments, someone must stand and put pressure on them. The only ones who can, and the only ones who ever have, are unions. Today it is more important than ever to show solidarity and together stem the tide of destruction of workers’ rights. These examples show we are all fighting the same battle, and a common adversary.
IAM Canadian General Vice President