These are difficult times, with inflation far outpacing wages and various points of advocacy required to offset damage perceived to have been done by the Ford government.
This perhaps best summarizes the tone of today’s community gathering at Morel Family Foundation Park, hosted by the Sudbury & District Labour Council.
Prior to launching into a march, speakers took to the microphone for nearly an hour to share various points of advocacy, while Mayor Brian Bigger declared today the Annual Day of Labour in the City of Greater Sudbury.
Though various areas of labour were touched on today, the plight of personal support workers (PSWs) received a few nods, including during comments by Nickel Belt NDP MPP France Gélinas.
The province needs to make PSW work a career, she said.
“You give them a permanent, full-time job – well-paid, with benefits, with a pension plan and a workload they can handle,” she said, adding they’re currently making barely over minimum wage.
Bill 7, the province’s More Beds, Better Care Act, “puts aside frail, elderly people who need our solidarity,” she said, adding they need “every one of us to tell the government frail and elderly people matter and taking away their rights is wrong.”
In a letter to Ontario’s Human Rights Commission, Gélinas said that through Bill 7, any hospital patient designated as ALC (Alternate Level of Care) may be assessed without their consent, have their personal information shared with long-term care home operators without their consent, have applications to long-term care filled out without their consent and be admitted to a long-term care (LTC) home to which they do not want to go, without their consent.
During her remarks, Sudbury & District Labour Council president Jessica Montgomery said the province must repeal Bill 124, which the Ontario Nurses’ Association described as “wage-suppression legislation negatively impacted registered nurses, nurse practitioners and health-care professionals” by limiting wage increases to a maximum of one per cent, which is far less than the rate of inflation.
Gélinas has also called for the province to repeal Bill 124 in the past.
“Those who claim our economy has bounced back are conveniently only focusing on a small cross-section of the employment data,” Montgomery said.
Care workers, she added, have been sounding alarms for decades, and work “unstable, undervalued and underpaid” positions.
Paid and unpaid care work is often held by women, she said, and a care strategy is needed to help with care for children, the elderly and those with disabilities.
During her remarks, Sudbury Liberal MP Viviane Lapointe pledged to relay the crowd’s concerns to the federal government in Ottawa.
“I’m hearing that you’re tired, you’re exhausted actually, overworked, there aren’t enough skilled workers, you don’t always feel safe in the workplace but you certainly do feel undervalued,” she said.
Representing gig workers, Karan Badhesha reminded the crowd of the importance of unions and the labour movement in general.
“There’s going to be some times when there is no light, sometimes you think things have been done and there’s nobody listening,” he said. “Unions are your insurance to peace. … We are in this together.”
Alongside provincial and federal politicians and union representatives, various candidates in the Oct. 24 civic election were also seen attending today’s event.
Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development Minister Monte McNaughton issued a statement to media marking Labour Day in which he thanked the “hardworking men and women who keep Ontario moving.”
“Workers are – and always have been – the backbone of our province. You are heroes, building the roofs over our heads, putting food on our tables, and caring for the most vulnerable in our communities,” he said.
“After two and a half years of the pandemic, now more than ever, we owe you a debt of gratitude.”
The province, he said, is bringing health care and dental benefits to part-time and precarious workers, cracking down on the exploitation of domestic and temporary foreign workers, introducing foundational rights for those in the gig economy and reforming the occupational illness system.
With nearly 400,000 jobs unfilled in Ontario, he pledged to invest in “innovative training programs that give workers the skills needed for new in-demand careers.”
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.