The Saskatoon and District Labour Council hosted its annual Labour Day barbecue in Victoria Park on Monday and while more than a thousand people came out to enjoy the free food, for the Labour Council it’s a day to remember what unions have done to shape our workforce.
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“The history of Labour Day goes back to some long fought labour battles for things like unemployment insurance back in the post-war era when people came back from the war and didn’t have jobs and had to march in Ottawa,” explained Kelly Harrington, president of the Saskatoon and District Labour Council.
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Employment insurance, maternity leave and paid vacation are examples of improvements to labour regulations, but this year Harrington is celebrating the first major expansion of the Canadian pension plan benefits.
“That’s something we’ve been fighting for for over eight years and it’s been a lead campaign of the Canadian Labour Congress,” Harrington said.
But in her eyes there’s still more that needs to be done, including creating more full-time jobs and ending precarious online work.
“A lot of young people coming into the workforce are forced to grapple together two or three part-time jobs to pay one rent.”
“Now employers are choosing to use digital and online services …they don’t have a union to fight for them. They’re paid either by a quota or by a job and there’s no security,” Harrington said.
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A few members from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Saskatchewan road motorcycles from Regina to the Saskatoon barbecue to promote respect for worker rights.
“With the provincial government we have right now it’s much more geared toward big business and privatization than the actual workers who are working in this province,” said Ride for Respect organizer Omar Murray.
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In Saskatoon, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) has been without a collective agreement for almost four years and local president Jim Yakubowski is determined for change.
“Our members do not deserve that treatment and we’re going to be taking steps to get a collective agreement for our members,” said Yakubowski.
ATU will be holding a rally next Saturday at City Hall and the public is welcome to join.