This President's Message will be featured in the Star Phoenix and Leader Post as a special feature for Labour Day.
What does Labour Day mean to you?
For some people, this is back to school time; for others, it’s an unofficial end to summer; but for me, I reflect on the work of our members and the people we serve. I also reflect on the history of our labour movement – where we were, where we are today and what we want to do in the future.
Lately, it’s been a little too easy to vilify unionized workers. I think that’s a cheap and easy target. And it needs to stop.
The benefits that unions have negotiated didn’t happen overnight but over decades. And we work to ensure that the benefits we have negotiated are shared with those who don’t yet have a union: weekends; sick leave; disability insurance; domestic violence leave; improvements to minimum wage… all of these things (and so many more) come from years of negotiations and lobbying by unions of every stripe. All working people put their maximum effort into their job and that needs to be recognized and respected.
Today, all workplaces are changing. There are efficiency efforts; automation; downsizing; or ‘transformational change’ that affects everyone’s ability to bring home a pay cheque, support our families, or even simply to have meaning to our lives. Change is inevitable, but it needs to be thoughtful. Working people are not widgets but they are invested in their workplaces and loyal to their employers. We need to remember that they are a vital resource that is being overlooked in many cases; there needs to be consultation with front line staff who are the experts in their area and can provide valuable insight into improvements.
Trade unions must embrace new forms of technology and new forms of worker organizations to create space for the gig economy and a changing demographic. As a union leader, I believe that there is a way to celebrate and acknowledge our historical work, while embracing a more culturally diverse and technologically advanced workforce.
The future of our province and our labour movement is in the hands of working people. We have an opportunity to join together, have a voice in our workplaces, lobby for improved safety legislation and to improve the minimum wage for both young workers and the under employed. The principles of solidarity, understanding and being our brother’s and sister’s keeper need to be re-affirmed by all of us. These are core values of the labour movement, and the province of Saskatchewan.
I’m personally inviting you to join us in our efforts to improve the lives of working people and their families. Help lead the way to a more just and humane society that welcomes all people, champions dignity and respect, and allows everyone to have a voice on the job and in society.
We’re Stronger Together.
Happy Labour Day!