Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Labour Day Signals Labour Unrest to Come

Now that the summer vacation season is all but a warm and fuzzy memory, we’ll get back to our informative posts – from a brief summer break.

Speaking of summer vacation, yesterday’s Labour Day holiday across North America was the official last long weekend of summer.

I enjoyed it wandering around Canada’s largest fall fair, the Canadian National Exhibition – CNE – or just “the Ex” for locals in the Toronto area.
It sure felt like fall, it was unusually cold and wet seeing as the hot, sticky and dry weather we’ve had most of the summer.

Figures, the one day I spend all outside, it rains.

Going to the CNE is a Canadian tradition for many, and certainly it was for me. Every year I get up extra early on Labour Day, go out with friends to a local restaurant for breakfast, then head to the fall fair.

This was my first Labour Day at the Ex – I have gone during the Labour Day long weekend, but never ON Labour Day itself.

Maybe because it was the last day of the Canadian classic – the CNE has been around for 132-years – it was packed with people, despite the poor weather. I don’t think I’ve seen so many people at the Ex – ever.

While wondering around the CNE, I saw many wearing t-shirts sporting anti-government, pro-union messages like “Keep the TTC from falling into private hands, keep the TTC public” in reference to the potential privatization of Canada’s largest city’s transit system. Saw a button on someone that said: “Unions keep jobs in Canada.”

Maybe that was an old button from years ago, because even the largest unions haven’t prevented a slew of jobs from heading to other countries. In fact, more companies than ever are outsourcing to places outside North America.

It used to be that just big multinational companies could afford to farm out labour to cheaper third-world countries. Back in the 1990’s, big sporting giants Nike and Adidas drew bad press when the media reported they were using “sweatshops,” for much of their products sold in Canada and the United States.

According to the reports, some of these sweatshops were dirty, dungeon-like factories, employing even young children, in dangerous manufacturing jobs, which paid literally nickels and dimes an hour – if they paid. Some of the reports indicated that the people running these sweatshops withheld what little pay they provided, to ensure the poorly treated workers came back to work the next day.

Nike and Adidas quickly distanced themselves from the sweatshops, and went on a public relations mission to clear their names.

Funny, with all the outsourcing that happens now, we don’t hear much about the poor working conditions, the below average wages, or the inferior quality checks and balances anymore.

Well, we do hear about the poor quality of goods produced these days – just look at Toyota’s massive recalls, the tainted pet food from China, and the constant warnings from food and health agencies about fruit and vegetables with e coli, salmonella, or some other dangerous by-product of a society that rarely produces anything itself anymore.

Try and find something NOT made in China, India or somewhere else these days – go ahead and try.

Unions have their pros and cons, but job security ain’t one of ‘em.

What we need is for governments to take a stronger stand with companies that want to do business here in North America. If federal governments mandated that at least 70 percent of the products they sell in North America be made in North America by North Americans, with North American-made materials, then we’d have a start.

Problem is, governments over the past two-decades have been weak – no, they have intentionally pandered to the interests of companies instead of to the very people they serve – their citizens.

Government legislation over the past two decades provides for tax relief and grants for companies with offices here in North America, that have to bring in goods made elsewhere. This provides the illusion that just because the companies aren’t shutting down in Canada and the States, that their are still jobs here in Canada and the States.

But that’s just the government pulling the wool over our eyes – just look at our continuing to crumble economy, with job losses across every sector in Canada last month, except teaching (and that’s because September is back to school).
Our country’s leaders continue to brag about the economic recovery, and how they have taken steps to ensure our countries are world leaders in the new economy.

What our country’s leaders aren’t telling you is they’ve created – and continue to create and build – an economy that doesn’t include you.

Unless of course, you’re one of the few chosen to relocate to some distant land, to manage the production of goods and services elsewhere – then you really are one of the few lucky ones.

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