Forward Together - Solidarity in Challenging Times

By Stephen von Sychowski, President, Vancouver & District Labour Council and Janet Andrews, Secretary-Treasurer , New Westminster & District Labour Council

We celebrate this Labour Day at a time of transition. The last few years saw enormous social and economic upheaval, loss and uncertainty driven by the global pandemic.  As we return to in-person gatherings this year we are looking forward to a time of reconnection, of solidarity in struggle, of remembrance and rededication. We acknowledge those we have lost, those still struggling with illness, recovery, job loss, underemployment, mental health impacts and stress.

pull quoteIt is not as straightforward as a return to normal. Indeed, there is no such thing as normal in this changing but ongoing pandemic. In addition to the changes to the way we work, live and learn, we see again the challenges that never left and whose urgency is all the sharper: inequity, affordability, and the opioid crisis. Rising inflation and calls for austerity; the threat of war; the looming climate crisis; food insecurity, and the growth of the far-right, intolerance, and hate have brought yet more uncertainty and stress to the lives of working families. Meeting these challenges will take focus, determination and hard work. Our response must be solidarity in its broadest, deepest, most encompassing meaning, with each other and with our communities, if we are to truly move forward together.

Workers and their families are a source of stability and constancy in our communities. Good jobs are the foundation of the local economy, supporting families, businesses, and the public services we all rely on. It was workers, on the frontline and behind the scenes, who continued to show up every day during the pandemic, ensuring we were safe, healthy, supplied and supported. Unlike the self-serving motives of the very wealthy, who raked in record profits while fighting against pandemic pay and sick leave, the solidarity and commitment of workers to their neighbours and to each other is leadership every bit as powerful and necessary as that of those elected to high office. This leadership and constancy are the solid foundation on which we can build the future.

Transition brings uncertainty and stress, but also opportunity. We have a window of time to raise issues and ideas, to broaden conversations, to question, and to make change. From ensuring a robust pandemic recovery, to creating good jobs, investing in taking better care of each other through a stronger social safety net, pushing back against the rhetoric of austerity, tackling climate change with a just transition for workers, and fighting for social justice, equality and diversity, the labour movement has the answers to what will make a better future for all. But only by standing together will we make sure our voices are heard. Without solidarity and singleness of purpose we risk being drowned out and divided by the forces of greed and intolerance....

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Higher Interest Rates Producing a Predictable but Avoidable Recession

By Jim Stanford, Economist and Director, Centre for Future Work

New labour force data from Statistics Canada confirm that Canada’s economy is already slowing down sharply as a result of aggressive interest rate increases begun by the Bank of Canada in March.

 With the U.S. economy (Canada’s largest trading partner) already in technical recession (with two consecutive quarters of real GDP contraction), and monthly GDP data showing no growth since May, this new report adds to worries that Canada’s economy is heading into recession as well.

pull quote The labour force data confirm that the aggressive monetary tightening begun by the Bank of Canada in March is having a negative impact on employment and participation in Canada’s labour market.

Employment fell in July for the second consecutive month, with a cumulative loss since May of 74,000 jobs. That’s the worst decline unrelated to COVID lockdowns since the pandemic began.

 Employment is now lower than it was in March when the Bank of Canada began lifting interest rates.

 Another worrisome sign is the accelerating drop in labour force participation, which has fallen 0.7 percentage points since March. That represents the loss of 225,000 workers from the labour market, at a time when many employers still complain of a ‘labour shortage’.

 The recent upsurge in inflation was obviously not caused by labour market conditions. The Bank of Canada itself agrees it was sparked by supply chain disruptions, the global energy price shock, and changes in consumer buying patterns.

 Since inflation arises mostly from supply-side constraints, it is self-defeating to respond by chasing hundreds of thousands of workers out of the labour market. That doesn’t fix supply chain problems, it makes them worse.

 Higher interest rates also discourage investment in new capacity and supply infrastructure. This will also make the underlying cause of today’s inflation worse, not better.

 While nominal wage growth has increased, it still lags well behind current inflation. This means that average real wages (and the living standards of Canadian workers) continue to fall.

 In the 12 months to June, average real hourly wages declined by 2.7%, and are now below pre-pandemic levels....

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