Monday 1 September 2014

Labour Day

It’s Labour Day today, so I suppose that I should write something about labour.

Today in Alberta, the government raised the minimum wage to $10.20 an hour, which is up 25¢ per hour. That is about $37 dollars a month, but with taxes and other little cash grabs here and there, it won’t make a significant difference in anyone’s life.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a step in the right direction, but it is estimated that the basic living wage in Alberta is $17.29 an hour. I guess that’s if you want your kids to be fed before school and wear clothing that isn’t handed down several times. It would give you some options for entertainment other than the TV. I’m not knocking TV, but kids really do need to get out in the fresh air and get exercise.

I can remember one time when I was on strike with the Post Office; we were marching back and forth, just talking and wondering when we would be ordered back to work since we were an essential service. Isn’t it funny how no one much cared about the mail until they didn’t get it for a couple of days? There was this guy who pulled up in a beat up, rusty, old shitbox of a car and screeched how he only made $7 an hour and why should we make $15. I said that $7/hour was bullshit and he should get out of the car and join us and after the strike he should apply for a job at the Post Office. He yelled back that he would starve before he paid anything to a union and he sped off.

I guess that is why he was making $7/hour and driving a crappy car. I have never been a big fan of the unions, and I think there is something dark at the heart of some of them. However, without the unions we would never have maternity leave, dental plans, vision care, protection from wrongful dismissal and thousands of other protections. They help get equal pay for equal work and hopefully they stop discrimination in all of its forms. They aren’t perfect, but they are better than nothing.

I have a couple of friends who will be working well past 65, until they are too infirm to work, because for a variety of reasons they don’t have any kind of pension other than CCP. We all make choices in life and these people chose to work where a pension wasn’t offered. That isn’t right. Not everyone can get a job like I had. I wish that all of these smaller companies could band together and start a living wage pension. It could be done, but it would cost both the employees and the employer which they don’t seem to want to do.

I don’t believe that the vast majority of workers out there are capable of putting enough money away to look after themselves once they can no longer work. When you are raising a family there are expenses that take precedence over putting money away. Clothing, school supplies, tires for the car, vacations and that new couch. I couldn’t have done it and every day I thank whoever was watching over me from above and pushed me into the Post Office. 

It is nice that we have a Labour Day holiday that honours all workers every where, but I think it would be nicer if every year we took the money from one day of Canada’s corporate earnings and put it into a pension plan for the workers we are honouring. Maybe then no one would have to worry about where they will live when they get old and whether they will have any quality in their life.

Hope everyone had a nice Labour Day holiday.

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