Many of the progressive policies and rights we enjoy have come from hard-won public protests; battles that were won only through personal sacrifice by our predecessors, often involving bloodshed, sometimes even death.
The list of these hard-won rights and policies is long and includes such things as: labour laws, family supporting wages, reasonable benefits, safe workplaces, protections against harassment and prejudice, our social safety net, voting rights for women, First Nations and visible minorities, and a host of environmental protections.
Yet all around us these policies are being eroded by stealth because we’re too busy to pay close enough attention to what our governments are doing to actively undermine these hard-won rights. The current Air Canada and Canada Post labour disputes represent a classic example of this rights erosion by government. The immediacy with which the prime minister threatened to end these labour disputes and then introduced legislation to end the postal dispute should give us all pause and reason for deep concern. Yes, it’s inconvenient to be impacted by a strike. Yes, labour disputes can negatively impact our economy.
But, the right to freely negotiate a fair collective agreement and the right for workers to withdraw their labour in order to get a fair agreement is worth some minor inconvenience. And allowing a fair agreement to be freely negotiated ultimately benefits the economy by creating more progressive and productive workplaces.
We all should be protesting the government’s interference in the collective bargaining process because it is this process that has, over generations, improved the wages, benefits, workplace conditions, and labour legislation that governs all workplaces — union and non-unionized.
Government should be protecting our rights, not actively eroding them and not using the hammer of legislation to remove those rights for their own ideological reasons.
If we don’t start paying more attention, we may be setting the next generation up to have to fight to regain the rights and policies we allowed to be taken away from us.
Bob Simpson is the MLA for Cariboo North.