Work still to do for workers’ rights

Workers are the backbone of our communities, our province and our nation, and Labour Day is the one day of the year when, really, we are celebrating the achievements of working people.

This province was built by working people, leaving their blood, sweat and tears behind; our everyday lives wouldn’t be possible without the labour of

B.C. workers.

Think about working people across the sectors: education, health care, construction, manufacturing, harvesting, service, protection. These are just a few of the jobs workers do that influence our lives. Every day we are impacted by those whose labour makes our lives better.

I think of my grandmother who was a teacher – how she loved her students and her job. It makes me sad to see government today treat teachers with such disrespect: ripping up contracts, ignoring the court’s reprimands regarding bad faith bargaining and putting teaching conditions at risk!

When I think of Labour Day I think of the ultimate sacrifice of workers who never got to return home from work. I personally recall the workers I knew who died on the job. I still have their faces seared into my memory. Too many workers still die on the job. Too many families have sons or daughters that are permanently injured or disabled on the job.

This Labour Day I’d also like us to think about how our government is condoning a new kind of worker discrimination with

the temporary foreign worker program.

Our country was built by people from around the world who came here to work. They brought back with them hope for a new life, a new home and the right to citizenship. Sadly, the treatment of those people is, in far too many cases, a sad chapter of our history.

Unfortunately, the temporary foreign worker program is

repeating the mistakes of the past by allowing employers to set special conditions on workers from elsewhere, too often less fair than for local workers, and outrageous conditions are often placed on these workers. Workers, regardless of where they’re from, deserve equitable treatment. Yet we have heard many troubling stories of foreign workers being poorly treated in many regions of the province, including here on Vancouver Island.

The other problem with this program is companies bringing in foreign workers as a way to avoid hiring local workers and paying them a fair wage. Is it right that employers hire temporary foreign workers when our local youth, particularly among First Nations have some of the highest unemployment rates in B.C.?

Canada’s workers have made many historical gains, like weekends, eight-hour work days, paid holidays and many others. This Labour Day I hope together we can stand up against abuses, and celebrate all that we have gained by sticking together.

Bill Routley is the MLA for Cowichan Valley