When Conservative politicians talk about “tough choices”, workers need to worry.
Their tough choices are rarely tough on the rich. Instead, they tend to hurt workers the most, hurt families with children in daycare or school, or with loved ones needing healthcare or some other form of assistance.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has been promising a “summer of repeals” and is already introducing backward labour legislation that will make it tougher for working people in his province to get ahead, while at the same time doling out goodies such as tax cuts to his corporate buddies.
Take, for example, his government’s so-called open for business act tabled this week, which is really just an attack on the province’s most vulnerable workers, the ones already suffering most from economic troubles in Alberta.
For one, the bill guts the union certification process in Alberta by getting rid of workers’ right to form a union once 65 per cent of those in a workplace sign a union card.
Requiring a vote - after two-thirds of workers have already shown their strong preference by signing a union card - gives employers a chance to intimidate workers ahead of a vote. It’s a clear anti-union tactic that favours employers, who already hold most of the power in the workplace, and opens up workers to bullying.
Since the NDP brought in card check just two years ago, unionization has grown in the province, leading to higher wages, greater job security and a better quality of life for workers. Under the changes now being made, you can expect to see that trend reversed, and wages drop.
Unions are a democratic voice for all workers, elected by their members to serve best interests of working families and their communities. We stand for the rights of all workers.
No where is the need for such a role needed more in such places as Alberta and Ontario where Conservative governments proudly attack the rights of working people. Unions are needed to balance the power being wielded by employers and Conservative governments.
Certainly, the Kenney government’s other plans for workers in his province show the need for such a role.
The United Conservatives have promised to freeze the minimum wage for most workers, while cutting it for young workers and bringing back tiered minimum wages for those who serve alcohol.
Meanwhile, he has also promised to go after holiday pay for workers required to work on holidays, and to make it tougher to collect overtime pay when forced to work long hours.
During the election campaign, Kenney even promised to repeal legislation that ensures workplace safety, employment standards and injury coverage on farms. In short, under a United Conservative government, farm work will pay less and be more dangerous.
All the while, Kenney is promising a big windfall for his corporate friends by cutting corporate taxes from 12 per cent to 10 per cent next January 1, and to 8 per cent in 2022, adding up to an self-inflicted 12 per cent drop in government revenue.
A cut like that is going to hurt. Paying for it will not be easy. Kenney has no plans to release a budget until the fall, but we can expect cuts to health and education to pay for these corporate giveaways.
Tough choices? Sure, just tough on the wrong people.