Labour groups call for Labour Market Partners Forum


TORONTO, Nov. 7, 2013 /CNW/ - Labour organizations, including the Ontario Federation of Labour, Unifor, and CUPE-Ontario are calling on the federal government to find new monies for the Canada Jobs Grant, instead of absorbing funds earmarked for crucial training and employment services.

The labour organizations are raising their concerns in advance of a November 8 meeting of Federal Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney and his provincial and territorial counterparts in Toronto.

On the agenda for the meeting is the future of the skills development, literacy training and labour adjustment programs provided under the Labour Market Agreements.

In the 2013-4 budget, the federal government proposed the Canada Job Grant, with funding diverted from the Labour Market Agreements, as opposed to new monies. Labour Market Agreement funding is provided to the provincial and territorial governments for training such as literacy and other skills to support vulnerable individuals not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI).

"The Canada Jobs Grant is misleading Canadians. Under the guise of addressing skills shortages, it will actually divert crucial funding for literacy training and skills upgrading away from vulnerable workers who need it the most - women, immigrants, young workers and older workers will be left out in the cold," said Ontario Federation of Labour President Sid Ryan.

"The Canada Job Grant program is part of a broader agenda that includes cuts to Employment Insurance, deferring Old Age Security benefits, and the exploitation of migrant workers," said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. He said that the policy agenda panders to the needs of corporate Canada and is having the effect of driving down wages in Canada.

CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn raised that the Canada Job Grant program is fundamentally flawed. "Employers are 100 per cent in control and it focuses only on the short-term interests of employers - there is no evidence that the Canada Job Grant will increase overall training." Hahn said that the Canada Job Grant does not come with new funding. Instead, it is a one-size fits-all approach which reduces the ability of provinces and territories to meet their local labour market needs.

The OFL, CUPE-Ontario and Unifor raised the concern that vulnerable Canadians are at greater risk of being left behind if funding from the Labour Market Agreements is diverted to the Canada Job Grant.  According to the organizations, without literacy and essential skills training, many Canadians will not have the opportunity to contribute to our society and economy.

The group supports provincial and territorial governments' position that the Labour Market Agreements should be protected and that any new program should be funded with new money. The group is urging the provincial and territorial governments to keep vulnerable workers in mind and stay strong to their position against the Canada Job Grant.

The group is proposing a Labour Market Partners Forum be established at the provincial and federal level -- and called for better collaboration between stakeholders, leading to more effective labour market strategies, plans and policies. One of the problems with the Grant was a lack of consultation, research and analysis, which the group agrees is illustrative of the Harper government's rigid and undemocratic approach to policy making.

A Labour Market Partners Forum would be made up equally of representatives from government, labour and employers to provide a venue for ongoing dialogue about addressing a wide range of economic and labour market challenges, ensuring that various perspectives are considered in the development of public policy.