Supporting essential rights for essential workers


Unifor Statement on World Day for Decent Work

October 7, 2020 

October 7 is the World Day for Decent Work. Unifor proudly marks this day each year as a chance to reflect on the current struggles affecting our members, and working people internationally. As a trade union, we believe that good jobs, fair wages, and improving the many conditions in which people go to work each day is the way to achieve a better world for everyone.

2020 will forever be remembered as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our lives were quickly and drastically changed by the virus. When nations across the world locked down to contain the spread of the virus, essential workers held our lives together. The same workers who for decades had been overworked and underpaid allowed individuals and families from near and far to get the care, the nourishment and the services they needed.

We believe that 2020 should be remembered as the year of the essential worker. We hope that we will forever understand, as a society, that the best way to recognize, thank and applaud the work of essential workers is to provide them safe and sustainable working conditions, including a living wage.

In Canada, COVID-19 cases are rising again and essential workers are facing the difficult reality of a second wave.

In long-term care homes, workers still exhausted from a chaotic, distressing and traumatizing spring are getting little to no support from governments. Workers in hospitals, retirement homes and those who work in any communal settings, are at risk for further outbreaks because of inadequate testing and tracing, while access to personal protective equipment still remains challenging in many workplaces. To live through a second wave in a health care system that was already under stress, we must continue the fight to secure and expand pandemic pay for all front-line health care workers.

Grocery store workers in Canada work for some of the most profitable companies in the country. Those companies are shameless about the profits they make, and often resist efforts that provide decent working conditions to thousands of workers. In Newfoundland and Labrador, 1,400 grocery store workers that work for Dominion Stores, a division of retail giant Loblaw Companies Limited, are on strike, using their collective strength to demand fair wages, full-time jobs, and job security. A fight shared by members across the retail industry.

The COVID-19 pandemic isn't over for workers, and neither are the health, social and economic consequences of it. Our members in aviation, hospitality and gaming and other sectors face a long and uncertain recovery.

Unifor believes that the only path towards a fair, inclusive and resilient recovery beyond this pandemic is by prioritizing the interests and well-being of workers. Our Build Back Better program outlines what can be done to put workers at the heart of the much-needed recovery.

If essential workers - and all workers - are to be prioritized, we believe that the basic rights and protections for working people must be preserved and enhanced. This includes:

  • A wage with dignity. If work is essential enough to risk exposure to a deadly virus, it should at least pay a living wage.
  • Workplace safety. Workers should have access to personal protective equipment, the ability to maintain social distancing, and other necessary safety measures.
  • Paid sick leave. Guaranteed paid sick leave is critical to protecting workers and slowing the virus’ spread.
  • Collective bargaining and union representation. Through the crisis and beyond, essential workers should have the standards and protections gained through collective bargaining.
  • Special status during a crisis. Essential workers should have access to additional provisions including: emergency childcare, hazard pay, enhanced occupational safety protections and training, access to testing, and secure transportation.

On World Day for Decent Work, Unifor states that Black Lives Matter in our workplaces and in our union. In our day-to-day work, we strive for racial justice by bargaining gains for Black and Indigenous workers and other workers of colour, and by using our voices and strength to pressure employers and governments to eliminate barriers for racialized communities across the country. We strongly believe that racial justice is economic justice, and that the experience of racialized communities must guide our future fights for decent work and fair wages.

Today, on World Day for Decent Work, we encourage Unifor members and Unifor local unions across Canada to support essential workers by:

Supporting the Fair Pay Forever campaign, to help raise the bar for retail workers and send solidarity to Dominion workers on strike in Newfoundland.

Demanding pandemic pay for all health care workers