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Local Labour Council hopes to have meaningful conversations with Liberal government

For the Barrie and District Labour Council, Labour Day is not only a time to discuss serious issues, but it is also a time for celebration 
Photo supplied of Jessica Burnie at a recent labour rally
Jessica Burnie at a recent labour rally. Photo provided.

Labour Day is fast approaching: the day when Canadians focus less on the work needing to be done than on the folks pledged to do it, not to mention those without work, the working poor, the homeless, and the marginalized.

Much of the problem in this region, according to Jessica Burnie, Treasurer with the Barrie and District Labour Council, is fundamental.

“Barrie has lost most of its manufacturing sector, decent paying jobs, which have been replaced with part-time and temporary, minimum-wage, precarious work,” says Burnie. “Many workers are forced to look for work outside of Barrie as the employment base is not keeping up with the demand. These changes are affecting workers and families in both the public and private sector.”

Burnie says she sees a glimmer of hope from the Wynne government, which is looking into updating labour legislation. “Ontario has many outdated labour laws that are in desperate need of a change in order to protect our working people. Raising the minimum wage to a liveable standard (i.e. $15.00 an hour) is a top priority.”

Another major concern in health-care.

“Our hospitals are full, wait times are too long. Soldiers Memorial in Orillia has suffered greatly this past year with too many health care workers being let go. Royal Victoria Hospital needs more support to keep up with the growing demands of the increasing population.”

Unions also say affordable housing needs to be addressed.

“Barrie's rent is the fifth highest in Canada and many workers can't afford to purchase a home. Renting is at a high in Barrie, yet we don’t have the rental housing to support the demand. We are hopeful that municipal changes will be coming to approval more rental opportunities, and to create more affordable housing in Barrie.”

Burnie goes on to say last year’s ouster of the Federal Tories by Justin Trudeau’s Liberals offered some hope to workers, unionized or not. 

“The door has been more open for labour to be having fruitful and meaningful conversations with the Trudeau government. We've seen some glimmers of hope with positive changes to the long overdue enhancement of the Canada Pension Plan. After a lifetime of work, no one should have difficulty making ends meet. 

“There's also been a promise to move forward on a ban on asbestos. The labour movement is pushing further to have a registry of all known public buildings containing asbestos to help protect the people working and using these buildings." 

Nor, says Burnie, should joining a union be as difficult as it apparently is. “We know that when workers have a union, their salaries are higher and they have decent benefits, especially for women. They have more to spend in the local community — this stimulates the economy.”

Samuel Gompers, the legendary labour organizer, was asked what workers want. He answered with one word: “More!” Burnie says that extends to those who appear to have forgotten by society.

“Unions continue to stand behind the LGBTQ population, justice for aboriginal women, supporting refugees and migrant workers, and closing the gender wage gap.”

For Burnie, Labour Day is not only a time to discuss the serious issues, but it is also a time for celebration. This year’s Labour Day Picnic is set for Sunnidale Park on Monday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the afternoon. Burnie promises a day of fun to celebrate labour.  

“The picnic will feature a free M&M's hot dog barbecue, inflatables for the young kids, old fashion games and races for all ages, a photo booth with props to capture the fun, and freezies to cool off. The band Midnight Run will be entertaining everyone with music from past and present.

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Glenn Wilkins

About the Author: Glenn Wilkins

Glenn Wilkins, in a 30-year media career, has written for print and electronic media, as well as for TV and radio. Glenn has two books under his belt, profiling Canadian actors on Broadway and NHL coaches.
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