We are living through uncertain times. When people use that phrase these days, you might think they are referring to the current pandemic environment . While COVID-19 does amplify it, the uncertainty I speak of is one of precariousness. Specifically of labour rights.
COVID-19 has exposed many of these cracks. It’s laid bare the false narrative that certain workers shouldn’t be paid a living wage due to the nature of their employment being considered as menial. Essential workers have hopefully proven to us that everyone is deserving of a living wage regardless of your status.
Unfortunately, there are still corporations that believe that it’s business as usual. Profit over people. As of today, one out of every two dollars online is being given to Amazon. Meanwhile, Amazon’s employees work without proper working gear, salary increases, and benefits. Amazon’s working conditions are notoriously some of the worst documented.
In this country, Loblaws recently increased employee wages by 15%. While this sounds like a generous offer, it translates to only about $2 more; still putting it below a suggested hourly living wage of $15.88. To be clear, that number is on the minimum end of the livable scale.
And, most recently, we have a provincial government suggesting that we might have to make changes to the financial assistances being provided to Canadians, as we may be too comfortable on an equivalent of about $8.33 an hour.
Clearly, these examples and more suggest that we have both employers and government officials who are woefully tone-deaf as to what the reality is.
We talk about not returning to the way things were, but instead envision a new normal. We have an opportunity to create a new labour movement, providing a collective voice to workers who demand the right to be paid a living wage, pandemic or no pandemic.
How do we organize? There are a number of current campaigns to address living incomes. Key of which is the current basic income guarantee movement spearheaded by PEI’s Cooper Institute. This was recently amplified by 50 Canadian senators adding their signature to a minimum basic income.
Additionally, there is the $15 and Fairness movement which began in Ontario, but has moved to different locations, including Nova Scotia.
And finally, workers can contact unions to begin the process of organizing. Both public and private unions exist on PEI. A starting point would be to visit the PEI Federation of Labour Facebook page, or call them at (902) 368-3068
We have this moment to change the way we live, through collective action. If anything can be learned from this recent pandemic, people collectively can change outcomes.