UFCW Federal Lobby Day on Parliament Hill
On November 6, 2018, UFCW members and staff took to Parliament Hill in Ottawa to Lobby our Federal MPs about a number of issues that affect working people.
Workers should be consulted, involved, and included in any and all strategies that affect them. That means hearing from working people and the labour movement at the committee level to gain important input on how to improve laws, policies, and more. Working people must receive high consideration in any strategy to deal with income, health care, food security, and the future of automation in the workforce. And, strategies to deal with these issues must include protections to ensure the well-being of all workers at every possible stage.
Over their lifetime, on average, women in Canada need to work to the age of 79 to reach the same level of income as a man who retires at 65. Establishing a good, living wage is important. The current wage gap in Canada sits at about 30%. But, it’s much worse for lesbian couples, women with disabilities, Indigenous women, women of colour, transgender individuals, and those who are new to Canada.
Many factors can affect how much someone gets to take home on their paycheque each week. Good-paying jobs must be available and accessible. Plus, hiring practices and promotions must be equitable as well. Women often still play a primary role in caring for children and family. So, paid sick days and job protected leaves of absence are critical to maintaining a decent income. Also, our government should ensure that everyone who has to, or chooses to, work can access affordable good child care.
Closing the wage gap requires a broad strategy that includes:
- Promoting access to collective bargaining.
- Legislating card-check organizing.
- Expanding and ENFORCING pay equity policies.
- Legislating equity compliance for employers.
- Increasing the minimum wage.
- Working to end violence and harassment of women.
- Providing affordable, high-quality, and truly universal child care.
At Locals 175 & 633, our membership incudes about 49,000 people who work in the food industry. Across the country, a total of about 170,000 food industry workers belong to UFCW. That number includes workers in agriculture, food processing and manufacturing, meat and poultry plants, retail grocery stores, and more.
Our Union Members play essential roles in every part of Canada’s food industry.
Canadians should not experience food insecurity. Yet, close to 4 million Canadians – including 1.15 million children – don’t have access to quality, affordable food. Among First Nations people, almost twice as many people experience food insecurity. This is especially true in the northern parts of the country.
Canada and Canadian workers produce high quality good food. No one should go without. Plus, requiring clear labels on all products sold here would allow Canadians to choose home grown, homemade food when and if they choose.
UFCW wants to see a national food policy that addresses food sovereignty, food insecurity, food labelling, and food safety. And, Canada’s food workers should have a major role in the development of this policy: A council to govern a national food policy must include representatives for working people.
Did you know that Canada is one of the only developed nations in the world with universal health care that does NOT include a universal prescription drug program? In fact, about 5.4 million employed Canadians and many of the 2.8 million self-employed in the country do not have an employer-funded or private drug care plan.
Prescription medicines must be reasonably accessible to everyone who needs them regardless of income, age, or where they live. The plan must also eliminate co-payments, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket expenses.
The plan must ensure superior drug choices, safe and effective prescription drug us, and the best value. A publicly accountable, non-partisan committee should oversee and evaluate the plan. Plus, our pharmacare plan must also be administered publicly and delivered publicly.
Lastly, the national pharmacare plan must apply equally, and follow Canadians, no matter in which territory or province they live.
Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Automation and AI have crept into almost every industry over the years. From robotic health care aides to self-checkouts, manufacturing robots and more, the jobs of millions of people are on the line. And, what then?
UFCW wants to see a national strategy that involves ALL stakeholders – including workers, government, unions, and employers. If jobs disappear, what do people then do to earn a living? If robots replace tax-paying people, where does our government find that lost revenue? Without that revenue, our social programs and supports – from health care to education, infrastructure, and more – will have no funding. And, there will be no money in the consumers’ pockets to buy products and use services.
We need a comprehensive national strategy to educate, retrain, and provide apprenticeships for future job markets, and we need a plan that anticipates changes to come and protects workers and their families.
That strategy requires the creation of a national advisory committee on the impact of technology and automation on the Canadian workforce.
Over the day, representatives from UFCW Locals 175 & 633 had formal meetings with:
- Jagmeet Singh – Leader of the Federal NDP
- Gord Johns, NDP – MP Courtenay—Alberni
Critic for Small Business and Tourism & Critic for Veterans
- Marc Serré, Liberal – MP Nickel Belt
- Scott Duvall, NDP – MP Hamilton Mountain
Critic for Pensions & Critic for Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
- Tracey Ramsey, NDP – MP Essex
Critic for International Trade & Deputy Critic for Labour
- Jean-Claude Poissant, Liberal – MP La Prairie
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri Food
Other UFCW Canada representatives from across the country also took part in numerous other meetings throughout the day.