I’m pretty proud of the young workers who turned their backs on the Prime Minister this week. Just one year after his election, Justin Trudeau has already turned his back on them.
Speaking at a summit put on by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), Trudeau told young workers that good jobs are a thing of the past. Short-term contracts and no pensions will be the new normal from here on, he suggested.
Young workers weren’t having any of it. So they protested, right then and there. And rightly so – they were angry.
Ken Maclam is Chair of OPSEU’s Provincial Young Workers’ Committee (PYWC), and he was at the CLC event. “Of course young workers are angry,” he reported. “Working three jobs to get by isn’t something we should just ‘get used to,’ and I assure you, we don’t plan to.”
What Trudeau told young workers echoes what top business leaders have been saying a lot lately.
Ed Clark, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s privatization advisor, says young people actually like the “flexibility” of temporary contracts. Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau tells Canadians that they need to get used to “job churn.”
But what do Canadians think? How can anyone “like” having no idea how long they’ll have an income for? Or when they’ll work next? People need food and shelter every day, not once in a while.
The young people I know – and I know lots of them – would take a steady, permanent job over a temporary contract any day. All short-term contracts do is help employers dodge the inconvenient cost of keeping workers alive.
Business leaders, and the politicians who work for them, seem to think that bad jobs are good for the economy. Save employers money, and the economy does better – that’s what they say. But it’s bogus. Their trickledown economics just don’t work.
I’ll tell you what does work. When people have good, steady jobs with decent wages, they make the economy go. When working people do well, business does well. That’s a fact.
Our job is to get that point across every way we can. And the young workers who turned their backs on Trudeau were doing exactly that. They’ve got a vision of how work should be. And they’re showing the leadership it will take to get us there.
As one young worker at the CLC Summit said, “We’re not the future, we’re the right now.”
Get used to it.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union