SFL, NDP mark labour day by calling for $15 minimum wage

Labour Day celebrations held virtually as groups mark labour movement’s achievements and focus on work still to come

Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili. (Herald file photo)

Provincial and national labour groups who would have normally spent Monday hosting parades or public barbecues took their celebrations digital this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Labour Day is more than just the first Monday in September. For the labour movement, it’s a day to celebrate achievements gained by workers and refocus on making life better for working people, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) said in a press release.

The organization is making donations to the Regina and Saskatoon food banks in lieu of their annual Labour Day events.

Unifor is encouraging its members to wear one-of-a-kind T-shirts they designed and encouraging members to celebrate on Facebook.

“On Labour Day, we not only celebrate the many achievements gained by workers but also look ahead towards the future and how we can continue to make life better for working people,” said SFL President Lori Johb.  “COVID-19 has highlighted the many challenges and inequities still faced by working people in the province, and, as Saskatchewan continues to rebuild, we need to put workers first and demand that workers are included in our province’s plan for economic recovery.” 

The union said that when COVID-19 arrived, frontline workers were “rightfully” praised as heroes, but now as reopenings have continued, workers have been forgotten.

Johb said it’s a time for leaders to be bold and put forward a worker-focused plan in advance of the provincial election this fall.

“Now is not the time for austerity. We need elected leaders who will invest in a brighter future for workers, instead of making cuts to the services we all depend on,” Johb said.

“We need leaders who will grow our economy with a $15 an hour minimum wage, invest in our crowns and public services, ensure legislated paid sick days for all workers, and make sure workers have access to the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) that they need. Now more than ever, we need a government who will put workers first.”

As of Monday afternoon, the province hadn’t put out a statement marking Labour Day, though Premier Scott Moe did Tweet out to his followers that he wished “everyone across Saskatchewan a safe and relaxing Labour Day.”

The federal government, though issued a lengthy statement by Minister of Labour Filomena Tassi.

“On Labour Day, we celebrate Canada’s workers,” the statement said.

“We celebrate the contributions that they have made to build our country, a country that we love. We also salute Canada’s labour movement, which has fought tirelessly for better wages, workplace safety and equal rights for all Canadians.”

Tassi promised a $15 minimum wage for federal workers and praised the hard work of frontline workers during the pandemic such as grocery clerks, truck drives, health care, transportation and telecommunications workers.

“I want to salute everyone whose work puts them out in contact with people every day,” she said. “We must celebrate the commitment, hard work and self-sacrifice of frontline workers over the past few months. As we enter this recovery phase, we will continue to rely on their commitment to our prosperity and safety. Our frontline workers deserve our gratitude and respect.”

Tassi also praised women on the front line and promised to work to close the gender wage gap and work towards implementing the Pay Equity Act in 2021.

“As we reopen and continue to build a stronger, more resilient country, I will continue to consult and work with unions, workers, employers, government colleagues, experts, Indigenous partners and my provincial and territorial counterparts to take the steps needed to create healthy and safe workplaces for everyone during the pandemic and our recovery,” she said.

The Saskatchewan NDP also put out a handful of promises on Labour Day, retweeting a Twitter thread put out by leader Ryan Meili featuring a series of graphics.

In the series of Tweets, he made six platform promises the party would enact should they win the October election:

Raise minimum wage to $15 an hour

Introduce pay equity legislation to ensure equal pay for equal work

Introduce ten paid sick days

Restore balance to labour legislation to ensure workers can join unions and achieve safe workplaces and fair contracts

Introduce a new film employment tax credit

Protect jobs and invest in workers with a Sask. First procurement policy

“We can grow our economy by investing in working people, creating good jobs and raising the minimum wage,” the graphics quoted Meili as saying.

“It’s time for a government that puts people first.”