Workers Speak Out about Their Concerns
On the Serious Problem of the
Casualization of the Workforce
– Jason MacLean, President, Nova Scotia Government
and General Employees’ Union –
Our most pressing concern is the economy and job security. With the casualization of the work force and more precarious work coming up, my members’ jobs are being put at risk. So for instance, the Conservative Party is talking about cutting jobs or cutting back on the public sector. We have to understand that it is the public sector workers that keep the community moving, especially in rural Canada. When you are talking about health care, you don’t just say that you are going to improve health care, you talk about putting the services and supports in there and that is the public sector worker who works in that system. You need more people.
We have issues in Nova Scotia where the Health Authority is posting positions that are at 0.3 designation which is like one-third of a job. Not only that, but they have the audacity to post 30 of them at a time, which in my opinion are nine to 10 full-time jobs that could be out there and not have people working three to four jobs.
We need to get rid of the precarious work and have more substantial solid work for people so they can contribute back to the communities.
Another issue that is out there, and it is our members as well, is more Nova Scotians than you know are using soup kitchens and food banks. We need an affordable housing strategy. We need to have people not working three to four jobs so they can take care of their health, they can take care of their families and not end up in the broken health care system or the welfare system.
So these are issues that are presenting themselves to us and as far as I am concerned the parties are just brushing off things, they are not actually talking about tackling specific issues. I do hear about housing, which is good, but I do not hear about the health care system in terms of what it is comprised of and that is people.
You do not go into automation when you are talking about health care. You need to have the health care professionals in place to be able to do it and right now they are running low staff and that is an issue that is straight across the board, from Nova Scotia to BC. That is something that is being overlooked. I really would like to see a focus on the workers who are holding this country together and not just be about little banner issues such as health care because there is a lot more to health care than just saying the word.
When you casualize the workforce you are forcing somebody to work two, three, four jobs just to make ends meet. And not only that, they create precarious work so they can keep the wage level down. They are strictly competing with what the market is out there and what they are saying is people will take what is left over.
It is my belief that this is creating a situation where employers are not loyal to the employees and where employees do not become loyal to the employer. That is why you have people jumping from career to career to career and nobody ever getting settled, nobody ever able to set roots down and you get people moving around all the time and that creates other health issues.
These are serious issues and they have to be addressed. I do believe the parties are missing the point if they are not talking about it.
What I am saying here is to the employers. They need to be loyal to their employees instead of paying minimum wage or just above minimum wage, because that means their competitors are employers like McDonald’s as opposed to an employer that pays more money. It means they won’t have people looking for a career, they will only be looking to hold themselves over and then move onto something else. For an employee to be loyal to an employer the employer has to show that they are loyal to them, so they can settle in and say this is a place where I want to stay, this is a place where I want to set roots down and call this home for the rest of my career. We had some success in our bargaining to get employers to pay workers coming in more than what they would have paid before bargaining took place because they realized that they need to be loyal to employees.
This problem of casualization of the workforce is a problem that exists all across Canada. When you go to places and you talk to people they are working multiple jobs. Why are they working multiple jobs? It is because they are not getting fulfilled in one job. They have to take on filling those other hours in order to make ends meet.
A related issue is that an affordable housing strategy is needed especially here in Halifax. Halifax has high rent for the size of the city that it is and you have a lot of people that are making just above minimum wage and a lot more working minimum wage and everybody has to have roommates and multiple jobs just to get by.