Mayor-elect Rob Ford famously painted the city's garbage collectors as a pampered elite enjoying a "gravy train." Appealing as it must be to pick up Toronto's garbage, that's one gravy train I don't mind missing out on.
Similarly misleading attempts to portray public-sector workers as overindulged have come from business spokesperson Catherine Swift, who implies that relatively generous public-sector pensions -- for workers cleaning schools and emptying hospital bedpans -- are imposing a huge burden on Canadian taxpayers. (Swift omits to mention that public-sector workers pay into their pensions, both as workers and taxpayers.)
Government attacks against worker rights and the social wage are threatening hard-earned gains and advances for workers in Canada on many fronts and in many incremental ways. In this two-part series, we will look some of these struggles and what is at stake, with Part 1 focusing on the teachers' union in British Columbia, airline workers and the public pension. Part 2 takes a look at what must be done if we are to protect individual, public and social rights in Canada.
B.C. teachers defend education
Prime Minister Harper went to Davos yesterday to sing Canada's praises. No sooner had he finished reciting a long list of our national achievements, however, he launched into a list of the sober, realistic, inevitable things that must be done in Canada to ensure "sustainability" in the long term. Top of the list is rolling back our universal public pension system (especially targeting the OAS and the GIS), which is one of our genuine national achievements. Harper plans to use his majority power and adept use of "shock doctrine" ideology to try to do what others (including Mulroney and Martin) failed: roll back this most important component of our sadly-inadequate pension system.
Related rabble.ca story:
Pensions Newsmakers Breakfast
Join a panel of policy experts and workers at a breakfast hosted by the
CUPE as they discuss solutions for fixing Canada's pension crisis.
A new perspective on pensions
A young worker, a national labour leader, a former chief actuary for the
Canada Pension Plan, a seniors' rights advocate, and a former Nortel
worker-turned-pension reform activist. All have recommendations for
Canada's finance ministers when they meet in Prince Edward Island next
month to talk pensions.