rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Not at home for the holidays: The assault on the right of workers to collective days off

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Please support our coverage of democratic movements and become a supporting member of rabble.ca.

As we all prepare to enjoy the Canada Day holiday with friends and family, let us take some time to reflect on just how many Canadians end up having to work on what are supposed to be statutory holidays and whose holidays are sacrificed upon the alter of our consumer convenience and self-indulgence.

Over the years, as a fundamental part of the corporate assault on worker's rights, these holidays have grown to mean less-and-less for retail sector workers especially. In many communities across Canada there has been a strong push to allow more-and-more stores and retail businesses to open their doors on what are supposed to be universal holidays.

This is not, actually, an attempt to help "small" or family run businesses, many of which have no employees or were always allowed to open when they wanted. It is not about "convenience stores". It is really about allowing malls and major retail chains to open every single day of the year and thereby eliminating the idea of collectively shared days off. This push, ironically, also undermines the very small retailers that many who back it claim will benefit from it. They will now face even more overwhelming competition from huge chains, not less.

A basic component of the broader North American corporate agenda is to convince us that we are consumers, not citizens, and eliminating any notion of commerce free days or spaces is completely entwined with that. From selling the naming rights of everything to corporations, to making sure that people can "shop" 365 days a year, genuine, collective, public spaces or days free from corporate and consumer influence are dramatically on the decline. 

The greatest victims of this are the lowest payed or otherwise compensated workers in our society, retail workers, who consistently earn the lowest wages and lowest benefits versus workers in other sectors and who have very low rates of unionization. 

Remarkably, even some government services, like the Canada Post outlets in privately run pharmacies or stores, are open on what is supposed to be our National Holiday. It was not bad enough that years ago Canada Post contracted out postal outlets so that they could shut down post offices and fire unionized workers, replacing them with non-union workers who are technically employees of places like Shopper's Drug Mart; Canada Post does not even ensure that these union busting outlets are closed on Canada Day! 

Or any other holiday. 

It is a very explicit example of the complicity of our own government's attempts, for many years now, and predating Harper, to undermine their own legally mandated holidays. It is equally true in most provinces.

Canada, overall, has a disgraceful attitude towards holidays or paid days off, and we rank as the third last "affluent" country in the world in terms of paid days off guaranteed by law to all full-time employees in the country.  Only Japan and the USA rank lower.

But we all know that the burden of this does not fall equally. 

Most executives, when they ever work, have far more holiday days in their contracts, as do most other managerial workers. Three or four weeks or more of vacation time is common. And none of them ever work on statutory holidays. That is for "little" people.

The people and workers who are made to work, outside of essential services,  are minimum wage workers, retail workers, the young, part time workers, temporary workers (which in some cases allows employers to get around paying statutory holiday pay) and, in reality, the most exploited, least protected and least paid workers in the country.

This really has got to stop. We have to end this notion that the consumer convenience of some demands more "rights" than the collective rights of workers socially to both personal and collective holidays.

We need at least a handful of days where people, all people, are able to enjoy their public spaces and their communities together as friends and family, and we need holidays that are holidays for the large bulk of workers and not just the middle class or well-to-do.

Holidays where we are not certain that many in our communities have been intimidated into working because the law allows their places of work to open.

We need, in the end, to remember and to fight for the very basic humanistic principle that we are citizens, and not consumers, and that as citizens we stand together for the right of all Canadians to be able to truly celebrate our collective holidays. That the very heart of fairness for working people and families is the freedom for all to enjoy our common days together, without having to work for the benefit of retailers and big business.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.