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The global struggle for decent work

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Surprise greeted the "good news story" on Friday that job gains were posted for the month of September. While no job increases were predicted, some 30,600 jobs were created. But hold the champagne. The job growth was due to 36,000 new public sector jobs, while the private sector lost more than 17,000 jobs. The economy is still very weak and job losses will continue for some time.

The OECD is predicting that our current unemployment rate of 8.4 per cent will rise to over 10 per cent by next year.

Up close and personal, the picture is even uglier. For the nearly half million who have lost their jobs since the economic downturn, unemployment is usually long and frightening. When work is available, too often it comes in the form of part-time or temporary work, usually for a lot less pay than the job that was lost.

This trend to "precarious work" is not new. Around the world, employers have been trying slash costs and to minimize their long-term staff liabilities. Hiring contract, temporary or agency workers means no pension or long term disability costs for employers. They mean lower costs, and the flexibility to lay workers off at will.

During this latest recession, however, the massive loss full-time jobs has escalated the trend to precarious work. Job loss often means saying goodbye to a decent income that paid the bills and supported the family. Many of those lucky enough to find jobs, usually after several months, are quickly finding themselves among the working poor.

Wednesday, Oct. 7, was designated the "World Day for Decent Work" -- a day to focus on the need for good jobs and a decent life. The International Metal Workers Federation put its efforts into highlighting the growth precarious work, which sadly is becoming the norm rather than the exception.

To highlight this troubling trend and as part of the global campaign, the CAW held a Round Table on Precarious Work, meeting with several community leaders and representatives from CAW Action Centres, where laid off CAW members go to get training opportunities and to seek employment. The CAW is committed to working with the community to improve employment standards laws and beef up enforcement. The union is also pushing governments to defend good jobs such as in the manufacturing sector with an aggressive industrial strategy rather than letting the market decide which jobs stay and which are lost.

The next day, Oct. 8, filmmaker Laura Sky released her latest film "Home Safe Toronto" which premiered at Toronto's Revue Cinema. The film shows the shock of job loss and the grinding poverty that many working people face in precarious low wage jobs. The dignity and determination of the families who struggle against all odds in a hostile world is moving. Their fight is a call to action to stop Canada's slide into growing inequality and despair. There will be a second showing of the film at the Revue this week.

Join the campaign for decent work at CAW.ca. The job you save might just be your own.

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