Unions Needed Now More Than Ever

The rate of unionization may have declined over the past decade, but in today’s economic climate they are needed now more than ever. They have brought us many of the rights as workers we take for granted today including weekends, safety standards in the workplace and fair wages.

We have just listed a few of the reasons of why organizing is so important now more than ever.

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Rise of precarious unsafe employment

This type of work usually includes low wages, unstable hours and no benefits at all. While this type of employment is not new, it is on the rise across the world, including right here in Canada. These types of jobs have little stability and can take a serious toll on workers mental and physical health both in and outside of the workplace.

Alberta economy

The price of oil has hit record lows and lay offs are coming all across the province in a variety of industries. Those in contract positions are most likely to be let go first, while those who have unions to negotiate for them have a better chance of remaining in their jobs. People need to know there is someone fighting for them when times get tough.

Social and political rights

Unions have always been leaders when it comes to social movements, and that has become more important than ever for fighting for social justice for not only union workers, but people all across Canada. From the Fight for Fifteen to mental health awareness to getting people out to vote, labour unions have mobilized their members and lobby for the rights of all Canadians.

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Pay gap between CEO and workers continues to grow

According to the annual report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canada’s highest-paid CEOs will have earned the average workers salary of around $48,000 by lunch on a Monday.

They took home an average of $8.96 million, 184 times the pay of an average working Canadian, per year. The middle class is shrinking because most jobs that are considered middle class are disappearing. Unions created the middle class and we need them to bring it back once again.

Alberta Budget 2016: Highlights For The Labour Force

They say the third time is a charm and that is what many Albertan’s were hoping the third budget that has come in just over a year in the province would be positive. For Budget 2016, the province’s projected expenses are $51.1 billion, with a projected total revenue of $41.4 billion. When you add it all up there will be a deficit of around $10.4 billion.

They took the price of oil into account with the current oil prices estimated to be $42 a barrel, but also planned for the potential of oil dropping as low as $36.

Finance Minister Joe Ceci, who announced the plan, said he expects the province will have a balanced budget in just under 10 years, by 2024.

New Workers

There is some good news for those starting to enter the workforce in Alberta. The government has dedicated $15 million to help apprentices complete training and work experience requirements. There is also $10 million to train Albertan’s who are under-represented in the overall workforce such as women and indigenous people.

Alberta Jobs Plan

The economy has been hit hard with unemployment in Alberta rising to 7.9 percent this year and it is predicted that there will be a decrease in jobs for 2016. The province expects that its employment incentive efforts will create about 100,000 jobs over the next three years. The budget includes a $250 million, two-year job package that will include $165 million for two new tax credits for small and medium-sized companies, $25 million in investment through the Alberta Enterprise Corporation and $35 million spent to attract new business. They also released details of the $34 billion infrastructure plan introduced last year.

Mental Health Support Critical During Tough Economic Times

Mental health in the workplace has been receiving much needed attention in the past year across Canada. The issue has reached crisis level, with numbers showing that the economic cost is at least $50 billion per year in Canada.

Stress levels in the workplace have been high in Alberta where the economy has been hit hard and now we need to look even more closely at increasing mental health support.

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More People Are Looking For Help

According to experts working in Alberta’s mental health community, there has been a ‘significant increase in people looking for their services since the downturn in the energy industry.’  They pointed out that they not only have people contacting them who were laid off, but also see people looking for services who feel guilty for still having a job.

Domestic Violence Expected To Rise

Research recently released from the University of Alberta, has found that rate of domestic violence is expected to rise if the economy continues to struggle, finding that interpersonal violence can be caused by the stress everyday living conditions. Researchers see it as a public-health problem, especially with Alberta having some of the highest rates of interpersonal violence of any province in Canada.

Increase In Suicide Rate

At the end of last year the chief medical examiners office released a report that 30 per cent more Albertans took their lives in the first half of 2015 compared with the same period in 2014. Experts say that that number far exceeds anything they could have expected and if the trend continues there could be over 600 suicides in Alberta this year.

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These issues not only effect those who are going through job losses but friends, families and coworkers around them. Many unions have taken on the initiative to get more help including Teamsters 362 and Teamsters Canada both ran a #MakeitMandatory mental health awareness campaign urging policy makers to pay more attention to mental health support in the workplace.

If you or someone you know needs assistance, you can call the distress centre at 403.266.4357.

World Happiness Report: Highly Unionized Countries Take Top Spots

The world happiness report was recently released and the top countries have a few things in common including the strength of unions within the country.

The top 10 nations were Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.

Denmark was originally in third place last year and moved up to take top spot. Canada dropped one from last year.

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This is the fourth year of The World Happiness Report and is put together by the the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

It was released just before the UN World Happiness Day on March 20.

According to an article by the CBC economic stability is a large factor in the ranking, as are social support and solidarity.

Of the top 10 almost all have extremely high percentage of workers covered by collective agreements, with Denmark at 80 per cent. The happiest countries tend to have high levels of unionizing, creating a strong middle class and less inequality.

This is also consistent with studies that have been done on countries with higher levels of unionization.

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A study from Baylor University and the University of Arkansas found that overall union members are ‘more satisfied with their lives than those who are not members and that the substantive effect of union membership on life satisfaction is large and rivals other common predictors of quality of life.’

It is clear that people who are in unions usually have a better work environment with good benefits, job security and fair wages. This also translates outside of work where studies have found union members have a better social well being a life satisfaction.

In a place like Alberta where jobs have become unstable and economic times are extremely tough, unionizing is something that could offer support both inside and outside the workplace.

Five Facts About Precarious Work

Precarious work entails more than you might think: unstable employment, low wages, more dangerous working conditions, no benefits and are often denied the right to join a union. It is officially defined as people who 'who fill permanent job needs but are denied permanent employee rights.' While not a new trend in Canada, precarious work is one that is on the rise and can be seen in jobs that are seasonal or construction. It is also becoming more common in places where the economy is experiencing troubled times like Alberta.

Most of the issues associated with this type of work come up because workers have no one to stand up for them in the workplace. If they do bring up an issue it can be easily dismissed, which is something a union can help fight against. When it comes to layoffs, unions ensure that seniority is recognized and protocols and health care benefits cover layoff periods.

Here are five statistics about precarious employment in Canada:

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1. It Is Growing

Precarious work is an issue that is growing in Canada with the increase of employment in the ‘gig economy.’ Between  25 – 35 per cent of all jobs in Canada share one or more characteristics of precarious work, and the category of self-employed workers increased by nearly 45 per cent between 1989 and 2007.

2. They Earn Less

A study by United Way Toronto and McMaster University found that precarious workers earn 46 per cent less than those who are employed in secure work and experience more income variability. They rarely receive any employee benefits and only make a basic wage.

3. They Have Very Limited Stability

The same study found that those employed in precarious work often don’t know their work schedule a week in advance, and have limited career prospects. They are also more likely to fear raising an issue about any problems at work because of the instability of the job.

4. Insecure Homelife

Overall, the ‘anxiety about employment hampers their personal and family lives.’ They are more likely to find it hard to make ends meet and are less likely to have children. An inability to participate in leisure activities also adds to feelings of isolation and stress.

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5. Mental and Physical Health

Not only does this type of work affect mental health because of the stress associated with it, but it also affects physical health. Risks arise from ‘lack of experience, lack of knowledge about occupational health and safety rights, and fear of losing one’s job.’ Due to lack of income and benefits, they would also have trouble accessing medical assistance for both mental and physical health issues.