Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stop Trashing Public Sector Workers and Our Labor Unions

An opinion piece in The Montreal Gazette last week written by Paul Moist, the President of the CUPE is reminding us that one thing we can be proud of as Canadians are  things like Universal Health care,  public education and many other social programs. 

I agree with him on one thing, now is not the time cut services. Not while in the middle of a recession. Some may argue we are in recovery others say we aren't; depending who you talk to and what you read. Folks are still losing their jobs; with that comes the increased need for public services and social programs.

Yet, the Quebec Government is proposing tuition fees for the CEGEPS (for those outside of Quebec: it's between high school and university; it replaces your grade 12), raising hydro fees as well as implementing service charges in an effort to reduce our deficit.  Moist suggests that the Charest government should never have cut income taxes. Yeah, I know, not a very popular idea and an idea that would send the right into a tizzy, but they would bitch about the paying tuition fees to send their kids to CEGEP, pay toll fees, a hike in their hydro bill, etc. In other words, another demonstration of how there is no way to win with the right.

Moist also says that over 80 000 jobs were cut across Canada just inside those first four months of the recession. Quel surprise.

He makes a good pitch about investing in the public sector. However, will anyone buy? Not ol' Stevie, that's for sure. By the looks of things, certainly not Charest, nor most other provincial governments.

The right like to bitch about the public sector and their unions. Case in point, Shona Holmes. In her facebook support group, she, egged on by Mario Coluccio, the managing director of CMPI in New York City who first recruited her to meet the press club and  to further his agenda and that of his group to make sure the U.S. doesn't get health care reform, has been trashing labour unions; mainly, nurse's unions. You can catch the discussion forum here. In that debate, one girl, a nursing student puts forth some strong arguements: 

"Unions are there to look out for the rights of the workers and advocate for their wages and working conditions. In the case of nurses' unions, this means also looking out and advocating for patients and clients as well. The working conditions of nurses are the conditions in which patients find themselves."  

I believe that this arguement best summarizes Moist's arguement in his editorial piece.

Needless to say, Shona Holmes as well as her husband and Coluccio continue to despise the public sector and their labour unions and to this day, continue to trash them. They still maintain that unions are what's really to blame for all of society's ills and maintain that patients would have better care without them.

Let's remember where Shona Holmes stands though. She is trying to dismantle our universal health care system in addition to trying to make sure President Obama's health care reform never sees the light of day.

 CUPE has come out against privatized health care in Canada. 

They are unfortunately not alone. Here is a letter to the editor from some affluent red-neck in Montreal in rebuttle to Moist's opinion piece:  

Re: "Public sector a good investment" (Opinion, Oct. 6).
Would you invest your money with Paul Moist, the president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees? Public-sector workers contribute zero money to government coffers, but here in Quebec they account for 60 per cent of government spending. Private-sector workers contributions are not enough to cover the bloated public sector payrolls as it is.
This year, when Quebec's deficit will reach $6 billion, the public-sector payroll amounts to $3.6 billion. The public sector is bankrupting the country and destroying the economy, and the only response from the union is , "Give us more money." Public-sector unions should be outlawed.
Tim Taylor

Well, Mr. Tim Taylor, take your kids out of public school then. Cut up your medicare card. Don't apply for old age pension. Oh, if you and / your family fall into a difficult situation, don't count on social services to help you out. Be careful what you wish for, chappy. One day, you will get old and sick or hurt. You may lose your job with no hope of another in the foreseeable future. Everyone is vulnerable.Beaconsfield is an affluent suburb of Montreal. Another example of one who doesn't realize his sheltered life in the 'burbs can fall apart one day and may have a need for one of our social programs. A public sector worker who cares enough to help. This is something anybody from the right should always remember, including Shona Holmes with her ritzy house with a pond in oh little town of Waterdown, Ont.

I work in the public sector. I'm an administrative agent for the Youth Protection Agency of Quebec and as such, I'm a member of CUPE.  As a high school teacher in the public school system in Montreal and a social worker, my parents were public sector employees who were also members of unions.  My father wanted to shape young minds; to share his knowledge of subjects like history, litterature and art. My mother wanted to help society's disenfranchised and to help families care for their sick relatives more effectively, to find suitable end of life care for  the terminally ill, to help the elderly get the resources they need to survive. Both of them cared enough about their work more than making a killing in the private sector.

A social worker  who works at the same Youth Protection Agency as I do, knows all too well what it's like to work on the front lines,  was none too amused with Mr. Tim Taylor's letter. She writes a rebuttle to his letter

Re: "CUPE leader all wet" (Letters, Oct. 8).
I'm a CUPE member and a public-sector worker. I earn a salary. I pay provincial and federal income taxes and contribute to employment insurance and the Quebec Pension Plan. I also pay sales tax.
How can it be said that I contribute zero money to the government?
I also pay into a pension plan and make RRSP contributions so I won't be a burden on public funds when I retire. I'm not destroying the economy. Neither is my union. I pay union dues to support my union.
I work for the Youth Protection Agency. Our job is to protect our most valuable asset - children. We work to help children who have been abused or neglected regain their lives and become productive citizens. Sadly, we do not always succeed. We care deeply about our work; this is not the kind of job you do unless you care.
Public-sector workers look after children in daycares and hospitals. They teach our children in schools. They work with children with special needs. We contribute to society in many ways. We deserve better than to be blamed for all of the woes of society.
Margaret Godbeer

I can attest that I more taxes taken off my pay-checque working at the agency than I did working in the private sector and my salary is the same as it was in my previous job. However, I would never want to go back to the private sector (unless my life depended on it, of course).  No, not because I'm a member of CUPE or any other labor union for that matter. I would rather work toward the common good rather than working to line the pockets of some company. Same reason why my parents worked in the public sector. 

Moist also sees the need to not only maintain our services but to expand upon them, which would create jobs at the same time. He suggests to the Quebec government and other provincial governments. Who could say no to job creation during a time of job losses? Logically, no one, but, since when did our politicians, particularly those right of centre, did things logically?

So the next time anybody thinks about bashing the public sector and the unions who represent them. Remember, you and/or your family may need them someday, yes, even you Charest, Stevie, and the other politicians,  and you will want them to care enough about their jobs in order to provide the assistance you need.

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