The New Brunswick Federation of Labour is calling on all political parties to put people at the Centre of their election platforms.
“It is unfortunate that the Higgs government recklessly chose to send New Brunswickers to the polls in the middle of a pandemic,” says Daniel Legere, President of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour. “This election must be about our economic recovery from Covid-19 and addressing the long-standing inequalities that have been exposed by the pandemic. Issues such as poverty, income and gender wage gaps, the lack of a living wage and the economy’s dependence on precarious and unpaid work.”
The initiatives that the NBFL is proposing support our long-standing vision of a sustainable economy that works for all of us. An economy that is rich in good jobs, one that invests in a strong public sector and quality public services that support families and communities and respects our environment.
“Government is uniquely placed to lead the economic recovery,” adds Legere, “It’s time to move away from the outdated economic approach that focuses on austerity, spending cuts and reductions to public services. An approach that only leads to increased inequality, slow job creation and low-paying jobs.”
The NBFL sent a detailed brief, in June 2020, to the members of the All-Party Cabinet Committee on Novel Coronavirus. A copy of the brief can be found here. It goes into much more detail on how New Brunswick can put people at the centre of our economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The New Brunswick Federation of Labour (NBFL) recommends that all political parties commit to the following, recognizing that many initiatives will require collaboration with the Federal government:
• Replace lost jobs with better ones: During the pandemic, New Brunswick lost just under 50,000 jobs. Political parties need to commit to a shovel-ready plan to replace these lost jobs with better ones. The government can kick-start the economy by hiring people to build green infrastructure, educate our youth and to care for others.
• Invest in the green economy: At a time when private investment is at an all-time low, we can use public sector investment strategically; to encourage, facilitate and structure private-sector investment, to produce broad social benefits and create secure, well-paying, family supporting jobs, especially in our rural areas. Such investment should target alternative energy, and energy conservation including building retrofits and related labour market strategies. It could also include ensuring 100% broadband access across the province.
• Raise minimum wage and better protect workers: Our world of work is very different than when the province’s labour laws were written. The work that we now understand is essential to saving lives, and providing us with the necessities of life, has been historically undervalued. Far too many NB workers earn less than $15 an hour and have no benefits or pensions.
We need robust workplace health and safety programs, policies, laws and enforcement. All workers need to know their workplaces are healthy and safe. They need access to the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) when they need it. If workers get sick, they should be able to stay at home with pay.
Currently New Brunswick’s minimum wage is the second lowest of all provinces. The NBFL is demanding that all political parties commit to a $15 minimum wage, access to 10 days paid sick leave per year for all workers. No worker should fear losing their job as a result of getting ill.
• Improve community and social infrastructure: the NBFL anticipates that there will be a far greater need for community mental health and social supports for women, children, vulnerable populations and those who are affected by unemployment, financial distress, isolation and intimate partner and sexual violence.
Government must fix the years of underfunding and cuts that have eroded the programs and supports that many in our population desperately need. For example, our seniors are particularly vulnerable. Most people who died from Covid-19 in Canada lived in a senior’s residence or in a nursing home. After years of neglect and under-funding, these services must be transitioned into our public health sector.
Women were particularly hard hit by the recession that accompanied the Covid-19 outbreak. It is even being widely called a shecession. More women than men do precarious work. Also, women working in the private sector, still do not have access to pay equity. More women than men were affected by the lack of affordable child care and education services, increasing their unpaid labour during the pandemic. The NBFL recommends adopting pay equity legislation that covers the private sector and investing in improving access to quality and non-profit child care.
• Fair and Progressive Taxation: Dealing with the impact of Covid-19 is going to be expensive, and it cannot be paid for through counterproductive austerity measures and budget cuts. The government must think more broadly about solutions to its financial difficulties.
There are a number of ways in which the New Brunswick government can generate increased revenues without increasing taxes for ordinary New Brunswickers. Considerable revenue could be generated by eliminating several regressive tax expenditures and loopholes.
For additional information, please contact:
(506) 857-2125 / (506) 381-8969