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What’s a living wage?

Ontario Coalition for Social Justice/CALM

Everyone deserves an adequate standard of living—but one in four Ontario workers earns poverty wages.

The current minimum wage in Ontario is a poverty wage. A full-time worker, working a regular 35-hour week, needs to earn $10 an hour to be above the poverty line.

The minimum wage has been frozen in Ontario since 1995. The cost of living, including rent and public transportation, has increased, but the minimum wage has been frozen at $6.85 an hour.

Studies show that increases to the minimum wage do not cause job loss. In some instances, jobs are created when the minimum wage is increased.

So-called “low-skilled” jobs are vital to the economy. In 2000, jobs in the retail, food and accommodation industries made up 18 per cent of all jobs in Ontario. In 2000, 24 per cent of women earning poverty wages worked in retail and 17 per cent worked in food and accommodation. For men, 29 per cent worked in retail and 20 per cent worked in food and accommodation.

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 Canada cited for repressing unions

CLC/CALM

Anti-union repression is on the rise around the world and Canada is no exception. So says a report released by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), which represents over 158 million workers in 150 countries including Canada.

According to the report, in 2002, 30,000 trade union activists around the world were fired for exercising basic worker rights. Some 20,000 were harassed, more than 2,500 were detained, 89 were imprisoned and 213 were murdered—206 in Latin America alone.

The report also notes how Canadian provinces are increasingly passing legislation that deprives large numbers of working people of their rights.

“This isn’t the first time Canada has been embarrassed by the actions of rogue provincial governments. It should come as no coincidence that the provincial governments most cited for the growing violation of worker rights are those controlled by parties that champion the current distorted free-market model of globalization,” says Ken Georgetti, CLC president.

In recent years, provinces controlled by right-wing governments have passed laws that deliberately deny labour rights to agricultural workers, strip workers of the right to strike, and guarantee workers a right to information about how to leave a union, but not information about how to join a union. At the same time, these governments have moved to increase the number of hours employers can force people to work, watered down health and safety rules, and lowered the employment age for children.

Regulate in the public interest

CLC/CALM

Canada’s labour movement says it is time for the federal government to re-examine its approach to public health and safety.

Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, urged the federal Minister of Health to re-establish precaution as the guiding principle for public health protection and to abandon its shift toward policies and practices that manage around so-called “acceptable” risks—risks that are often determined, measured and reported by industry.

“Surely the time has come to re-examine your government’s use of risk management. The economic fall-out from this spring’s outbreaks of SARS and BSE demonstrate that some risks are not worth taking at all. This is especially true for workers whose jobs have vanished in meat packing plants, in the hotel and tourism sector, or whose lives have been put in danger because they work at certain health care facilities in Toronto. They are dealing with the consequences of an allegedly manageable risk for which they were in no way responsible,” says Georgetti in his letter to the minister.

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Not getting their money’s worth

Labor Notes/CALM

Researchers at the John Hopkins School of Public Health have found that Americans receive lower levels of health care service than most other developed countries, despite the fact that health care costs in the U.S. lead the world.

The study found that patients in the U.S. spend less time with doctors and in hospitals than in other countries. U.S. health care costs averaged $4,631 U.S. per person in 2000—44 per cent higher than Swiss residents, the second biggest spenders on health care.

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