In what is one of several "let them eat cake" moments made by members of the governing Liberal caucus lately, this past Saturday Finance Minister Bill Morneau threw young Canadian workers under the proverbial bus when he said that they should get used to the 'reality' of precarious employment.
At a meeting with Ontario Liberals he said the "job churn" was here to stay, that the next generation of Canadians should expect shittier pension benefits and that recognizing all of this will "soften that blow".
This is a rather astounding acknowledgement by Morneau that his government is part of a seeming generational willingness by those who had more secure jobs and better pensions to, due to their political decisions, shut the door to these things for young people, basically screwing their own kids out of the kind of future that they themselves took for granted.
Setting aside for the moment that this 'reality' exists only due the unwillingness of our governments (this one included) to take on the corporations and to enact legislation and take real steps to fight precarious employment and to preserve pensions -- reality, you know, is created by us, Bill, it does not just 'happen' -- it is clear that Morneau is no friend to young workers.
And yet, in the wake of these comments, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) actually continued with plans to invite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to address their Young Workers Summit in Ottawa a few days later.
Predictably, and entirely justly, Trudeau got something of a rough ride from many of the summit delegates. According to the CBC:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced off with a room of angry protesters today who were venting their frustrations over everything from pipelines to the failed federal payroll system.In a moment of surreal elitism and condescension, Trudeau proceeded to say that the protest "reflects poorly" on the delegates!
Some of the participants turned their backs on Trudeau in protest during the "armchair discussion" event at the Canadian Labour Congress National Young Workers Summit in Ottawa.
"Honour your promises!" hollered some in the crowd, as event moderators tried to keep the peace.
"We don't have dialogue with liars!"
This is pretty rich given his Finance Minister's comments on the weekend. They reflected rather poorly on his government.
While his response was predictable, what is far harder to understand is the response to the protest made by the CLC itself in a statement they released later that day.
The statement acknowledges the protests but goes on to say of the delegates that "the majority applauded his willingness to take questions from the room." This is a rather snide jab at those who wanted to confront Trudeau's completely lackluster performance as PM when it comes to both youth and workers, and it implies that they did, indeed, reflect poorly on the others who 'applauded' Trudeau.
In fact, at the summit itself CLC president Hassan Yussuff told the protesters that the labour movement is a "respectful movement" and called for "constructive dialogue".
It seems speaking truth to power when the direct opportunity arises is not as welcome as it once was in the CLC and this wing of the labour movement!
The CLC statement goes on to say:
Delegates pressed the prime minister about a statement by Finance Minister Bill Morneau asserting that young workers have to get used to the “job churn” – meaning a future without lifelong, stable careers.In the statement Yussuff answers on Trudeau's behalf by saying:
“Moving from job to job to job creates a lot of instability and insecurity,” said Amy Huziak, the CLC’s national representative for young workers.
“What can we do together to ensure that young workers have decent jobs instead?” she asked the prime minister.
“Prime Minister Trudeau promised legislative support for workers stuck in precarious jobs and we intend to hold him to that commitment,” said CLC president Hassan Yussuff. “He’s already worked with labour to strengthen the Canada Pension Plan, and we look forward to doing the same for labour laws across the country.”An interesting quote generally given that Morneau on Saturday had specifically said the changes to the CPP were "a recognition that people aren't going to have the same pension benefits" they did before.
All of this comes in the wake of the decision by Toronto's Labour Council to allow Trudeau's Labour Minister to march in Toronto's Labour Day parade.
So what are these labour leaders up to?
The reality seems to be that Yussuff and others think that they can wrest enough concessions for their existing membership to make collaboration with this government worthwhile despite the fact that doing so sidelines the workplace and economic issues confronting youth, workers not in unions, those fighting for higher minimum wages (Trudeau opposes the $15 Now movement), those living in poverty and many others for whom the Liberal government has really just been more of the same.
With a ludicrous rewriting of the history of the struggle to secure the basic rights of workers by the labour movement -- often in the face of vicious state violence -- to claim the movement is now "respectful" of representatives of what is and always has been an avowedly capitalist Bay St. party what Yussuff seems to be really seeking is to make the CLC and labour respectable to this Liberal government.
Protests and anger at a labour union summit by young workers towards a PM who has delivered them essentially nothing just won't do!
Sadly, it would appear that the Liberal government is not alone in its willingness to shut the door on the generation of workers coming next.