Only Good Jobs And Fair Pensions Will Keep Our Economy Going
Published: May 31st 2011
Source: By Dave Coles and Denis Lemelin

The Conservatives talk about "job creation" but what do they really mean by "jobs"? Do they mean good jobs: the type of job that keeps your head above debt and allows you to feed your family healthy meals? Do they mean a job where you get a say in your working conditions and time off when you're sick? Do they mean the kind of job where you can retire with a secure pension? These are the types of jobs that unions have fought for. These are the jobs that built us a strong middle class and a prosperous country in the last half of the twentieth century. And these are the type of jobs we want our government to help create.

But there are jobs and there are McJobs. McJobs are taken by desperate people; jobs with no leave or benefits; jobs that barely pay the bills; jobs where you are completely at the mercy of your boss; part-time, insecure jobs that provide inadequate, if any, pensions. Jobs like these turn the middle class into the working poor. Not only are they bad for workers, they are worse for society.

Part-time and contract jobs build up consumer debt, burden our social safety net and slowly choke the economy. A low-waged, unstable and unhealthy labour force ultimately costs all of us more money.

Yet according to Statistics Canada, part-time work grew faster than full-time work in 2010.

Not only does the Harper Government expect kudos for "growing" the economy in this way, it wants Canadians to believe that corporate tax cuts are the reason behind this so-called growth. But as Forbes blogger Peter Cohan says, "the tax cut rhetoric, while effective politics, is lousy economics." A recent study showed that the Conservatives' proposed 3-point reduction in corporate tax rates would take $6 billion out of the public purse, but only stimulate about $600 million of new business investment annually.

While they drain the public purse, many companies also increase profitability and productivity by squeezing their employees, making them do more with less while reneging on past commitments to these employees, including pensions.

In our society, secure pensions are one of the major differences between the good jobs we want for everybody and the "job creation" scheme our government wants. It is outrageous to see our pensions being described as "gold-plated" luxuries or greedy "entitlements" by people who will never have to worry about their old age because they are making so much money off the rest of us. If we encourage employers to dodge not only paying their fair share of taxes but also paying fair pensions to their workers, we are in effect saying that they can steal yet more from society.

Pensions are deferred compensation that workers have earned. Pension funds and their contributions are often negotiated in exchange for some other concession. Tying pensions to the stock market, making employees assume the risk by gambling with their old age or picking on retirees is not fair. It is doubly and triply unfair when the company doing this is profiting at the same time from tax giveaways and government subsidies. Employers need to understand that they benefit as much as anybody else in the long term from paying their fair share of taxes and pension contributions to society.

So what kind of jobs should we create? Good jobs with fair pensions. Those are the kind of jobs that will maintain economic recovery and keep us going into the twenty-first century. And those are the kind of jobs that the labour movement is trying to protect. For our members, for all workers, and for the Canadian economy.

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