Each year on the first Monday in September, people across the country celebrate Labour Day. This year will look a little different, with fewer BBQs and community gatherings, but it remains important to reflect on how far we have come and what we still have to achieve.
The past several months have shown the importance of unions and the labour movement in every aspect of our society. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the valuable role that workers across the province play in safeguarding our health, safety, and well-being. Many of the people who are deemed essential workers – those who are on the front lines keeping us fed, our health care facilities clean, and our communities functioning and safe – remain some of the lowest paid in Saskatchewan. The crisis we are in should challenge the way we put value on labour and spur us to continue seeking fair pay for all workers.
This pandemic has also highlighted the right to a safe workplace. There are many people across the province who have returned or will be returning to work and are unsure or fearful about the conditions they’ll face. With schools across the province opening and the very real possibility of a second wave of outbreaks, many are worried that their work puts them and their families at risk. We cannot continue to force people to choose between their health and their livelihood.
While we can celebrate the progress that has been made through the years, such as an eight-hour work day, minimum wage, health benefits, parental leave, sick leave, and occupational health and safety laws, it is also a time to recognize the work that remains to create a more equitable Saskatchewan.
Those in the labour movement have long fought for economic security and fairness in the workplace but equally have worked to ensure social justice, equality, and respect for everyone in our communities.
I am tremendously proud of how the 20,000 members of SGEU have collectively navigated the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on their professional and personal lives. Whether they work in health care, corrections, social services, education, Crown corporations, retail regulatory, or in the many other public, non-profit, and private sector workplaces SGEU represents, SGEU members have continued to deliver high-quality, reliable services under challenging and constantly changing conditions. Our members are also your family members, friends, neighbours, coaches, and volunteers. They continue to work toward a safe, fair and strong province, whether at their workplace or in their communities.
On behalf of SGEU and its members, I wish you all a happy Labour Day.