NOLC celebrates Labour Day

August 30, 2004

It can be difficult celebrating the day dedicated to working people when Gordon Campbell and his government keeps making life harder on people who work for a living.

But the North Okanagan Labour Council won't let the B.C. premier ruin the party.

"NOLC members will celebrate the hope that this will be the last Labour Day in B.C. under the meanest government this province has ever seen," said David Doran, president of the Labour Council. "We'll also celebrate the fact Canada has been recognizing the contribution of workers longer than most countries."

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, Labour Day has a long history in Canada. The contribution of organized labour has been recognized since 1872, when parades and rallies were held in Ottawa and Toronto in support of printers fighting for a nine-hour workday. These parades became annual events.

Inspired by the Canadian labour celebrations, American labour leader Peter J. McGuire returned to New York and organized the first American "labour day" on Sept. 5, 1882. In Europe, Labour Day has been celebrated since 1889 on May 1.

The encyclopedia notes the spring date was briefly observed in Canada, too, but after years of pressure to declare a national labour holiday, the government of Sir John Thompson on July 23, 1894, passed a law making the first Monday in September Canada's official Labour Day.

Our members will join in a Labour Day picnic being organized by the South Okanagan-Boundary Labour Council on Sept. 6. The picnic, slated for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Penticton's Gyro Park, will feature music, displays, children's entertainment and a barbecue, with all proceeds going to the United Way.

Still, there is much to be concerned about as the annual workers' day approaches.

The Campbell government's assault on its citizens is showing little sign of letting up, even as we approach an election year.

British Columbians were shocked to learn recently that the building of new B.C. Ferries will be done outside of the country. B.C. shipbuilders are perfectly capable of building those ships.

"Why are Gordon Campbell and the puppets he appointed to run the ferry corporation shipping jobs out of the province," asked David Doran.

"We acknowledge that the previous government's fast-ferry program was poorly conceived, but at least that government was trying to build ferries and create jobs in B.C. In fact, many women and men who were trained on the fast ferry project have gone on to find work in the small boat building industry."

The current government plans to give a foreign shipyard a contract worth more than $500 million to build three new ferries overseas. This half-billion project will mean over 2,000 jobs will be created in a foreign country, instead of staying here in B.C.

"This is just the latest insult from a government that has torn up contracts, broken promises, slashed wages, put thousands of people out of work, reduced working and safety standards and gave private companies the power to fire workers and replace them with less qualified staff making barely half as much," said Doran.

"And despite their claims our economy has turned around, the truth is it's limping at best. More people are out of work in B.C. and those who are working are making less than they used to."

Government figures show the average hourly wage in B.C. decreased from $18.99 per hour in May, 2003, to $18.68 in May, 2004, said Doran. Accounting for inflation, wages in B.C. have dropped by 4.5 per cent.

And B.C.'s unemployment rate is not improving, despite claims by the government that it's creating jobs.

"The number of unemployed British Columbians has increased by 17.5 percent since the Liberals took office," said Doran.

"The way to turn around the economy is not to attack the people who make our economy run - the people who actually do the work," said Doran. "The way to turn around the economy is to get rid of a government that treats the labour force like the enemy."

The NOLC represents about 10,000 unionized workers in the North and Central Okanagan. It meets monthly with meetings alternating between Vernon and Kelowna. The next meeting is September 8 at the Village Green Hotel in Vernon, beginning at 7 p.m.

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