CAW president Ken Lewenza is calling on the federal government to take meaningful steps toward crafting a national good jobs strategy, as more Canadians continue to give up on the country’s labour market.
Lewenza’s comments come on the heels of Statistics Canada releasing its monthly report on jobs that revealed the national labour market participation rate dropped to its lowest level in a decade.
There were fewer Canadians employed or looking for work in February 2012 (66.5 per cent of the working age population) than there has been since March, 2002. This means more and more Canadians have given up looking for work.
Lewenza said this should send shockwaves through the halls of all federal and provincial governments.
"We’re in the midst of a full-blown jobs crisis in this country," Lewenza said. "The alarm has been ringing for years yet the Harper government just keeps hitting the snooze button."
Lewenza said that it is dangerous for government and policy-makers to look too closely at the national unemployment rate as a measure of economic health, as it fails to account for the quality of jobs on offer and it totally ignores those workers who have given up the search.
Lewenza noted that structural changes in the labour market, including the loss of over half a million good-paying manufacturing and processing jobs, the rise of more precarious forms of employment (like temporary and contract jobs) as well as the flat-lining of real wages has ruptured workplace standards and the quality of work.
"Workers, in all sectors and across all skill levels have been raising their voices for so long many have lost their breath," Lewenza said. "Canada has no jobs plan. Our government seems blissfully ignorant of the plight of working people in the real economy."
Lewenza said the federal government has an obligation to show leadership to spur job creation in Canada. He said the upcoming federal budget is a critical moment that will show Canadians whether they fully understand the gravity of the jobs situation, or not.
"I want Jim Flaherty to announce in the budget that the government is organizing an urgent multi-stakeholder, national good jobs summit," Lewenza said. "That summit should then translate into a national good jobs strategy. Anything less is a gross injustice to Canadian workers."