I think almost everyone can agree 2021 was a rough year. The pandemic we hoped was ending now rolls on with new variants and new disruptions.
But in 2021 we also saw some hopeful signs of what’s possible when people work together in common cause. Workers with newfound confidence demanding better. People seeking out jobs that offered regular schedules, better wages, and less precarity. Increased unionization rates in the middle of a pandemic.
That’s the energy Canada’s unions are bringing into 2022. So as everyone gets going on their New Year’s resolutions, we’ve got a few of our own. And we intend to keep them.
This is our time to build and our time to demand better. By lunchtime on January 4, Canada’s highest paid CEOs had already made the same pay that an average worker will take home for the year. Which is why Canada’s unions have resolved that 2022 is the year that the country’s top earners will pay their fair share.
Enough of these $10 million pay days for high-ranking executives. Enough of tax loopholes and bailout programs that support millionaires and billionaires. Frontline workers have been the ones to keep us all afloat through the last 22 months. It’s unconscionable that they’ve struggled to make ends meet while Canada’s top earners had one of their most profitable years ever in 2020.
In 2022 we must also resolve to permanently fix Employment Insurance and stop letting so many workers and their families fall through the cracks in hard times. As Omicron is teaching us, we can’t keep lurching from wave to wave; we must instead get ready for the next crisis. Supports for people thrown out of work were inadequate before the pandemic and the federal government’s new Lockdown Benefit is falling far short of the mark.
Our public health care has struggled under the strain of the pandemic and chronic staffing shortages. Health care workers are overextended and underpaid, and burnout rates among health care workers are at an all-time high. We must resolve to strengthen public health care, starting with investments in more nurses and health professionals. And we can save lives and improve living conditions by taking profits out of long-term care.
With so many drowning under the rising costs of essentials, we must resolve to make life more affordable in 2022. We can save families thousands through investments in affordable housing, making child care available and accessible to every parent, and actually implementing pharmacare.
Positive change is within our grasp – if we in the labour movement can work together with governments, civil society, and business. But we must learn the right lessons from the past 22 months of pandemic and make the right investments – so our communities are ready when the next crisis hits.
2021 showed us the road may be hard at times. We must resolve, together, to respond with resilience, determination, and real ambition to do better in 2022.
Bea Bruske was elected President of the Canadian Labour Congress at the 29th Constitutional Convention in 2021. She is only the second woman to hold the position.