May Day 1999.
Hardly anyone seems as interested in workers' future in Canada. Labour legislation has been under attack. Collective agreements have been gutted. Public-sector unions have been clobbered. The "safety net" of social security has been steadily weakened. Where will it all end?
When in doubt, head for your television set. And, like good Canadians, turn on the news. There are only two channels.
It is May Day 1999.
Prime Minister Peter Pocklington today extended martial law over six more towns and cities in western Canada, bringing to 37 the number of municipalities occupied by troops.
"The rioting and looting must stop," he announced from the government bunker in the Gatineau Hills.
Meanwhile, the Guerilla Army of Unemployed Youth expanded its operations throughout the rural areas of Quebec and continued raids into suburban communities. In the same pattern they have followed in recent weeks, the guerillas seized dozens more shopping centres, which served as bases for raids on local fast-food outlets to demand jobs.
Exact figures are difficult to obtain, but the body count of industrialists who have been roasted alive by the guerillas is now running close to 300.
The violence erupted three months ago, when government statistics indicated that 95 per cent of those under the age of 25 were unemployed. The jobless rate for 26-to-40-year-olds remains at the less alarming level of 72 per cent.
The mayors and councillors of 17 more southern Ontario municipalities today submitted their resignation, as the economic crises deepens in that region. Like the 120 other communities that recently suffered the same shock, these towns are the sites of abandoned factories that have not operated since shortly after the arrival of free trade in 1989.
"We can't go on," said one old political warhorse, Mayor William G. Davis of Brampton, as he packed his family's belongings in his Winnebego and joined the long caravans headed for the new industrial heartland in the American Southwest.
The refugee camps that sprang up in several southern states in the early 1990s have turned into festering communities of crime, disease, and unemployment for the many Canadians who have made the trek in recent years.
The Minister of Optimistic Thinking, Wayne Gretsky, predicted today that more jobs are on the way, and that the government's new job-creation programs would soon bring the unemployment level down below the 70 per cent mark. He rejected the arguments of opposition critic Justin Trudeau that any figure over 40 per cent was unacceptable.
"Canadians gotta learn to tighten their belts," Gretsky insisted. "They gotta learn to share the remaining jobs to help maintain national productivity."
The Economic Council of Canada has determined that 40 per cent is now relatively full employment in a post-industrial society.
Labour will take less! The Canadian Labour Congress today announced its agreement to the terms demanded by the Business Council on National Issues in the opening round of national negotiations for wage decreases.
In the eight years since these national negotiations began, agreement between the parties has been getting increasingly easier. This time the CLC agreed to the 50 per cent wage cut without protest.
"We agree with the chairman of the BCNI that there must be sacrifices for the national good," explained CLC vice-president Sinclair Stevens.
The new agreement will give the average worker a take-home pay of $1.37 per week.
"That's what they earn in Malaysia or Nigeria," Stevens noted, "and we have to keep up with the international competition."
The Canadian Labour Congress membership took another nose-dive this month, as eleven more unions dissolved. There are now only five left in existence with a combined membership of 1,837.
The largest remaining union is the Federation of Superannuated Politicians and Patronage Pullers, whose leader, John Turner, was recently chosen CLC president. President Turner was unavailable for comment, as he was immersed in his daily session with the National Centre for Productivity Improvement and Capitalist Regeneration.
The congress has been disintegrating since the national general strike of 1993, when every worker in the country was fired and only rehired on condition that he or she stay away from unions and join a Quality Circle instead.
Some 7,500 union officials were arrested at that time, and several hundred were shot for violating the new laws against anti-productivity protests. The remainder are still interned near Tuktoyatuk.
Premier William Vander Zalm has said no. Residents in the vicinity of British Columbia's lumber mills have been swamping the premier's office with petitions complaining about the stench from the rotting fingers, hands, arms, and other parts of the human anatomy that have been piling up outside the mills since deregulation of industry's health and safety programs five years ago. The premier refised to take any action, arguing that the government had to "stay off the backs of the people."
"We must be wary of cutting into productivity increases by making unreasonable demands on industry," he insisted from the premier's new office in Hawaii.
He also noted that he had recently mentioned the subject to the president of MacMillan-Bloedel during a Bermuda holiday and expected the industry to begin piling more sawdust on the heaps of rotting flesh.
Panic broke out this afternoon in Toronto's financial district when a group of humans was found wandering through a downtown office. The last human worker was released from office work in 1995, and a federal decree late that year forbade any humans to re-enter.
The mechanical monitors quickly discovered that today's intruders were simply a family of Japanese tourists who had become lost after touring Toronto's new Museum of Microtechnology. They were quickly escorted back to the street by armed security robots.
The National Union of Robots today won the right to educational leave for retraining. Spokesman for the union, R2D2 Mark 8, indicated that many of its members were only fourth generation machines and needed upgrading to match the new thirteenth generation that is now on the market.
Mark 8, the first robot to win a seat in the Canadian Parliament, spearheaded negotiations with the Business Council on National Issues, which has previously been unwilling to grant any leave for robots.
"These little mechanical midgets cost us $8.50 a piece," one manufacturer was heard to mutter on the first day of negotiations," and I see no reason why we should have to suffer any further losses in productivity by giving them more time off the job. It was bad enough when they demanded three lubrication breaks every 24 hours."
The 750,000-machine union held celebrations throughout the country, and oil cans were heard clinking well into the night.
Workers are getting more religious, according to the federal Minister of Cleanliness and Godliness, Oral Roberts.
Roberts was commenting on his new "Prayers in the Workplace" program, which was six months old today. Under the new Work Prayers Act, workers and supervisors are required to begin each working day with a Bible reading and silent prayer.
"Workers are more productive if they start the day with a chat with God," Robert claimed." And they are learning to co-operate with their foremen, who are also Christians after all."
His department staff has assured the minister that the widespread singing of lewd songs to drown out the Bible readings that initially greeted the new religious program has largely died out.
The former television evangelist was sworn into office last year, following the merging of Canadian and American Citizenships under the latest free-trade pact.
Finally, a human interest story. Canadian women now seem to have been won over to the Stay-At-Home Campaign that the federal government initiated in 1992, with the assistance of the Business Council on National Issues.
A survey conducted by Statistics Canada has found that fully 98 per cent of adult women have left the full-time work force and returned to the family home. The remaining 2 per cent will be released from their jobs next fall when the final phase of the defeminization legislation comes into effect.
The closing of day-care centres, the banning of feminist literature, and the advertising by the Mom-Belongs-in-the-Home Movement have effectively destroyed Canadian women's push for full equality in the labour market, which was so threatening to national productivity in the 1970s and 1980s.
And that's the news. Good night, and have a productive tomorrow.
The federal Minister of Fun and Frivolity, Michael J. Fox, today announced the government's plans to reduce the working week from 20 to 15 hours without a cut in income.
"Our surveys of productivity increases indicate that the new technology introduced since 1995 has made it possible to reduce the workloads of all working people without their suffering any reduction in wages or salaries," he announced.
"We are confident that Canadians will now be able to participate even more fully in the MDP," he added.
The MDP, of course, is the "Mass Decision-Making Process," which was introduced when the Coalition of Workers' Movements first began to take power at the provincial level in the early 1990s. All citizens are now involved in major decisions that were once left to businessmen, bureaucrats, and politicians.
The first detailed MDP survey released earlier this year indicates that the workers councils, consumers committees, and community development bodies have been able to reach decisions that are much more satisfactory and acceptable to the mass of the population than the older, hierarchical, undemocratic processes.
"And there's still lots of time left for fun," Fox shouted, as he tossed daffodils over the heads of reporters and disappeared down Parliament Hill on his skateboard.
Shorter hours have been bringing a vast improvement in child care, according to the federal Minister of Proud Parenthood, Ben Johnson. Not only have the hundreds of new daycare centres opened in the past few years given parents more time to themselves, but the reduction of working hours has allowed parents to help out at the centres.
"Playing with kids is a whole lot more fun than pumping iron," Johnson explained in his regular weekly press conference held in the new Ottawa Children's Club at 24 Sussex Dr.
Spring brings tulips and daffodils, but also the annual job rotation. Many Canadians have been eagerly counting the days till the new job allocations are announced. Across the country workers have applied to move on to new jobs, especially those who have complete their two-year term in dirty, unpleasant Category 9 occupations, popularly known as the "Stinkers."
"I would never have believed it myself, but absenteeism has almost completely disappeared, and sabotage is a thing of the past," said the Secretary of State for Occupational Recycling, Maureen MacTeer. "I was skeptical when the program was introduced in 1993, but it has been successful beyond my wildest dreams."
MacTeer's own recent job rotation has included being a computer programmer, a janitor, an accountant, a dishwasher, and a rock star.
Tomorrow will see the re-opening of the national Congress of Industry and Culture in the old Senate Chamber in Ottawa. Congress members have spent the past two months in consultative meetings with unions, professional associations, and consumer groups across the country, in order to plan social policy for the coming year.
In two weeks the Congress' committees will begin their regular series of meetings with their counterparts in the Chamber of Popular Power (formerly the House of Commons).
In the six years since the abolition of the Senate and the creation of the Congress, the new parliamentary system has been working quite successfully in co-ordinating the social planning carried on at the local level across the country.
The President of Parliament, Robert White, will be reading the speech outlining the priorities for the Congress' new legislative session. High on the list of priorities will be revisions to the Criminal Code that will make negligence in protecting workers from occupational diseases a criminal offense punishable with up to twenty years imprisonment.
"We'll throw away the keys," cried President White as he clenched his fist and flashed his smile for tourists on Parliament Hill.
International negotiations at the Hague today reached a new consensus on the decentralization of production and international sharing of investment funds. Since the dismantling of the last multinational corporations late last year, world leaders have been smoothly working out new terms of international trade, which reduce competitiveness between regional blocs without harming local industry.
Canadian ambassadors Ed Mirvish and Pat Pattison were photographed dancing round a May Pole with other delegates to celebrate the new accord.
"All we need is love," exclaimed the aging ambassadors, who are remembered as the capitalists who inaugurated the "Give-Your-Business-Back-to-Your-Workers" campaign of the early 1990s.
York University today announced that its Faculty of Administrative Studies had been boarded up, in compliance with the decision of the Congress of Industry and Culture last spring to end the traditional training of managerial staff. The Congress' new program emphasizes rotation of managerial positions and the development of co-operative leadership skills that are not being taught in the public school system.
Meanwhile, the retraining program for old-style managers continues in Sudbury, Ontario, where former supervisors are put to work in nickel mines for six weeks. A recent graduate of the program, Conrad Black, who was once a powerful figure in Canadian industry, was interviewed this week on his new job in the Hamilton garbage collection department.
"I had no idea that workers were such a great bunch of guys," he exclaimed. "I've learned a lot more from them than I ever learned on Bay St."
The national Quality Control Program made a great stride forward today. Workers' councils from Ontario's automobile industry today concluded its long series of consultations with representatives of the province's 4,500 consumers' committees.
This round of discussions will probably clean out the last vestiges of planned obsolescence in the industry, just as it has done in the electrical parts industry, where the 25-year light bulb was recently unveiled. It is expected that the new automobiles produced by the province's auto plants will last from 30 to 50 years.
Minister of Consumer Happiness k.d. lang is expected to release the results of similar consultations in the clothing and shoe sectors next week.
"Workers are happier making reliable products," lang told reporters. "Now, if I could just get someone to write me a song that wouldn't wear out."
Good news for consumers! The Ministry of Good Living revealed today that inflation had slowed once again to 1.2 per cent.
"The controls on rents, land speculation, interest rates, and food prices have stopped the upward pressure on wages," the minister, John Candy, explained today. He also announced his own resignation.
"Things are so stable on the prices front that there's no fun left this job," he said sadly.
And that's the news. This is my last broadcast on this program. Tomorrow I will be moving to my new job delivering pizza. Your new newscaster will be Yolanda Ballard, who has just returned from digging potatoes in Prince Edward Island.
Good night, and have a happy tomorrow.
Craig Heron is a labour historian at York University. His latest book is The Canadian Labour Movement: A Short Story (Toronto; James Lorimeter 1989).
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||labor policy in Canada|
|Date:||Apr 1, 1991|
|Previous Article:||The Manitoba nurses' strike.|
|Next Article:||Free workers, not free trade.|