For nearly three years now, we have all been in a state of constant flux and change due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Throughout the past year, things started to settle down a bit – hopefully for good – but the attitudes toward how we work have been fundamentally changed.
Now, 2023 is a great opportunity to start fresh. With huge job vacancy rates across all sectors and individuals re-evaluating what is most important to them, workers are coming into a time of great power.
After decades of putting profits and budgets first, employers are starting to reap what they’ve sewn. Cost of living is at a high that we haven’t seen for decades, and workplaces must change the way they do business – starting with treating their workers with respect and providing the wages and benefits they deserve.
Employers who aren’t willing to change their ways will continue to see vacancies and staffing shortages as workers transition to jobs where they feel appreciated, respected and are able to earn a wage that reflects their cost of living.
Now is the time for workers to come together to support each other – including our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues – and kickstart a new era of solidarity. A bright future for the North is in our hands if we’re willing to reach for it!
You may have heard the union phrase “An injury to one is an injury to all.” It works the other way too: a victory for one is a victory for all.
“Solidarity” is a word that is used a lot in the union world, and we should never forget what it really means. It is about being committed to larger ideals and supporting fellow workers – even if you are not directly affected by something or may not completely agree with or understand every detail.
It is about collective action and showing a united front in the face of opposition.
Stand-up to employers
An excellent example of solidarity was the job action by education workers in Ontario during the fall. Educational assistants, custodians and other Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) workers walked off the job and shut down many Ontario schools after the Doug Ford government passed offensive back-to-work legislation.
Rather than roll over and accept the government’s bad faith bargaining, CUPE members stood up to the province. The wave of support from parents, the public, and labour organisations across Ontario was inspiring, and forced the government to walk back its actions. It also showed us that when we act in solidarity, we are strong.
Another great example of solidarity has been the unlimited support for healthcare workers as well as minimum wage front-line workers in the NWT and across Canada, during the height of the pandemic. As work life returns to “normal” we cannot forget the lessons learned.
We need to continue to show solidarity and advocate for fair wages, paid sick leave, and work-life balance for all workers. We need to insist on healthy workplaces where workers feel valued and safe. We need to stand up to employers who divide and misinform their workers to keep them from using their collective strength.
So, what can you do as a unionized worker?
First, understand the issues. Read union newsletters and communiques, talk to fellow members, talk to local executive members. Remember, your union exists to serve and support you, not your employer. Get your bargaining information from your union, not your employer.
Send messages of support to bargaining teams, and wear union gear at work (ask your union about items that are appropriate and safety compliant for your workplace).
Go to local and regional meetings. Ask questions. No meetings coming up? Ask your local for one!
What can you do as a member of the public?
Remember that unionized workers are friends, family, neighbours and contributing members to our communities. Stand up for workers in conversation and online. Correct misunderstandings and false information. Talk to your MLAs – ask them how they personally are going to stand up for workers.
We’ve arrived in 2023 and it promises to be a big year for workers, and UNW members are looking forward to creating positive and meaningful change. Let’s stand in solidarity and raise the bar for all Northern workers.