Canada Employment and Immigration Union -
March 8, 2012

CEIU/PSAC members put Harper government on notice

“Our message is that our jobs are part of the community,” says CEIU/PSAC activist Tammy Davis inPeterborough,Ontario. It’s a clear and simple message–one that members from coast to coast delivered during the March 1 PSAC Day of Action, a protest against what are likely to be deep cuts to the federal public service this Spring.

InOttawaand elsewhere, CEIU local activists were joined by sister unions and local labour councils in a show of solidarity with federal government workers.

The Harper government has made it clear that it plans to impose cutbacks of up to 10% across government departments, in an attempt to shave between $4 billion and $8 billion off the current deficit. That means up to 100,000 jobs disappearing. And that means a significant loss in vital services to Canadians.

“We’re talking about protection of our environment, food inspection and ensuring that the water we are drinking is safe, tracking of infectious diseases, search and rescue services, safe and secure borders, pensions and other services for seniors, and EI benefits—we believe that those programs and services are valuable to Canadians,” said Jeannie Baldwin, PSAC Regional Executive VP for the Atlantic region, at a rally in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

CEIU/PSAC members across the country questioned the government’s misplaced priorities: corporate tax cuts (which contributed heavily to the current deficit) and massive expenditures on jets and prisons. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, for his part, stated: “We ask the public service to participate in the belt-tightening that the rest of the country has been doing.”

The problem is that not everyone is tightening those belts—although the government is happy to cinch its workers’ belts for them. According to the Conference Board of Canada, the gap between rich and poor inCanadacontinues to widen. In 2011, as cuts were already making themselves felt in EI centres, leading to vast backlogs of benefit applications from unemployed Canadians, corporate profits soared.

“Canada’s deficit could be eliminated by ending the corporate tax cuts that have cost billions of dollars,” said CEIU/PSAC member Andrea Holmes, attending a demonstration inBelleville,Ontario. “These tax cuts were sold to the public on the belief that the private sector would reinvest in the economy and create jobs—which has not happened.”

Meanwhile the government is playing politics with EI offices, closing those in opposition ridings while keeping the ones in Conservative ridings open, and recently moving one out ofRimouskito Conservative MP Christian Paradis’ riding inThetford Mines.

The most vulnerable are, as always, getting the worst of the government’s austerity measures. Service Canada Centres for Youth, tasked with helping students find summer employment to offset their huge tuition debts, are on the chopping block. The Service Canada Job Bank website has been inaccessible for weeks.

Throughout all of this, the government remains unfazed. Speaking of the unprocessed claims in EI offices, Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro stated: “We imagine these backlogs will begin to be addressed.”

Imagination, however, just isn’t enough.  Canadians are already hurting, and the looming cuts will affect countless more. The CEIU/PSAC members who hit the streets on March 1 know from personal experience that public services are vital to communities, both large and small. As involved members of those communities, they are standing up for Canadians everywhere–and CEIU front-line workers are in the forefront of what promises to be a major struggle in the weeks and months ahead.

March 1st Protest; Members from Local 00601 Immigration –

March 1st Protest; Members from Library Square Vancouver

March 1st Protest; members from Local 60254


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