Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Thousands march in Toronto for 141st Labour Day

Thousands marched in Toronto’s Labour Day Parade, resulting in several road closures. The 141st annual parade’s theme is ‘unite against austerity.’

Although Labour Day became associated with the end of summer and a nice long weekend, the holiday’s roots in the labour union movement are still evident as union workers gather to march in downtown Toronto.

Parade organizer John Cartwright said it was important for workers to send the message that they will not accept an austerity agenda from the provincial government.

“People are here to express their anger,” said Cartwright, president of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council. “The politicians are happy to give billions in corporate tax cuts and say to ordinary people, ‘You have to tighten your belts’ while the rich are getting richer everyday.”

Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, said Labour Day is a time to recall what labour has done in the country and what should happen in the future for workers.

“Today is an opportunity for labour to celebrate the contribution that we’ve made to our economic system,” Ryan said, listing the weekend, the eight-hour workday and pension plans among the accomplishments of labour over the decades.

“We eventually have to turn our minds to what’s going on in the future, the challenges facing labour…governments at all levels are attacking the basic rights of workers: their rights to strike, rolling back wages, brining in legislation to do so,” Ryan said.

This year’s Labour Day comes at a time when Ontario teachers have rallied against a newly proposed bill from the provincial government that would freeze their wages for at least two years.

The governing Liberals have also warned that other public-sector workers may faces a similar fate.

Cartwright said the large turnout at Monday’s parade was a signal that the labour movement is still going strong in Canada.

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