Friday, November 16, 2012

Campaign Update: Ryan Meili

Ryan's Video: LINK
Ryan's Policy Announcement: LINK

Lots to talk about as we head into the first leadership debate in the NDP Leadership Race; sadly, I won't be in Regina tomorrow, but I will do my best to make sure to catch the live-stream (though, I have some out of town guests coming in tomorrow evening, so there's a chance that I may miss it in general; hopefully, there will be a way for us who can't make the live stream to have a chance to view it...)

So, on the build up to the debate, Ryan Meili and Trent Wotherspoon have put out some new policy releases. We'll focus on Ryan's policy, revolving around labour, here. Included at the top of the post are links to a video of Ryan speaking a bit about labour and the wider effects of a narrow view on labour legislation, as well as a link to the direct release to the policy plank.

Now, let's have a look shall we?

In addition to proposing three steps to achieving 'healthy employment' in the province, Ryan has also highlighted the role that labour unions have to play in helping to design the future, and called to mind the role that unions have played within forging the NDP as well. Furthermore, he's also called on the idea of retaining consultation and input from workers to change the discussion from "what have we done for you lately" to "what can we do together?"

The meaty portion of the release focuses on Ryan's three steps to achieving healthy employment in the province.

The first step is to increase access to collective bargaining. Ryan's release has highlighted the benefits, both to workers and employers, by having a robust system that allows collective bargaining to take place. Some of the direct solutions explored in obtaining more collective bargaining include: Repealing legislative changes that make it harder for workers to join unions and reinstate card-certification; expanding the policy of collective bargaining to all workers, by expanding the Trade Union Act; increase access to mediation and arbitration to both public and private sector workers; and overhauling the appointment process to the Labour Relations Board to ensure appointees have the full confidence of all parties.

The second step is to remove barriers to employment. Ryan's release bemoaned the reliance of 'precarious employment' that we've seen in the province, and has called for a community (business, public, labour, etc) to come together to find solutions to remove barriers to meaningful full time employment. Some of the solutions explored include: partnering with community organizations to create employment experience programs to help people transition into employment; working with First Nations, educational communities and post-secondary organizations to create a First Nations employment strategy; helping ease people on social assistance and disability into employment by ending benefit clawbacks and providing assistance with tuition, child-care, and other transportation allowances; ensure paid sick days for all Saskatchewan workers and a reasonable number of paid days off for personal emergencies; and create affordable childcare and early childhood education strategies.

The third step is to improve the balance between work and personal life. Ryan's release starts simply by declaring an adherence to the Decency Principle, that would ensure that no worker is being paid a wage that is insufficient to live on and is no subject to unfair working conditions (clawbacks of earned wages, or longer hours than reasonable). Some of the policy explorations in this area include: Amending the Labour Standards Act to ensure pay equality to women, First Nations, new Canadians, youth, and others; Reverse changes to the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program to allow people and their families to become permanent residents or citizens, not just temporary workers; Ensuring temporary workers receive fair wages, adequate housing, workplace protections, and other services; Indexing minimum wage to 120% of the low income measure, or another acceptable benchmark, to prevent workers from living in poverty; Expansion of the Labour Union Act, Worker's Compensation Act, and Occupational Health and Safety Act to all workers; Adequate resourcing to Labour Standards and Occupational Health and Safety Offices; and restoring the protection of human, and worker, rights by restoring an independent Human Rights Commission and Tribunal.

In addition to his release, Ryan picked up an endorsement from noted Regina Labour Law Lawyer Juliana Saxberg.

As per usual, looking at the information contained in the release, the one major plank that stands out to me is the community solutions to create employment experience for those looking to enter into the job market. I think there's a lot of room to expand on that idea, and to address some of the failures that have been taken on this front (I'm thinking especially of the government's GradWorks program for recent university grads) and make meaningful changes to help those transitioning from either learning, or time away from employment due to illness or disability, fully enter into the workforce.

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