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Greg Pretty: Message from the Industrial Director

April 2, 2018

This article was originally published in the Spring 2018 edition of the Union Forum.

At the best of times, it’s hard to have sympathy for the bleatings of the St. John’s Board of Trade.

They’ve been particularly irksome since their fall séance where they conjured the Ghost of Resettlement back to life.

I admonished them for that in our last edition but, alas, they turned their cannon to NAPE’s bargaining and tried to have Government renege on the tentative agreement reached between the parties. A four-year deal without increases and the end of the severance provision wasn’t good for Public Sector workers. The SJBOT cried out for more.

They got more when NAPE fired an extremely effective strategy broadside which silenced them to the point their leadership was silenced and mercifully replaced.

So, when West Jet cancelled its St. John’s to London flight, the Board crowd once again took to the airwaves to complain about the loss of service.

They got the cheek of a robber’s horse, I thought quietly to myself.

“Great Caesars Ghost,” I said, “The SJBoT, Employers Council and the CFIB enjoy the low wage economy they’ve lobbied so hard for all these years and now they’re complaining about that, too.”

The low wage economy where half of us make less than $40,000 a year.

12,000 make minimum wage and most of those are women, with tens of thousands more make very slightly more than minimum wage.

They lobbied politicians of every stripe to keep the minimum wage under Canadian poverty levels.

They have resisted changes to minimum labour standards to ensure they could continue to cheapen the incomes of NL workers.

Young workers are working full-time and living off their credit cards because politicians bought into it. Every time the minimum wage wasn’t increased, the employer groups won.

Every time they sought cheap foreign labour in a province with a 15% unemployment rate, they won.

Every time they stick-handle around hours of work and overtime rates, they’ve won.

And every time they told the politicians to tax workers unmercifully and politicians listened, the Employer Organizations won.

So, I cracked-up when they expressed such indignation over the number of empty seats back in Economy on the London Redeye. Classic Comedy.

Most people can’t afford to fly, most people, as you well know, are living cheque to cheque. Sorry, but that’s exactly what you asked for; for people to have as little disposable income as possible. So, please stop complaining.

Interestingly enough, the St. John’s to Dublin Flight is going full tilt.

I understand it.

After 200 years of St. John’s Merchants, both Fish and otherwise, it might be time to pull up stakes and head back from whence we started.

My guess is most of the tickets are One Way.

No strangers to adversity, many of our Ancestors were driven out of Ireland over 200 yrs. ago, with the pricks of British bayonets in their arse. Their descendants are now being driven out of NL by the severe economic pricks of the SJBot, Employer Councils’ and their ilk. So, as you can appreciate, the homesteads and the rolling green grass of Wexford look pretty, pretty good to us about now. Can’t seem to make any headway here at all.

Maybe that’s what the Employer Organizations deserve. To be left here on the Island, the mean-spirited handful of them, fulfilling their dreams of getting rich by eating in each other’s restaurants, building each other’s houses, changing each other’s oil, buying each other’s bread.

Maybe after a couple of years of living on the Dickensian conditions they recommend for their employees, they’ll come to realize how important workers are to a society.

They might also realize working people should not be cast into poverty while their Board of Trade member employers carry out their self-righteous entrepreneurial dreams of success.

They might, but I doubt it. How do I know?

A couple weeks back, the Elephant laboured and brought forth a Mouse. The Provincial Government increased minimum wage by 15 cents an hour. The Employer Council spokesman could barely contain his enthusiasm.

“Final Boarding Call for West Jet Dublin”. All passengers should now be on board”.