Kingston, Ont. celebrates Labour Day while unions call for change

Click to play video: 'Kingston celebrates Labour Day while calling for change' Kingston celebrates Labour Day while calling for change
WATCH: Labour Day festivities were held at Victoria Park on Monday by the Kingston and District Labour Council. The celebration focused on highlighting the work of labourers in the region, while unions discussed work that still needs to be done – Sep 6, 2021

Victoria Park was home to a concert and BBQ Monday, in celebration of Labour Day and the workers who keep Kingston running.

“It’s been a hard year, so it’s nice to have a bit of celebration at the end of it,” says Astrid Hobill, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) Local 901.

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While Monday’s festivities celebrate the work of labourers and offers a day of rest, local unions took the opportunity to speak with workers and call for change.

“For years, workers all around have not gotten the increases up to inflation,” says Barb DeRoche, CUPE Local 1974 president.

“Inflation now is up to close to 4 per cent, and this government is holding them back at 1 per cent of total compensation. So they can’t get the benefits they need, especially if they need mental health counselling or anything like that.”

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DeRoche says the pandemic has only made everything more difficult for workers in health care, who so desperately need mental health support.

“The one nice thing about COVID-19, it has really kind of made people recognize the importance of labour,” says Hobill.

“I mean, it’s been a horrible year and I think that politicians especially need to have been doing a lot more, as well as all employers. But we really recognize that nurses, that people working in grocery stores, that the academic workers, that we all really are all workers and that we’re all in the same struggle.”

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For those working in the performing arts, the pandemic has made working nearly impossible.

“For the union as a whole, we lost about probably 25 per cent of our members,” says Mark Wilkins of Kingston Musician’s Union Local 518. “Ultimately, the members don’t have anywhere to play.”

While the pandemic has only increased hardships for front-line workers and those who are unable to continue their work, Labour Day offers an opportunity to celebrate their dedication and hard work.

“This is a thank you to them for everything they’ve done for us in the last two years and all the years before that,” says DeRoche. “And for all of the contributions that they’ve made to the workplaces to make things successful.

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“And yeah, they need to celebrate today, because this is about them.”

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