Hundreds of workers, students and activists gathered in Montreal Monday for an annual labour day march to voice their concerns.
“Capitalism in a broader spectrum is perpetuating inequities in the society and these need to be addressed,” said Marc-Édouard Joubert, Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du quebec (FTQ) regional council president.
The marchers argue that governments and corporations need to do more to address those inequities and to better protect workers as well as the unemployed.
“I think precariousness is a huge issue,” said Sam Thompson, Concordia University Teaching and Research Assistants’ Union president. “People don’t have the stable contracts that they used to have, people don’t have good health care, insurance, people don’t have the kinds of pensions and long-term security they once had.”
Among the demands protesters made was extension of temporary changes made to the employment insurance (EI) program at the start of the pandemic. The amendments were made to support workers who lost jobs because of COVID-19.
Under the pandemic measures workers qualify for EI if they have 420 insurable work hours. Before the pandemic they would’ve needed up to 700 hours to qualify. The temporary measures end September 25th.
“If nothing is done we just go back to the ancient law, which excludes the majority of the unemployed when they ask for help,” argued Jérémie Dhavernas of the Mouvement Action-Chômage de Montréal .
Protesters also want employers to pay for inflation, asking that salaries be indexed to the cost of living.
They also want the current $14.25 minimum wage raised to $18.
Some note, however, that problems go much beyond pay.
“It’s good to have maybe $2 or $3 more an hour, but if you don’t have access to health care, that’s a problem,” Joubert pointed out. “If you don’t have access to housing, that’s another problem.”
He and protest organizers stress that the pandemic laid bare a number of deficiencies in society which, if not addressed, will make even more people vulnerable.