October 7 is the World Day for Decent Work – an annual day when trade unionists across the globe stand up for decent work. This year, in the midst of a global pandemic, the international labour movement is looking for a renewed commitment to a decent work agenda that takes care of all.
Decent work, work that according to the International Labour Organization (ILO),
“is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.”
Decent work has not been available to all, even prior to the pandemic. Women and marginalized workers have always struggled to secure decent work. They are still more likely to be in precarious jobs – part-time, temporary, unstable, poorly paid, unsafe. The pandemic laid bare just how precarious these jobs are, as workers across the country were laid off. It also revealed just how critical many of these jobs are, as workers from the grocery sector to health care continued to work, putting their lives and the lives of their families at risk. Meanwhile, schools closed, child care centres closed, and many of the supports that workers rely on became unavailable.
Missing from the current social contract in Canada is a publicly funded, system of inclusive, quality, non-profit child care provided by workers who they themselves have decent work instead of poorly paid, precarious jobs. Child care has been called a ramp to decent work. Women who have accessible, safe, affordable child care are more likely to secure good jobs, and are able to work those jobs without the added stress of wondering whether their children are safe and cared for, and without wondering how they will pay for that care.
The Government of Canada’s Speech from the Throne, this autumn, has committed to building such a system. The realization of this commitment will go a long way to ensuring that women and parents of young children have better access to decent work. We encourage the Government to make good on this promise quickly and effectively.