YWS brings young workers together in solidarity

by Kayla Perry, CWA Canada Associate Membership Coordinator


CLC Young Workers Summit 2016. Photo by Andrew Meade

CLC Young Workers Summit 2016. Photo by Andrew Meade

Between Oct. 23 and 25 over 400 young workers gathered in Ottawa with one purpose: to discuss the employment landscape for emerging young workers in Canada.

The workers met at the National Young Workers’ Summit (YWS), hosted by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), an umbrella organization for Canada’s national and international unions and labour councils. The summit was the first of its kind.

The YWS also garnered media attention after a 30-minute question and answer period with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau resulted in heckling and frustration from some members of the crowd.

The two-day conference saw dozens of delegates from across the country discuss the labour market and the precarious job contracts many young workers accept in place of steady employment.

Among the keynote speakers was Pablo Godoy, national representative of UFCW Canada.

Godoy told attendees that engaging young people in the labour movement isn’t a choice, but a necessity. He said young people must be at the front of the movement in order to create a sustainable and successful future.

“We can’t tell youth they are the future of our movement and exclude them from the present,” said Godoy. “Young workers are the now.”

Other keynote speakers who discussed the youth employment and ways to engage the labour movement included Bilan Arte, national chairperson of Canadian Federation of Students, Adriana Alvarez, organizer and Fight for 15 leader, and Luke Savage, a Press Progress contributor and political commentator, among others.

CLC Young Workers Summit 2016. Photo by Andrew Meade

CLC Young Workers Summit 2016. Photo by Andrew Meade

The Prime Minister faced questions from the crowd on the final day of the conference, and was asked about topics ranging from pipelines, the environment, and the rising need for secure and good jobs for young workers in the country.

Amy Huziak, CLC’s national representative for young workers, co-facilitated the question period with Trudeau.

“Moving from job to job to job creates a lot of instability and insecurity… What can we do together to ensure that young workers have decent jobs instead?” Huziak asked the Prime Minister, who also acts as the Minister of Youth and leads Youth Advisory Council.

In his response, Trudeau said the issue of precarious employment is a major concern for his government, and is why the Liberals pushed so hard to reach a recent agreement with the provinces to make improvements to the Canada Pension Plan.

CLC President Hassan Yussuff said that the Prime Minister’s presence at the summit was historic, and an opportunity for open dialogue about decent jobs and the future of work in Canada.

“Prime Minister Trudeau promised legislative support for workers stuck in precarious jobs and we intend to hold him to that commitment,” Yussuff said.

Not all at the conference were as pleased to hear from the Prime Minister, however. One group of young workers stood and turned their backs to the stage.

“I will tell you, it is a little bit frustrating for me to come in, sit down and look forward to hearing from you and talking with you, and seeing a room full of people who are standing in a way that shows they are not listening to me, that you don’t want to engage,” Trudeau said.

Before the 30-minute session wrapped up, the Prime Minister thanked the conference attendees for challenging him.

“I need you to continue to challenge me, and I will keep my promises,” he said.

CLC Young Workers Summit 2016. Photo by Andrew Meade

CLC Young Workers Summit 2016. Photo by Andrew Meade

Posted on November 8, 2016 at 9:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: ,

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