OTTAWA ― The President of the Canadian Labour Congress is calling for an all out effort to provide skills training to unemployed Canadians.
Ken Georgetti was commenting on the federal government’s March 21 budget for the year 2013-14. “We have a skills gap in Canada. We have more than 1.3 million unemployed Canadians and 5.7 unemployed workers for every available job,” Georgetti says. “At the same time we have labour shortages in select areas of the economy. That’s a shame because people really do want to work and provide for their families.”
Georgetti acknowledged some provisions in the budget for skills training but says there is a long way to go. “The culture of providing good skills training has not caught on with business and governments in Canada.”
Georgetti says, “It is disappointing that only 16% of investments for skills and jobs is new money, with the rest an extension or reallocation of existing funds. Money has been taken out of the hands of provinces and low-skilled workers, and put into the hands of employers to do what they should have been doing already. Money is being channelled to specific employers with no guarantee that training will meet broader labour market needs.”
Georgetti adds, “The federal government continues it’s punitive approach to Employment Insurance recipients, even though the EI fund is forecast to post a surplus of $1.4 billion in 2013-2014. Labour Market Development Agreements, funded through the EI fund, are to be renegotiated with provinces and territories, in consultation with employers, but not workers. Since workers pay for EI too and have different perspectives on training needs, they must be at the table.”
Georgetti says that a recent Conference Board study shows that Canada has lagged behind other similar countries in a number of economic indicators, including its productivity.
“The Finance Minister believes that the major economic problem faced by Canadians is government deficits but our greatest challenges are the sluggish economic recovery, a stalling job market, stagnant wages, record high levels of household debt, along with an inadequate Employment Insurance coverage and the lack of retirement security.”
Georgetti says, “In addition to skills training, the CLC is calling for major federal investments in public infrastructure, including mass transit; affordable housing; quality, affordable childcare; energy conservation through building retrofits; and renewable energy projects. “This would help to create thousands of jobs and to provide workers with the skills they need to prepare for the economy of tomorrow.”
He adds that Ottawa could find money for those needs by tying its rate of corporate taxation to job creation and training. “The government has been providing big tax breaks in the hopes that corporations would use that money to create jobs. The corporations are just hoarding the cash. The government should take that dead money and put it to work for Canadians.”
Georgetti adds, “We would like to acknowledge that tying federal infrastructure dollars to utilization of apprenticeships is a good first step in creating opportunities for apprentices and to encourage employers to fulfill their training responsibilities.”
The Canadians Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.3 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada’s national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils. Website: www.canadianlabour.ca. Follow us on Twitter: @CanadianLabour