Industry and government in conspiracy?
More U.S. organizing will have repercussions for Canada

by Nancy Gardiner
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 30/97) - Jean-Claude Parrot says there's a conspiracy between the federal government and big business that's resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in this country.

And, he says, its Canada's most vulnerable who are suffering.

Parrot is the executive vice-president of the Canadian Labor Congress. He said in an interview during a break at the NWT Federation of Labor convention this past weekend in Yellowknife that the vulnerable are the middle income and poor, whose jobs are rapidly disappearing.

The picture he paints is a bleak one.

Parrot said that 45,000 jobs have been cut in the public sector, "creating ghettos for women, visible minorities and exploiting immigrants."

More than 200,000 jobs have been lost since 1988 as a direct result of free trade, he said.

There are 5.5 million people in this country who are poor, he added. And close to a million homeless. "I know a guy working at a food bank who says it's the best job security he has."

Parrot is worried the unionized labor force in Canada will shrink to American levels.

Canada's workforce is 35 to 40 per cent unionized. In the U.S. it's about 14 per cent but there's a move afoot by the American union movement to finance a huge organizing drive that will have repercussions here, he says.

If the U.S. can get their percentage of unionized workers increased, Canadian business won't be able to run across the border for cheaper labor, he explained. Parrot is a member of the International Labor Organization, a body made up of management, labor and government. "I see employers asking to decrease standards," he said of the ILO, resulting in less protection for workers.

Parrot said he's seen this exhibited as a member of the Information Highway Advisory Council. He said that while the larger banks argue for a free-market approach that they say will create more jobs, the banks predicted two years ago they would lay off some 30,000 to 35,000 people over the next decade.

Parrot said he wants the federal government to have a job strategy that offers many programs.

He said government is undermining unions with free trade agreements, deregulation, downsizing and outsourcing, and by simply calling unions "interest groups."

Meanwhile, big business lobbyists "are sleeping in the waiting rooms of federal cabinet ministers to protect the tobacco industry, the drug industry and financial institutions," he said.

Government could deal with the deficit without cutting jobs. Parrot said all Canadians should ask themselves individually: "Is this the kind of Canada you want?"