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Solidarity and hamburgers
Organizers of annual Labour Day barbecue honour workers, criticize federal cuts

Daron Letts
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, September 4, 2013

About 850 workers, their families, friends and neighbours gathered for the Northern Territories Federation of Labour's annual Labour Day barbecue Monday afternoon.

NNSL photo/graphic

Darcy Cherwaty serves burgers at the 2013 Sept. 2 Labour Day event hosted by the Northern Territories Federation of Labour. - Daron Letts/NNSL photo

Union volunteers served 600 hamburgers and 550 hotdogs supplied by M&M Meat Shops during the three-hour event, according to Heather Clarke, the Federation of Labour's administrative assistant.

More than 100 children played together in the Stanton Plaza parking lot, entertained by a bouncy castle, balloon artist, face painter and about eight large cakes decorated with messages of social justice and solidarity.

The message behind Labour Day wasn't lost on the children.

"Labour Day is about working people who used to work almost all day and now they work eight hours a day," said Trey Granter, 8, who had his face painted by Les- lie Merrithew and received a balloon from balloon artist Terry Brookes.

Several organizations set up information tables around the parking lot, including the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the NWT Literacy Council and the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC).

The WSCC and the Federation of Labour share a five-year partnership in which the union leads safety training and back-to-work programs for the commission. Dave Grundy, WSCC president and CEO, and his staff handed out bandages and other safety-themed promotional items during the barbecue.

"Labour Day is a good opportunity for us to talk about safety," he said.

Politicians such as Mayor Mark Heyck and MLAs Daryl Dolynny and Wendy Bisaro lined up for lunch.

"I think Labour Day is an opportunity to celebrate the work that unions have done for us," Bisaro said.

"It's an opportunity to celebrate unions and the benefits they provide workers."

For Bisaro, the holiday has additional meaning because it was on Labour Day in 1974 that she gave birth to her daughter, Michelle. Motherhood represents a form of unpaid labour, she added.

"Mothers probably should get a financial benefit for raising kids," she said.

"But, our society is not quite ready to go there."

Members of the NDP Western Arctic Riding Association registered new members during the event.

"Labour Day is an incredibly important holiday. It's an opportunity to celebrate the achievements we've had over the decades and it's an opportunity to recognize the work that needs to be done," said Shane Pike, riding association president and shop steward for PSAC Local 33.

"This Labour Day is especially important given the recent cuts to the federal sector."

Other PSAC North members staffed an information table to explain the union's We Are All Affected campaign in response to federal cuts to public services.

On May 31, 127 PSAC North members working in 11 federal departments, most of them based in the NWT, received workforce adjustment notices stating they could lose their jobs.

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