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Labour Day cause for celebration
'It's a time to reflect on how far we've come as workers'

Jessica Davey Quantick
Northern News Services
Friday, September 2, 2016

The Northern Territories Federation of Labour plans to celebrate Labour Day on Monday with a barbecue in Somba K'e Civic Plaza.

"Labour day is a national holiday that exists to celebrate workers and all of the rights and the fights that have gone on over the years from union workers and non-unionized workers," said Northern Territories Federation of Labour President Alexander Lambrecht.

"It's basically just a time for workers to come out, friends and family, to celebrate and focus and just kind of recognize the work that unions and workers have put in to to get where we're at today."

Labour Day has occupied the first Monday of September in Canada since the late 1800s, after police arrested leaders of the Typographical Union, protesting in December 1872 in support of a 58-hour work-week. Labour leaders staged another demonstration on Sept. 3, 1873 to protest the arrests - their efforts led to the Trade Union Act a year later, which repealed anti-union laws that made union activity a crime.

"Labour Day is not just a well-deserved day off. It's a time to reflect on how far we've come as workers, to remember the fights that were fought for the gains we enjoy, and to celebrate our contributions to the economy," said Public Service Alliance of Canada Regional Executive Vice-President for the North, Jack Bourassa. "The working people of any country are the real and true engines of an economy."

Lambrecht estimates past Labour Day activities have brought out anywhere between 500 and 750 people. This year, the Federation anticipates over 1,000.

"It's a public barbecue, it's open to the entire community. It's not just about representing unionized workers. Labour Day is about all workers," said Lambrecht. "We just have like a barbecue, kids events, activities, it's just something for people to come out and enjoy one last long summer break before winter."

It's also, he says, a chance to refocus on some of the big issues the Federation will be working on in the coming year. Top of the list for Lambrecht are reviews of labour standards.

"Legislatively, labour standards is pretty much the big one that's going to effect everybody in the North," he said. "We're always watching what's going on in the rest of Canada as well as where we can make improvements in the North. We'll be having some campaigns and some political action coming up soon to try to get the government to pay attention to some of the outdated legislation and getting it updated so that it better protects workers."

The other big issue in the coming year, he says, will be the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).

"Over 50 per cent of Canadians don't have private pension plans," he said.

"They're going to be dependent on CPP and if we don't do something now to protect future retirees, man, we're going to have one heck of a societal issue on our hands."

The barbecue kicks off in Somba K'e Civic Plaza at noon on Monday.

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