Fair wages? Good pensions? Progressive taxation? No thanks

It’s official.

The Conservative Party decided Saturday to throw its weight behind a campaign to attack unions and undermine collective bargaining rights.

Before wrapping up their policy convention on Saturday, delegates voted overwhelmingly to back a series a motions that are so radical, even Mike Harris in Ontario and Ralph Klein in Alberta didn't go that far: optional union membership, an opt-out provision when it comes to paying for union activities, requiring detailed financial reporting, and so-called "right-to-work" legislation.

These policies is all about union busting and cobbling the ability of unions to fight for fair wages, good pensions and strong public services that benefit everyone.

Speaking of good pensions, the Conservative Party took a second whack at retirement security on Saturday when delegates adopted a motion to push government to gut public-sector pensions and benefits in favour of those "comparable" to the private sector.

The private sector is already leading in a race to the bottom on pensions, with fewer and fewer employers offering defined benefit pension plans. If the public sector moves away from secure defined benefit pension plans and replaces them with inferior alternatives – hello, defined contribution plans! – this will drive down pension benefits for everyone. Guessing nobody thought of raising the bar in the private sector?

It's also too bad the Conservative Party – and Treasury Board president Tony Clement, who spoke out in favour of the motion – don't seem to understand that many of these plans were designed by government employers, not unions, to support recruitment and retention. Federal public sector unions like the Public Service Alliance of Canada are actually legislatively prohibited from bargaining pensions.

And don't forget who stands in the way of the proposal for a bigger, better Canada Pension Plan that would give a decent defined benefit, fully inflation indexed, secure pension plan to all workers. That plan has been championed by the labour movement, endorsed by many pension experts, and is now supported by almost all of the provinces. But the Conservative government says no.

Speaking of no, let's hope the Conservative government says no to a newly adopted party policy, calling for a "less progressive" taxation system.

Photo: lynnfriedman. Used under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 licence.

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