Losing our shirts
Back, just in time for International Women's Day on Sunday, March 8.
It started just about 100 years ago when women all over the world gathered to fight for a single day when they would all press for their demands for equal rights. Its roots also lie in the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Manhattan 98 years ago. That's when some146 mostly Italian and Jewish immigrant, mostly young women, workers were burned to death behind sweatshop doors that were locked to prevent theft.
I know. I know. When is it International Men's Day some of my regular readers may ask? Depending on where you live, that comes pretty much every day since, in most of the world, women have no rights, no choice, no protection, no hope, no chance, no nothing.
Here in the Great Pink North however there is much to celebrate. Not only can women vote, but we have access to excellent health care, reproductive options, and freedom from religious and tribal oppression.
Women account for 70% of part-time employees and two-thirds of Canadians working for
minimum wage. The number of women in top executive positions at the nation’s largest publicly-traded companies has hit an all-time high: 7.2%. Nearly 40% per cent of Canadian women don't make enough money to pay taxes. With the highest levels of working mothers in our history, 36% of mother-led families still have incomes below the poverty line and 43% of children living in a low-income family live with a single mother.
Income statistics show women of colour, Aboriginal women and women with disabilities are even more at risk. A woman earning the minimum wage in full-time, year-round employment anywhere in Canada is living below the poverty line. If she is on her own with children, she is living well below the poverty line and in need of significant assistance to keep her kids in child care and be able to work. If she’s raising her kids on social assistance it is absolutely guaranteed that they are all living deep in the pocket of poverty.
Now some would say -- and they do, over and over again -- that, if you can't afford to have kids, you shouldn't have them. True enough, I suppose. But it's funny how often these very same people are the ones against women having access to abortion. What's more, once the children are born, does it not make sense for the good of all that they grow up healthy, well-nourished and safe from abuse and violence?
Back to the release:
Of late, pundits are seized with the notion that with job losses concentrated in male-dominated sectors, women may become the majority of the workforce. The phrase “lipstick economy” is being thrown around, as if this increase is a new phenomenon. It’s not. Women’s participation in the labour force has climbed steadily over the last thirty years. In 1976, women made up 37% of the workforce in Canada. By 1996, that figure had passed 45%, by 2006 it hit 47%. The growth of Canada’s GDP over the same period is linked to women’s work force participation.
Immediate changes are needed to make Employment Insurance into an insurance system that works for women who lose employment. It’s a no-brainer. As the nation lost 129,000 jobs in January, reported EI claims climbed. In December, the number of men receiving benefits jumped over 21% from a year earlier; for women it increased 8.6%. This is consistent with report after report which confirm that 70% of women who pay into EI are not eligible to collect when they lose their jobs. Women need access to the EI funds that have been amassed through deductions from their pay cheques. It’s a question of fundamental justice: you ought to get what you pay for.
Ah yes, the EI plan brought to us by the Conservative-Liberal coalition in Parliament. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his prefect in the Liberal party Michael Ignatieff ensured that women would remain in the bottom position throughout the economic downturn. Here's just the bit about EI from this great analysis in Edmonton's indie weekly, Vue:
Monica Townson, an economic consultant and research associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives who co-authored a 2007 report on the gender bias in the EI program, explains that when the Unemployment Insurance program was changed to the Employment Insurance program in 1997, eligibility criteria went from being based on the number of weeks worked to being based on number of hours worked. This change, which dropped the percentage of unemployed workers who qualified for EI from 70 per cent to just 36 per cent by 2004, disproportionately impacted women because they tend to work more part-time and other non-standard jobs due to family responsibilities, and therefore find it harder to accumulate the necessary hours. While 40 per cent of men qualified in the year Townson looked at the data, just 32 per cent of women did. In Alberta, because of the complicated formula based on regional unemployment levels, fewer than one in four women in the province were eligible for EI in 2004.
(Speaking of the Harper-Ignatieff separated at birth routine, have you checked out Iggy's pose with Barack Obama on the Liberal website? It is to laugh.)
But do the Harpies and Iggyites care? Not according to the NDP:
“With more and more Canadians losing their jobs every day, we need a system that can really help people who need it,” said New Democrat Leader Jack Layton. “The minister may believe that it’s ‘lucrative’ to collect EI, but the truth is that Canada is running out of jobs and more unemployed Canadians deserve to access the help now, when they need it.”
According the Statistics Canada only 43% of unemployed Canadians and only 39% of unemployed women currently qualify for EI under the Harper government’s qualifications.
The New Democrat opposition day motion calls on the Harper government to eliminate the waiting period for EI, reduce the number of work hours needed to qualify for the program, expand eligibility to include self-employed workers, raise the rate of benefits and encourage training and re-training.
Well, according to the Liberals, this motion was so great, they voted for it -- even after they voted for the Conservative budget. Boldface is mine.
“With tens of thousands of Canadians losing their jobs, what is really needed are reforms that will make EI more responsive and get money into the hands of the unemployed quickly,” said Mr. Savage. “Liberals believe that EI is one of the most effective methods of providing quick stimulus to the economy.”
In the months leading up to the Fall Economic Statement and Budget, organizations like the Conference Board of Canada, the C.D. Howe Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives recommended substantial reforms to EI as a means of addressing the economic downturn and protecting the vulnerable.
“Unfortunately, the Conservative government did not take their advice” said Mr. Savage.
Liberals understand that not all of the EI reforms in the motion – totalling $3.4 billion annually – may be feasible right now during this time of economic turmoil, but they are all ideas that parliamentarians should be exploring going forward.
“The EI system needs to change to better respond to the need,” said Mr. Savage. “We have to ensure that the most vulnerable in society are properly protected, not just during tough times but at all times. It’s why we support the spirit of this motion and will be voting in favour of it.”
Phew. Is it me or it it hot in here?
This from the same crew that did nothing to promote infrastructure plans to help women, or to create childcare spaces so that women could work, as The Regina Mom deftly points out.
His support for Harper’s budget bill is a slap in the face to Canadian women. Of course we shouldn’t be too surprised at this given the Liberal Party’s record with women. Wasn’t it Paul Martin as Finance Minister who began the federal attack on women’s organizations funded through Status of Women Canada? So, to see Iggy and his ilk support an attack on pay equity and infrastructure solutions that exclude women while still denying Canadian women a national childcare plan is really to be expected.
But Canadians have some kind of sick idea that the Liberals are better than the Cons. Not me. Liberal or Tory, it’s the same old story. Tommy Douglas was right about that in his story of Mouseland. Not that the NDP or any partisan organization will be the savior of Canada or Canadian women, for that matter. But at least the NDP get it when it comes to women’s issues. Mind you, it’s not quite to the extent that the Bloc Quebecois get it, but it’s good.
So anyway, despite their fiscaling of women, today the Libs were quick to talk about how they love the little ladies.
"As countries around the world are preparing to mark International Women's Day on Sunday, this government is taking the women's movement back," said Ms. Neville. "By implementing policies that take away women's rights, the Conservatives are simply failing Canadian women."
Today, as Minister of Status of Women Canada Helena Guergis takes the stage at the United Nations (UN), representatives of Canadian women's organizations and labour unions are set to gather at the front gates to protest the Conservative government's failing record on women's equality.
The Harper government has attacked women's rights to pay equity, unilaterally changed the guidelines for Status of Women, dismantled the Liberal child care agreements and have failed to address the issue of more than 500 missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
Since coming to power, the Conservative government has been embarrassing Canada internationally on other important issues as well. These include:
. failing to implement the recommendations proposed by UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women;
. refusing to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and
. obstructing progress on climate change at the UN.
"Women are so desperate for change, that they are being forced to plead their case to the international community," said Ms. Neville. "It is no wonder women's groups are intending to file a complaint with the United Nations. Today what we are hearing is enough is enough."
Jeez. Can somebody please turn on the air conditioning?????
So anyway, one more release from my crammed in-box today:
Helena Guergis, Minister of Status of Women Canada, is set to speak to the UN Commission on the Status of Women tomorrow. Women’s rights advocates are concerned that this will serve as an opportunity for the Harper government to use an international stage to make claims about its record on women rights, while it simultaneously destroys the right to pay equity at home.
Representatives from the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Syndicat de la fonction publique du Québec, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, the Feminist Alliance for International Action and several others will announce their intention to file a complaint with the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in regard to the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, which they say will severely curtail the rights of women in the federal public sector to demand equal pay for work of equal value. The bill is currently being rushed through the Canadian Parliament as part of the Budget Implementation Act (Bill C-10).
A photo op shopping trip to New York?
Nice try but, when most of Canada seems not to have noticed that the wool has been pulled over their eyes, I would say that the ConLibs have this one all sewn up tight.
UPPITY WOMAN DATE: Apologies for dicking around with the format of this post. It's like I left my mind on the beach.