As the value of individual pensions diminish or altogether disappear, workers across the country are all asking the same question: Have we lost our right to retire? In this year’s Mayworks issue, we examine the perils of a pension system that is intimately tied to a failing financial system. We also look at the state of unions, the labour movement, and the Canadian Left in 2010, and determine what can be done to strengthen worker solidarity and mobilize the Left.
Gaétan Ménard begins our pensions feature with the story Fraser Papers, a heavily indebted company who cut their workers’ pensions by 40% to get out of the red. Joel Hardin of the Canadian Labour Congress outlines a proposal for pension reform in Canada based on the belief that “after a lifetime of work, all Canadians deserve security and dignity in retirement.” There is another threat to Canada’s Pension Plan, Andrea Levy argues: the loss of the stable fulltime job. She outlines the problems the “just in time” workforce pose to workers’ social protection benefits. And Sam Gindin presents his re-conceptualization of retirement based on the proposition that free time should not just be for the retired, but distributed throughout working life.
Despite the worst economic crisis in 70 years, unions, the labour movement and the Canadian Left have been unable to pose any real threat to the capitalist system. Thom Workman attributes this to the spreading belief that “capitalism qua capitalism is not taken to be the problem.” Both Workman and Len Wallace believe that renewing the Left requires establishing a critical and vibrant Left culture. As Wallace writes, “the failure to recognize the cultural in its multiplicity of forms limits the context of struggle.” We also invited three labour activists to discuss the state of unions in Canada and determine what can be done to strengthen and mobilize the labour movement.
To avoid being charged with contributing to a stagnant Left culture, this issue of Dimension features a new voice to the CD Paragraph – this month written by Ed Janzen – and a new column on Ecology and Health to be shared by CD Collective members Judy Deutsch and Andrea Levy. We also have a two great book reviews, poetry, an interview with the Palestinian hip hop group, DAM (Da Arabian MCs) and two familiar columns – Media as Insurgent Art and On the Edge with Lesley Hughes.