The NDP is in the wilderness. Tom Mulcair has been given his retirement date. But no one in the party seems to be interested in the job. Perhaps that's because no one is quite sure who or what the party stands for. Tom Walkom suggests that now is the time for the party to renew its marriage vows with labour:
We live in a time when labour needs a political party willing to work for it. And the NDP needs a reason to exist.
Labour needs a political party because unions, on their own, are a declining force. Only 29 per cent of the Canadian workforce is unionized. The number continues to fall.This has happened because the economy, once characterized by large manufacturing plants, is now dominated by smaller service firms that, under current labour laws, are more difficult to unionize.The decline of well-paying union jobs is one of the key factors behind the rise in income inequality that politicians routinely fret about.Yet to reverse this trend would require a total rethinking of employment and labour laws, most of which were designed in the 1940s and ‘50s.
That in turn requires a political party willing to do the rethinking.
Just as the NDP brought medicare to Canada, it could bring labour reform to Canada:
Among other things, the laws must be amended to eliminate the loophole that allows so many employers to pretend their workers are independent contractors who do not qualify for benefits or statutory protection.As well, labour relations laws would have to be changed to allow unions organizing, say, fast-food franchise outlets, to take on the ultimate employer.These are just a couple of examples. The point is that, if unions are to survive, labour laws must be rethought.
The Dippers are in crisis. But a crisis is also an opportunity -- for those who see it.