Women Stand in Solidarity with the Ottawa Museum Workers

OTTAWA, Dec. 10 /CNW Telbec/ - The vast majority of low-paid, part-time, contract and temporary workers in this country are women. As a result, women working full-time all year earn only 70% of what men earn working under the same conditions. Those who cannot find full year employment, are often ineligible for Employment Insurance since they cannot accumulate enough hours of work to qualify. And, when it comes time to retire, women's retirement income is only 60% of men's.

Workers at the Museum of Civilization and the War Museum in Ottawa have been on strike since September to challenge these conditions. The majority are women, who find themselves trapped in insecure employment. Many are long-term employees who live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether or not their yearly contracts will be renewed.

The underlying issues of this strike should be of concern to us all. Over the past decade, there has been a growing trend for employers, including the federal government and its agencies, to contract out work to individuals who have little security and few benefits.

Statistics Canada data indicate that all workers in non-standard employment have significantly lower earnings, fewer benefits, and are at higher risk of unemployment.

After 11 weeks on strike, the employer presented the workers with a final offer - which failed to address the central issue of contract jobs. The workers voted 96% to reject the offer.

Here's what they said:

           We love our jobs and the work that we do. We want to go back to
           work, but not at any price.

           We are resolved, all of us, to see this process through to its
           conclusion. We seek to protect our jobs. Given that the
           Corporation's offer was final, given the response of our
           co-workers and given that we are in the eleventh week of our
           strike, we are fully prepared to turn our dispute over to an
           arbitrator for resolution.

           We remain hopeful that the Corporation will do the right thing and
           agree to this, so that we might finally bring an end to the on-
           going labour strife between us and our employer.

Yet, the federal government has done nothing to help resolve this dispute. The federal Minister of Labour, Rona Ambrose, offered to appoint an arbitrator to settle the strike. The Union agreed to arbitration, the employer refused - and the Minister backed down at the employer's insistence. There is not even a pretense of impartiality here.

The striking PSAC workers have taken a courageous stand against the insidious practice of cheap temporary work. Women who care about women's equality stand in solidarity with them. We fully support their demand to the federal government to appoint an independent arbitrator to settle the issue and to get the Museum workers back to work.


For further information: For further information: Susan Russell, Ad Hoc Coalition for Women's Equality and Human Rights, (613) 234-8252 ext. 102, www.womensequality.ca

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