Monday, September 7, 2009

Workers across N. America mark Labour Day

Thousands of workers marked Labour Day across North America Monday with parades and picnics amid high unemployment figures.

Darrell Dexter became the first Nova Scotia premier to participate in the annual Labour Day rally in Halifax.

In Toronto, NDP Leader Jack Layton said this year's Labour Day has special significance because so many Canadians have been left unemployed during the past year's recession.

He said the government's focus should be on job creation, not positioning for a possible fall election.

"It's the loss of jobs and the need to get people back to work and help those who have lost their work with Employment Insurance," he told CBC.

"That's why we don't need an election. We need the prime minister to reach out to the other parties and say, 'Let's get to work.'"

Layton marched with thousands of union officials, workers and unemployed Ontarians at the "Good Jobs for All" Labour Day parade.

The day-long event comes amidst a report that found there are 500,000 more unemployed Canadians this Labour Day than last.

Layton said many of the half million unemployed Canadians are unable to get help from the Employment Insurance system because they do not qualify.

Layton and hundreds of other NDP members were marching with the Canadian Autoworkers Union, the Toronto and York Region Labour Council and workers from around the province.

Labour leaders spoke before the parade about the need for green jobs, increases to public pensions, and improvements to the Employment Insurance system.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama asked union men and women at a picnic in Cincinnati to help him resuscitate the struggling economy, saying "a strong labour movement is part of a strong economy."

He thanked organized labour for its strong support and pledged that he will help to re-energize the Labour Department on behalf of working people.

Obama also said he's not comfortable with the 9.7 per cent national jobless rate and said, "We've still got a long way to go. So we will not rest. We will not let up."

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