Since 1948, Human Rights Day has been celebrated to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly. This event has made history for all human beings around the world. From that moment, regardless of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political opinion, national or social origin, property, place of birth, or other status, human beings have had rights.

That is why UCTE wants to take the time today to declare that human rights are also workers’ rights. It is important to acknowledge that we spend a large majority of our time in Canada working.

On average, people now spend about 13 years and two months of their lives at work. If you work a lot of overtime, you can count an extra year and two months. The average worker spends almost a quarter of his or her time at work during a typical 50-year employment period[1].

This means that, without consecutive breaks, a Canadian would work 13 years and two months, and that with an average 35-37 hour work-week. Given that we have not counted lunch breaks, overtime, sleeping hours and the like, that is a good majority of one’s life when compared to the average, that is, 26 years sleeping, or 9,490 days (227,760 hours)[2].

All of this shows that a person needs to take time to consider their rights at work. When employers treat workers with respect, the workplace can be one of personal growth. However, in the opposite situation, when workers are treated with contempt, the workplace becomes a site of exploitation and humiliation.

The big question is: are workers’ rights human rights? Firstly, it depends on the country one lives in. In Canada, discrimination and harassment are very much topics of discussion. Usually depending on the province of employment, the grounds can vary, but, generally, they are: age, disability, gender, creed, colour, place of origin, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, ancestry, marital status, family status and citizenship.

We would certainly like to see these grounds respected and parity achieved in Canada, but — let’s be honest — despite progress made in recent years, equality is still not at 100%. Here is a chart showing the wage gap between men and women aged 25-34 from 1998 to 2018:

https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75-004-m/75-004-m2019004-eng.htm

Employers must ensure a workplace free of discrimination and harassment and provide accessibility for people with disabilities. Recently, we published an article about recurring situations where our members needed to turn to their union for assistance or representation.

Many human rights apply directly to workers’ rights in Canada. One of the missions of UCTE is to fight for its members who are discriminated against. This battle is not over. We will continue to speak out against inequality.

 


[1] https://www.payscale.com/career-advice/heres-how-many-years-youll-spend-work-in-your-lifetime/

[2] https://www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/your-life-in-numbers-infographic/