Closure of Parliament Shuts out Workers During Economic Crisis, Say Labour Leaders

December 4, 2008, 2:00 PM EST

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The dissolution of the current Parliament represents an abandonment of leadership by Stephen Harper at a time when Canadians need it most, say the leaders of the country's three largest industrial unions.  

Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union President Dave Coles, Canadian Auto Workers Union President Ken Lewenza and United Steel Workers Union Canadian Director Ken Neumann responded with frustration to the decision to suspend Parliament.  

"Stephen Harper created this political crisis with the Conservatives' economic statement last week," said CEP President Dave Coles. "When a coalition of parties formed, who were prepared to deal with the economic crisis and defeat Harper on the statement, Harper moved to dissolve Parliament, instead of allowing the parliamentary process to work."   

"This is a very sad day," said Coles. "Workers now have no government to talk to and we cannot wait until the end of January for the economic stimulus that sectors such as forestry, manufacturing, auto, steel and other industries so desperately need."

CAW President Ken Lewenza said that a political response to the economic crisis is needed immediately. Across the globe, governments are stepping up with financial stimulus packages, he said. Lewenza stressed that cutting workers' wages and benefits and allowing industries to collapse will only accelerate the current downward economic spiral.                        

"Our Prime Minister has walked away from Canadians during the most severe economic crisis in decades," said CAW President Ken Lewenza.  "He has sacrificed what's in the best interests of Canadians for his own political purposes."

"We need all the political leaders to work together for the good of the economy and the country," said USW Canadian Director Ken Neumann. "We need action now on jobs - working Canadians are looking for leadership from Ottawa."

Neumann said the Prime Minister has demonstrated a lack of political judgment during a time of crisis and Canadian voters will be watching his next actions closely.  

"Stephen Harper must immediately outline a comprehensive economic stimulus plan that will provide a bridge for industries and workers who are suffering during these very difficult times," said Lewenza.  "We cannot wait until the end of January when the House returns."

CEP represents 150,000 workers across the country, the CAW represents 250,000 and the USW represents 280,000.

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