No, there is no labour shortage in Quebec!

Original Post – November 13, 2018 ISKRA

In Quebec, capitalists have been engaged for some time in a new ideological campaign against the proletariat. This offensive consists in spreading the idea that there would be a labour shortage in the province. The capitalists are using this lie to wage their economic struggle against workers. To hear them, there is a shortage of tens of thousands of workers in the province, a shortage of labour that would ultimately threaten to harm production and the labour process. This would be a real economic disaster and only the beginning would have been seen. For the bourgeoisie, the only way to avoid disaster is to make workers pay and thus prepare them for a tightening of working conditions (stagnation of wages, flexible working hours, split and more demanding schedules, permanent availability, disappearance of social benefits, etc.).

This offensive is being led simultaneously by propaganda devices of various capitalist groups that started the ball rolling on this subject a little over a year ago (Association des détaillants en Alimentation du Québec, Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Business Development Bank of Canada, the accounting firm PWC, etc.). Their bogus studies have since come to the ears of bourgeois politicians who, eager to speak the same language as Capital, have hastened to adopt its analysis and terminology. The subject was at the centre of the recent election campaign, intertwined with the issue of immigration, and this with the usual imperialist decadence. Bourgeois journalists have recently joined this campaign by unabashedly assuming their useful role as a transmission belt for capitalist ideology. Indeed, there are almost no more days without addressing the issue of labour shortages in the press, on the radio or in bourgeois TV news.

The various bourgeois lobbies have produced a vast series of analyses according to which the labour supply has dried up dangerously and it is becoming increasingly difficult to hire workers. In their view, there would not be enough labour available for all the positions to be filled on the market, which would allow workers to be dangerously selective and blatantly demanding. This drying up of labour supply would thus jeopardise the viability of a large number of SMEs (here referring to companies employing 50 or fewer employees). One of the main dangers for these capitalist companies would be, among other things, the impossibility of maintaining their profit margin, forcing them to increase wages in order to attract new employees.

However, the truth is that there is absolutely no labour shortage in Quebec. Such an assertion is a blatant bourgeois lie that allows capitalists to hide the real economic phenomena that are currently manifesting themselves, just as it allows them to arm themselves politically against the proletariat. On the contrary, there are currently all the workers that society needs to make all its industries and economic sectors work. In truth, the problem is the capitalist organization of production and the economy, and above all, the desire to make workers pay the price of competition between capitalists.

Indeed, the so-called current labour shortage is above all a fundamentally bourgeois notion to describe the consequence of the worsening competition between capitalists. This worsening of competition between capitalists is occurring at a time when the more favourable economic conditions experienced during the short period of economic recovery (post-2008) are tending to disappear completely. In the long run, a number of capitalist companies will have to close their doors. Capitalist companies that have emerged weakly from this recovery cycle, with too small a profit margin, are now in a difficult situation characterized by the general increase in the prices of premises, equipment, etc. Capitalists who have emerged with a stronger economic situation are still able to offer more favourable working conditions and be in an advantageous position in the face of competition. It is the general trend of the long-term crisis of the capitalist mode of production that is being reaffirmed. It is reflected in the economic struggle between social classes. The aggravated competition between capitalists reinforces the struggle between labour and capital.

The case of grocers, food merchants and restaurateurs is particularly significant. The profit margin in these commercial sectors is very low and each merchant must reorganize to be competitive. Bourgeois studies explain that these economic sectors have already exhausted the room for manoeuvre they had to increase retail prices. A franchisee owner of an IGA complained, not so long ago on Radio-Canada, that he was struggling to hire employees. However, it only offered part-time work, spread over six days a week, day and evening, at minimum wage, and without any benefit whatsoever! With increasing competition, it is difficult to maintain a sufficient profit rate while paying employees at increasing wages. Unable to improve wages and working conditions, some capitalists are already calling for a minimum wage freeze. In reality, they would like to pay their employees less, make them work harder and for longer, at the same price.

The vacancy rate

It must be understood that to quantify the alleged labour shortage, the bourgeoisie uses a very specific economic indicator called the vacancy rate. Vacant positions are positions that need to be filled and have not been filled for at least four months. The current rate in Quebec is 3.9%, representing 109,600 vacant positions, while it is 3.1% for Canada as a whole, representing 397,400 vacant positions.

Looking at the studies of bourgeois economic groups, we realize that we are talking first and foremost about low-wage jobs or jobs with particularly difficult working conditions (as is the case in restaurants, for example). And this confession is half-worded by the bourgeoisie. To get by, when journalists from bourgeois groups ask for an economic qualification of vacant positions, they answer that the wage dimension is not decisive, because it is not… posted in job offers on the Internet – only in interviews! Without realizing their own inconsistencies, the same representatives add that immigration, contrary to popular belief, will not solve the problem, because we have, in their view, an immigration that is too skilled for the jobs to be filled, and we still have too many difficulties recruiting workers without diplomas and unskilled workers. This gives an idea of the lousy conditions and wages offered in the famous offers to fill vacancies! In fact, a large part of the bourgeoisie hopes to solve the problem through immigration, as long as it is used to bring massive quantities of cheaplabor into the country.

A correspondent for ISKRA in Lanaudières told us that in the restaurant where he works, management officials are continually hiring a new diver and that this time their attempts have been in vain for three months. What is happening is that the former diving hours that required two full-time positions were split into three diving shifts, and therefore three part-time positions, thus transforming the eight-hour work days into four-hour work days. The advantage of such a change is that instead of having to pay employees a salary even during the afternoon off-duty time, only divers are now brought in when the work intensifies, a period that is consistent with lunch and dinner. This results in a concentration of work on a much shorter and more intense shift, thus contributing to giving economic impetus to capitalist owners. During the morning and afternoon hours, plates, glasses, pots and other washing utensils accumulate, making it possible to make the most of the hourly wage paid later in the day. The work is then done over four hours to avoid the employee being paid for two or three more hours to do a similar amount of work. The problem is that for employees, the proposed position no longer offers 40 hours of work per week! Poorly located, without public transit, not many applicants covet this job and when newly employed, they understand the situation in which they are immersed, they end up leaving this job quickly for another, sometimes even another diving job, but in better working conditions, another famous vacant position, which clearly demonstrates the bourgeois farce of the so-called labour shortage.

There are also a multitude of other disparate and isolated phenomena in addition to this first scenario. They are taken as an example by the bourgeoisie to draw a disproportionate picture and to link together all the examples that make it possible to make believe in their lie. With the uneven development of capitalism, it is frequent that in the regions, some jobs take longer to fill than in metropolitan areas. The same is true in some economic sectors where the bourgeois state competes with private enterprise and where it is more difficult to hire in the end. For example, private residences offering beneficiary attendants salaries of $12 or $13 per hour are unable to hire employees on a sustainable basis because the government hires them at $20 per hour to do the same work. Let us remember that there is no shortage of labour; there is a shortage of jobs at good wages; there are capitalists who are panicked, because they know that they will not be able to get through the current worsening of economic competition without a lower-cost labour force.

Vacant positions are the product of capitalism

It should also be clarified that the vacancy rate is not an economic indicator reflecting the objective reality of economic production as is the unemployment rate in society. When we talk about unemployment, we mean workers, workers, members of the proletariat that exist objectively in reality and cannot find employment in capitalist production. It is a historical task of socialism and the general progress of society to provide socially useful work for all, as well as to ensure that economic planning does not neglect any sector. These tasks can never be accomplished within the limits of capitalism.

On the contrary, it is private profit and not overall planning that organizes work and production in capitalism. The vacant positions, of which the capitalists speak to us, do not have the same relationship to the overall process of production and to the fundamental needs that ensure the balance and progress of society. The current vacancies are largely redundant jobs which, under socialism, through a reorganisation of work, would migrate to other sectors. The current vacancies are also, in some cases, as explained above, former full-time positions split into two or three positions to condense the work. Finally, these unfilled positions also sometimes refer to tasks related to the administration and expansion of capitalist enterprises. For example, if tomorrow morning a capitalist decides to start a new business and fails to hire 10 employees, these 10 employees are not necessarily an objective gap to be filled in the general production and work process. On the other hand, 10 unemployed proletarians are 10 workers who exist in reality; they are 10 proletarians that capitalism has objectively condemned to unemployment when, however, there is no valid reason to prevent them from participating in production in society!

The truth is that there is no shortage of workers in Quebec. There are enough workers now to organize society in a sustainable way and to make all industries and economic sectors work, in Quebec and in Canada. All the proletarians, here as in the rest of the country, already have everything they need at their fingertips to increase production and solve most social problems. The real problem is the control of the capitalist class over production and society. Socialism would abolish all parasitic and socially useless positions, just as it would integrate into production all unemployed men and women and all those whom capitalism has designated as unproductive. Political and economic production planning would make it possible to meet the needs of all. And above all, socialism would make all the current sharks disappear who, in trying to preserve their profits, are organizing the current campaign against the proletariat.

There is no shortage of labour! Let us reject the capitalist lies!

Workers will not pay the price of capitalist competition and the crisis of capitalist production!

The real problem is the capitalists’ control over production and society!

Let us fight for socialism and for workers’ control of production!