News update, 1 December 2012

The Campaign Against the Rand Formula

By Evert Hoogers, Donald Swartz and Rosemary Warskett

It has been widely reported that Pierre Poilievre, the Federal Conservative MP for Nepean-Carleton, has launched a campaign to change the rules regarding the payment of union dues [See his November 2012 letter to his constituents]. The object of Mr. Poilievre’s ire is the “Rand Formula” – the union security clause found in most collective agreements and labour
relations legislation in Canada. Under this formula, no employee in a unionized workplace is required to be a union member, but all have to pay union dues, with the employer deducting the money from the pay checks of all employees and transferring it to the union.

This dues paying formula was created by Supreme Court Justice Ivan Rand in 1946 when settling a strike between the Ford Motor Company and its workers. At its core is the principle that all those who benefit from the negotiated collective agreement should pay union dues and that there should be no free riders.

For the full article, Socialist Project

Payroll employment, earnings and hours, September 2012

In September, average weekly earnings of non-farm payroll employees were $902.29, down 0.5% from the previous month. On a year-over-year basis, earnings increased 3.4%.

The 3.4% increase in earnings during the 12 months to September reflects a number of factors, including wage growth, changes in the composition of employment by industry, occupation and level of job experience, as well as average hours worked per week. In September, however, the average hours worked per week was 33.0, unchanged from 12 months earlier, and down from 33.1 in August.

Average weekly earnings of non-farm payroll employees increased in every province in the 12 months to September. Growth was notably above the national average in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, average weekly earnings were $945.16 in September, up 6.6% from 12 months earlier. This was the fourth consecutive year-over-year increase above 6%. Weekly earnings in the province were among the highest in the country.

In Nova Scotia, average weekly earnings increased 5.3% to $802.49 in the 12 months to September. Despite this increase, earnings in this province were among the lowest.

Alberta continued to have the highest earnings in the country, at $1,085.22, which was 4.0% above the level in September 2011.

Weekly earnings in Ontario grew 2.4% to $908.59. Year-over-year growth in Ontario has been below the national average since October 2010 (see the “Provincial profile” section of this release).

For the full report, Stats Canada

Turbulence in Ontario: Will teachers represented by the OSSTF vote against their most recent tentative agreement?

Ontario teacher protest: York, Niagara teachers reject tentative deals

November 27, 2012

In a dramatic blow to hopes for labour peace in Ontario schools this year, high school teachers in York Region and Niagara have rejected tentative deals some thought could have been the first in a flood of agreements across the province.

While high school teachers in the Upper Grand District School Board around Guelph did approve their contract, the mixed union results are a sign labour turmoil will continue to disrupt many schools.

What appears to have sunk the deal, at least in York, was not the contract itself but the fact many felt it was largely imposed by Queen’s Park through an unpopular law unions say limits their bargaining rights so severely they are fighting it in court.

Many of York’s 2,800 teachers argued at a heated union meeting Monday night at Markham Fairgrounds that signing any deal under these circumstances would be a “sellout” to the hated Bill 115 and might even weaken the court case down the road, sources said.

For the full article, Toronto Star

Ontario teachers: A guide to the labour situation in schools

November 19, 2012

It began, as family squabbles often do, over money — with Premier Dad looking to shave $2 billion off education budgets over two years.

But what started with a wage freeze for teachers has thrown Ontario’s public schools into the most confusing labor mess in living memory.

Some 1.3 million students are caught in a power struggle between a government determined to wipe out a troubling deficit and teachers’ unions determined to protect hard-won perqs such as the right to cash in sick days when they retire, plus an annual raise for rookie teachers.

It also has slapped a clamp on bargaining rights that teachers’ unions vow to fight to through the courts and touched every corner of school life from report cards to teams and concerts.

Now this week come baffling bulletins about tentative deals being reached at the same time as fresh “strike action” — in York Region, and simultaneously.

By late Monday five school boards had tentative deals with their local unions, with four more sounding close. But details are not known and it’s unclear whether the government will even approve the deals in the days to come.

For the full article, Toronto Star

OSSTF/FEESO Bargaining Bulletin, Issue 22, November 27, 2012

Dear members,

With the reaching of tentative agreements, questions are being raised about the specific impact of ratification votes on the status of the OSSTF/FEESO legal challenge against Bill 115. It is important to remember that our legal challenge was filed in early October, along with three other unions, as a result of the passage of Bill 115 and the government’s actions leading up to its passage. Those facts, as well as the substantive provisions of Bill 115 itself, form the basis of our legal challenge to overturn the Act.

While events post Bill 115 such as holding strike votes, engaging in strikes against the employer and reaching tentative settlements may be referred to as the court proceedings progress, holding ratification votes in and of themselves will not be a deciding factor. The law remains unchanged and the sweeping and unprecedented powers it accorded the Minister remain the primary basis for our challenge. It is also important to acknowledge that our attack against Bill 115 is complex and will likely be a lengthy process.

OSSTF/FEESO is committed to having the government repeal Bill 115 and we will continue, along with our partners, to explore all avenues at our disposal to achieve that objective.

Kenneth Coran, President

To download the letter, OSSTF

Interview with Toronto-based teacher about ongoing struggles in the education sector

IWW newsletter CLASSroom recently published the following interview with C. Hewitt-White, a Toronto-based teacher and member of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) about the ongoing education-sector strike. Her views are her own, and do not necessarily represent those of OSSTF.

CLASSroom: I understand that the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) has been escalating its strike actions. Why is this happening?

C. Hewitt-White: The Toronto district of OSSTF started its official legal strike action on Monday November 12. Many other districts have joined in since then. In Toronto, we are striking in response to two levels of attack: local and provincial. At the local level, each union district bargains directly with its employer – the local school board. School boards usually seek an increase in on-call supervision every round of bargaining. This means that they want principals to be able to take away more preparation time from teachers so they can supervise their absent colleagues’ classes. This is a crass cost-saving measure (it costs less than hiring occasional teachers) with nasty consequences. For example, teachers have less time for preparation during their workday, so they intensify their prep work in the limited time they have, work longer hours, or come to class less prepared. Students clearly don’t benefit from increasing on-calls.

The issue that everyone has been hearing about is the provincial attack. The provincial government and the OSSTF Provincial team started talks months before local bargaining began in order to agree on the money available to boards during local bargaining. In early spring of this year, the government announced that it would cut education funding for a two year “period of restraint,” and that it would enforce cuts through legislation if the education unions did not accept them. In the months that followed, negotiations crumbled between the government and all unions save for the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), which signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the government in July – behind the backs of its members and allied unions. Minister of Education Laurel Broten introduced Bill 115 to legislature in August and provincial legislature passed it on September 11.

Bill 115 imposed terms and conditions on OSSTF members retroactive to September 1, identical to the terms and conditions in the OECTA MOU, which are: a two year wage freeze, a 97-day salary grid movement freeze for teachers who have been teaching less than 10 years, cutting our sick days from 20 to 10, and deleting accrued sick days as well as the ability to cash out a percentage of accrued sick day value upon retirement. Furthermore, Bill 115 stipulates that it is above existing law: it cannot be found by arbitrators or courts to be in contravention of the Ontario Labour Relations Act, Employment Standards Act, or Ontario Human Rights Code – even though it contravenes all of these.

The Bill stipulates that any collective agreement the union and local employers come up with cannot improve on what is outlined in the MOU. Every collective agreement must be approved by the Minister of Education, who is given the right to amend collective agreements. Effectively, collective bargaining no longer exists for OSSTF, CUPE and ETFO members affected by the Bill because it is hamstrung by austerity parameters and the Minister of Education has ultimate say over our agreements.

If we do not come to agreements that are satisfactory to the Minister of Education by December 31, the government will impose on us agreements identical to the MOU.

For the full article, Toronto IWW

Elementary school teachers will give 72-hours notice before a one-day strike in December

By Kennedy Gordon, Peterborough Examiner, November 28, 2012

Local public elementary teachers, frustrated and angry with the province, are preparing for a one-day walkout in December.

“It’s obviously not something we want to do, but (Education Minister Laurel Broten) has left us no choice,” said Dave Wing, president of the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board unit of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.

He said if it has to happen, it will: Public elementary teachers will stage a one-day strike sometime next month to protest stalled talks and the contentious Bill 115, which gives Broten sweeping powers to force contracts on teachers and ban strikes.

“It would be every (elementary) school in the board,” Wing said. KPR operates 82 elementary schools from Peterborough County to Lake Ontario.

While Bill 115 affects the right to strike, teachers can still walk off the job. However, Broten can then order them back without going through any kind of process.

“Not since the War Measures Act has this much power been in the hands of one person in government,” Wing said.

Under the terms of Bill 115, locals that have not reached deals with their boards will have new contracts imposed on them by the province.

The two sides were last at the table Nov. 11 without making progress.

For the full article, Peterborough Examiner

Working for Change in Higher Education: The Abysmal State of Adjunct Teacher Pay

By Jeff Nall, Toward Freedom November 25, 2012 1

The recent Chicago teachers’ strike provoked a great deal of thoughtful discussion on the topic of K-12 education and teaching conditions.

Important aspects of higher education, however, continue to be overlooked. In particular, the broader public is likely unaware of the unfair and even damaging teaching conditions adjunct or part-time professors are increasingly facing.
The average salary for a college professor is in the realm of just under $60,000.

Most full-time University professors teach around six courses a year while also engaging in a variety of scholarly research. Full-time professors at community colleges and state colleges often teach 10 courses a year. Yet this only offers a limited vision of the condition of college educators.

Today, non-tenured, part-time instructors (adjuncts) comprise almost 70-percent of college and university faculties. And these teachers are paid very little. Until recently these educational laborers have been largely ignored. With newly organized projects such as the Adjunct Project, part-time college teachers are beginning to demand recognition of their plight, and how it impacts students.

For the full article, Truth-Out

Hawaii Teachers Unleash Work-to-Rule Campaign

Samantha Winslow, November 30, 2012

Teachers across Hawaii are getting the attention of school officials and their state legislature by exercising an old union tactic, work-to-rule. They added a local Hawaiian tradition, sign waving, to bring students and community members on board.

Two years after an imposed contract stuck them with wage and benefit cuts, the teachers are building momentum to win a better deal in 2013.

Each Thursday, teachers arrive exactly when school starts—which is late for most teachers, who plan lessons, make photocopies, and prepare for the day in the early hours. When school gets out at 3 p.m., they leave. On these weekly protest days, there is no after-school tutoring, grading papers, lesson planning, supervising clubs, or planning homecoming or proms with students.

To read the full article, Labor Notes

Adjunct Project

The Adjunct Project began in February 2012 as a simple crowd-sourced Google spreadsheet onto which over 1500 adjunct professors added details about their extreme working conditions. The original spreadsheet was developed by Josh Boldt as a way to compile data on the treatment of these contingent faculty members. The first call to action announced: “Combining our knowledge and resources will help us all to better understand the reality of life as an adjunct professor. The goal of this website is to identify universities that set the standard for best practices with regard to adjuncts.”

The Adjunct Project has since evolved into a website which houses the original Google Doc, an adjunct blog, and a niche job board. The Adjunct Project job site displays jobs specifically for educated, driven people who seek careers in higher education and also in the new fields categorized as the “alternate academy” (Alt-Ac). The job board also posts for positions outside of academia that require the same superior writing, research, and leadership skills these advanced degree holders acquired in graduate school.

Visit the Adjunct Project website for more information.

Target not successor to Zellers’ union obligations, B.C. Board rules

November 28, 2012

Giant U.S. mass retailer Target Corporation did not become the successor employer of unionized workers employed by Canadian mass retailer Zellers Inc., the British Columbia Labour Relations Board has ruled. The ruling dealt with a transaction by which Target obtained from Zellers the right to enter into a lease and operate a store in a B.C. shopping mall while Zellers gave up its lease and the right to operate a store there. The Board determined on the evidence that what Target acquired at that location was not all or part of the business of Zellers but only the real estate to which Target could bring its own pre-existing business. Therefore, Target was not the successor employer.

For the full report, Lancaster House

B.C. Federation of Labour Convention Update

By Roger Annis

Nov 29, 2012

Yesterday’s session of the BC Federation of Labour debated the growing fossil fuel industry in British Columbia, focused specifically on the two tar sands pipeline proposals in the province–Northern Gateway and expansion of Trans Mountain. The convention voted against a resolution opposing the lines. The story is a bit complicated and will be told in a forthcoming article on the subject that I will help to prepare. One convention delegate tweeted that neither side of the debate liked the resolution that had been compiled and presented by the Resolutions Committee.

The convention largely ducked discussion on natural gas fracking, pipelines and liquefaction projects. This story, too, will be reported. In recent days, significant voices have come forward against the gas projects among environmentalists, Indigenous (First Nations) people in the BC northeast, and, for the first time, among a coastal First Nations people. There was a noon rally against the gas pipelines of 75 or so people on Nov 27, coincidentally close to the location of the Fed convention in downtown Vancouver. About 75 people took part, including a handful of convention delegates during their lunch break.

The reporting in recent weeks of plans by the Port of Vancouver to significantly expand its coal shipping facilities, including for coal mined in the U.S. Midwest and transported by rail through Seattle and Bellingham, is boosting the work of a small but growing movement of opposition to coal mining and shipping in the province.

For several years now, a significant local movement on the mid-east coast of Vancouver Island has been organizing to stop the Raven coal mine project near Courtenay. That project would open the door to more efforts to re-open coal mines in that former coal mining region.

The iconic labour leader Albert ‘Ginger’ Goodwin hails from this area. He was a coal miner who emigrated from England in 1910 and rose to become a vice-president of the then-very militant British Columbia Federation of Labour. He was murdered by a member of the Dominion Police (forerunner of the RCMP) on July 27 of 1918, due to his leadership role in coal miners’ strikes and his opposition to World War One. His life is still commemorated each year in the region. A section of the Island Highway was named in his honour by an NDP provincial government during the 1990s. The provincial Liberal government elected in the year 2001 undid that decision.

The outgoing president and secretary treasurer of the Federation were re-elected. They were challenged by a slate running on a business unionism platform, making for a squaring off between a business unionism platform and an even-more business unionism platform. The former won app. 70% of the votes.

In the previous months, most public sector unions in BC have signed new collective agreements with the Liberal government. Wage increases have been won, but at the price of concessions in other areas such that the government’s ‘net zero increase’ policy on salary expenditure has been maintained.

One former BC Fed affiliate not present at the convention was the BC Nurses Union. It was suspended by the Fed and the CLC in 2009 for conducting raids on other Fed affiliates. The raiding policy continues unabated. Not coincidentally, the union has settled into cozier relations with the hated Liberal government of the province.


B.C. Federation of Labour forum discusses opposition to temporary foreign worker program

By Roger Annis, November 28, 2012

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program of the Canadian government is coming under increasing scrutiny and criticism as the number of employers tapping into it increases and as reports of abuse and exploitation rise accordingly.

The program was the subject of an evening panel discussion in Vancouver on November 27 at this week’s biannual convention of the B.C. Federation of Labour. Some 100 delegates attended the forum.

Panel presentations were led off by Lee Loftus, President of the B.C. Building Trades Council. His union is one of two that have launched a legal challenge to an application by the Chinese-owned HD Mining company to bring hundreds of Chinese workers to build and operate a coal mine in the Tumbler Ridge region in the northeast of the province. According to Luftus, four to six additional such applications by mining companies have been made or are in the works.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) obliges an applicant company to demonstrate that it cannot find the workers it needs within the existing labour market in Canada. It must also spell out a plan for how it will establish a permanent workforce. Loftus said that enforcement of these provisions are lacking. The unions in the mining industry, whose members would traditionally be the ones hired to build such a project as HD’s, only learned the company’s plans one month ago.

The company says it solicited and received 300 applicants from Canadian residents. Loftus reported that not a single one was accepted.

To read the full article,

Abuse and exploitation inherent to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program

By Brad Olson, November 12, 2012

As scandals rock the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program, the federal government will begin a program wide review. Though the government hinted at it, they did not mention the endemic abuse that is inherent in the TFW program, and the global treatment of migrant workers.

In the last month, the TFW program has made headlines after reports surfaced that migrant workers from China were being recruited to a coal mine near Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia. Even though according to the B.C. Federation of Labour, B.C. lost over 10,000 jobs last month, and over 300 Canadians applied for these jobs, all were denied as they didn’t have the right training or qualifications. One of the qualifications on the job description was that they be able to speak Mandarin.

Later, it was discovered that many of the 200 migrants given temporary work permits to these mines had to pay up to $12,500 in recruitment fees to get these coveted jobs in Canada. Though this is actually illegal, these practices are not uncommon. In some sectors, workers have to pay up to half of their expected wages to recruiter agencies before they even get their work permit.

To read the full article,

New York fast food workers take action organise: In Drive to Unionize, Fast-Food Workers Walk Off the Job

By Steven Greenhouse

Fast-food workers at several restaurants in New York walked off the job on Thursday, firing the first salvo in what workplace experts say is the biggest effort to unionize fast-food workers ever undertaken in the United States.

The campaign — backed by community and civil rights groups, religious leaders and a labor union — has engaged 40 full-time organizers in recent months to enlist workers at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Domino’s, Taco Bell and other fast-food restaurants across the city.

Leaders of the effort said that workers were walking off the job to protest what they said were low wages and retaliation against several workers who have backed the unionization campaign. They said it would be the first multi-restaurant strike by fast-food workers in American history, although it was unclear how many workers would walk off the job.

The first walkout took place at 6:30 a.m. at a McDonald’s at Madison Avenue and 40th Street, where several dozen striking workers and supporters chanted: “Hey, hey, what do you say? We demand fair pay.” An organizer of the unionizing campaign said that 14 of the 17 employees scheduled to work the morning shift had gone on strike.

Raymond Lopez, 21, an aspiring actor who has worked at the McDonald’s for more than two years, showed up on his day off to protest. “In this job having a union would really be a dream come true,” said Mr. Lopez, who added that he makes $8.75 an hour. He said that he, and fellow fast-food workers, were under-compensated. “We don’t get paid for what we do,” he said. “It really is living in poverty.”

To read the full article, Unite News

New York Fast Food Workers in Historic Strike for $15 an Hour

Check out news coverage of the fast food workers strike at The Real News

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