Labour News Update: 1 October 2013

“Made in the USA” documentary critiques Hudak’s plans for a low-wage Ontario 

September 20, 2013Hudak_USA

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has chosen the sidelines of the Ontario PC Convention as the right venue to premier a new documentary about Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak’s plan to bring American-style labour laws to Ontario.

The embattled Tory leader is under siege from disgruntled elements in his own party going into this weekend’s policy convention in London, Ontario.

He also has the Ontario labour movement gearing up for a fight over his proposal to enact a U.S.-style “right-to-work” law if he is elected Premier in the next election.

The OPSEU-funded documentary called Made in the USA: Tim Hudak’s plan to cut your wages was produced by respected journalist and documentary filmmaker Bill Gillespie, who takes viewers on a road trip through Michigan, the most recent U.S. state to adopt the anti-union legislation, to South Carolina, which introduced it in 1954.

Manning, Hudak, and the folly of attacks on labour

By Carla Lipsig-Mummé, The Broadbent Blog

On September 16th, Preston Manning published an article on the recent defeat of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) at the hands of the conservative Liberal-National coalition in the Globe and Mail. Left-wing governments destroy healthy economies, he told us, they ‘binge’ on stimulus spending, are soft on unions, govern badly and can’t manage environmental policy.

Never mind Manning’s false characterization of economic mismanagement by the left, or his convenient exclusion of the many failures, social and economic, of the laissez-faire policies of the right — his analysis of the political lessons from the Australian election simply miss the mark. Manning was puzzled as to why, in 2007, the Australian electorate massively rejected “the able leadership of (conservative) John Howard,” electing Kevin Rudd and the ALP by a large majority.

Payroll employment, earnings and hours, July 2013

OK, Statistics Canada figures aren’t sexy so let’s get down to the important bits. Average weekly earnings only increased by 1.3% since last year. In Accommodation and food services, already some of of the lowest paying industries in Canada, average weekly earnings went down by almost 3%.

Book release: New Forms of Worker Organizationedited by Immanuel Ness.

Bureaucratic labor unions are under assault throughout the world. The decline of labor unions has exposed workers throughout the world to capitalist absolutism, where trade unions are unable to defend workers’ interests under capitalism. As financial capital controls investment decisions on a global scale over the past 30 years, most unions have surrendered the achievements of the mid-20th century, when the working class was a militant force for change throughout the world. As unions implode and weaken, workers are independently forming their own unions, rooted in the tradition of syndicalism and autonomism—and unions rooted in the tradition of self-directed action are auguring a new period of class struggle throughout the world. In Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe, workers are rejecting leaders and forming authentic class-struggle unions rooted in sabotage, direct action, and striking to achieve concrete gains.

Labour Law Conference 2013

Co-chaired by Craig Flood, Partner, Koskie Minsky LLP and Professor Michael Lynk, Western Law

Friday, October 25, 2013, 5:30 pm, Conron Hall, Western University

Reception and Dinner to follow
The lecture and reception are open to the public and free of charge. Registration is not required.

Before his appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada in December 2008, Justice Cromwell enjoyed an illustrious and varied career in the law. After obtaining degrees in music and law from Queen’s and law from Oxford, he practised in both Kingston and Toronto and then taught law at Dalhousie University. As an academic, Justice Cromwell published widely and received awards for teaching excellence. Among his many activities while in Halifax, he served as vice-chair of the Nova Scotia Labour Relations Board and acted as a labour arbitrator and adjudicator. As well, Justice Cromwell worked as Executive Legal Officer to Chief Justice Antonio Lamer, 1992-95, and served as President of the Canadian Association of Law Teachers. In August 1997, he was appointed directly to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.

Le fond de l’air est rouge zine

by Stefan Christoff (Howl arts collective)

Le fond de l’air est rouge is a collection of texts about the 2012 Quebec student uprising by Montreal artist and activist Stefan Christoff. Written between spring 2011 and summer 2012, this series of articles includes first hand accounts of the incredible street protests in Montreal and reflections on the student strike within the context of Quebec revolutionary history. Published by the Howl! arts collective, this zine brings movement-based reporting originally published online into a physical format. The goal of this zine is to create a piece of cultural documentation on a key moment in Quebec popular history.

EllisDon affair hasn’t tipped the balance on Ontario campaign-finance reform

Adam Radwankski, The Globe and Mail, September 29 2013

Since Kathleen Wynne became Premier last winter, her Liberals have occasionally debated behind the scenes whether to change Ontario’s campaign-finance rules.

One might have thought last week’s controversy around legislation being passed for the sole purpose of helping the construction company EllisDon, a generous contributor to both the Liberals and the opposition Progressive Conservatives, would have tipped the balance in favour of those arguing for new limits on political donations.

Even now, however, the other side still seems to be triumphing. An issue that might appeal to Ms. Wynne’s sensibilities as a former grassroots activist, and to her need for policy issues that define her as a leader and differentiate her from her predecessor, is just considered more trouble than it’s worth.

when life gives you lemons, make lemonade

By Dan Bouchard, Recording Secretary, CUPE Local 2544, September 29, 2013

Merriam-Websters dictionary defines solidarity as being: “a feeling of unity between people who have the same interests, goals, etc.”  At it’s very core that is what unionism is all about.  Every member has the same interest in earning an income.  To expand the analogy, every member wants to earn that income while being able to secure a few rights such as an eight hour work day, the protection of WSIB rights when unable to attend work, paid holidays, the ability to work in a safe environment and the ability to question the employer through a formal procedure.

In its infancy, union activists were viewed by those around them as nothing more then rabble-rousers and rebels.  In Canada, union activity was illegal until 1872 when printers in Toronto went on strike for a nine-hour work day.  After the arrests of many conspicuous labour leaders, mass protests followed which resulted in the charges being dropped and the legalization of union activities.

Unions in Canada under siege from government, business and media: McQuaig

By Linda McQuaig, The Toronto Star, February 12 2013

Although much denigrated by the right these days, union activists are, as the old saying notes, “the people who brought you the weekend.”

The right apparently wants you to believe that the weekend is now out of date.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, along with influential members of the corporate and media world, are hostile to unions, rarely missing an opportunity to portray union leaders as autocratic “bosses.”

Union blasts ‘struggling’ Globe and Mail for blaming employees

By Christine Dobby, September 26 2013

The union representing The Globe and Mail employees says the newspaper is taking the wrong approach in blaming front line workers for its financial troubles.

“There is no denying The Globe is struggling, perhaps financially failing. We get it. But a blame-shifting approach won’t fix The Globe‘s very serious problems,” Sue Andrew wrote in a recent memo to employees obtained by the Financial Post”

University of Windsor refuses to consider CUPE 1393 offer and walks away from bargaining table

Thousands of University of Windsor students semesters have been placed in jeopardy after negotiators for the University walked away from the bargaining table without even considering the latest offer from Local 1393 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE 1393).

“We are at our wits’ end. Our bargaining committee has heard and attempted to address the issues and concerns raised in bargaining by the employer through our proposals, but their response has been to walk away,” said Dean Roy, President of CUPE 1393.

Canada’s Foreign Service Officers Reach Tentative Agreement with Federal Government

September 26, 2013

The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers is pleased to announce that a tentative agreement has been reached with the Treasury Board of Canada to end our six-month labour dispute.

“PAFSO is satisfied with this deal,” said PAFSO President Tim Edwards.“This agreement was reached through compromises on both sides,” continued Edwards. “We salute the spirit of constructive engagement which our employer brought to our latest discussions. This deal is a victory for free and fair bargaining in the federal public service.”

With the signing of this tentative agreement PAFSO has ordered an immediate suspension of all strike measures and work to rule. The agreement requires ratification by the PAFSO membership and approval by the full Treasury Board. PAFSO’s Executive Committee and Treasury Board president Tony Clement have agreed to recommend acceptance of the offer.

“We are pleased that the Government has recognized the tremendous value and dedication which Foreign Service Officers provide to Canadians and their elected representatives,” said Edwards. “It has been a hard-fought battle and I would like to salute the unity, resolve, and stamina of our members in securing a fair and equitable deal. We’re excited to get back to doing the work we love, promoting and protecting Canada’s values and interests abroad.”

The 1,350 Foreign Service Officers have been without a contract since July 1, 2011 and in a legal strike position since April 2, 2013. This agreement concludes the longest federal public service strike since the introduction of collective bargaining in 1967.

Hovis workers win – Zero hours contracts are toast

By Pete Murray, September 24, 2013

More than 400 bakery workers have voted overwhelmingly to end two weeks of strike action in a protracted dispute over zero hours contracts at the Hovis bakery in Wigan.

Under a settlement which was put to the workforce on Saturday (21 September), agency employees who work 39 hours per week for 12 consecutive weeks will be moved to parity pay.

Plaza Hotel workers fight back and win

September 23, 2013

A small strike at the Plaza Hotel in Toronto was recently settled, beating back significant concessions.

Thirty-five members of the United Steelworkers were forced out on strike by an owner who was attempting to slash kitchen staff wages by five dollars an hour, room attendant wages by one dollar an hour, and to gut the collective agreement.

The workers turned down the offer by a significant majority and the union started a strong campaign to fight back against management. Weekly rallies were held and organizations such as the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, the Ontario Federation of Labour and Unite Here held solidarity actions. Teachers’ unions and others who had used the hotel meeting rooms met with the owner, expressing their support for the striking workers.

University of Windsor profs back CUPE 1393, cancel classes

CBC News, September 24, 2013

Members of the Windsor University Faculty Association elected to honour the CUPE 1393 picket line Tuesday at the University of Windsor.

Unionized faculty cancelled classes across campus.

Brian E. Brown, the association’s president, didn’t know exactly how many members refused to cross the line or how many classes were cancelled.

“There have been an awful lot of [professors] cancel classes and put a work plan into their dean that explains how they’re going to make up class, if they’re cancelled today,” he said. “It’s part of our collective agreement. Everyone has the right to respect the picket line.”

CUPE 1393 strike co-ordinator Aldo DiCarlo appreciated the support.

RCMP Union Case Delayed

By Dale Smith,, October 1, 2013

Organizers attempting to unionize the RCMP must wait till 2014 to see their case in the Supreme Court.

Members of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada said their attempt to overturn a century-old ban on forming a union, originally scheduled for a Nov. 5 hearing, is now postponed till the Supreme Court’s winter session ending March 31.

“We’ve been waiting for years,” said Rob Creasser, association spokesperson. “If we have to wait another few months, it is not an issue.”

Creasser added, “This will have far-reaching effects beyond the RCMP; it will affect workplaces throughout the nation.”

RCMP exempt from forming a union under the Public Service Relations Act and RCMP Regulations have argued the law is an unconstitutional infringement of their right to association. Ontario Superior Court agreed in 2009, ruling that federal police “have a constitutional right to form an independent association for labour relations free of management interference.”

However the judgment was overturned by the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2012. At the Supreme Court the appeal is being heard with a second case, the RCMP’s legal challenge of a retroactive 2008 pay rollback by the federal Treasury Board.

“The Supreme Court has linked these two together,” Creasser said. “It’s very important the Court come out with clear guidelines as to what is covered under the Charter, and what constitutes collective bargaining.”

In the pay rollback case, Treasury Board rescinded a three-year, 8.8 percent increase for RCMP members five months after approving it on June 26, 2008, citing a government-wide austerity drive. The cabinet-level board rolled back the increase to 1.5 percent annually, and vetoed a doubling of seniority pay.

A Federal Court judge, Elizabeth Heneghan, said the rollback marked “substantial interference” in contract negotiations. Cabinet appealed.

Supreme Court to Inspect Neutrality Agreements (USA)

By Jenny Brown, September 26, 2013

As the legal system keeps choking organizing possibilities, it’s now a rare campaign in the private sector where the union doesn’t first extract a “neutrality agreement” to blunt the boss’s wrath. In November, the Supreme Court will consider whether such agreements are legal.

Neutrality agreements create rules for union and employer behavior during organizing drives. Often an employer signs such an agreement only after years of targeted union pressure. The employer promises not to try to sway workers’ opinions, allowing them some breathing room when labor law is mostly on management’s side.

Such a deal may also include “card check” (the employer will recognize the union if a majority of workers say they want one) or improved rules for an NLRB-supervised vote, such as a quicker election.

Looting the Pension Funds

By Matt Taibbi, September

In the final months of 2011, almost two years before the city of Detroit would shock America by declaring bankruptcy in the face of what it claimed were insurmountable pension costs, the state of Rhode Island took bold action to avert what it called its own looming pension crisis. Led by its newly elected treasurer, Gina Raimondo – an ostentatiously ambitious 42-year-old Rhodes scholar and former venture capitalist – the state declared war on public pensions, ramming through an ingenious new law slashing benefits of state employees with a speed and ferocity seldom before seen by any local government.

Garment workers, police clash again in Bangladesh

Julhas Alam, The Globe and Mail, September 23, 2013

Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas Monday in the third day of clashes with thousands of garment workers demanding better minimum wages amid escalating tension over the country’s main export business.

Police said the violence mainly took place in the Gazipur and Savar Industrial zones, just outside the capital of Dhaka. Hundreds of factories that produce clothing for many big global brands, including Wal-Mart and H&M, are located in those two areas.

Mining for Profits in International Tribunals – Updated

In the context of high global prices for natural resources, governments seeking to ensure that their people benefit fairly from these resources and do not suffer from environmentally harmful extractive projects are finding themselves increasingly at odds with transnational corporations.[i]

In these battles over resource rights, transnational companies are increasingly using a powerful and relatively new weapon – the right to sue governments in international arbitration tribunals granted under a complex web of free trade agreements (FTAs) and thousands of bilateral investment treaties (BITs).

This report explains the institutional framework that allows global firms to extract enormous profits in international arbitration tribunals. It then documents the increased use of these rights by transnational corporations involved in the oil, mining, and gas industries, particularly in Latin America.

This analysis is particularly important in the context of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement currently being negotiated among 11 countries:  Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. As of April 2013, Japan was also on track to join the talks, and other countries like South Korea and Thailand have also expressed interest.

Death of An Adjunct: A Sobering, True Story

Open Culture, September 19, 2013

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a sad and galling story yesterday about Mary Margaret Vojtko who died of a heart attack at the age of 83. At the time of her death, Daniel Kovalik writes:

“She was receiving radiation therapy for the cancer that had just returned to her, she was living nearly homeless because she could not afford the upkeep on her home, which was literally falling in on itself, and now, she explained, she had received another indignity — a letter from Adult Protective Services telling her that someone had referred her case to them saying that she needed assistance in taking care of herself.”


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