Labour news update: October 28, 2013

Oil train derailment in Alberta and gas fracking protest in New Brunswick add to fossil fuel industry woes in Canada

By Roger Annis, first published in the Vancouver Observer, October 24, 2013

Another oil train derailment and explosion in Canada has sent nearby residents fleeing from their homes in the middle of the night. It happened at 1 a.m. on Saturday, October 19 on a CN Rail line outside the hamlet of Gainford, Alberta, 85 km west of Edmonton. The accident coincides with new steps by the Canadian government to extend oil and other resource extraction into the Arctic.

A portion of a long, mixed-cargo CN Rail train traveling westbound derailed. Nine of the derailed wagons were carrying liquid petroleum gas (propane) and four contained crude oil. Three of the propane wagons exploded into flames. A fourth was breached. The accident closed the adjoining Trans Canada Highway for days. Fortunately, no lives were lost or serious injuries sustained in the conflagration.

Lac-Mégantic: The buck stops at Parliament Hill—study 

October 22, 2013

A study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) points the finger at corporate negligence and regulatory failure as root causes of the Lac-Mégantic disaster.

According to the study, by CCPA Executive Director Bruce Campbell, the evidence to date suggests a flawed regulatory system and cost-cutting corporate behavior that jeopardized public safety and the environment, with the chain of responsibility extending to the highest levels of corporate management and government policy-making.

“Barring new evidence, it seems Montreal, Maine and Atlantic, an admittedly poor performer compared to other companies, simply took advantage of the freedom granted by the regulatory system,” says Campbell.

The last five years have seen a wild-west boom in the transportation of oil by rail. Close to 275,000 barrels of crude oil per day are now shipped by rail in Canada—up from almost none five years ago. And yet, Transport Canada’s Dangerous Goods division budget has remained extremely small—$13 million to cover all modes of transportation.

“It has only 35 inspectors, the equivalent of just one inspector for every 4,000 tank carloads of crude oil transported in 2013. In 2009, when the oil-by-rail boom started, there was one inspector for every 14 tank carloads,” Campbell says.

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Activist investors destroying companies, costing jobs

October 8, 2013

Activist shareholders are destroying companies and causing widespread job losses even at firms that aren’t directly targeted, according to leading U.S. corporate lawyer Martin Lipton.

Mr. Lipton told an Ontario Securities Commission conference Tuesday that shareholders are becoming too powerful a force in the corporate world, especially some of the most prominent hedge fund activist investors like Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman.

They can drive up the price of a stock just by taking a position in a company, he said, but in the longer term drive companies to sell off assets and pay out cash to investors, leaving them weaker and more vulnerable.

“There is quality empirical evidence that short-termism and activism have an adverse impact on the long-term prospects of companies generally, and not just those who have been attacked but those who have adjusted to forestall attacks,” he said.

Tony Clement on public service right to strike: Spite or Ideology? 

October 22, 2013

A must listen! The federal Treasury Board president spoke to Ottawa Morning Thursday defending proposed legislation in the latest budget bill.

Public Service Alliance of Canada: Budget Implementation Act undermines the rights of federal government workers

October 22, 2013

The Conservative government has leveled another attack on the rights of federal public sector workers today.  The Budget Implementation Act, Bill C-4, proposes drastic changes to collective bargaining rights, health and safety and human rights protections that will irreparably damage the relationship between the government and its employees.

While PSAC is still in the midst of analyzing the bill in depth, the most immediate concerns include:

  • changing the rules to give the government the unilateral right to decide which federal workers can strike;
  • changing the definition of “danger” to significantly narrow the definition of what is considered a health and safety hazard, and the removal of the enforcement powers of federal Health and Safety Officers;
  • and significant changes to the right to recourse for workers who are mistreated or discriminated against.

“The government is upsetting the balance of labour relations, and is showing a callous disregard for due process, health and safety and the collective bargaining rights of every single federal public service employee,” says Robyn Benson, National President of PSAC. “The collective bargaining rights and the protections of workers who face discrimination, who do dangerous work, or who are treated unfairly will be undermined by the proposals in this bill.”

PSAC will be exploring all options to defend the democratic and human rights of its members.

187,000 Objections

October 26, 2013

By Dale Smith

A union representing 187,000 federal employees is appealing to cabinet to reconsider restrictions to right-to-strike provisions of federal law.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada yesterday urged withdrawal of amendments to the Public Service Labour Relations Act that would see any federal employee designated an “essential” worker forbidden from striking.

“It is designed to undermine the democratic right of public sector workers to bargain collectively,” said Robyn Benson, PSAC president. “They give the employer extraordinary, unchecked powers in all workplace matters.”

The amendment inserted in Bill C-4, an omnibus budget measure, grant cabinet “the exclusive right to determine whether any service, facility or activity of the Government of Canada is essential because it is or will be necessary for the safety or security of the public or a segment of the public.”

The Supreme Court of Canada on Oct. 17 agreed to hear an appeal of a similar Saskatchewan law to determine if the measure is illegal. Unions have argued the limits contravene their right to association detailed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

More union-bashing as Stephen Harper tries to deflect attention from Senate: Walkom

October 24, 2013

By Thomas Walkom

Stephen Harper has a tried and true formula to placate his political base: When in trouble, attack either sex offenders or unions.

This month, it was Canada’s federal public sector unions who drew the short straw. Under the gun for his handling of the Senate expense scandal, the prime minister has come up with yet another anti-union move designed to make red-meat conservatives howl in approval.

The government’s latest omnibus budget bill would give the government the unilateral power to determine which civil servants are essential workers and thus disqualified from striking.

This in itself is a break from standard Canadian practice, aping a Saskatchewan measure whose constitutionality is currently being appealed to the Supreme Court.

Loblaw members in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba ratify new contracts

Toronto – October 24, 2013 – More than 15,000UFCW Canada members in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have ratified new contracts with Loblaw Companies Limited, Canada’s largest food retailer.

The Unity Bargaining efforts of UFCW Canada Locals 401, 832, and 1400 played a central role in securing the new collective agreements for the members and their families.

In Manitoba, Local 832 members working at Superstore and Extra Food locations throughout the province ratified their new five-year deal yesterday by more than 90 per cent.

In Saskatchewan, Local 1400 members voted on October 15 and 16 to accept the new contract with strong approval rates. The new contract will cover UFCW Canada members at Extra Foods Rural, Extra Foods Urban, Real Canadian Wholesale Club (RCWC), and Superstore locations across the province.

And in Alberta, Local 401 members also voted overwhelming to accept their new contract on October 8 with 85 to 91 percent approval rates; Local 401 reports that improvements were achieved in virtually every area of the new collective agreement.

Two Cape Breton MLAs appointed to cabinet positions

October 22, 2013

Geoff MacLellan, the MLA for Glace Bay, speaking shortly after he was named to the cabinet position Tuesday morning, said the Liberals who were sworn in as Nova Scotia’s new government on Tuesday morning felt all along that the asphalt paving plant was not a cost-saver for the province.paving

“We are going to let the private-sector contractors who do this good work across the entire province bid for those opportunities and to do the work on those roads,” MacLellan said.

“We will no longer be using that plant.”

Feminist “Janettes” hold Montreal rally to back Charter of Quebec Values

October 26, 2013

By Aaron Derfel

MONTREAL — Braving a cold drizzle Saturday afternoon, several thousand self-styled “Janettes” — far less than organizers expected — marched downtown to Lafontaine Park in support of the Charter of Quebec Values.

Organizers had hoped for a turnout of 20,000, but the final number was considerably less than that even though some pro-charter supporters were bused in from as far away as Trois-Rivières. Montreal police refused to provide any figures, but most estimates on Twitter from people taking part in the march ranged from 3,000 to 5,000, while TVA Nouvelles claimed that “close to 20,000” took part, without citing any source.

Named after Janette Bertrand, an 88-year-old former journalist and actress, the Janettes aim to promote equality between the sexes, asserting that the charter of values promotes such equality.

“The last thing I want to be accused of is xenophobia. This is about equality between men and women,” said Solange Bolduc, a woman in her fifties, who attended the march that began at Place des Festivals downtown.

Report overturns conventional view of Canadian job markets

October 21, 2013

By Tavia Grant

For all the cry over skills and labour shortages in Canada, little evidence points to their widespread existence, a new report says.

Some pockets of Canada may be seeing shortages – such as in the Prairies, but a study to be released Tuesday argues forcefully against the notion of looming economy-wide labour shortages. Analysis of vacancy, wage and unemployment rates in the country finds no proof of an imminent skills crisis.

New Ontario bargaining legislation for teachers aims to stave off labour unrest

October 21, 2013

By Caroline Alphonso

The Ontario government will introduce legislation on teacher collective bargaining Tuesday in the hopes of preventing a repeat of the labour turmoil that gripped the school system through most of the last academic year.

The legislation will spell out how negotiations, expected to begin in 2014, will be conducted, education sector sources say. Big monetary issues, such as salaries and benefits, will be negotiated centrally by the government, teacher and support staff unions and school board associations. Bargaining on local issues, such as teacher workload, access to technology and training, will take place between individual school boards and their respective unions.

What the world can teach Canada about building better daycare

October 23, 2013

By Erin Anderssen

This is the fifth in a Globe six-part series about building a better daycare system in Canada that examines just who is watching the kids, across the country and around the world. Join the conversation on Twitter: follow@globelife and use the hashtag #globedaycare

If Canada really wants to help its families juggle work and kids – and rescue them from a child-care system defined by wait lists, poor quality and fees as high as mortgage payments – the country can borrow from the best, Sweden, where daycare is part of a full childhood, not just somewhere to park the kids when heading to work.

Supreme Court will hear Sask. labour law appeal

October 17, 2013

The Supreme Court of Canada says it will hear an appeal of Saskatchewan’s labour law overhaul.

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour applied to appeal before the country’s top court after losing lower court battles over the province’s essential services law and changes to the Trade Union Act making it potentially tougher to unionize.

Economic Implications of Recent Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Christopher Worswick

Diversity, Immigration and Integration

October 17, 2013

  • The policy changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program the federal government announced in mid-2013 make sense economically.
  • There are ongoing concerns that temporary foreign workers may take jobs from young Canadians entering the labour market and lower-skilled Canadians.
  • An annual cap on the number of temporary workers entering Canada should be implemented while additional reforms are considered.

Factory Deaths in Bangladesh Fail to Spur Inspections

October 23, 2013

Six months ago, when 1,127 Bangladeshi workers were killed in the collapse of a high-rise warren of garment factories, international outcry led to pledges by western retailers and the government to set up a large-scale inspection regime and a new wage system.

Today, not a single Bangladeshi garment factory has been inspected under any of the three programs that sprang from those promises, according to officials at the programs. Nor has danger ceased in the $19 billion industry: Two weeks ago, a fire ripped through a factory in a Dhaka suburb that provided material for plants supplying clothing to companies including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) Nine workers died.

Portuguese labor groups begin raft of strikes

October 25, 2013

Portuguese postal workers opposed to the national mail service’s planned privatization are walking off the job for 24 hours, marking the start of a series of strikes by labor groups angry about reforms and austerity measures.

The government has announced plans to sell up to 70 percent of the state-owned mail company CTT-Correios de Portugal. Trade unions fear layoffs and a loss of entitlements.

The privatization is part of a lengthy list of measures Portugal agreed to enact in return for its 78 billion-euro ($107.7 billion) financial rescue in 2011. Tax hikes and pay and pension cuts are to continue next year.

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