Labour News Update: Nov. 11, 2013

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Supreme Court to Take Up Challenges to Union Practices
Steven Greenhouse
Nov. 10, 2013
New York Times

Labor leaders and businesses are closely watching a Supreme Court case to be argued this Wednesday that involves a popular strategy used by unions to successfully organize hundreds of thousands of workers.

That strategy — widely deployed by the Service Employees International Union and the Unite Here hotel workers union — involves pressuring an employer into signing a so-called neutrality agreement in which the employer promises not to oppose a unionization drive. By some estimates, more than half of the recent successful unionization campaigns involve such agreements, which sometimes allow union organizers onto company property to talk with workers.

Benjamin Sachs, a professor of labor law at Harvard Law School, said the case before the Supreme Court was potentially “the most significant labor case in a generation.”

Barrick’s Pascua Lama workers drop strike
Cecilia Jamasmie
November 8, 2013
Mining.com

Unionized workers representing Barrick Gold’s (TSX, NYSE:ABX) suspended Pascua Lama mine, signed Friday a new contract and abandoned threats of a strike scheduled to begin today, which could have seriously risked the project viability. Union president Alexis Spencer told Diario El Día (in Spanish) the deal includes an average wage increase of 5%, improved benefits, a US$15,500 one-time end-of conflict bonus, and better severance payment conditions. The new collective contract will last for the next 27 months.

Union wants to talk to N.B. gov’t about proposed pension changes
Nov. 8, 2013
CTV News

FREDERICTON — A union that represents public workers in New Brunswick says the provincial government should slow down the implementation of its proposed pension plan changes.The Canadian Union of Public Employees is calling on the government to discuss ways of preserving the defined benefit pension plan before revising the pension plan. Premier David Alward has promised to move the public sector pension plan to a shared-risk model in an effort to address a $1-billion deficit.

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Portugal public workers go on strike amid new wage cuts
Nov. 8, 2013
Press TV

Portuguese public workers have gone on a 24-hour nationwide strike to protest against the government’s new round of wage and pension cuts. Among those who joined the walkout on Friday were hospital workers, teachers and trash collectors. Medical workers had hung banners along the railings of hospitals reading, “Against the dismantling of the state” and “Hard-won rights cannot be stolen.” Protesters are against the government’s new austerity measures introduced in the country’s budget for 2014.

TORONTO - Unjustly fired Richtree restaurant workers protest as lockout deadline approaches.
TORONTO – Unjustly fired Richtree restaurant workers protest as lockout deadline approaches.

Richtree Market ramps up attacks against workers with November 18 lockout deadline: Protestors converge on Eaton Centre location on eve of shopping season
Nov. 7, 2013
UniteHere Local 75

Richtree Restaurants has already been the focus of numerous community protests for re-opening its Eaton Centre restaurant non-union after renovations, and failing to bring back nearly 50 original workers, many of whom had worked for the restaurant for decades.UNITE HERE Local 75 represents Richtree Restaurant workers at three GTA locations. Workers have been trying to negotiate a new contract with the company since March 2012.Last week, Richtree ramped up its attack against workers by seeking a strike/lockout deadline for its Bayview/Eaton Centre units. Angry community members and workers plan to voice their outrage at a protest at the Eaton Centre location on November 7.

Quebec labour leader calls for counterattack against Tory anti-union policies
Nov. 7, 2013
CTV News

OTTAWA — It’s time for Canada’s labour movement to mobilize for a counterattack against the Harper government’s anti-union policies, a Quebec labour leader said Thursday. Jean Lortie, general secretary of the Confederation des syndicats nationaux, says the federal government has declared war on unions and the middle class and it’s time to fight back.

Canadian rail safety plans are kept secret from public
Nov. 6, 2013
Wendy Gillis
Toronto Star

As a growing number of train derailments raise public safety concerns, documents that contain a rail company’s safety plan — and play a key role in the regulation of the rail industry — are “locked up in a vault,” say some industry experts and safety advocates.

BAE slashes hundreds of jobs at shipyards in England, Scotland
Danica Kirca
Nov. 6, 2013
The Globe and Mail

British defence contractor BAE Systems announced plans to cut some 1,775 jobs at three shipyards Wednesday, ending the building of warships in England for the first time in hundreds of years.

Anti-austerity strike shutters services across Greece
Nov. 6, 2013
CTV News

ATHENS — Services across Greece were shutting down Wednesday as unions held a 24-hour general strike to protest further austerity cuts in the cash-strapped country.The strike disrupted public transport, halted ferry and train services, shut down courts, state-run schools and left state hospitals and the ambulance service functioning with emergency staff.

Encana laying off 20% of workers: Oil and gas producer plans to sell assets, spin off mineral rights
Nov. 5, 2013
CBC News

Canadian natural gas giant Encana says it will cut its workforce by 20 per cent and close its office in Plano, Texas. At the end of the last fiscal year, Encana had 4,169 employees, so a 20 per cent reduction would work out to just over 800 people.The Calgary-based company also plans to narrow its production focus to five oil-related projects in North America from as many as 30.

Beer makes 1 out of 100 Canadian jobs: Conference Board of Canada says beer accounts for 45% of all beverage alcohol sales
Nov. 5, 2013
CBC News

A report from the Conference Board of Canada says beer is a major driver of Canada’s economy, supporting 163,200 jobs across the country. Canada’s beer industry is disproportionately domestic compared to that of other countries, the report released Tuesday found, as 85 per cent of the beer consumed in Canada is produced here.

Regina Transit job action to start work-to-rule protest begins on Tuesday
Nov. 4, 2013
Vanessa Brown
The Leader Post

Frustrated that contract negotiations with the City of Regina have stalled, transit workers are to begin work-to-rule job action Tuesday morning. Buses will continue to operate on all routes, but residents should expect a slowdown as drivers will not go over the speed limit and plan to cut back on using their radios, said Don Baker, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 588.

Young workers fight for representation at CUPE national convention
Nov. 4, 2013
H.G. Watson
Rabble.ca

Lydia Dobson wasn’t planning on running for the presidency of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) when she arrived at her first ever national convention October 21. She had only been a member of CUPE Local 4600, which represents teaching assistants and contract instructors at Carleton University in Ottawa, for just over a year, though in that time she had become the recording secretary of the local.

But when she arrived at a caucus for young workers on the first night of the convention, she found there were only three people in attendance in a room that could comfortably fit over 100.
“That triggered my concern for the young workers issues,” she explained. “Just looking around the physical space and the people I was seeing — I really didn’t recognize many young workers.”

Frustrated, she felt that she had to do something to make her voice heard. So two days later she was the surprise nominee for the presidency of the largest public union in Canada. It was a protest against what she feels is the lack of representation of young workers within CUPE. It’s a concern shared by other workers within the union.

Public service unions to lobby MPs against labour law changes in omnibus budget bill
Abbas Rana
Nov. 4, 2013
The Hill Times

The 17 unions representing thousands of federal public servants are lobbying Parliamentarians this week to convince them the government’s latest omnibus Budget Implementation Bill is “life threatening,” and an “attack on the constitutional right to collective bargaining,” and warn that MPs voting in favour of Bill C-4 with provisions related to public servants will face consequences in the next federal election.

Michel Arsenault, recently resigned president of Fédération des Travailleurs et Travailleuses du Québec.
Michel Arsenault, recently resigned president of Fédération des Travailleurs et Travailleuses du Québec.

Quebec union leader Michel Arsenault resigns
Nov. 4, 2013
Sidhartha Banerjee
The Toronto Star

MONTREAL—The head of Quebec’s biggest labour union has resigned, one day after an investigative report into his dealings with Premier Pauline Marois amid a barrage of other controversies.The report by Radio-Canada was the latest difficulty to befall Michel Arsenault, chairman of the FTQ, who has been overheard on wiretap conversations in recent days as the provincial corruption inquiry examines union ties to organized crime.

Workers at first unionized H&M store in Québec gain first collective agreement
Nov. 2, 2013
UFCW.ca

Montreal – November 2, 2013 – UFCW Canada Local 500 is pleased and proud to announce that members working as sales advisors at the H&M store located in the Galeries Joliette shopping centre have signed their first collective agreement. The location is the Swedish multinational’s first-ever store to be unionized in Québec. The contract runs until 2016. The agreement includes pay rate protection regardless of employment status, as well as better personal leave provisions for part-time employees.

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