Labour News Update: December 2, 2013

Heinz Leamington: Ripe for a Cooperative by Doug Nesbitt, The Bullet – November 30

With no real choices offered by the three parties, Ontario’s workers and unions need new solutions that can confront immediate plant closures, while beginning to tackle the bigger economically-rooted problems of growing wealth inequality and climate crisis. Organized labour’s current “strategies” against plant closure are going nowhere. As with Electro-Motive Diesel closure in London, union executives writing letters to federal cabinet ministers to request intervention or a review of foreign investment regulations has failed. Accepting concessions and two-tier contracts to “save jobs” is also failing, and not bringing jobs back in the numbers required. In fact, it’s turning younger unionized workers against their own unions which continually sell them out. And telling people to get jobs in Alberta isn’t going to help the climate crisis one bit. With Employment Insurance eligibility in Ontario at record lows (including below 30 per cent in mid-2012), our social safety net isn’t working either.

BaQdFaOCEAAI2-HMassive Black Friday strike and arrests planned, as workers defy Wal-Mart by Josh Eidelson – November 29

Defying the nation’s top employer and a business model that defines the new U.S. economy, Wal-Mart employees and allies will try to oust shopping headlines with strike stories, and throw a retail giant off its heels on what should be its happiest day of the year. By day’s end, organizers expect 1,500 total protests in cities ranging from Los Angeles, Calif., to Wasilla, Alaska, including arrests in nine cities: Seacaucus, New Jersey; Alexandria, Virginia; Dallas; Minneapolis; Chicago; Seattle; and Ontario, San Leandro, and Sacramento, California.

As WestJet pilots reject tentative agreement, discord may fuel union drive by Scott Deveau, Windsor Star – November 29

On what was meant to be one of the happiest days of the year at WestJet Airlines Ltd., a rare sign of discord reared its head as the carrier’s pilots came out in droves and rejected a new tentative agreement. Friday was profit share day at WestJet — one of two days in the year in which millions of dollars are doled out to the airline’s employees in profit share cheques. But before the celebration could begin, the airline’s pilots sent a signal that all is not well at the carrier that prides itself on its employee relations. The pilots voted nearly 59% against a new labour contract that was endorsed by both management and the leadership of the company’s non-unionized WestJet Pilots Association. While the vote was far from overwhelming, the turnout was strong at 96%.The outcome also added fuel to simmering unionization efforts underway at the airline, including that of its pilots by a group calling themselves the WestJet Professional Pilots Association.

Halifax Shipyard investigation finds no evidence of bullying by CBC – November 29 

Company president Kevin McCoy said their complaints were investigated by the company, but they found no evidence of the allegations. “Yesterday was a very tough day in the shipyard and in the shipyard family,” McCoy said, referring to the death of the 58-year-old scaffolding builder. “It was a horrific event. A very big shock to the entire shipyard.” McCoy said as emotions ran high, workers made incorrect statements to reporters. “I want to set the record straight and say nothing surrounding the employment history and the recent history with Mr. MacKenzie involved bullying. We take that very, very seriously here,” McCoy said.

A Tale of Two Factories – Heinz and Boeing by Gerard Trolio, -November 29 

In other words – put workers in actual democratic control of the Boeing plant. That’s too much for the Bay Street friendly Liberals and PCs in Ontario. The NDP isn’t going to touch that idea because the leadership sees such demands as a relic of the past Employees at the Heinz plant have already set up a Facebook group called “Save the Heinz Factory in Leamington Ontario.” While they are still looking for someone to invest in the plant, they are calling for help to turn the factory in to a worker run co-op if no investor steps forward. Leave it to the workers in Leamington to come up with ideas beyond the grasp of Ontario’s political class. It’s time for some Kshama Sawants in Ontario.

9220836Unions storm the Alberta Legislature over ‘bad faith’ bills by Matt Dykstra, Calgary Sun – November 28 

Provincial union members stormed the Alberta Legislature Wednesday to cry foul on new legislation that forces wage freezes on unionized public servants and introduces greater penalties for illegal strike action. Roughly 150 unionized protesters stomped and shouted inside the legislature rotunda, just one floor above the media room where Finance Minister Doug Horner and Progressive Conservative House Leader Dave Hancock briefed reporters on the two contentious bills. Bill 46, the Public Service Salary Restrainment Act, will force the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) to return to the bargaining table or accept a 0% wage increase for their 21,642 members in 2013-14 “to help the government reach a balanced budget.”

Suicide – The Last Straw At Halifax Shipyard by Judy Haiven, – November 28

The tragic suicide by a worker with 38 years’ seniority at Halifax Shipyard on Wednesday, sparked a walk out of more than 300 shipyard workers on Thursday. First thing this morning, workers found out that on learning of their comrade’s death, workers on the previous night’s shift had refused to work. At about 8 am Thursday, the day shift, who had just arrived, downed tools and walked out. While union leaders went to the Shipyard’s office to demand an end to management bullying and hounding employees, more than 300 workers and some supporters poured out of the yards and blocked traffic on Barrington Street at morning rush hour.  Management quickly decided to lower the flags at half-mast, and promised to look into the events that lead to the worker’s death.

B97255556Z.120131128152154000GR849281.11Halifax shipyard workers walk off job by Ian Fairclough, Chronicle Herald – November 28 

Unionized workers at the Halifax Shipyard walked off the job Thursday morning in reaction to the death of one of their co-workers. Workers say Peter MacKenzie, who worked for the yard for more than 30 years, was distraught after being suspended for 30 days on Tuesday and killed himself Wednesday. But Rick Rose, the national representative for Unifor, the union representing the workers, cautioned it is too early to say the suspension was directly responsible for the death. Co-workers allege MacKenzie was harassed by management before his suspension. They said suspensions and firings have been a problem for other workers since the company won a contract to build new ships for the navy and brought in a new management team.

March of Dimes workers reach tentative contract deal by National Union of Public and General Employees – November 28

“I want to congratulate the members of Local 262 for hanging tough in the face of an employer who preferred to put the profits earned by the agency ahead of the needs of its clients and employees,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. Local 262 at the March of Dimes in Oakville have reached a tentative contract deal after being locked out by the employer since October 28. A ratification vote is scheduled for Nov. 28.

How Tim Hudak’s Tories are unifying unions by Martin Regg Cohn, Toronto Star – November 28

Ontario’s house of labour is a house divided. But you won’t glimpse any behind-the-scenes bitterness at this week’s convention of the Ontario Federation of Labour. Thanks to Tim Hudak’s Tories, union leaders are sticking to their story — and sticking together. But for the OFL, a storied group of unions, there is an untold tale (big labour not being big news these days, despite their week-long meeting in Toronto): The spectre of war with an anti-union Tory government-in-waiting has brought internal peace to unionists at war with themselves. Nothing like an external opponent to keep internal enemies in line.

Whole Foods strike wins Thanksgiving day off, workers say by Josh Eidelson, – November 27

A handful of Whole Foods workers plan to strike today at two stores, joining this month’s wave of non-union low-wage worker strikes and highlighting their opposition to an escalating trend: Employees stuck spending Thanksgiving with throngs of customers rather than in the company of friends and family. Whole Foods employee Matthew Camp, a member of the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago (WOCC), told Salon he expects about ten workers to join the walkout, which will include an afternoon rally with fast food and Wal-Mart employees and other supporters. “I think it will be disruptive, but that’s kind of the point: to disrupt the flow of things,” said Camp. He added, “Causing a disruption also provides us with a platform – you know, we have to make some noise to get our point across.”

Hours into today’s strike, Whole Foods told Salon its Thanksgiving policy had been misrepresented — and workers say the company has now caved to their demand.

Workers rally for increase to minimum wage in Ontario by John Bonnar, – November 27

On Wednesday, afternoon labour unions, vulnerable worker groups and community partners marched from the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel to Dundas Square for a rally demanding an immediate increase to the Ontario minimum wage.

Wildcat Strikes Push China to Write New Labor Laws by Ellen David Friedman, Labor Notes – November 27

More than 30 years since China opened up to foreign investment, wildcat strikes surge month after month. They are driven by workers with no meaningful access to union representation, to a worker center, to the media, to legal mechanisms, or to government intervention on their behalf. And yet workers in industries from electronics to health care continue to strike, impelled by low wages as low as $2 an hour. – See more at:

Petition to expand the CPP/QPP by Canadian Labour Congress 

The best way to help today’s workers save enough money for tomorrow is by increasing what everybody gets from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP)as a share of their total retirement income. Expanding the CPP is about preparing for the future, and leaving behind a better system for our kids. Join thousands of Canadians who are telling their Members of Parliament to increase pension benefits under the Canada and Quebec Pension Plans, and implement a fully funded plan to phase in such an increase without delay.

Stop Line 9 Should Be Labour’s Demand by Herman Rosenfeld, – November 27 

This is an opportunity to build, not to be wasted on narrow, sectional interests, and outdated strategies. People – especially young people – are looking to UNIFOR to create openings for inspiration and organization. Rethinking their position on Line 9 is an opportunity for UNIFOR to demonstrate a new way for labour unions to learn from and engage with other social movements, themselves, rooted in the working-class. Engaging in a constructive debate with the perspective in Wilson’s column is also an opportunity for the environmental movement to challenge the union movement to step up to the plate.

Midwives seek more pay from province by CBC – November 27 

Midwives in Windsor say they should be paid more because they do a lot more than before. Crystal Hall has been in midwifery since 1997. “When we first started, we were funded to provide women in low risk normal settings, provide care from the beginning of the pregnancy right to the end,” she said. “Now, we’re prescribing more medications. We’re just doing way more than we were funded for.”

SeaTac $15 Minimum Wage Barely Passes In Final Vote Tally, Recount May Follow by Dave Jamieson, BZ5QLYnCcAAje_XHuffington Post – November 26 

After weeks of careful ballot counting, officials in Washington state on Tuesday certified the results in a potentially historic vote that will create far and away the highest minimum wage in America. Squeaking by with a mere 77-vote margin, the ballot measure known as Proposition 1 will set a $15 wage floor for an estimated 6,000 airport and hotel workers in SeaTac, Wash., a suburb of 27,000 residents south of Seattle.

Study: Long-term trends in unionization, 1981 to 2012 by StatsCan – November 26

Between 1981 and 2012, Canada’s unionization rate — defined as the proportion of paid employees who are union members — declined from 38% to 30%. Most of the decline, however, took place in the 1980s and the 1990s. The unionization rate among men declined from 42% to 29% over the period. Men of all ages were affected by the decline, especially those aged 25 to 44. Among women, the unionization rate remained stable at around 30% over the period. However, this stability masked two offsetting trends: a decline among women aged less than 45, and an increase among those aged 45 to 64.

Protesters storm The Bay in Vancouver over factory workers’ rights by CTV News – November 25

Dozens of protesters calling on The Bay to protect factory workers snaked their way through the store’s flagship location in Vancouver Monday, yelling “Sign the Accord” as they marched through the department store.

The demonstrators, which include garment factory workers and members of the B.C. Federation of Labour, want The Bay and its chain of stores to sign The Bangladesh Accord — which promises independent safety inspections, public reports on factory conditions and that companies will cover the cost of needed repairs.

Arbitrator chooses employer’s offer in paramedics contract talks by Kyle Jackson, Chronicle Herald – November 25

Nova Scotia’s paramedics, who went to the brink of a strike in the summer, have come out on the short end of an arbitrator’s decision on how much their raises should be.
Retired judge J.A. MacLellan sided with employer Emergency Medical Care Inc. in awarding increases totalling 10.6 per cent over 55 months, while the paramedics sought 15 per cent.
In the decision, MacLellan said he considered the union bargaining committee’s unanimous endorsement of a tentative agreement, raises elsewhere in the private sector and the province’s economic situation in reaching the decision.

Toronto Library Workers Showed us How to Beat Rob Ford by Paul Denison, From The Rank And File – November 23

For the last few months the news has been filled with reports of mayor Rob Ford’s antics.  After several attempts to remove him from office using legal and procedural means, it seems that if he has not yet been ousted he has at least been muzzled and his anti-worker, cut back agenda is in disarray. However, it is good to remember that it was the effective organizing work of the Toronto library workers two years previously that was the tipping point in the fight back against the Ford agenda.

Unifor is calling for the modernization of Canada’s passenger rail system, including setting up high speed rail service by Unifor

Years of government funding cuts at Via Rail have led to service and job reductions – and a corresponding decline in ridership, Unifor is calling for a new vision for passenger rail in Canada – a bold new plan that would introduce high speed rail to Canadians, boost jobs and help reduce our environmental footprint.

Your health and safety at work is under threat! by Canadian Labour Congress November 15 [VIDEO]

The lives of almost one million Canadian workers will be placed in danger as a result of cynical amendments that the Conservative government is making to the Canada Labour Code. Buried deep in the government’s latest budget bill tabled on October 22 are amendments to the health and safety provisions of the Code that have nothing to do with balancing the budget, and everything to do with putting workers’ lives at risk. Watch this video to learn more on how you can help stop this.

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