Labour News Update – 30 December 2013

In’s final weekly labour news post for 2013:

  • Union organizing at Carleton University
  • Layoffs and resistance at Canada Post
  • Legal challenge waged against Albert’s Progressive Conservative government
  • Service sector organizing in Canada
  • Korean workers fight against the threat of rail privatization
  • IAMAW focuses on organizing non-traditional workplaces
  • Return of “Rae Days” in Ontario
  • New Statistics Canada data on CPI, payroll earnings & hours
  • Precarious workers & WalMart
  • Migrant workers in New Zealand
  • Labour, ecology, and the Northern Gateway Pipeline

CUPE National squashes unionizing effort at Carleton U.

By Priscillia Lefebvre

Female Residence Fellows at Carleton University in Ottawa were met with blatant sexism and were told to “calm down” and to “stop blowing things out of proportion” when they approached Housing and Conference Services in October of this year with accounts of being actively harassed and intimidated by a male coworker.

Earlier this fall, another Fellow had brought concerns to management about being targeted by a student through physical intimidation ,verbal threats, and cyberbullying since early September. The floor she lived on was trashed and the door to her room was tagged with sexually derogatory slurs, but it fell on deaf ears. Management allowed the harassment to continue, undermining her authority to issue sanctions to students. According to sources consulted for this article, the situation finally spun out of control two months later resulting in a brawl breaking out on the floor involving approximately 50 students.

What is the labour bureaucracy?

Speaker: Barry Weisleder, federal secretary, Socialist Action/Ligue pour l’Action socialiste; co-editor, Socialist Action newspaper; substitute teacher organizer, and member of OSSTF.

Education for Activists Conference, 6th Annual Toronto Socialist Action Trotsky School. The talk took place on November 15-16, 2013 at OISE, U of Toronto.

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees sues provincial government over wage law

By Dean Bennett/The Canadian Press, December 13, 2013

EDMONTON (CP) — Alberta’s largest public sector union has filed a lawsuit against Premier Alison Redford’s government over a new law that imposes a contract on union members.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees claims that the law violates the charter rights of workers to act collectively and also breaches their rights to liberty and security.

“The deprivations of liberty and security of the person caused by Bill 46 are not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice” reads the statement of claim filed in Court of Queen’s Bench Thursday.

The allegations in the statement of claim have not been proven in court.

ACC workers end strike, December 21, 2013

The week-long labour dispute between Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and Teamsters Local Union 847 ended Saturday.

The strike affected conversions staff, ice crew, restaurant and housekeeping staff at Air Canada Centre.

The Real Sports Bar & Grill will re-open Sunday at 4 p.m. and E11even restaurant will re-open Monday at 12 p.m.

“We appreciate the willingness of the union to work together towards a quick resolution, enabling us to focus on our top priority of providing our fans with the best experience and service at our restaurants and Air Canada Centre,” said Peter Miller, Chief Legal & Development Officer for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment in a statement.

Air Canada Centre workers reach deal to end weeklong strike: MLSE

CTV News, December 21, 2013

Air Canada Centre staff are set to return to work after a deal was reached to end a weeklong strike, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment said Saturday.

Approximately 600 workers, including housekeeping staff and those responsible for converting the hard court to ice, walked off the job last week after voting down their latest contract offer.
They are represented by Teamsters Local 847.

Teachers rally over unpaid day off

Kristin Rushowy, Toronto Star, Education Reporter, December 20, 2013

About 35 teachers rallied outside Ontario’s Ministry of Education offices in Toronto’s downtown core on Friday to mark a controversial unpaid day off.

Seth Bernstein, a teacher at Ursula Franklin Academy, who was one of the organizers, said that while small, the grassroots rally had “great energy,” and was fun, despite the wet weather.

Some teachers — himself included — even brought their children.

Contracting out blamed for poor snow clearing in HRM

The Chronicle Herald, December 20, 2013

Mayor Mike Savage said that, all things considered, the municipality did a pretty good job getting sidewalks and streets cleared.

A labour leader said Friday that part of the problem lies with contracting out ice- and snow-clearing work to private operators.

“Contracting out and job vacancies are at least partly to blame for the treacherous state of sidewalks over the past few days,” the union representing the municipality’s outside workers said in a news release.

“The current delivery model is an inefficient mix of municipal employees and several small contractors,” said Mike Young, president of CUPE Local 108.

He said in the release that the majority of winter street and sidewalk work is done by private outfits.

Service workers fight back

By Carolyn Egan, Socialist Worker, December 28, 2013

Service workers at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, members of the Teamsters, recently struck fighting for greater wages than the company initially offered. The withdrawal of labour hurt the bottom line over the holiday season and the Teamsters won an enhanced agreement.

4,500 homecare workers walked out earlier in December impacting over 45,000 families. These workers are primarily women from racialized communities and provide needed services to the elderly and others requiring services allowing them to remain in their own homes. They are some of the most vulnerable workers in the province. The highest wage rate is $15 an hour and many of the women have worked years to achieve this. They are compensated for only one third of their travel time going from home to home, working hours more than they are paid for. This is all on behalf of a for-profit company whose CEO makes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. The Red Cross merged last year and is now in the business of making money for shareholders at the expense of both the workers and those they care for.

Cadillac Fairview: Merry Christmas, you’re fired!

Cadillac Fairview makes a hefty profit as the owner and operator of malls and office buildings across the country. The company earned nearly $1 billion in profit last year alone.

But Cadillac Fairview isn’t willing to pay fair wages to the cleaning staff. Just a few months before Christmas, 150 of them lost their jobs when Cadillac Fairview changed to a lower paying contractor at two of its buildings in Vancouver.

You see, Cadillac Fairview found a contractor who paid its cleaning staff $10.50 an hour with crappy benefits, instead of $12.50 an hour. This is Vancouver, where a living wage is pegged at $19.62 an hour.

Now, just a few days before Christmas, some of the cleaning staff, along with their union Unifor, were back at the Pacific Centre mall in Vancouver on Saturday to deliver a message to the Grinch, also known as Cadillac Fairview. Check out the YouTube clip on-line.

Payroll employment, earnings and hours, October 2013

Statistics Canada

Average weekly earnings of non-farm payroll employees were $918 in October, up 0.5% from the previous month. On a year-over-year basis, weekly earnings increased 1.4%.

The 1.4% increase in weekly earnings during the 12 months to October reflected 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. Non-farm payroll employees worked an average of 32.9 hours per week in October, down from 33.1 hours in October 2012.

Consumer Price Index, November 2013

Statistics Canada

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.9% in the 12 months to November, following a 0.7% increase in October. November marked the 7th time in the last 13 months in which the CPI increased less than 1.0% on a year-over-year basis.

The Fossil Fuel Wars in British Columbia and Canada

By Roger Annis, The Bullet, December 23, 20134

On December 16, Kinder Morgan company made its official application to the National Energy Board for approval to build a $5.4-billion tar sands pipeline from Alberta to Vancouver harbour. The new line will use the path of its existing Trans Mountain Pipeline for part of the route, but it will diverge from that significantly in places, including in the final leg of the line into metropolitan Vancouver.

The population of British Columbia has risen four times since the original Trans Mountain pipeline was built in the 1950s. The new line will cross busy urban areas, seven provincial parks and 13 park reserves, including 500 rivers and streams. It will require expanded bulk-oil storage on the Vancouver harbourfront and increased berths for the estimated 35 tankers per month that will transport the line’s diluted bitumen to overseas markets.

Voices of Resistance to the Northern Gateway Pipeline

By Paul Bowles and Henry Veltmeyer, The Bullet, December 25, 2013

At the time of writing, the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel (JRP) has just published its recommendation that the Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway to transport Alberta’s tar sands oil to the northwest coast of British Columbia should be approved subject to 209 conditions. The JRP public hearings were completed in June 2013 and its decision – based on the National Energy Board Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act – was released on December 19th, 2013. The recommendation will now go to the Federal Cabinet for discussion and final decision. We do not know what the Harper government will decide, although given that the Prime Minister is on record that he will not accept “no” for an answer from the U.S. government to the proposed expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline, the signs are obvious and ominous and it would be a major surprise if the Conservatives turned their backs on their oil-patch supporters.

The British Columbia government chose to defer to the JRP although it did make a submission in which it declared that the proposal was unacceptable “as it stands.” Since then, Premiers Christy Clark of BC and Alison Redford of Alberta have been engaged in a merry public dance aimed at defending their interests but also in finding some common ground. A framework agreement between the two provinces was announced in early November. Nevertheless, there remains some uncertainty as the response to the JRP’s recommendation by the provincial government has continued to stress the importance of meeting its “five conditions.”[1]

Changing times, changing labour: IAMAW District 78

Scott Neigh, Talking Radical Radio, December 26, 2013

On this week’s Talking Radical Radio, lead organizer Scott Jackson of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) District 78, talks about how his union, historically based in large manufacturing workplaces, has responded to changing times by refocusing its organizing energies on smaller and non-traditional workplaces.

Canada Post & CUPW

Canada Post aims to reduce costs, injuries associated with rural delivery

By Andrea Hill, Postmedia News, December 23, 2013

OTTAWA — Less than two weeks after Canada Post announced it would end door-to-door delivery for urban Canadians, the Crown corporation is looking into standardizing rural mailboxes and adopting widespread use of reaching devices and right-hand drive vehicles to cut costs of rural mail delivery.

The belt tightening proposals were outlined Friday in the Canada Gazette, the government’s official publication with information on laws and government appointments.

Canada Post says some of its 4,500 rural and suburban mail carriers have complained of “ergonomic concerns” related to reaching across their vehicles to deposit mail out their passenger-side windows into rural mailboxes. The corporation notes that these “awkward movements” increase risk of repetitive strain injuries and generate additional expense for the corporation due to costs associated with injury on duty, replacement workers and paying additional people to ride in delivery vehicles and assist with depositing mail.Mail

Canada Post wants to eliminate my job as a letter carrier. Here’s why you should care

By Melanie MacKenzie, December 19, 2013

I’m a letter carrier and I love my job, but I hated today. Today was not only the first day of icy sidewalks to navigate, it was also the day that Canada Post announced that you would lose the service of getting your mail delivered to your door and that my job of delivering it will be a thing of the past. Canada Post employees found out about this not through a corporate bulletin, not from a staff meeting, but through a press release. I personally found out about this when a friend said “You looking for a new job yet?”

Today broke my heart. I have always wanted to be a letter carrier, but since I became one, I haven’t always been called that. I’ve been referred to as a “physical email mover,” a “femailman” (not sure how that makes sense, guy on Brunswick, but thanks for trying) and my favourite, a “lovely letter lady.” However, my current official title is “delivery agent.” (It sounds more glamourous than it is.) What it means is that they don’t want to associate letter carriers with the actual carrying of letters anymore. And it’s true, delivering your mail is not all that we do: we also deliver your parcels, clear retail postal outlets and street letter boxes and perform business pickups.

But we. Are. Busy. We are not an obsolete company and we are not a burden on the taxpayer. We are funded 100 percent on our own revenues, not your tax dollars. We have made a large (like hundreds of millions of dollars large) profit in 17 of the last 18 years, and even last year, our first year in the red, 7,402 performance bonuses were still paid out, so we can’t be doing too badly. Our job has changed with the times and will continue to change with the times but we will still not be obsolete. The service we provide is essential and not only would stopping door-to-door service be unnecessary, it would also drastically damage it.

Local postal workers fire back

By Collin Galant, Medicine Hat News, December 21, 2013

Local postal workers say problems with Canada Post start at the top and recently announced changes are a dishonest attempt to pave the way toward privatization of the public service.

About four dozen unionized workers used their morning break to hold a press conference at the Kipling Street plant and said proposed service cuts are too drastic.

And, they said, at a time when carriers should be concentrating on holiday rush, they are forced to defend their jobs and their reputations against bad management decisions.

“Once the service is so bad Canadians won’t care when their post office is dismantled and sold off so that a few wealthy investors can get rich off the sale of a public asset,” according to a statement read by David Condon, a mail carrier and shop steward with the postal worker’s union.


By Barry Weisleder, Socialist Action, December 29, 2013

The dire need, and the very real possibility of turning this attack around on the corporate elite is posed. This is the occasion to convene meetings across the country, in every work place, school, labour union, NDP district association, social justice movement, neighbourhood and community. Urgently needed is a massive information campaign. It should be accompanied by mass rallies, picketing at federal buildings, petitioning at public squares, the occupation of government MP offices, walk outs at work places and schools, and rotating strikes, leading up to a general strike.

The choice is stark: Defend home mail delivery and public services, or watch the descent into the hell of capitalist austerity accelerate.

International News

Bangladesh factory owners, employees charged in fire that killed 112

By Julhas Alam, The Associated Press, December 22, 2013

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Police charged the owners of a Bangladeshi garment factory and 11 employees with culpable homicide Sunday for alleged negligence leading to the death of 112 workers in a raging fire that engulfed the factory last year.

It was the first time Bangladeshi authorities had sought to prosecute factory owners in the world’s second-largest garment industry. A series of recent deadly disasters — including the Nov. 24, 2012, fire and a factory collapse in April that killed more than 1,100 workers — exposed how harsh and often unsafe conditions can be for many of the country’s 4 million workers providing clothing to major Western retailers.

Public Prosecutor Anwarul Kabir Babul said the 13 people charged Sunday could face life in prison if convicted of failing to ensure safety at the sprawling Tazreen Fashions Ltd. factory, located outside Dhaka, the capital.

South Korean union vows all-out strike in sympathy with rail workers

Reuters, December 23, 2013

South Korea’s militant labor federation announced a general strike from Saturday in sympathy with rail workers, after police hauled away scores of strikers in a two-week dispute that has hit President Park Geun-hye’s popularity ratings.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) has more than 690,000 members from sectors including construction and public transport and any stoppage could bring the country to a halt.

Workers with the state-run Korea Railroad walked off the job in protest against a decision to set up a unit to run a high-speed bullet train, which they say will lead to privatization and layoffs.

Police, unionists clash over rail strike

The Korean Herald, December 22, 2013

Police detained more than 120 labor activists in the first raid of a powerful labor organization in central Seoul on Sunday to arrest union leaders wanted for leading an “illegal” railway strike.

Violent clashes erupted at 9:35 a.m. as some 500 policemen entered the headquarters of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, where the strike leaders were believed to be hiding.

Police broke windows on doors and fired tear gas to break up protesters who barricaded themselves and sprayed fire extinguishers.

This is the first time the police forced their way into the office of the KCTU, one of the two largest umbrella labor organizations.

Police brought more than 120 protesters to nearby police stations.

The railway union, with the backing of the KCTU, is calling for the cancellation of what they call a “privatization plot” by the Korea Railroad Corp. About 6,500 unionized workers of the state-run railway operator have staged a strike since Dec. 9 against the government’s plan to set up an affiliate for a new bullet train service.

Fired By Walmart for Christmas

By Michal Rozworski, Common Dreams, December 29, 2013

The holidays are meant to be a joyful time. Religion aside, they are a time for family and celebration. For many workers at Walmart, however, the holidays are a source of stress and challenge. Stores become figurative, sometimes even literal, battlefields, making already-taxing work more demanding, even chaotic. At the same time, low wages and inadequate benefits stretch year-end budgets, leaving little room for the joys of the holidays.

On average, US retailers make 20% of their sales during the holiday shopping season. Walmart does not publicize holiday revenue figures, but its fourth-quarter sales are almost a third higher than the rest of the year. With profits similarly higher, Walmart and its shareholders have cause to celebrate during the holidays, especially as the company has been aggressively buying back shares, using its profits to line the pockets of investors with over $15 billion since the summer.

Migrant Workers Fight Exploitation in New Zealand

By Mike Treen, The Bullet, December 26, 2013

In the course of this past week, Unite Union has dealt with several cases of extreme exploitation of migrant workers. It seems that some of the liquor shops around Auckland have been employing students from India and paying a pittance – four or five dollars an hour, well below the legal minimum of $13.75 an hour. The students were working well in excess of the legal 20 hours a week allowed under their student visas.

The students are trying to make ends meet. The employers, many of whom are of the same national background as the students they are hiring, are using all sorts of bullying and threats to keep the workers in line. Breaching their visas can be a reason for the students to be sent home, so it is difficult for them to use official channels to complain. Wage and time records are non-existent or falsified.

In one case, the employer had an ownership interest in a private training institution where their student employees were attending courses costing tens of thousands of dollars in fees.

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