RankandFile.ca Weekly Labour News Update: September 8, 2014

B.C. Teachers’ Strike | E.I. Program | Fight For 15 | University of Windsor Faculty  | Saskatoon Transit negotiations | Richtree Market ruling | Farm Workers | Shawinigan paper plant closure  | Canada Post | Laurentian faculty negotiations | NDP and working class politics | Possible St. John’s strike

10544792_1462901967297469_4839012838395157425_nNearly $10K pledged to teachers in campaign to donate $40/day child care payments
Matthew Robinson, Vancouver Sun
September 7, 2014

A new website is encouraging parents to donate their $40-per-day support payments offered by the B.C. government during the ongoing teachers strike to the teachers themselves. Nearly $20,000 had been raised by Sunday morning, according to Kate Milberry, a mother from East Vancouver and an instructor with the University of Alberta who is among those who started the site. “I think this website has struck a chord,” said Milberry in an interview. Milberry, an expert in social movements and social media, said the site logged about 2,000 unique hits on Labour Day, the day it launched, and within three days it had drawn 20,000 unique visitors. “Parents are wise to Premier Christy Clark’s underhanded – and expensive – tactics when it comes to dealing with BC’s teachers,” reads the site. “We want Christy Clark and her government to know that we stand in solidarity with BC’s teachers – and that we don’t want her bribe money.” Milberry said she views the site as a platform for people – whether they are parents of schoolchildren or not – to show support for teachers. “We need to pressure our government to fund the provincial education system to the national average,” she said. “It’s a modest request.”

Transit union, city at impasse: Members vote 91% against offer
Andrea Hill and Evan Radford, The Star Phonenix
September 6, 2014

City of Saskatoon officials say transit disruptions may continue until an agreement is reached with the local transit union, which overwhelmingly rejected the last contract offer from the city. “Stalled contract talks create uncertainty and anxiety in the workplace, which in turn affects customer service,” a city spokesperson said in a news release Friday. “It is possible that service problems will continue until an agreement with (the union) is reached and our work environment has returned to normal.”

St. John’s preps for labour strife as dispute drags on
CBC
September 5, 2014

St. John’s city council is making contingency plans in case it fails to reach a deal with its outdoor workers, after contract negotiations broke off last week. Those outside workers do everything from collecting trash to plowing snow, and what would happen without them is already under discussion at City Hall. “There is a plan in place right now, and it’s being refined, to provide as much of the services that we can provide, given the labour situation that occurs,” Mayor Dennis O’Keefe said.
O’Keefe says the biggest issue is pensions. The union wants to keep all employees on a defined benefit plan, while the city wants to move new hires to a defined contribution plan.

B.C. teachers’ strike: Education Minister Peter Fassbender ‘never been a fan’ of arbitration
Mike Laanela, CBC News
September 5, 2014

B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender wouldn’t flat-out say “no” to a proposal to use binding arbitration to settle the three-month-old strike, but made it sound like an unlikely solution. “We are not prepared to say to someone else, well you make our decisions for us,” he said at a news conference Friday afternoon. “I think the reality is that I’ve never been a fan of binding arbitration. I don’t think anyone in the labour relations field feels that that is a vehicle that really serves the interests of all parties,” Fassbender said. Fassbender was reacting to the proposal put forth by the president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation earlier in the day. He said he hadn’t yet seen any details or the teachers union’s proposed preconditions for arbitration and until he does, he won’t make any “categorical statements” about whether the government will go for it.

WUFA announces 1-day strike at University of Windsor
CBC
September 5, 2014

The Windsor University Faculty Association will strike for one day on Sept. 15 in hope of pushing administration back to the bargaining table. “We are very close to a deal and we are confident that, if the University administration returns to the table in a spirit of compromise, we could have this issue resolved without impacting classes,” says Anne Forrest, president of WUFA. “I personally invite [school] president [Alan] Wildeman to send his bargaining team back to the table to work things out and get this deal done.” WUFA voted in favour of strike action last month after administration rejecting the school’s “final offer.”

Workers return to Eaton Centre’s Richtree restaurant after settlement
Joel Eastwood, Toronto Star
September 3, 2014

Where exactly is the Toronto Eaton Centre? The question wasn’t posed by an American tourist or a University of Toronto philosophy major. Rather, it was brought before the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the main point of contention in a 20-month disagreement between an Eaton Centre restaurant that relocated to a new space within the mall, and a union representing workers who lost their jobs in the move. The labour dispute between Richtree Markets and Unite Here Local 75 hinged on the exact street address of the Eaton Centre, with the restaurant arguing the union’s collective bargaining rights didn’t apply to the new site. “I found it to be quite farcical, to think that Richtree and their management in the United States felt that they could shut down this store and reopen 50 metres away with all new staff,” said city Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Open Kristyn Wong-Tam’s policard), who represents the local ward.

Calgary and District Labour Council calling for farm workers to be protected through legislation
Jenna McMurray, Calgary Sun
September 1, 2014

Advocates for Alberta’s farm workers are again calling on the province to include farmers in workplace legislation. Alexander Shevalier, president of the Calgary and District Labour Council (CDLC), spoke out on Labour Day from Olympic Plaza, where the CDLC was hosting a barbecue to help the unemployed and underemployed. “Right now in the province of Alberta, farm workers are excluded from all pieces of workplace legislation,” he said. “So there’s no Workers’ Compensation Board coverage, there’s no Occupational Health and Safety coverage, they can’t organize or join a union and they’re excluded from employment standards.”

B.C. teachers strike: Parents bring kids to MLAs’ offices for playdate protests
Stephen Hui, Straight.com
September 2, 2014

Since parents couldn’t bring their kids to school today (September 2), some of them showed up at their local MLA’s office instead. “MLA Playdate” protests are being organized around the province, and they’re meant to continue happening until the teachers’ strike is resolved and schools open. “Parents want both their kids back in school and for their kids to get a quality public education,” a media advisory states. “They are concerned about the impacts on their children and families which are both short and long term. Families won’t be able to pay the bills because a parent is unable to work while their children are not in school learning. Kids who are all ready falling through the cracks from inadequate support for teachers in classrooms and families that can, and do, re-mortgage their houses to get it.”

Shawinigan paper plant closes, 275 employees laid off
CTV
September 3, 2014

A Shawinigan paper plant is blaming decreased demand, higher transportation costs and subsidies received by a Nova Scotia competitor for its closure, which will cost 275 jobs. Resolute Forest Products announced Wednesday that it will be closing its Shawinigan mill on October 15. Shawinigan Mayor Michel Angers has asked Premier Philippe Couillard to intervene and help with the employment crisis. “If we’ve got to shout to get attention, like some other Quebec mayors, we’ll shout even louder. If we have to take to the streets, we’ll take to the streets. I can tell you, I’m a great mobilizer,” he said. Union official Renaud Gagne bemoaned what he considers government indifference to the plight of the paper industry. “When there’s no investment or technology upgrades, we can expect this, because newsprint demand is declining by eight percent per year,” said Gagne of the Unifor group. He said that the companies should adapt to needs and supply milk and juice cartons, and tissue paper, which are in demand in Asia. Resolute laid off 111 workers in August 2012 due to decreased demand.

09042014_FastFood-thumb-640xauto-115097 Fast Food Worker Strikes—And Arrests—Hit Cities Near You
Carla Murphy, Colorlines
September 4 2014

Fast food workers are showing resolve. Today’s strikes and protests in more than 100 cities are seeing arrests as workers stage sit-ins in front of McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast food restaurants and refuse to move. The addition of civil disobedience to the two-year-old fight for a $15-an-hour minimum wage is new and a follow-through on an idea discussed at a first-ever workers convention this July. Also new: an invitation to home care workers to join their fight for a higher minimum wage and the right to unionize without retaliation. Below, some of what’s happening in cities around the country from Nevada to Minneapolis to San Diego. And check this USAToday map for a status update on the states responding to minimum wage increase demands.


How the Toronto Factor exposes EI’s outdated system

Lee-Anne Goodman, Toronto Star
September 4, 2014

It was a barely noticed peculiarity in the government’s latest employment insurance numbers — just 17 per cent of unemployed workers in Toronto are collecting EI, among the lowest rates in the city’s history as it confronts a higher jobless rate than the provincial and national average.
There are more than 307,000 jobless Torontonians, according to the latest Statistics Canada figures. Fewer than 55,000 of them are collecting EI in a city with an 8.9 per cent jobless rate.
Experts point out that while many of the jobless are chronically unemployed citizens who don’t qualify for EI, others are part of an evolving urban labour market that isn’t being reflected by Canada’s EI system.

Councillors don’t want Canada Post’s ‘superboxes’
David Churchill, Hamilton Spectator
September 4, 2014

City council won’t put its stamp of approval on Canada Post’s plan to expand the use of community mailboxes across the city. Councillors Thursday approved a motion which called the community mailboxes “inconvenient and inaccessible, especially for seniors and persons with mobility issues.” The motion, moved by councillor Terry Whitehead, also raised councillors’ concerns about break-ins and theft at the boxes.

Why government-teacher negotiations failed in B.C.
Larry Kuehn, Rabble.ca
September 2, 2014

Public schools in B.C. are not opening today, as normal. The efforts of the B.C. government to negate two court decisions won by the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) was the breaking point in negotiations over the weekend. Negotiations have been going on for well over a year, with little progress. Teachers started rotating strikes in May and a full strike for the last two weeks of June. The government responded with a weird and insulting “partial lockout” before the full walkout.
Teachers were prohibited from being at the school more than 45 minutes before and after school and at lunch break. They had to eat their lunches outside the school. They were also directed not to do any preparation or marking outside of school time — all so salaries could be cut by ten per cent, with the agreement of the Labour Board. Now, with no agreement over the summer, the strike and lockout continue into September.

Laurentian faculty give union strike mandate
Heidi Ulrichsen, Sudbury Northern Life
September 4, 2014

After failing to come to an agreement with Laurentian University management over the summer, the university’s faculty union is considering hitting the picket lines. On Sept. 2 — the day before students returned to class — 90 per cent of Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA) members voted to give their union a strike mandate. Jean-Charles Cachon, a Laurentian commerce professor and LUFA’s secretary/treasurer, said the union’s three-year contract with the university expired July 1. The two sides have been in negotiations since May, and worked out many non-monetary issues. However, they haven’t been able to come to an agreement with regards to wage hikes and workload. Cachon said LUFA is looking for wage hikes in line with inflation, as well as an adjustment to professors’ workload, as the spike in graduate students at the university means faculty needs to focus more on research.

Working Class Politics After the NDP
Sam Gindin and Michael Hurley, The Bullet
September 1, 2014

The issue that we can’t ignore this Labour Day is the disorientation in our movement’s politics. List the issues working people are most concerned about today – whether deindustrialization, unemployment and underemployment; access to healthcare, childcare and pensions; poverty, racism, conditions of foreign workers and appalling levels of overall inequality; the environment, transit costs and transit services; another corporate-friendly trade agreement that is insensitive to workers and communities; or the horror of Gaza – and two things especially stand out. First, how fundamental the actions of the Canadian state are to what is most important to us. Second, how distressingly unable we have been to influence those actions.

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One thought on “RankandFile.ca Weekly Labour News Update: September 8, 2014

  1. Dozens of New Democratic Party activists from NDP district associations across Ontario, met in a provincial conference on September 6 at U of Toronto, and issued a call for an immediate ONDP Leadership Review.
    The conference opening session featured Parkdale-High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo and Socialist Caucus chairperson Barry Weisleder. The following is an excerpt from the latter’s remarks to the conference, which later voted unanimously to continue the campaign outlined below.

    “Andrea Horwath waged the worst NDP campaign since Bob Rae attempted to defend his infamous Social Contract in 1995.
    There was no mandate to veer to the right of the Liberal Party in a vain attempt to appeal to Conservative supporters and the business class. Horwath had no mandate to abandon the fight for social justice in favour of a crass appeal to consumerism.
    The NDP platform emphasized “making life more affordable” by removing the HST from electricity bills, reducing car insurance rates by 15%, opening up a few more child care spaces, shortening hospital wait times, and offering a mere $1 increase in the hourly minimum wage. At the same time, Horwath defended the practice of bribing big private corporations to create jobs – without demanding any public ownership or democratic control of state investment.
    Horwath projected a small increase in corporate taxation, but no plan to conscript the hidden, un-taxed billions of dollars – what a former head of the Bank of Canada called ‘dead Capital’. That means the NDP proposed no way to fund a serious assault on poverty, on homelessness, or to end the deepening crises in public transit, education and health care.
    Horwath and her strategists said nothing about phasing out nuclear power plants, stopping Line 9, satisfying the just claims of indigenous peoples, curtailing state surveillance, and terminating police repression of the kind that was unleashed during the G-20 Summit in Toronto. There was not even a hint that the problems faced today by the vast majority of Ontarions are rooted in the decaying and increasingly destructive capitalist system.
    The ONDP Leader campaigned on ‘integrity’. But she failed to address her own democratic deficit. She ignored a party convention decision to be tougher on the Ontario Liberal budget of 2012/2013. In fact, on her watch, party conventions provide less time for policy debate. And Horwath’s Election Planning Committee undemocratically prevents leftists from being NDP candidates.
    While it is gratifying that the Progressive Conservatives lost big time, it is clear that the capitalist austerity agenda continues under Premier Kathleen Wynne. Wynne bragged during the TV leaders’ debate that she had implemented “80 per cent of the Drummond Report” — a harsh austerity plan. Behind Wynne’s affable smile, the locomotive of the rulers’ public sector wage freeze, social cutbacks, 3Ps, and privatization plans remain firmly on track.
    Corporate Ontario found a way to sanitize its brutal anti-working class agenda by hiding it behind the ‘progressive’ veneer of the province’s first female Premier, who is also Canada’s first lesbian Premier.
    Now, New Democrats, labour unionists, feminists, LGBTQ folks, environmentalists, socialists and social justice advocates must fight to take the NDP away from the latter-day Tony Blairites, and re-direct the party to lead the battle against capitalist austerity, and for socialist solutions to the mounting problems we face.
    That starts with the demand that Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath resign. The situation today requires a full review of the party’s leadership and political direction, heading towards its November 14-16 convention in Toronto.
    The question of Horwath’s future as ONDP leader is posed daily in the mass media. A leadership race is triggered by a vote of non-confidence in the leader. A confidence vote occurs at every party convention. If even 35% of the delegates vote for a leadership review (that is, if less than 65% vote to support the current leader), a leadership race will ensue.
    It is clear that such a vote would open up a period of intense discussion about the future of the NDP.
    So, what should socialists and labour activists do?
    Just wait to see what happens? Conduct ‘business as usual’ by submitting resolutions to the Convention, few of which ever make it to the floor?
    No. A bold initiative is needed – which is what the NDP Socialist Caucus is providing with its demand that Andrea resign, and by insisting that a full review of the political direction of the party take place now.
    Naturally, the removal of Andrea is no guarantee that another leader will change direction.
    But what are the chances if the party ranks do not demand a change of leadership? It would only help Horwath and her handlers to weather the storm. The NDP Socialist Caucus has a proven track record of making good things happen in the party. Its effort continues – to turn the NDP sharply to the left.”

    For more information, contact the Socialist Caucus at: 647 – 986-1917
    and visit: http://www.ndpsocialists.ca

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