RankandFile.ca Labour News Update: November 3, 2014

Possible St. Lawrence Seaway Strike | Air Canada Pilots ratify deal | Cape Breton Call Centre closure | Income Splitting | U.S. Steel ends coke operations in Hamilton | Bill C-377 | Mine safety | Halifax Municipal pensions| CEIU pickets in Chatham | Rail Safety | Offshore workers against night flights| Fight against IKEA | Fight to save Canada Post |

1297624997766_ORIGINALStrike deadline extended on seaway
Karena Walter, The Standard
October 31, 2014

A strike deadline which could have shut down St. Lawrence Seaway shipping Friday afternoon has been extended to Monday. The union representing 460 employees of St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. in Niagara, other parts of Ontario and Quebec is continuing talks through the weekend with the company. “Any time the two parties continue to talk, I think there is reason for optimism,” said Andrew Bogora, spokesman for St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. Unifor rescinded a 72-hour notice to strike before the 12:15 p.m. Friday deadline and members can now take strike action beginning Monday at 5 p.m. Talks are taking place in Cornwall under a media blackout. “The fact that there’s a blackout is also, from the union perspective, good news because it means talks are continuing, people are still committed to the process of trying to reach a deal,” said Unifor Communications national representative Stuart Laidlaw. “We just don’t want to be negotiating in a fishbowl.”

Lac-Mégantic: Lisa Raitt announces rail safety rules based on crash findings
CBC News
October 29, 2014

New requirements for hand brakes and other safety devices to ensure parked trains stay put are among the changes Transport Canada will enforce in response to the 2013 rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Que. Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced that her department is recruiting 10 additional inspectors to do more audits and provide more information to municipalities about the rail cargo moving through their communities.

Air Canada pilots vote 84 per cent in favour of a 10-year contract
Global News
October 31, 2014

Air Canada‘s pilots have ratified a new 10-year contract that provides Canada’s largest airline the ability to use mediation or arbitration to resolve disputes. The pilots’ union says its 3,000 members voted 84 per cent in favour of the deal. Union president Capt. Craig Blandford says the deal provides pilots with “stable and secure employment, improved career progression, fair compensation and the opportunity to gain a better share of our airline’s financial success.” Details of the improved compensation, pension and work rules weren’t immediately available. The agreement, which expires in September 2024, includes provisions to resolve disputes arising from negotiations on specific items in 2017, 2020 and 2023.

Oil operators off Newfoundland want flexibility to fly after dark
Sue Bailey, Winnipeg Free Press
October 30, 2014

Oil companies want more flexibility for when they can fly staff to remote sites off Newfoundland and are now assessing logistics, says the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. No regulatory change has been proposed while operators study those details, said spokeswoman Jill Piccott in an email Thursday. “They are still looking for some additional flexibility in the helicopter flying day and are working right now on the logistics of what that could look like.” Piccott said there is no timeline for approaching the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board about resuming night flights. Nor was there an update on what issues may be delaying that request. A related response to the board from operators last year suggested an impasse involving safety oversight and the quality of simulator training for pilots. “The establishment of an independent safety oversight management framework should not be viewed as a condition for the return to night flying,” it said.

10672437_870521566325756_1140462310631355233_nIncome splitting to help struggling wealthy family buy another BMW
The Beaverton
October 30, 2014

The Harper government’s plan to permit married couples with children to split their earnings for a higher tax savings will help a disadvantaged family struggling to buy another BMW. “When we moved into our home last year, we noticed that we only have two BMWs compared to our neighbours who have three,” said Ron Chase, a real-estate lawyer who only earns a measly $534,000 a year. “Our Lexus SUV has a whopping 50,000 km on it and it’s starting to smell. I didn’t want to embarrass my wife who stays at home or my nine year old son when I drive him to his private school. Money was getting tight and we really needed some relief.”

IKEA workers stood tall while labour movement stood still
Dave Bush and Doug Nesbitt, RankandFile.ca
October 31, 2014

Last week news broke that the 17-month lock out of IKEA workers in Richmond, British Columbia had ended. On one hand this was a welcome bit of news. After reaching an impasse several times, mediation helped the union and IKEA to hammer out a deal. On the other hand the deal that workers were able to get was a status quo deal. And the nearly 40 workers who scabbed and crossed picket lines are still on the job. The workers at IKEA in Richmond are unionized with Teamsters local 213 and are one of only two unionized IKEA stores in the country. The 350 workers were locked out in May of 2013 and about three dozen crossed the picket line. The major issue during the lockout was IKEA’s desire to impose a two-tier wage structure – the very system that the workers had helped rollback in a 2006 strike. Another crucial issue was IKEA’s desire to cut off more workers from full benefits by raising the minimum hours for full benefits from 20 per week to 24 per week.

Sydney call centre closure to affect 130 people
Chris Shannon, Cape Breton post
October 28, 2014

The closure of the Sykes Inc. call centre was announced to employees on Tuesday. It will affect approximately 130 employees. The last day of work is Jan. 30. Sykes says it offers customer care to technical support to its clients. Its only client at the Sydney site is Bell Canada. Employees handle billing inquiries, direct marketing and upselling to Bell’s customers. An employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he had signed a confidentiality agreement with Sykes, said some people with as much as 10 to 14 years experience at the call centre were too upset to work. They went home shortly after the announcement was made at 2 p.m.

Hubich says gov’t reviving anti-union bill
Will Chabun, The Leader-Post
October 30, 2014

Two days before Halloween, the president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour warned the prime minister and his “zombies” have dug up the remains of a controversial piece of labour legislation and are trying hard to revive it. In his opening speech to the annual convention of the federation, Larry Hubich said the private member’s Bill C-377, has “risen from the dead” and is being led forward by a federal government driven by ideology and a dislike for unions. Presented as opening union books on spending of more than $5,000 and salaries over $100,000, C-377 also has been criticized as unconstitutional, undemocratic and an invasion of privacy.

Halifax pension meeting prompts concern
Brent Bundale, Chronicle Herald
October 28, 2014

A throng of firefighters, police officers and transit workers attended regional council Tuesday to demonstrate opposition to potential changes to Halifax’s public pension plan. Council held a meeting last week behind closed doors to discuss the plan. The unions are concerned the secret meeting could indicate efforts are being made to reduce the municipality’s pension costs. Terri Troy, chief executive officer of the HRM Pension Plan, said some members are concerned the meeting could mean the plan is under threat. “But because the meeting was in camera, we do not know what was discussed,” she said. “It’s unknown.”

Sudbury mines given hundreds of health and safety work orders
CBC News
October 29, 2014

Details of health and safety orders issued to Sudbury-area mines hint at the dangers of working underground. The Ministry of Labour provided CBC News a breakdown of orders that have been given to First Nickel’s Lockerby Mine, Vale’s Stobie and Creighton Mines, Xstrata’s Nickel Rim South and Quadra FNX/KGMH International’s Levack mine over the past three years. The orders cover such areas as hoist maintenance, ventilation, and preventing water accumulation. Out of the five, Lockerby Mine had the most orders, totalling more than 200. Stobie had the second highest number, at more than 180. The other three had fewer than 100 each.

Layoff notices given to 20 unionized Herald staff
Chronicle Herald
October 31, 2014

The Chronicle Herald issued 20 layoff notices to unionized newsroom staff on Friday as the company tries to find cost savings. The company is seeking concessions from the union in the form of greater pension contributions, a reduced mileage rate and deferring a two per cent pay increase that is scheduled to come Nov. 21. With the notices issued, a 45-day period begins where the company is compelled to offer early retirements or buyouts and consider job-sharing, modified work weeks or other suggestions from employees. After 15 days, in light of any savings achieved, the number of layoffs could be recalculated.

Tripartism: A Dangerous Mix
Christo Aivalis, RankandFile.ca
October 29, 2014

Earlier this month, the benefits of the Good Jobs Summit were overshadowed by a return of tripartism as a strategy for Canadian unions and workers. In simple terms, tripartism is a system in which labour, business, and the state cooperate to address issues affecting the economy, including investment, wages, pensions, labour laws, immigration, and environmental protections. This cooperation could range from non-binding consultation to direct input on the drafting and revision of policy and legislation. As Alex Hunsberger reported for RankandFile.ca, some of the major speakers at the Good Jobs Summit demonstrated a clear desire for a model of labour and industrial politics that emphasized a trend towards substantive alliances between Canada’s top politicians, labour leaders, and capitalists

U.S. Steel idles Hamilton coke ovens
Meredith MacLeod, Hamilton Spectator
October 29, 2014

U.S. Steel Canada’s move to indefinitely discontinue coke-making in Hamilton is just another step in the company’s plan to dismantle the plant, says a city councillor. “This is another way the company is taking all the value out of the Hamilton Works plant,” said Scott Duvall, chair of the city’s steel issues subcommittee. U.S. Steel Canada announced to workers Monday that it is hot idling coke-making in the city, a move that affects 100 of the 600 workers at the plant.

Public sector union slams Sault job cuts. Bryan responds
Darren Taylor, Sootoday.com
October 30, 2014

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) is criticizing the Conservative government for cuts made to the number of public sector jobs in Sault Ste. Marie and nationwide. Ottawa-based PSAC represents thousands of workers in federal government departments, associated agencies and Crown corporations across Canada. The cuts have been felt locally, said Sharon DeSousa, regional executive vice president for PSAC (Ontario), speaking to SooToday from her Toronto office. “In Sault Ste. Marie there have been about 85 jobs lost (in waves since 2012),” DeSousa said. “There has been a series of cuts that have come down and we have to keep in mind these are really good paying full time jobs in the public sector, with benefits.” PSAC’s DeSousa said the Conservative government is making reductions in the public service as a way to eliminate the deficit and go into surplus. DeSousa said PSAC is determined to make cuts to services and jobs an issue in the federal election of 2015.

The Difference That Public Sector Wages Make
Kate McInturff and Paul Tulloch, CCPA
October 29, 2014

This study compares the wages of full-time public and private sector workers and finds significant gaps in the wages of women, aboriginal workers, and visible minority workers—and that those gaps are bigger in the private sector in every instance.

Campaign planning handbook: Build power through better campaigns
October 30, 2014

Campaigns are all about power. Understanding the power relationships that shape our world and learning how to better create our own power is at the heart of effective campaign planning. Today we are facing the resurgent drive of global capital to change the rules of the post-war “social contract” between business and labour. Economic restructuring, technological change and deregulation pose serious challenges to us all. Workers who were excluded from the post-war “social contract” are being hit the hardest. Relying on past practice will not be sufficient to protect living standards, working conditions and public services. A key part of rebuilding the power of our movement is improving our ability to plan and wage effective campaign.

CEIU picket outside the Judy LaMarsh Building to spread awareness on current bargaining talks with the Treasury Board
CEIU picket outside the Judy LaMarsh Building to spread awareness on current bargaining talks with the Treasury Board

CEIU And PSAC Pickets in Chatham
Jake Kislinsky, Blackburn News
October 30, 2014

The Canadian Employment Immigration Union held an information picket outside the Judy LaMarsh Building to spread awareness on current bargaining talks with the Treasury Board. CEIU workers are responsible for processing Canada pension plan disability, and old age security applications. They’ve been working without a new contract since June 20. Public Service Alliance of Canada Regional Rep Lynn Meston says they’re most concerned about a change to their sick leave policy. Right now employees accumulate 9.375 hours per month. The latest offer from the Treasury Board would eliminate these accumulated days. “So they’re going to have to come to work sick in order to get enough pay to be able to support their families,” says Meston. “That is detrimental to their health, as well as the health of their colleagues.”

Door-to-door service fight not over
Ian Graham, Thompson Citizen
October 24, 2014

Politicians, postal workers, union representatives and concerned citizens, including some with mobility issues, voiced their opinions on the planned phasing out of home delivery in most areas by Canada Post over the next five years at a meeting at the Juniper Centre in September, and most were opposed to the plan. Gord Fischer, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) national director for the prairie region, travelled north from Winnipeg for the meeting and said the union’s concerns with the plans included the potential for as many as 15,000 jobs losses by the time the plan is fully implemented to undesirable side effects like lowered property values and a decrease in community safety. Fischer noted that community mailboxes in Fort McMurray, Alta. were moved because it was creating an unsafe situation. He also said that mail carriers act like the eyes and ears of a community.

10310525_10152572412678422_1289520079689337559_nNova Scotia doctor to charge employers for sick notes
CBC News
October 27, 2014

Nova Scotia physician Ethel Cooper-Rosen is going to start charging employers $30 for sick notes, saying they put unnecessary pressure on the health-care system and expose other patients in her waiting room to viruses. Many employers and some universities require notes from doctors to verify that sick day policies aren’t being abused. The Dartmouth physician objects to patients coming into her office for the sole purpose of getting sick notes. “We feel that this is inappropriate. Doctors Nova Scotia feels that this is inappropriate. Patients who have mild viral illnesses and have no reason to see the doctor, because really, the treatment for these illnesses is stay home and rest,” she said.

Keeping Sex Workers Quiet
Alana Massey, Jacobin
November 2, 2014

To understand how labor conversations are so easily co-opted, a brief look at the current state of sex work discourse is instructive. In September, the International Human Trafficking, Prostitution, and Sex Work Conference was held in Toledo. It was hosted exclusively by anti-trafficking groups and prominently featured material framing all commercial sex as a form of slavery. The Huffington Post recently aggregated a series of posts from Ravishly entitled, “Is Sex Work Empowering or Enslaving?” and even in the absence of more nuanced or relevant options, it was considered progress by some that anyone thought to ask rather than preemptively conclude.

Can We Defend Our Pensions Without Challenging Financialized Capitalism?
Kevin Skerrett, The Bullet
October 29, 2014

One recent development appears to be an important partial victory. Some 900 workers at Bombardier’s Thunder Bay production facility, represented by Unifor, launched an eight-week strike on July 14, and the dispute centred on an employer demand to eliminate the secure, “defined benefit” type pension plan with an individualized “defined contribution” savings scheme for all new hires. Bombardier’s proposal was hardly a new idea – private sector employers without unions have been unilaterally imposing just that for a number of years, and it’s the model that has sparked a series of important battles at unionized private sector employers such as Vale-Inco, Air Canada, the Big Three Automakers, U.S. Steel, and many others. Even highly profitable companies have been dumping or restructuring their pension commitments to workers – all workers where possible, new hires only if necessary.

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