R&F’S LABOUR NEWS UPDATE: FEBRUARY 16, 2015

CP Rail strike | CP back-to-work law | Ontario CCAC strike | Southern Railway lockout | Saskatchewan teachers | Happy Valley-Goose Bay lockout | IOC Labrador City vote | Casino Rama unionization | Target bankruptcy | Winnipeg snow-clearing | Tar sands resistance

Every Monday, R&F.ca provides a summary of the past week’s labour news. Here are some of the major stories hitting the Interwebs.

Teamsters President, Douglas Finnson, on the looming back-to-work legislation

It is not my intention to spend a lot of time on Facebook to discuss the present situation at CP involving our membership, however felt it is necessary to provide some sort of message outside of official press releases and associated media interviews.

No one is more disappointed in this situation that us. At the late stages of bargaining the Minister became involved in what we hoped would result in a positive development, it wasn’t. Blame became the practice and the workers are once again being blamed for not accepting the US style of labour relations imported into CP. Apparently, Canadians who express their rights to collective bargaining are subjected to different set of standards and expectation than the corporate friends of government. It seems lost on the Government that the Supreme Court has supported workers rights in this area and it seems lost on the Government that the workers at CP are under attack every working day.

Disappointment in our Governments clear favouritism towards the corporate position is only exceeded by our determination to never give up the fight to protect the rights and working conditions of our fellow workers.

There is much to do and there is much more to say as this work dispute continues.
The workers voices will not be silenced by legislation and the workers rights in Canada are not something that should be overridden by the corporate elite and their political allies.

The working people of Canada have substantive rights enshrined within our Constitution. The preemptive actions by the government to minimize the workers voices, minimize the workers right to collectively bargain their own working conditions, and to clearly favour the employer over the workers is a crucial wake up call for Canadian workers.

Not fighting is simply not an option the Teamsters are willing to accept. If that means it gets uncomfortable for the Government or their corporate friends, too bad!

Pre-emptive strike at CP: Tories planning back-to-work lawCP Rail Pic
RankandFile.ca, February 14, 2015

The federal Tories are already introducing back-to-work legislation against CP Rail workers’ unions who are still in bargaining with a Sunday morning strike threat. The two unions are the Teamsters and Unifor.

On Friday February 13 at 4:50pm, Minister of Labour Kellie Leitch introduced “An Act to provide for the resumption of rail service operations” to be rammed through on Monday, February 16.

AMT injunction rejected as CP Rail strike looms
CBC News, February 13, 2015

Commuters who use the Candiac, Vaudreuil-Hudson and St-Jérôme rail lines may need to find an alternative way to get around as early as Sunday morning.

A Quebec judge refused late Friday to grant the Agence métropolitaine de transport an injunction which would have forced the Canadian Pacific Railway and its unions to provide passenger service in the Montreal area even in the event of a strike.

Canadian Pacific Railway talks fail, engineers go on strike
CBC News, February 14, 2015

More than 3,000 Teamsters members have gone on strike at the Canadian Pacific Railway after contract talks failed to reach an agreement before the midnight deadline.

However, a strike by the railway’s 1,800 Unifor members was averted when a tentative agreement was reached in Montreal just minutes before the strike deadline.

Casino Rama workers join Unifor
CNW, February 13, 2015

Workers at Casino Rama, one of Ontario’s largest casino resorts, have voted overwhelmingly to become members of Unifor. They now join thousands of gaming and hospitality employees across Canada who are already represented by the union.

“We are thrilled with the results,” said Anna Joudrey, who has worked at Casino Rama for ten years and been an active participant in the campaign to bring the union to the casino.

Many workers have noted that while they value their jobs and the role the casino plays in their community, they’ve felt that workplace standards have gone downhill in recent years and are uncertain about the future of their jobs at the casino.

3,000 striking CCAC workers back on job Tuesday
Toronto Star, February 15, 2015

Striking community and home health care workers will return to work Tuesday, after opting to send their labour dispute with the province to arbitration.

The decision, announced Sunday evening by Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Eric Hoskins, comes after weeks of failed negotiations between more than 3,000 members of the Ontario Nurses Association and the provincially-funded Community Care Access Centres.

The dispute is mainly over wages; the ONA wants a 1.4 per cent salary increase each year for two years for its CCAC employees, which include registered practical nurses, rapid response registered nurses, care coordinators and direct care nurse practitioners. The ONA claims the increase is on par with what CCAC’s hospital counterparts make.

Studying Logistics
The Jacobin, February 12, 2015

“Amateurs study strategy, professionals study logistics,” US Army General Omar Bradley famously said. Bradley’s declaration was of course an overstatement, but it was also a necessary correction. Logistics — the mobilization of vast resources and, most importantly, people — was the lifeblood of a winning military strategy. Without full and competent logistical support, any strategy, no matter how brilliant, will fail. It is a point worth remembering when discussing the importance of the logistics industry to the US economy.

Most people know the word logistics from UPS’s ubiquitous advertising campaign, “We [Heart] Logistics.” It is sometimes seen as a fancy word for old-fashioned warehousing and distribution, an advertising makeover for the twenty-first century. “For many [others],” Marxist geographer Deborah Cowen writes, “logistics may only register as a word on the side of the trucks that magically bring online orders only hours after purchase or that circulate incessantly to and from big-box stores at local power centers.” On still other occasions, it is more glibly understood as the “supply chain.”

Dene People in Northern Saskatchewan Are Resisting Uranium and Tar Sands Mining
Vice, February 11, 2015

On November 22nd, 2014, a small group of Dene trappers called the Northern Trappers Alliance set up a checkpoint on Saskatchewan’s Highway 955, allowing locals to pass while blockading the industrial traffic of tar sands and uranium exploration companies. On December 1st, officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police descended on the site with an injunction from the province and forcibly dismantled the blockade.

Eighty days later, the trappers remain camped on the side of the highway in weather that has routinely dipped below -40C. They are constructing a cabin to stay there permanently. The cabin will be a meeting place for Dene people and northern land defenders.

Services resume in Happy Valley-Goose Bay following labour deal
CBC News, February 13, 2015

Snow clearing and other services are starting back up Happy Valley-Goose Bay after a municipal lockout ended Thursday night with a tentative deal.

The town’s 43 employees were locked out by the town after a disagreement over proposed pension reform.

CUPE members voted Thursday night to accept a tentative agreement that was worked out earlier in the day. Both the town council and the union said details will be released Monday when council is expected to approve the agreement.

Railway Dispute Makes Life in New West Condos Unnerving
The Tyee, February 12, 2015

New Westminster’s Quayside neighbourhood is a nice place to live, with over 8,000 upscale condos in multiple towers overlooking the Fraser River. But with a labour dispute involving a company whose trains reportedly carry hazardous goods like propane, ammonia and chlorine right next door — and with the company refusing to state publicly how many of its trains carry such goods — some residents might wonder if it could be at risk.

Quayside has only two overpass exits which could easily be blocked in the event of a derailment or leak involving hazardous goods, according to a 2013 CBC report. The neighbourhood sits next to a rail yard used by four different companies, including the short haul Southern Railway of BC, which locked out its CUPE 7000 employees at the beginning of this year.

IOC workers overwhelmingly vote against wage freeze
CBC News, February 13, 2015

Unionized workers at the Iron Ore Company of Canada mine in Labrador City turned out by the hundreds Thursday night to vote against a proposed wage freeze. Nearly 1,200 members of the United Steelworkers cast ballots, with 91 per cent rejecting a request by the company for the workers to give up a four per cent wage increase due to kick in on March 1.

The company was looking to eliminate the increase to offset slumping iron ore prices. Ron Thomas, president of union local 5795, said workers believe the company can find other ways to save money. He specifically referenced the presence of contract workers at the mine, which he says is costing the company four times more than a full-time unionized worker.

The Target at our Backs
RankandFile.ca, February 13, 2015

Target’s operations in Canada have got the go ahead for liquidation. In preparation for its liquidation sales, workloads for Target’s workers are increasing, morale has plummeted and absenteeism is rampant.

How did it get to this? Let’s recap what we know.

Saskatchewan teachers receive new contract: 7.55% wage hike over four years
Saskatoon StarPheonix, February 12, 2015

Saskatchewan teachers have a new contract with the province after two rounds of failed negotiations led the two sides to seek outside help.

The collective agreement gives teachers a 7.55 per cent wage increase over four years — retroactive to Sept. 1, 2013 — and includes a 0.25 per cent increase in the provincial government’s contribution to the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Retirement Plan starting July 1, 2016.

“Given the rapidly changing economic circumstances and the pronouncements about public sector wage freezes, the terms of settlement looked to us as the very best agreement we could get for teachers,” said Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation vice-president Randy Cline on Thursday at a media event.

No contract vote frustrates teachers
Saskatoon StarPheonix, February 14, 2015

When the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) accepted a contract on behalf of its members this week, it broke – for the first time – the tradition of giving teachers the opportunity to vote. That has left teachers “frustrated” and “dissatisfied,” and has pundits pointing to possible tension between the STF and its members.

It all goes back to the last two rounds of negotiations, which the STF executive sold as a good deal, but teachers voted against it by an overwhelming majority. That led to the creation of the three-person conciliatory board that brokered the deal.

Winnipeg’s snow clearing efforts going under review
CBC News, February 10, 2015

A city committee has ordered a review of Winnipeg’s snow clearing with a report due in June. Winnipeg has a very good snow clearing service although last year was a challenge, said Brad Sacher, the city’s director of public works. The public works committee called for the review after a debate Tuesday morning, during which the head of the city’s biggest union said there hasn’t been a comprehensive review in 17 years.

Mike Davidson, president of CUPE 500, which represents about 5,000 city workers, also suggested more of that work should be brought “back in-house,” meaning it should be done by city employees not private contractors.

Strike possible March 13 at Peterborough County-City Health Unit
Peterborough Examiner, February 12, 2015

Most of the local health unit’s unionized workers are poised to go on strike March 13. Unless negotiations lead to a new contract before that deadline, 85 workers have told their unions they’ll walk off the job.

Two unions are involved: the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 4170 represents 53 workers, such as health inspectors and secretaries, while the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) represents 32 nurses. CUPE and ONA workers have been without a contract since Oct. 1 and they’ve been offered a 0.5% wage increase.

Canada’s Supreme Court Just Enshrined Public Sector Workers’ Right to Strike
In These Times, February 12, 2015

In a ruling on January 30, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the right to strike as a legitimate part of the collective bargaining process for Canadian workers. The case is a major victory for Canada’s labor movement, which has been battered by anti-union legislation from conservative governments at the provincial and federal level in the last few years.

In a 5-2 decision, the court struck down Saskatchewan’s Public Service Essential Services Act (PSESA) which was passed in 2008 by the province’s right-wing government of Premier Brad Wall. (Premiers are the heads of provincial governments in parliamentary systems.) The legal challenge was brought forward by the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL). Saskatchewan’s Court of Queen’s Bench ruled against the law in 2012; the province appealed to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, which upheld the law. The SFL then appealed to the Supreme Court. The Court has given the province one year to draft new legislation that recognizes workers’ rights to strike.

Canada Shouldn’t Model Dodgy European Austerity, Warns Political Economist
The Tyee, February 14, 2015

Canada risks facing the same economic woes as Europe if the federal government does not back away from its zero-deficit idealism, warns a professor at Rhode Island’s Brown University. Mark Blyth is an Eastman Professor of political economics at Brown’s Watson Institute and an outspoken critic of austerity measures. Current threats to Canada’s economy mean that austerity could push the country into a recession, he said.

Austerity involves cuts to government spending in order to spark private investment, as the government becomes more fiscally stable and doesn’t threaten private enterprise with its own investments in projects like infrastructure.

Canadian Tire exec to become Stephen Harper’s chief spokesman
Ottawa Citizen, February 13, 2015

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s top spokesman is resigning to go back to the private sector, in another major shakeup of the prime minister’s inner circle just months before a federal election.

Jason MacDonald, Harper’s director of communications, is leaving the Prime Minister’s Office just seven months before a fall federal election.

Rob Nicol, an executive at Canadian Tire and former senior staffer in Mike Harris’s Ontario Progressive Conservative government, will replace MacDonald as Harper’s director of communications. Nicol will be Harper’s ninth communications director since Harper took office in 2006.

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