R&F LABOUR NEWS UPDATE: MARCH 16, 2015

National demonstrations against C-51 | Campus job action across Canada | Door-to-door delivery campaigns | Victory for Tim Horton’s workers | Interview with Filipino union activist | Deal reached with health care unions in Nova Scotia | Laundry privatizations in Saskatchewan | Budget cuts and layoffs in Ontario’s health care system

Bill C-51 ‘Day of Action’ protests denounce new policing powers
CBC News, March 14, 2015

Protests were held across Canada against the government’s proposed anti-terrorism legislation, which would give police much broader powers and allow them to detain terror suspects, and give new powers to Canada’s spy agency.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair joined hundreds in Montreal in a march through the city. One protester held up a poster saying “C-51 is an act of terror,” while others carried red “Stop Harper” signs.

The protest planned to end in front of the riding office of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. Trudeau has said his caucus will vote in favour of the bill.

Ontario’s striking universities prove that the system is flawed
Huffington Post, March 13, 2015

We have strikes and unrest at the two largest Universities in Ontario, Toronto and York, plus enforced layoffs at Wilfred Laurier, because of a “revenue shortfall.” What is going on?

The University of Toronto case exemplifies the poor state of relations between most university administrations and their staff. Since 2000, provincial support for the university system has declined quite markedly, while student numbers have increased significantly. At present only around 50 per cent of university revenue comes from direct funding from the province. Most of the balance comes from student tuition fees, both for undergraduate and graduate students. These tuition fees have increased steadily, at well above the rate of inflation. Universities have become much more focused on a “business strategy” rather than focusing on their original intent to be institutions of public service. To a certain extent, given the lack of interest from several provincial governments, this is hardly surprising. However, this is also mixed in with the perceived “globalization” of higher education. One result of this is a desire (some would call it an obsession) by the university management to rise as high in the global rankings as possible.

RankandFile.ca interview: Students for CUPE 3902
RankandFile.ca, March 13, 2015

Last week several hundred students rallied in support of striking academic workers at the University of Toronto and York University. The rally, dubbed ‘End the stristudentskes support CUPE’ was organized by the University of Toronto Students’ Union and was supported by the Canadian Federation of Students. At the rally I interviewed a number of students in different departments about the strike, how it is impacting them, how their fellow students are feeling about the strike and what they are doing to stand in solidarity with the workers.

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Migrants Crackdown Vowed
Blacklock’s, March 12, 2015

Cabinet is enacting new regulations targeting unwanted migrant workers and the Canadian companies that hire them. The amendments precede an April 1 deadline that would see the expulsion of thousands of temporary foreign workers.

“Canada is serious about ensuring jobs for Canadians first and protecting the Canadian labour market,” Employment Canada wrote in a regulatory notice. The department is responsible for issuing migrant permits.

Authorities yesterday enacted amendments to Department Of Employment And Social Development Regulations allowing border guards to gain access to the department’s foreign worker database. The new rules would allow the Canada Border Services Agency to more easily intercept illegal migrants and identify companies that hired them.

Steelworkers welcome industrial inquiry in beer can strike
Newswire, March 13

The United Steelworkers (USW) welcomes the Ontario government’s decision to appoint an Industrial Inquiry Commission into an 18-month labour dispute in Toronto provoked by U.S.-based multinational Crown Holdings.

“Crown has demanded concessions even though it is profitable and Crown does not want to allow all striking employees to return to work. This is unacceptable in Ontario and we hope that the commission leads Crown to finally understand that,” said USW Ontario Director Marty Warren.

“In the meantime, we will continue our fight against Crown’s U.S.-style union-busting tactics on all available fronts,” Warren said.

Door-to-door mail service cuts are not yet a done deal
London Free Press, March 13, 2015

Here are five myths about Canada Post’s cuts to home mail delivery:

Half of Londoners already use community mailboxes. What’s the problem?’

About 19% of London’s mailing addresses (35,485 of 182,793, by Canada Post’s own figures) have community mailboxes (more accurately, self-serve mailboxes). Another 30% get apartment lobby delivery — safer and more secure than community mailboxes on the street. Just more than half the mailing addresses in London have door-to-door mail service, now threatened with cuts.

More importantly, existing community mailboxes were integrated as part of planned new subdivisions. What is proposed is different: imposing community mailboxes in neighbourhoods with established door-to-door service, where no public space is allocated for them.

This means they may be installed on municipal easements — sometimes in residents’ yards — with many negative impacts that existing community mailboxes don’t cause. Most of these impacts have yet to be studied by our city council.

Victory for Tim Hortons worker!
Workers United Union, March 13, 2015

Thanks to an outpouring of public support and pressure placed on Tim Hortons management, Workers United is pleased to announce that the employer has offered to fully reinstate the fired worker.

Background

Recently, a group of workers at four Tim Hortons locations in Winnipeg reached out to union staff to discuss issues around wages and working conditions and how they can be improved. In response, Tim Hortons management, including the owner Kamta Roy Singh, threatened to shut down the restaurants if the workers formed a union, slash benefits, and fire employees who joined a union. Acting on their threats, they proceeded to unjustly fire a worker who they identified as talking to union organizers, creating a climate of fear across the four locations.

Saint John’s rail disaster plan requested by councillor
CBC News, March 13, 2015

A Saint John city councillor wants to know how prepared the city is in the event of a crude oil train disaster.

Coun. David Merrithew has put a motion on the agenda for Monday’s meeting requesting a future presentation by Kevin Clifford, the city’s fire chief.

The request follows three crude rail car derailments resulting in fires in North America during the past month, including one on March 7 in a wooded area, four kilometres from the small northern Ontario community of Gogama.

“This would have serious consequences in the middle of our city,” said Merrithew.

Government, Unions Reach Health-Care Labour Relations Agreement
Government of Nova Scotia, March 13, 2015

Government and the four unions involved in health care have reached an agreement today, March 13.

“Health-care unions have worked with us to reach this important agreement, and I thank them for their willingness to come to the table,” said Premier Stephen McNeil.

Four councils of unions will be established to bargain on behalf of each bargaining unit — nursing, health care, support and administrative professionals.

UFCW Local 501 welcomes new members at Sobeys Trois-Rivières distribution warehouse
UFCW

Trois-Rivières, Que. – March 12, 2015 – Workers at the Sobeys distribution warehouse in Trois-Rivières have become the newest members of UFCW Local 501. An application for certification was filed with the Commission des relations du travail (‘‘Quebec’s labour relations board’’) on March 9, after an overwhelming majority of the workers indicated their support for UFCW Canada representation.

“We are very pleased and proud to welcome the new members to our union,” says UFCW Canada Local 501 President Alain Lachaîne. “We are grateful for the trust they have placed in us, and we look forward to representing the new members at Sobeys in Trois-Rivières with our fullest commitment and energy.”

MPs, senators get bigger raises than public servants
Metro New, March 13, 2015

MPs are in line for a 2.3-per-cent raise in pay, about five times the increase the Conservative government is offering employees in the public service.

Under legislation, MPs’ yearly salary increases are tied to the average wage settlements negotiated in private-sector companies that have more than 500 employees. That means they are automatically entitled to the average 2.3 per-cent wage hike private sector employers gave their employees in 2014.

The secretive Board of Internal Economy, a group of MPs who oversee the administration of the House of Commons, has been advised of the increase and it’s expected that all MPs will soon be notified of the raise, which kicks in April 1.

Nova Scotia is paying RBC as much as $22 million to open a financial services centre in Halifax
National Post, March 11, 2015

Nova Scotia’s business development agency has agreed to offer the Royal Bank of Canada up to $22 million in payroll rebates to open a financial services centre in Halifax.

The bank is expected to create 150 new jobs this year in cheque processing, accounts payable and fixed asset accounting, Nova Scotia Business Inc. said Wednesday.

The average salary in the payroll agreement is about $60,000 annually and there is the potential for up to 500 new jobs within 10 years, the provincial agency said.

B.C. minimum wage to be tied to the province’s Consumer Price Index
CBC News, March 12, 2015

The minimum wage in B.C. will be tied to the province’s rate of inflation and rise every September, Jobs Minister Shirley Bond announced Thursday.

Bond said that the rate would reflect the B.C. Consumer Price Index, with the first increase taking place this September, with a raise from $10.25 per hour, to $10.45.

“It will provide certainty for business in British Columbia, it will also provide certainty for employees in the province,” she said.

Bond confirmed that if the CPI rate drops across the year, the minimum wage would remain at the previous year’s rate.

The minimum wage for servers will rise from $9.00 per hour to $9.20, Bond said, staying lower than the regular minimum wage because of tips.

North Sask. Laundry closing Oct. 10
PA Herald, March 11, 2015

“In Prince Albert, the closure of the laundry facility means a loss of $3.6 million a year to the local economy in wages and spin-off benefits,” CUPE Saskatchewan president Tom Graham noted in a press release.

“Similar losses will be felt in Yorkton, Weyburn and Moose Jaw.”

Albert-based K-Bro Linens will open their private laundry facility in Regina on Oct. 12, replacing the current public health care laundry services structure.

In January, University of Winnipeg economist Hugh Grant skewered the province’s shift to privatization in both a report and a presentation in Prince Albert.

“It’s not just that you’ve gone and contracted with a private sector, you’ve contracted with a private monopoly,” he said, estimating a net loss to the provincial income of up to $42 million over 10 years.

Has Ottawa shelved its target pension plan?
Toronto Star, March 11, 2015

Is Ottawa moving ahead with its plan to introduce a target benefit pension plan?
Executives with Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union, believe the federal government has shelved the controversial proposal.

“You did it! The conservative government’s proposed target benefit plan framework has been withdrawn because of your efforts,” Cheryl Robinson, president of Unifor Local 2022, wrote in a bulletin to the union’s members on Tuesday.

“Thank you for persistence and hard work to make this campaign a success. The fight is not over, but we can be proud of the work to date,” Robinson wrote in the bulletin.

The federal government first unveiled its proposal for target benefit plans in April 2014.

Negotiations stalled at UNBC
The Prince George Citizen, March 10, 2015

The fifth day of the University of Northern B.C. faculty began and ended without plans for further negotiations.

Jacqueline Holler, president of the UNBC Faculty Association, said it hasn’t heard from the administration since the bargaining teams last met Friday morning.

“We are a little surprised and I’m hearing from a lot of students who are surprised that we haven’t heard back.”

“I think that the university is open to considering flexibility within its financial envelope and I think that’s been articulated,” said Rob van Adrichem, UNBC’s vice president of external relations. “I think the faculty association can respond and join us at the table, if they like.”

With no scheduled return trip to the bargaining table, all of today’s classes are cancelled.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt wants MPs to grill CN over derailments
Metro News, March 10, 2015

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt says the government is concerned about the recent spate of oil-by-rail train derailments in northern Ontario and wants CN Rail called on the carpet.

Transport Canada inspectors are on the site of CN’s weekend derailment near Gogama, Ont., and an aerial surveillance team has flown over the scene where oil tank cars crashed and burned, Raitt told the House of Commons transport committee Tuesday.

In the past month, four trains carrying crude oil have derailed in the United States and Canada, sparking major fires, polluting waterways and forcing some evacuations of homes.

Nova Scotia Power’s parent company top 3 executives worth $7.9M
CBC News, March 6, 2015

Last year was another banner year for shareholders and its top executives of Nova Scotia Power’s parent company, Emera. ​

The energy conglomerate — which includes Nova Scotia Power, Bangor Hydro, several Caribbean utilities, three natural gas plants in New England and 13 per cent of the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline — saw growth in its operations outside the Maritimes which now account for about half its income.

Emera’s profit, $319 million in adjusted earnings, was up 23 per cent over the previous year. Shareholders saw their earnings increase by 16 per cent.

CHEO to cut up to 50 positions to meet budget shortfall
CBC News, March 11, 2015

The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario said it plans to cut up to 50 positions to meet an $6.7-million shortfall in its 2015/16 budget.

The hospital said in a statement that it “expects that most of these reductions will be accomplished by attrition, voluntary retirement and reassignment.”

CHEO said the provincial government’s “ambitious plan to eliminate the provincial deficit” leaves the hospital without additional funding necessary to cover negotiated salary increases of up to 1.4 per cent for unionized employees.

CHEO said despite rising costs, the hospital’s core funding has been frozen or reduced since 2012.

Oil patch employees laid off at remote camp
CTV News, March, 2015

Oil field employees are laid off and stranded at a remote worksite in northern Alberta after the company, PPEC, goes into receivership.

An entirely different kind of labour union
RankandFile.ca, March 12, 2015

The Service, Office, and Retail Workers’ Union of Canada

This comic tells the inspiring story of SORWUC, a union created out of the women’s movement of the late 1960s.

It was first published by the Graphic History Collective, which has authored a series of excellent working-class histories. The illustrations were done by Ethan Heitner, and writing by Julia Smith, Robin Folvik, and Sean Carleton.

Courage in times of violence: How the Canadian labour movement can support fellow workers in the Philippines
RankandFile.ca, March 13, 2015

In the Philippines, just like in Canada, the struggles of public sector workers are closely aligned with community interests.

The Philippines’ largest public sector union, the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees, aptly acronymed COURAGE, is knee-deep in the fight against water privatization and increased electricity and transportation costs.

COURAGE’s labour activists are, perceivably, a threat to the government’s economic program.

Guatemalan farm workers win case against Savoura
Press release, March 2, 2015

It took five years of tribunal procedures against Savoura for two Guatemalan farm-workers to win their case of wrongful dismissal against the Quebec-based Tomato producer. But news of the company’s financial difficulties has crushed the hopes of the two men that they will ever receive compensation. farmers2-852-8col

“I was satisfied with the judgement,” said Noé Arteaga Santos, one of the two farm-workers. “So it was very discouraging on a personal level to read that Savoura is on the point of bankruptcy and we may never be compensated. It is even more disturbing on a general level that, since Bill 8 was adopted and the Labour Code modified on 21 October 2013, farmworkers in Quebec can no longer unionize to defend their rights. With regards to our compensation, however, we really hope that justice will prevail and that we will receive our compensation. It is our right. If that does not happen, we will fight back to get it.”

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