R&F Labour News Update – September 8 2015

What eight hour workday? | CBS workers strike in Charlottetown | OFL calls for blanket NDP vote | Unions keep construction workers safer | Fighting postal cuts in Ottawa | U.S. Steel accused of manipulation | Unemployment rate rises | Ontario education support workers job action to start next week | Quebec teachers work to rule | Private sector unions on decline | OPSEU to organize college support staff |

Scenes from Toronto’s Labour Day parade. Photo Credits: David Bush

What eight-hour workday? Labour Day revelers ask
Alex Ballingall, The Toronto Star
Sept. 7 2015

Asked to share his thoughts on the eight-hour workday, that mainstay institution of working life in Canada, Matthew Sartori let out a soft chuckle. What eight-hour workday?

His reality as a production assistant in the film industry means he bounces between employers and typically puts in 13 or 14 hours per day, while being paid for only 12.

“I’m not exactly happy about it, but I’m young. I’m 25,” he said, seated on the stoop of a Queen St. W. storefront as the revelry of the annual Labour Day parade swept past.

Scenes from Toronto’s Labour Day parade. Photo Credits: David Bush

Canadian Blood Services workers on strike in Charlottetown
CBC News
Sept. 7 2015

Canadian Blood Services collection workers in Charlottetown are officially on strike as of Monday morning.

Picketers have been outside the blood donor clinic on Fitzroy Street since 8:30 a.m.

The 11 workers are part-time employees and members of the Nova Scotia Union of Public and Private Employees (NSUPE).

The main issue is the minimum number of hours employees are guaranteed to work.

Ontario Federation Of Labour Urges Blanket Support For NDP
John Bryden, The Canadian Press
Sept. 4 2015

OTTAWA — The Ontario Federation of Labour is throwing unequivocal support behind Tom Mulcair’s NDP in the federal election campaign.

And OFL president Sid Ryan is urging the entire labour movement to unite behind the NDP in a concerted effort to defeat Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.

But while other labour unions share the federation’s determination to get rid of the Conservatives, not all think giving a blanket endorsement to the NDP is the best way to go about it.

Cash crunch ‘inevitable’ for Canadian households deep in debt: report
Jamie Sturgeon, Global News
Sept. 2 2015

Far from pulling back, Canadian households are plowing deeper into debt despite an economy showing clear signs of slowing down.

Total debts owed by Canadians jumped 4.9 per cent in June compared to the same month last year, to $1.84 trillion. That’s the fastest pace of debt growth in more than two years, a new report from RBC Economics said Wednesday.

Unions keep construction workers safer, study shows
Sara Mojtehedzadeh, The Toronto Star
Sept. 4 2015

Unionized construction workers are significantly less likely than their non-unionized counterparts to be seriously injured on the job, a new province-wide study shows.

The report, the first rigorous analysis of its kind in Canada, examined Workplace Safety and Insurance Board claims data from more than 40,000 construction firms across Ontario. It found that workers with unionized firms reported 23 per cent fewer injuries that required time off than those at non-union shops.

Coalition calls on Ottawa city council to fight end of Canada Post ‘s door-to-door mail delivery
Lucy Scholey, Metro Ottawa
Aug. 26 2015

A coalition opposing the end of door-to-door mail delivery is calling on Ottawa city council to join the fight.

The Coalition for an Accessible Public Postal Service wants the mayor and councillors to officially table a resolution in opposition to Canada Post’s phasing-out of the urban service.

“We’re calling on Ottawa city council to take a strong position, giving voice to this opposition,” said Kevin Skerrett, a coordinator of the coalition. The group was outside city hall on Wednesday, handing out pamphlets and “Go Vote” pins to also encourage people to hit the polls on Oct. 19 in the hopes that a new government will reverse this Canada Post plan.

Don’t Call it a Technical Recession, I’ve Been There for Years
Jordon Foisy, VICE Canada
Sept. 3 2015

Prepare yourselves for hearing and seeing the word recession about a trillion times until Election Day. The NDP and the Liberals are frothing at the mouth to be able to hang the faltering economy on the head of Stephen Harper. The PM and the Conservative party, conversely, are going to use every semantic trick in their Necronomicon of political skullduggery to maintain their reputation as steady economic stewards.

But if you’re like me and grew up in the ’90s in one of Ontario’s many struggling manufacturing centers, the whole debate seems disingenuous. As I remember them, the ’90s were filled with abrupt layoffs, mass migration, and downtowns that resembled the toothless smile of a lifelong drunk. For many Canadians, a recessionary economy is all they’ve ever known.

Ex-Stelco boss accuses U.S. Steel of ‘manipulations’
Steve Arnold, The Hamilton Spectator
Sept. 4 2015

A former Stelco president and the provincial government are accusing U.S. Steel of setting up its Canadian business to fail so it could wipe out the claims of 14,000 local pensioners and keep the best parts of the company.

In new legal documents Bob Milbourne and Ontario, in its capacity as regulator of pension plans, say most of the $2.2 billion debt U.S. Steel claims to be owed is really the cost of buying Stelco in 2007 and should be shoved to the end of the line of claims to be paid.

Jobs added in August, but unemployment rate rises
Canadian Labour Reporter
Sept. 4 2015

OTTAWA – Canada’s economy unexpectedly added jobs in August, though the unemployment rate rose to its highest level in a year as more people were looking for work, data from Statistics Canada showed on Friday.

Canada added 12,000 jobs last month, surpassing economists’ expectations for a decline of 4,500 jobs. The unemployment rate rose to seven per cent after sitting at 6.8 per cent for six consecutive months.

Education support workers plan job action to start next week
Roger Belgrave, Brampton Guardian
Sept. 2 2015

Feeling like forgotten stepchildren, support workers in Ontario’s public schools voted to start taking strike action during the first week of school if the provincial government and school boards don’t begin serious labour contract talks.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) have watched, unable to get the attention of the Liberal government or school boards, as the teachers’ unions secured negotiation dates and tentative agreements.

When Premier Kathleen Wynne called a meeting of union leaders and the associations representing school boards in July to encourage a resumption of negotiations and avert a system-wide strike this fall, CUPE noted it wasn’t invited.

Student activities cancelled as Quebec teachers work to rule
Katherine Wilton, Montreal Gazette
Sept. 3 2015

Teachers in public schools across the province have launched a work-to-rule campaign, meaning they will only work 32 hours a week, because they’re angry that the provincial government wants to increase class sizes in elementary and high schools. Quebec is also proposing to no longer consider whether a child has a learning disability when calculating class sizes. At present, for example, a child who is autistic could count as three students depending on the severity of the autism. This proposal would increase the number of special-needs students in classes, teachers say.

The work-to-rule campaign has resulted in the cancellation of sports teams, chess clubs, extra tutoring and field trips in several English schools across the province.

Private sector unions on decline and four other labour trends
Emily Blake, Vancouver Courier
Sept. 2 2015

The Labour Day long weekend signals the end of summer and the coming of a new school year, but it’s also a day to celebrate workers’ rights and has a long history in Canada.

Labour Day in Canada originated from the March 1872 worker strike by the Toronto Printers Union associated with the nine-hour working day movement. It resulted in the passage of the Trade Union Act, which repealed British law that decriminalized unions.

Royal Bank Faculty Research Professor W. Craig Riddell of UBC’s Vancouver School of Economics says a lot has changed since that initial workers strike. He has identified five main labour trends over the past 30 to 40 years in Canada.

OPSEU launches campaign to organize college support staff
Canadian Labour Reporter
Sept. 1 2015

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) recently launched a campaign to unionize part-time support staff at the province’s 24 colleges of applied arts and technology.

The effort aims to bring thousands of part-time workers under the union’s umbrella.

According to OPSEU, part-time college support staff lack the types of supports afforded to full-time workers. Part-time support employees are not entitled to paid sick days, paid vacation days or health benefits.

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