Labour News Update: Jan. 25, 2016

Essar Steel Algoma retirees | Chronicle Herald journalists and staff on strike| West Jest Flight Attendants union drive | Picadilly mine layoffs in New Brunswick | Covered Bridge Chips strike | TPP will lead to 58,000 jobs lost | Goodwill closure | Postmedia staff cuts| Best Western Seven Oaks strike | Inspection blitz finds three-quarters of bosses breaking law| Frozen Canada Post mailboxes leave Montrealers fuming | Capstone Mining plans Minto mine layoffs in Yukon | Funding freeze is culprit in Ontario hospitals | War of words in $2.2B battle over U.S. Steel | Supreme Court ponders whether, for some, job security is a legal right | Canadian Pacific Railway to cut up to 1,000 jobs | Winnipeg Transit drivers face escalating violence, says union | Newfoundland and Labrador government not ruling out layoffs as departments, agencies asked to trim 30% | Rail safety documents heavily redacted or kept secret by Transport Canada |

Essar Steel Algoma retirees denied millions in pension payments, January 23, 2015

Insisting he’s sympathetic to thousands of Essar Steel Algoma retirees, a Toronto judge has nonetheless told the steelmaker it no longer has to make $3.38 million in special payments owed each month to its pension plans. “I have sympathy for the employees and in particular for the retirees, who are the most vulnerable,” said Justice Frank Newbould of the Ontario Superior Court. Payment to the three defined benefit pension plans may be delayed until the steelmaker emerges from insolvency proceedings, he ordered.

1382196_1120804094630834_616600055125429900_nChronicle Herald strikers receive layoff notices
CBC News, January 23, 2015

Eighteen Chronicle Herald staff have received layoff notices on the first day of their strike at Canada’s oldest independently owned newspaper. Frank Campbell, vice president of the Halifax Typographical Union, said Saturday layoff notices had been issued to four photographers, 12 editors and two page technicians. He said the union’s lawyers are analyzing the legality of the move. “It wasn’t on our radar that people would receive layoff notices while we were on strike,” Campbell told CBC News.

The Struggle to Organize WestJet Flight Attendants: An interview with the WPFAA, January 19, 2016

On Feb. 26, 2014, the WestJet Professional Flight Attendants’ Association (WPFAA) began a certification drive to unionize WestJet flight attendants, amidst resistance from management. The WPFAA is an in-house representative organization seeking union certification under the Canada Labour Code. It has hundreds of members, and is “organized to empower the flight attendants at WestJet to advocate for industry standard expectations within our workplace,” says the WPFAA.

Canadian Pacific Railway to cut up to 1,000 jobs as rail volume slumps
CBC News, January 21, 2016

Canadian Pacific Railway plans to cut 1,000 positions this year as it adjusts to lower shipment volumes and profits. The Calgary-based rail company says most of the cuts to unionized and management positions will result from attrition and kick in by the middle of 2016. Since 2012, the railway has cut 6,000 to 7,000 positions, including 1,200 last year alone. CP made the announcement on a conference call Thursday after releasing its fourth-quarter and year-end results. “There’s probably 1,000 additional heads to come out potentially in 2016,” is how CEO Hunter Harrison replied to an analyst’s question on the company’s head count. “So there’s still room there.”

‘I feel like I’ve walked into the Twilight Zone’: terminated Spaniard’s Bay employee
CBC News, January 23, 2016

A Spaniard’s Bay employee who was terminated this week says he’s disgusted at how the town council is reacting to allegations of sexual harassment within the fire department. “They simply do not have the capacity to understand the issues…They don’t understand, and the sad part is, most of the community doesn’t understand,” said Steve Smith. “I feel like I’ve walked into the Twilight Zone and it’s 1940.”

Winnipeg Transit drivers face escalating violence, says union
CBC News, January 21, 2016

PotashCorp suspends Picadilly mine in N.B., cuts 430 jobs
CBC News, January 19, 2016

Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan is indefinitely suspending its Picadilly mine operation near Sussex, N.B. The move is expected to result in the loss of 420 to 430 jobs.Sussex Mayor Marc Thorne said he was in “disbelief” when he heard about the corporation’s decision to suspend mine operations. “It is just heartbreaking to hear this news today,” Thorne said. The mayor said he’s unsure how the community will fill the economic hole.

Winnipeg Transit drivers face escalating violence, says union
CBC News, January 21, 2016

Transit drivers in Winnipeg are facing an increasing number of violent assaults on the job, says the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1505. In 2015 alone there were approximately 60 assaults against transit operators in the city, an increase of 54 per cent, said ATU. “It ranges from punching, spitting, slapping, kicking, weapons, coffee thrown at them, beer cans, you name it,” said John Callahan, president of ATU Local 1505.

goodwill-employeejpg.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxGoodwill workers blast charity’s CEO over closures
Toronto Star, January 20, 2016

David Williams could have stayed on employment insurance. He could have gone on disability for the scoliosis he’s suffered since age 12. In his own words, he could have just stayed home and watched TV.
Williams figures those options would probably have netted him more money than 19 years at Goodwill. But just as the 80-year-old charity originally intended, work provided him with so much more: purpose, identity, passion. “We’re a family,” he said of his colleagues at Goodwill Scarborough.

MUN students’ union pulling potato chips
The Telegram, January 21, 2016

The union representing striking Covered Bridge Potato Chips employees is cheering the Memorial University of Newfoundland Students’ Union (MUNSU) for reportedly halting its business with the company. According to the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), representing employees with the New Brunswick snack manufacturer, the local students’ union has said it is putting business with the chip company on hold, until ongoing negotiations for Covered Bridge workers are concluded. The local students’ union is responsible for The Attic, a convenience store on the St. John’s campus where the chips are otherwise sold. MUNSU is taking the same stance as the United Campus Labour Council at St. Thomas University, which includes the Union of Graduate Student Workers and several other affiliates, the UFCW states.

War of words in $2.2B battle over U.S. Steel
Hamilton Spectator, January 21, 2016

An American financial expert warns foreign investors will avoid Canada if U.S. Steel is forced to reclassify its debt claims against the former Stelco as equity investments. Yvette Austin Smith said in an expert report filed with the court that more than $350 billion worth of Canadian debt could be affected by the reclassification sought by opponents of U.S. Steel. “An increased risk of intercompany debt recharacterization would increase the cost of capital for multinational corporations investing in Canada and may reduce overall investment levels by such firms,” she said in her written report. The trial, now in its third day, is to decide if the $2.2 billion U.S. Steel claims as debt owed by the former Stelco is really debt or, in fact, equity injections from the parent company to help a struggling subsidiary.

Newfoundland and Labrador government not ruling out layoffs as departments, agencies asked to trim 30%
CBC News, January 20, 2015

The minister of Finance is not ruling out layoffs as the government asks departments, agencies, boards and corporations to identify budget cuts totalling 30 per cent. Speaking in a media scrum Wednesday afternoon, Finance Minister Cathy Bennett said all options are on the table to find the savings needed, including layoffs. “When you do the math, we’re short 28 per cent of the money we need to pay the bills,” said Bennett. She said government is looking for “bold, innovative ideas” on how to address a $2.4 billion deficit. During the 2015 election campaign, Liberals said there would be no job cuts to balance the books.

Supreme Court ponders whether, for some, job security is a legal right
ipolitics, January 21, 2016

It is another potentially groundbreaking case: whether a federal non-unionized employee can be fired without cause, allowing a company to retain the power to dismiss someone it simply doesn’t like. Like similar cases before the Supreme Court of Canada last year — about the constitutional right to strike or the rights of RCMP employees to collective bargaining — the case of Joseph Wilson versus Atomic Energy of Canada has the potential to dramatically overturn almost 40 years of labour relations in Canada. At heart is whether the Canada Labour Code gives non-unionized employees the same rights as union members over dismissal without cause. That’s what the Code seemed to mandate in 1978 when it was amended by the then Liberal government to dictate that non-unionized employees with at least one year of service could not be dismissed without a reason.

12594043_10153686993910660_6928926574525264529_oHospital cuts protested outside Windsor pre-budget consultations
CTV News, January 19, 2016

The Ontario Federation of Labour and the Ontario Common Front have joined the Ontario Health Coalition in Windsor to protest cuts to Ontario hospitals and social programs. The groups gathered outside pre-budget consultations in Windsor. “Here in Windsor, we are seeing the effects of austerity in every community, “said OFL president Chris Buckley. “Hospital cuts, hydro privatization, mounting student debt, precarious jobs and Canada’s lowest social program funding are taking their toll in every neighbourhood.

Strike Wave: The Need for Mandatory First Contract Arbitration in Canada, January 21, 2016

First Contract Arbitration would help to eliminate strikes by recently organized workers who are seeking a first contract, much like the now-ended strike at CarePartners and the current strike at Covered Bridge. Clearly, a successful vote in favour of unionization (especially under a two-step process: card-drive followed by a secret-ballot vote) strongly indicates the workers wish to be covered by, and receive the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement. That they should be forced to strike to achieve a collective agreement in the face of a hostile employer for any unreasonable length of time, let alone the six months that OPSEU members needed to picket in order to secure a first contract, is an area of grave concern. In both the CarePartners and Covered Bridge strikes, workers had been organized but without a first collective agreement for roughly two years before resorting to the picket line.

Funding freeze is culprit in Ontario hospitals
Saultstar, January 21, 2016

A continued freeze to base operating funding for Ontario hospitals will yield a dire diagnoses for health care — particularly in Northern Ontario, contends the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE (OCHU). Michael Hurley, one of a number of presenters to the provincial government’s pre-budget consultations in Sault Ste. Marie Thursday, said stakeholders presenting a united front in opposition to Liberal health-care policy is crucial if this four-year freeze is to end any time soon. “There has been an increase in community unhappiness expressed in various forms over some of the cutbacks that have taken place,” Hurley told The Sault Star in an interview Thursday afternoon following his presentation. “It’s only by working together that we’ll be able to affect a change here.”

TPP’s Economic Impact Will Be Fewer Jobs, More Inequality, New Study Says
Huffington Post, January 22, 2016

The Trans-Pacific Partnership meant to create the world’s largest free trade area will cost Canada 58,000 jobs and increase income inequality, says a new U.S. study. Perhaps more surprisingly, the study found that the two largest economies in the TPP — the U.S. and Japan — would actually shrink as a result of the trade deal, and that the deal would result in fewer jobs overall in all the participating countries.

Inspection blitz finds three-quarters of bosses breaking law
Toronto Star, January 20, 2016

A Ministry of Labour inspection blitz focusing on precarious employment has found 78 per cent of workplaces in violation of the Employment Standards Act, according to a detailed breakdown requested by the Star. These include household names like Goodlife Fitness, G4S Security, and Bowlerama, who were caught for a variety of infractions including shoddy record keeping, excess hours of work, and failure to shell out overtime pay. A total of 304 workplaces were inspected in the province-wide blitz, which targeted sectors like cleaning, security services, and recreation facilities. Some 238 were breaking the law. The most common monetary infractions being overtime, public holiday, and vacation pay. The ministry collected $361,000 in unpaid wages for workers following the inspections, according to its website.

Postmedia merges newsrooms, cuts 90 jobs in response to financial woes
Globe and Mail, January 19, 2016

The country’s largest newspaper chain, Postmedia Network Canada Corp., is merging once-competing newsrooms and cutting about 90 staff as it tries to cope with declining revenue and a heavy debt load.
In Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa – cities where Postmedia owns two daily papers – editorial staff will be joined together to work under one senior editor, filing stories and images to both publications. But the company is not closing any newspapers, promising to continue publishing two in each city, albeit with less distinctive content and fewer rival reporters working local beats.

Capstone Mining plans Minto mine layoffs in Yukon
CBC News, January 19, 2016

Capstone Mining Corporation says it will begin laying off employees at its Minto copper mine in early April unless copper prices start to rise. It’s part of what the Vancouver-based company calls a “temporary closure” of the mine, located 240 kilometres north of Whitehorse. “Our job is to watch the market and see if we can mine longer,” said Ron Light, the mine’s general manager. “Right now we kind of have a stop point of April 2017, but I’ve seen markets change quickly so we don’t know. We’re going to keep working at everything we can to get every bit of ore while it’s still economical.”

Rail safety documents heavily redacted or kept secret by Transport Canada
CBC News, January 19, 2016

Transport Canada is refusing to publicly release details about a range of safety issues detected on Canada’s railways. A CBC investigation has found the federal regulator has withheld — or blacked out key findings in — a number of documents related to railway safety that were requested by community groups and the media under Canada’s access to information law. The requested documents included an audit, risk assessments for CP, CN and other rail companies, orders, notices and letters of concern. Of the 21 document requests made by CBC in 2015, most came back with redactions, and in the case of several key safety reports, specific details were completely blacked out.

Frozen Canada Post mailboxes leave Montrealers fuming
The Gazette, January 19, 2016

First, Canada Post took away Josée Baillargeon’s door-to-door mail delivery. Now, her outdoor community mailbox is holding her letters hostage during cold, snowy weather. For days, Baillargeon had trouble getting to her mailbox because of the mounds of snow that surrounded it. Once she reached it, the mailbox lock was frozen solid, a dilemma faced by many Canadians in recent weeks. Canada Post blames the weather. Some of Baillargeon’s Dollard-des-Ormeaux neighbours managed to open their mailboxes after applying car door de-icing fluid, but it wouldn’t work on Baillargeon’s. On Thursday, with no thaw in the offing, she spent two hours on hold waiting to speak to someone at Canada Post.

Hotel workers are resisting concessions at Regina’s Best Western Seven Oaks, January 19, 2016

Hotel workers at the Best Western Seven Oaks in Regina have been on the picket line since mid-December. While both sides have indicated that they’re prepared to bargain at any time, the union wants concessions removed from the table and management is refusing negotiate any of the financial issues. They’re at an effective stale mate. Wages and benefits are at the heart of this struggle, but so too is access to the union’s membership. The union is fighting to maintain the status quo for member access.

Unions Could Save Goodwill Toronto From Incompetent Management, January 22, 2016

Earlier this week, Goodwill announced that they were closing their Toronto-area stores. Sixteen stores and 10 donation centres stocked full of donated clothing and household items were apparently no longer profitable. The workers have expressed the most shock. Despite business as usual, as deliveries continued and people dropped off their impulse buys, maternity clothes and too-small pants, the board voted to cease operations. The workers have been consistent in media reports: they are shocked.

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