Labour News Update: Mon. Feb. 15

Featured in this week’s Labour News Update, read about:

Exploited Valentines | BC asbestos bosses | Bottom 20% spending | Covered Bridge Potato Chips strike | Ontario nurses say enough is enough | Toronto-union impasse |  | Labour resistance on the rise | GoodLife Fitness union drive | Husky Oil Calgary layoffs | The Feds and unpaid internships | CNRL derails deaths inquiry | The U.S. Steel robbery

Valentine’s Day: celebrating love with exploited labour
Feb. 14, 2016

Feb. 14 is also Flower Workers Day in Colombia, which draws attention to the exploited labor on which “love” depends. Plenty of anti-consumerist and anti-romance arguments have been made against Valentine’s Day, but even the sentimentalc cannot deny what is perhaps the strongest case against the holiday: its dependence on the exploitation of labor. Roses and chocolate are products in of an industry where the violations of workers’ rights and dignity is routine.

B.C. asbestos removal company faces contempt of court hearing
Seattle Environmental Consulting Ltd. accused of breaching court order on violating workplace regulations
Feb. 14

An asbestos-removal company is in court starting Monday to face accusations it repeatedly exposed its workers to the deadly construction material.
Labour organizations in British Columbia are calling for jail time against Seattle Environmental Consulting Ltd. director Mike Singh and his son Shawn Singh.
The B.C. Federation of Labour and the B.C. Insulators Union have released a statement saying the two men breached court orders on multiple occasions demanding that they not violate workplace regulations.

Statistics Canada: Bottom 20% of households spending over half their budgets on basic necessities
Press Progress
Feb. 12, 2016

How hard is it to make ends meet these days?coveredbridge2

New data released Friday by Statistics Canada shows low-income Canadians are spending over half their budgets on food, shelter and clothes – basic necessities.

“The 20% of households with the lowest income spent an average of $31,974 in 2014,” Statistics Canada reports. “Of this total, 51.2% was allocated to shelter, food, and clothing and accessories.”

Covered Bridge Potato Chips strike enters week 6
Workers have been on strike since Jan. 5 over wages and seniority
CBC News
Feb. 12, 2016

Workers on strike at the Covered Bridge Potato Chips company in Hartland are still on the picket line, five weeks after the strike began over better pay and seniority issues.

Approximately half of the company’s 32 unionized workers walked off the job on Jan. 5, but on Friday, about 10 were outside carrying signs.

Ontario nurses say enough is enough – Concessions and layoffs must stop now
Ontario Nurses Association
Feb. 12, 2016

Ontario nurses say enough is enough following three futile weeks of bargaining with the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA). Contract talks came to an abrupt halt when the OHA team made a final offer which would result in the gutting of our wages, benefits and job security.

The union representing more than 58,000 hospital RNs has been clear from day one that RN workloads and lack of staffing are at crisis levels and something must be done immediately to stop the unprecedented wave of RN cuts, says
ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN. The current collective agreement between ONA’s hospital-sector RNs and their employers expires on March 31.

Mayor John Tory warns of ‘real chance’ of strike or lockout
Contract talks between the city and unions are at an impasse
David Rider
The Toronto Star

Feb. 11, 2016

Mayor John Tory is warning council colleagues of “a real chance we will have a labour disruption,” because contract talks between the city and unions representing 28,000 workers are at an impasse.

In an email to councillors and their staff Thursday afternoon, Tory notes that CUPE Local 416 members will be in a strike or lockout position at 12:01 a.m. Feb. 19, and Local 79 members one day later.

For First Time In Years, Labor Resistance Is on the Rise in America
It was the first year since 2011 that saw the number of major work stoppages increased in the US
Sam Knight
The District Sentinel
Feb. 11, 2016

Industrial unrest in the United States was more frequent and widespread last year, according to annual data released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There were twelve “major work stoppages” measured by BLS, up from eleven the year before. The disputes involved about 47,000 workers—a year-over-year increase of 13,000.

GoodLife Fitness instructors campaign for union muscle
Staff say wages far below industry standard, but gym says they’re on par with other facilities.
Sara Mojtehedzadeh
Feb. 11, 2016

It’s a brand built around “passion, peak attitude, and happiness,” to name a few of GoodLife Fitness’s so-called core values. But employees’ complaints of low wages, onerous training costs, and lack of injury insurance at Canada’s largest health club have some wondering why those principles don’t seem to apply to them.

In the face of growing insecurity, personal coaches and class instructors at Toronto-area GoodLifes have launched a unionization campaign to reclaim the company they say is undermining its praiseworthy vision by ignoring workers’ grievances.

Oil giant Husky lays off hundreds at Calgary office
Feb. 10, 2016

Canadian energy giant Husky has announced new layoffs as oil prices continue to slide.

Husky Energy issued pink slips to 400 people at their downtown Calgary office on Tuesday, the same day the price of oil fell below US$28 a barrel – a price not seen in nearly 13 years.

The layoffs come just a few months after Husky cut 1,400 positions. Many of those jobs were contractor positions, but approximately 300 were full-time.

Federal proposals on unpaid internships ‘galling,’ advocates say
If implemented, the changes would allow for four-month unpaid internships in federally-regulated sectors like banking and telecommunications
Sara Mojtehedzadeh
The Toronto Star
Feb. 9, 2016

The advocacy group representing Canadian students and interns has withdrawn from the federal government’s consultations on how to improve protections for young workers because the proposals will allow unpaid internships, the Star has learned.

If implemented, the changes to the Canada Labour Code would permit unpaid internships of up to four months in federally regulated sectors like banking and telecommunications — so long as the position is “primarily for the benefit of the intern” and does not replace a paid position.

But advocates say the proposed guidelines are a recipe for exploitation.storagetank

Energy giant CNRL derails full public inquiry into foreign workers’ deaths
Company says no further investigation needed in collapse at oilsands site that killed 2, injured 5 others
Terry Reith

CBC News
Feb. 9, 2016

A public fatality inquiry into the deaths of temporary foreign workers Genbao Ge and Hongliang Lui will not be allowed to explore any circumstances around the 2007 accident beyond how one of the men was transported to hospital.

Harper lives: The U.S. Steel robbery
David Bush
Feb. 9, 2016
Thousands of steelworkers, community members, and union allies from across the province rallied outside of Hamilton’s city hall on Jan. 30. The demonstration was called to show support for the workers at U.S. Steel who have weathered major job losses and are now facing the loss of their benefits and pensions.

U.S. Steel, the Pittsburgh-based multinational, bought Stelco in 2007. Using the Investment Canada Act, the Harper government mandated U.S. Steel to meet production and employment commitments.

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