Labour news update: May 23, 2016

Colonialsm no More
Human Rights Radio, May 20, 2016

Today, Daylene Sliz and Jim Hutchings talk with Robyn Pitawanakwat and Sue Deranger about “Colonialism No More”, the protest group that has occupied a camp in front of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) in Regina. We discuss how the community has supported this protest (or not) and what it will take to bring it to an end.

Regina solidarity camp reaches one month anniversary
Warrior Publications, May 19, 2016

The Colonialism No More Solidarity Camp officially began its occupation outside of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs (INAC) offices in downtown Regina on Monday, April 18th.
The Camp, initially formed in solidarity with the Attawapiskat youth and the community’s declaration of a suicide crisis, operates solely on a volunteer basis for all day-to-day requirements. The Camp pushes for 3-4 occupiers to spend the night and calls on the community to bring meals and other essentials.regina-colonial-no-more-crowd

Although contributions are largely made by individuals from the community, certain unions and organizations have stepped up and offered the camp bigger items, like a canvas tent (CUPE), a generator (UNIFOR) for power, support for an onsite barbeque (Regina & District Labour Council and the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild), and grocery funds (SGEU).

The Canadian Mental Health Association has offered vital services such as washroom and dishwashing facilities.

The business lobby sets its sights on Canadian pension reform
CCPA, May 16, 2016

Canadians owe John Manley and Perrin Beatty a debt of gratitude … or do they?

The president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada and the president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce have come out in favour of an expansion of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).

In a jointly authored op-ed submission printed in the National Post, they are urging Canada’s finance ministers to work together to strengthen the program.

But before we get too excited, we should approach this unusual intervention the same way in which we would approach a large parcel wrapped in plain brown paper that suddenly appeared outside the door.

Nova Scotia blood collection workers cross the picket line in PEI
NSAdvocate, May 18, 2016

This week Canadian Blood Services workers, on strike for a long eight months in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, looked on helplessly while Nova Scotia workers, members of a different local of the same union, crossed their picket line.

Some picketers made their displeasure known in no uncertain terms.

The Nova Scotia workers, members of Local 12 of the Nova Scotia Union of Public and Private Employees (NSUPE), were there to conduct a mobile clinic at Miscouche.

Book Review – Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggles, May 19, 2016

There are some books you always want to have handy on your coffee table or bookshelf. The latest anthology edited by the Graphic History Collective, Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggles, is one of those books.

Drawn to Change clocks in at 200 pages which may seems like a lot for a graphic novel, but it’s a very easy read thanks to the diversity of the stories. Though there are depictions of the already well known moments in Canadian labour history, like the On-To-Ottawa Trek, there are many other stories that are lesser known but deserve our attention.

Spat on, slapped, sucker punched: OC Transpo drivers attacked every 4 days
CBC News, May 17, 2016

“Kill the bus driver!”

That’s what the man yelled at Theresa Lewis after calling her a “witch” and a “devil worshiper.”

For Lewis, an OC Transpo driver for nearly a decade, threats and insults from unhinged passengers have become a disturbingly common occurrence, an unnerving workplace hazard she fears won’t stop until tragedy strikes.

“Lots of people call me A-hole, the B-word and the C-word and the F-ing C-word,” Lewis said. “Basically it’s unsafe. [OC Transpo is] going to wait until somebody gets killed.”

In 2015 OC Transpo drivers were assaulted, spat on or threatened 85 times — about once every four days — according to documents obtained by CBC News through an access to information request.

Ontario law would blacklist BDS activists
Electronic Intifada, May 18, 2016

Lawmakers in Canada’s most populous province are voting this week on a bill to blacklist supporters of the Palestinian-led grassroots campaign for human rights, the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Tim Hudak, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for the right-wing Progressive Conservative opposition, introduced the so-called Standing Up Against Anti-Semitism in Ontario Act on Tuesday.

Alberta insurance rates to rise as Fort McMurray fire expected to be costliest disaster in Canadian history
Edmonton Journal, May 12, 2016

Insurance rates in Alberta are likely to rise again, continuing an upward trend following costly natural disasters, following the devastating fire that burned through Fort McMurray.

A report released Friday by credit ratings agency Standard and Poor’s predicted that insurance rates in Alberta would increase following the fire, in part because there are more catastrophic losses claimed in Alberta from natural disasters than in other provinces.

The agency released a list of the 10 most expensive catastrophes in Canadian history, and events in Alberta make up seven spots on the list.

Mississauga gives Uber one week to shut down
Toronto Star, May 18, 2016

Uber and other ride-sharing companies have until this coming Wednesday to shut down operations in Mississauga or else the city will pull the plug on a proposed pilot program to allow such businesses to compete with traditional taxis.

“They responded, which I felt was a sign of progress and a show of good will,” said Mayor Bonnie Crombie, after Wednesday’s council meeting, referring to a letter from Uber to the city indicating the company wishes to cooperate.

Last week council banned all ride-sharing companies from operating unless they follow the same rules as traditional taxis, but left the door open with the possibility of new rules to be worked out under the pilot program.

The shame of our disposable workers
Toronto Star, May 19, 2016

When Sheldon McKenzie suffered an ultimately fatal head injury on an Ontario farm in January 2015, his recovery should have been the main concern.

Instead, a liaison officer with the Jamaican consulate reportedly made great efforts to have McKenzie sent back to his native Jamaica as soon as possible. McKenzie was a migrant worker from Jamaica, one of thousands who come to Canada every year under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP).

Local Xpress launches full-service news site to compete with Chronicle Herald
CBC News, May 19, 2016

Striking Halifax Chronicle Herald reporters have turned their online news site, Local Xpress, into a full-service online newspaper. Their parent union expects the move to set up a rival that will draw retaliation from the newspaper.

“It’ll be putting some economic pressure on the employer, which is totally allowed under a legal strike,” said Martin O’Hanlon, the president of CWA Canada, the national union representing the Halifax Typographical Union.

“If you’re not going to play ball with us, then we’re going to do our work wherever we have to.”

CBC News has placed calls to the Chronicle Herald and has not yet received comment.

New Zealand’s Kiwibank delivers lessons for postal banking in Canada, May 18, 2016

Kiwibank rolled into New Zealand in 2002 following a relentless campaign spearheaded by then deputy prime minister Jim Anderton.

Promoted as a “bank for the people,” its impressive marketing campaign appealed to New Zealanders’ sense of nationhood, and has since translated into the bank’s popularity as an alternative to the foreign-owned (mainly Australian) banks that dominate the market.

Cloudy Days: Trudeau and federal public sector bargaining, May 20, 2016

The Harper era was one of antagonism towards the federal public service, especially once he formed a majority in 2011. There were deep cuts to budgets and staffing, along with a growing distrust between public servants and the government, which led to censorship of the former, even in cases where experts simply wished to share research with professional associations or the public.

As such, federal public service unions like the Public Service Alliance of Canada, The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, and the Canadian Association of Professional Employees engaged in a historic campaign to remove Harper from power. It’s no stretch to say that the defeat of the Conservatives was due in part to the work of labour to oppose Harper’s message and policy.

Commons spat robs nanny of chance to speak on foreign worker program
Globe and Mail, May 19, 2016

To many outside Ottawa, Justin Trudeau’s accidental elbowing of a fellow MP and the ensuing partisan back-and-forth was an embarrassing show of childishness that will soon be forgotten.

To Teta Bayan, the incident was anything but trivial. Ms. Bayan, 31, is a Filipina woman who works as a nanny for a family in the North York area of Toronto. While the country’s lawmakers scuffled in the House of Commons, they lost their sole chance to speak to her as they draft a law of vital importance to thousands in her position.

At the last minute, Ms. Bayan had been invited to speak this week before the parliamentary committee that is studying Canada’s temporary foreign worker program.

Sage Parts Contract Pushes $15/hour Entry Rate at Pearson
IAMAW Canada, May 10, 2016

The fight for a $15/hour minimum wage at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport has gained momentum with the ratification of a new three-year collective agreement for the newest members of IAM District Lodge 140 employed at Sage Parts Canada.

“Many of these workers were making just over $13/hour and traditional raises in the shop prior to ratification were 2.5 per cent per year,” explained IAM Transportation District Lodge 140 General Chairperson Mike Corrado. “Most of these members will now receive about $1.70 per hour increase bringing their rate up to $15 per hour retroactively and that works out to up to $1200.”

The three-year agreement provides wage increases of 12 to 13 per cent in the first year depending on classification and 3 per cent in the second and third year respectively. “Most starting rates have increased to $14.50 per hour and although we were not able to reach magic $15 per hour mark, all employees who went through our recent organizing drive reached that goal,” explained Corrado.

Clifton Manor rally could be prelude AUPE strike
CBC News, May 17, 2016

A boisterous rally by Clifton Manor care workers outside their employer’s office this morning may be a prelude to a strike.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) has been in talks for a year with the Brenda Strafford Foundation, which runs the senior’s facility in southeast Calgary.

Strafford Foundation president and CEO Mike Conroy says the employees’ demands are unreasonable, given the current state of the economy.

“We receive funding, government funding, and that’s basically been frozen,” he said. “So you can’t expect to have double-digit increases in an environment of frozen funding.”

Union vows to fight Tembec layoffs
The Nugget, May 20, 2016

The union representing 600 workers at Tembec’s operations in Temiscaming, Que., will fight announced layoffs taking effect June 20.

Roger Gauthier, president of Unifor Local 233, said the cuts do not fall within the provisions of the collective agreement between Unifor and Tembec.

“We were told the move was to reduce costs . . . but based on our labour agreement, that is not a condition for layoffs,” he said.

The company announced Monday it will eliminate 24 positions on the Temiscaming fibreline operations team while five new operations positions will be created.

Chronicle of a Strike
Jacobin, May 18, 2016

Bruce has worked construction for Verizon for nearly thirty years and he is on strike. Walking a picket outside a Verizon Wireless store, he explains why: “I love this job. It’s outdoors, you get dirty, you get to do things. You see that island over there, I can tell you where each of the manholes are. I’ve been in every one of these buildings here,” he says, pointing to a café, then some office buildings, a travel agency, and a few restaurants. “I don’t like not working, just standing around here. But we gotta do this. I mean, I love this job but I don’t want it for my children.”

One Day Longer
Jacobin, May 15, 2016

As the massive strike at Verizon enters its second month with no end in sight, the stakes — for the workers, the company, and the broader labor movement — are rising. Even mainstream media outlets like the New York Times have taken note, casting it as something of an epochal battle over whether the economy can tolerate good jobs that actually deliver economic security and decent benefits.

Parental leave study shows rich-poor divide
CBC News, May 20, 2016

New research shows Canada’s parental leave program leaves out two-fifths of mothers, many of them low-income, and points to a stark divide between families that are “parental-leave-rich” and “parental-leave-poor” — just as the Liberals prepare to enhance the program.

A study of federal parental leave figures published this week finds that about 41 per cent of mothers outside of Quebec don’t qualify for benefits because they don’t have enough insurable hours. Among women who earned less than $30,000, about 63 per cent did not qualify.

Parables of privatization: A cautionary tale of two telcos, June 10, 2016

At a time when the Ontario Liberal government is planning to privatize Hydro One and other provincial governments are also planning significant privatizations, it’s instructive to look back and see what the impact of earlier privatizations has been.

There’s an excellent example right here in Canada of two neighbouring jurisdictions of a similar size, one of which privatized a utility and the other that kept its similar utility under public ownership. It should be seen as a cautionary tale and an indication of what is likely to happen with other privatizations.

New social services campaign template
CUPE, May 6, 2016

Righteous Work – Just Pay, that’s the name of the social services sector’s new campaign template.

We’ve created graphics you can use in your local campaigns from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Use it in bargaining, to mobilize your members or put pressure on the government. This follows from the success of the Respect campaign, which was launched in 2002.

We think the slogan gets at key issues in the sector. Social services workers do really important work in our communities yet wages are not in line with the value of their work. We hope this campaign is useful to your local and resonates with your members!

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