Labour News Update: June 6, 2016

Injured workers | Interview with David Ladouceur | Privatizing Sasktel? | Remembering the Gainers strike | Rail safety | Vice unionizes | Walmart worker killed | BC migrant workers | Victory for Verizon strikers | French strike expands | Climate jobs plan | CMHA fires union president | EI not being expanded | Remembering the Disney strike | Uber to start leasing cars | Ontario midwives launch suit for gender discrimination | OC Transpo driver sticks up for Muslim woman | Metro workers in Windsor get rough deal |


13305147_10154002572190660_2270824496661505740_oWSIB’s Reforms: Smoke, mirrors and broken workers, May 31

Injured workers and supporters will rally at Queen’s Park on June 1, Injured Workers’ Day, to challenge the most recent scandal involving the workers’ compensation board. In reality, the scandal around the WSIB systematically ignoring treating doctors, something we call medical claims suppression, is just the tip of the iceberg. It is in fact a symptom of the Board’s wider obsession with improving its financial position, which it is successfully doing, on the backs of injured workers.

Privatizating SaskTel: Brad Wall’s long game?, June 1

To privatize or not to privatize — is that the question? It isn’t, at least according to Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who says his government has no plans to privatize SaskTel. But if we follow our provincial government’s history over the last 10 years, Wall and co. have been much less nuanced on the privatization question than was the bard on the question of revenge.

It’s not working for us. An interview with David Ladouceur, indigenous rights activist, June 2

In Nova Scotia labour circles David Ladouceur is widely known as an outspoken and effective union and indigenous rights activist. Ladouceur, an Ojibwe, moved from Ontario to Nova Scotia in 1990. After doing odd jobs for several years, he ended up doing ship maintenance work with some small companies here in Halifax. Ladouceur bounced around from company to company, until in 2001 he landed a job at the Halifax Shipyard, at that time under CAW local 1. Within the union environment Ladouceur gained the confidence to speak out about injustices in the workplace, in his local, and wherever else he encounters it. He is currently the vice president of Unifor/Marine Worker Federation Local 1.

Remembering the Gainers strike, June 3

30 years ago this month 1,080 meatpacking workers at Edmonton’s Gainers meatpacking plant went on strike.
Peter Pocklington, the infamous owner of the plant who pleaded guilty to perjury in 2010, had attempted to use the economic downturn and alleged price manipulation by the hog marketing board as an excuse to slash wages and eliminate the company’s pension plan. The six-and-a-half-month strike was triggered by a 96 per cent strike vote and resulted in the arrests of 400 UFCW Local 280-P members and supporters, a nationwide boycott and an assortment of militant actions. The Gainers strike came to represent much more than a fight against rollbacks.

In other news

VICE Canada employees vote to join CMG
Canadian Media Guild, June 2

The federal labour board confirmed today that VICE Canada employees voted in favour of joining the Canadian Media Guild. “We are thrilled to welcome employees at VICE Canada into the Canadian Media Guild,” says Carmel Smyth, national president of the Canadian Media Guild. “We look forward to working with them and one of Canada’s most innovative and exciting digital media organizations to create a positive workplace now and for the future.”

Wal-Mart Canada fined $60,000 after worker at Brampton Supercentre location dies after tripping incident
Brampton Guardian, June 2

Wal-Mart Canada Corporation has been fined $60,000 after a worker at the Brampton Supercentre location tripped on the job and died in hospital two weeks later. A provincial government press release issued on Thursday states the Brampton worker was off-loading a pallet of paper onto a pump truck on September 20, 2013 at the 70 Coventry Road location. While walking backwards, he tripped on an empty pallet that was left on the floor and fell. He complained of a head injury and called in sick the next day. Two weeks after the incident, he passed away in hospital.

CUPE protests layoff of union president outside CMHA HKPR offices in Peterborough
The Peterborough Examiner, June 1

Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees from different Peterborough locals gathered outside the CMHA HKPR offices on Water St. during the noon hour Wednesday to protest the layoff of Kirk Hillier, president of the newly formed CUPE Local 5258 at the agency. CMHA has stated that it laid Hillier off to be able to meet a 1% wage increase negotiated by the new union.

Metro workers agree to wage cuts to keep jobs
Windsor Star, May 30

Workers at the city’s Metro grocery stores have agreed to wage cuts to avoid closures and job losses. Metro had threatened to close two of its four Windsor stores if the 400 workers didn’t agree to concessions. Workers voted Sunday to accept the company’s terms. The store at University Mall on Tecumseh Road West at Huron Church Road will be converted to a Food Basics. The other three stores — one at Central Mall at Tecumseh and Central, another on Wyandotte Street East and a third at 11729 Tecumseh Road East — will remain open under the Metro banner. But employees inside the stores will be paid as if they worked at the company’s Barn stores. Collective agreements for Barn workers include lower wages.

Alleged attack highlights lack of protection for foreign farm workers
Vancouver Sun, May 29

A worker on a south Surrey farm claims he was punched repeatedly in the head by a supervisor and then brushed off by his employer, police and the Mexican consulate when he complained. His complaint to WorkSafeBC claims he was working in the potato and carrot packing area at about 6:30 p.m. when a supervisor shouted instructions from across the room. Hernández-Morales alleges that when he approached the supervisor in order to hear him more clearly, the supervisor took hold of his neck and punched him in the head while holding a knife.

Extended EI benefits not being considered for more regions, Bill Morneau says
Toronto Star, May 30

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says the federal government isn’t going to provide extended EI benefits to any more regions of the country, even those that are the on cusp of meeting government requirements for the extra help. The federal gave extended EI benefits to 15 economic regions of the country, including three — Edmonton, southern Saskatchewan and B.C.’s southern interior — added May 13 after they met government requirements for the extra cash.

‘Sitting idle is not an option’: OC Transpo driver sticks up for Muslim woman
Metro, May 30

An OC Transpo bus driver is being called a hero after standing up for a young Muslim woman who was bullied for wearing the niqab. Hailey – who only wants her first name used for privacy reasons – said she had just boarded the bus to the Rideau Centre on May 12 when a fellow passenger started calling her a terrorist and freak for her traditional head and face covering. “At one point, he yelled at me to assimilate,” said the 20-year-old University of Ottawa student. About five minutes into the packed bus ride, other passengers started telling the man to get off the bus. Apparently he had been making rude comments to other people during that trip. According to Hailey, OC Transpo driver Alain Charette yelled at the man to get off the bus or else he would get the police involved.

On This Day 75 Years Ago, Disney Animation Changed Forever: The Disney Artists’ Strike of 1941
Cartoon Brew, May 29

on May 29, 1941, 334 employees of the Disney animation studio walked out on strike (303 employees remained on the inside). The events that led up to the strike are too numerous to recount here, but suffice to say, tensions had been building at the studio since the runaway success of the studio’s first film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, and employees of the studio had a litany of grievances from low wages and salary cuts to arbitrary layoffs, arcane bonus distribution systems, and oppressively long hours (including mandatory work on Saturdays).

Ontario midwives allege gender-based pay gap, compared to doctors
Toronto Star, May 31

Alleging gender discrimination for the past two decades, Ontario’s 800 midwives are taking the provincial government to the Human Rights Tribunal this week over what they say is a significant pay gap compared to doctors. The legal action, brought by the Association of Ontario Midwives (AOM), alleges that midwives have experienced a “gender penalty” in their pay, backing up that claim with independent reports concluding that the pay equity gap for their profession is about 50 per cent

A Climate Plan that Works for Workers
Our Times, June 1

A national climate strategy holds incredible potential for the labour movement. That’s why the Canadian Labour Congress teamed up with a number of environmental organizations and First Nations to deliver a proposal to the prime minister in advance of the Vancouver meeting. The proposal, called “One Million Climate Jobs,” presents a plan to address poverty and tackle climate change by creating jobs. The plan calls for an $80.9 billion investment over five years in renewable energy, green building, energy efficiency and public transit. While that figure seems high, it amounts to a five per cent increase in the federal budget. Plus, it would create over one million good jobs in five years. A national climate strategy could be the perfect tool to reduce inequality and unemployment.

Local food lovers, pay attention to migrant worker rights
CBC, May 31

Next time you sit down to a farm-to-table dinner, Chris Ramsaroop wants you to ask yourself two questions: who harvested that food and what kind of rights do they have? Ramsaroop, an organizer with Justice for Migrant Workers, says if Canadians are really focused on achieving social justice through a local food economy, then they need to start paying attention to the migrant workers who participate in that economy.

CP Rail wants to install cameras to monitor train crews
Teamsters Canada, May 30

The union that represents train crews at CP backs the use of video and voice recordings in Transportation Safety Board investigations of derailments and other incidents, but opposes the company’s use as an unneeded and illegal invasion of privacy. “We don’t have a problem with the video and voice recording, we just don’t want it to be used to erase Canadians’ rights,” said Doug Finnson, president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference. He said locomotive speeds and operations are already closely monitored by traffic controllers, who are in regular radio communications with crews. He fears the company will watch the camera feeds in real time and use face and word recognition technology to monitor and discipline employees for criticizing managers or discussing union business. “Changing the law doesn’t make rail operations safer,” Mr. Finnson said. “They don’t need to film us for safety reasons.”

Why the Verizon Worker’s Victory is A Big Deal
The Progressive, May 31

On Friday, May 27, the six-and-a-half-week Verizon strike came to an end with a tentative contract agreement. The Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the unions that represent the Verizon workers, hailed the contract as a victory, citing its creation of 1300 new call center jobs along the East Coast, first-ever contracts for Verizon wireless store employees in Brooklyn and Everett, Massachusetts, and raises of nearly 11 percent over the life of the contract. The workers beat back demands from the company to cut pensions, transfer workers out of state for up to two months, and proposed cuts in disability and accident benefits.

French rail workers go on strike as disputes over labour laws spread
The Guardian, June 1

The French government is trying to calm several different labour disputes as the country braces itself for a week of transport disruption with rail workers launching an open-ended strike 11 days before the Euro 2016 football tournament kicks off. A rolling national train strike called by the powerful CGT union and backed by some smaller unions began on Tuesday night and was expected to affect between a third and a half of national and regional train services. Workers who belong to the CGT will then strike on the Paris Métro and commuter train network on Thursday. Docks and port workers are also expected to strike, while aviation workers have called for stoppages over the weekend.

Inside Uber’s Auto-Lease Machine, Where Almost Anyone Can Get a Car
Bloomberg, May 31

In its relentless pursuit for growth, Uber needs new drivers, and many of those drivers need cars. To help them get started, Uber has been offering short-term leases since July through a wholly owned Delaware-based subsidiary called Xchange Leasing, LLC. It partners with auto dealerships, advertises to drivers, manages risk, and even pays repo men to chase down cars whose drivers aren’t making their payments.

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