Labour news update: June 13, 2016

TPP hurst farmers and enriches seed companies | PSAC negotiations | Union calls for probe into Toronto Star reporter Raveena Aulakh’s death | Jobs numbers show impact of wildfires | Widespread exploitation of workers within TFWP | WSIB cuts | Strikes sweep across France |  Expand the CPP now | Postal banking  | Via Rail strike averted | Bangladesh garment workers | Liberals privatization agenda | Jailing employer in Nova Scotia for health and safety violations | Reform unpaid internships | GM workers threaten strike if new production isn’t allocated to Oshawa  | Book review: The Package King |

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Will Hurt Farmers and Make Seed Companies Richer
The Nation, June 10, 2016

In March of 2009, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the biotech industry’s trade association and lobbying arm, submitted a letter to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), which was in the early stages of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The letter came in response to USTR’s invitation for public comment to help develop negotiation objectives for the proposed trade deal, which at the time involved seven other Pacific Rim nations. The USTR broadly outlined the areas that it was interested in input on—the economic costs and benefits to the removal of tariffs, environmental and labor issues that should be addressed, trade-related intellectual property rights that should be considered—and BIO jumped at the chance to respond. “BIO will focus its comments on issues relating to (i) agricultural biotechnology and (ii) matters concerning intellectual property rights,” the six-page letter read. “BIO appreciates this opportunity to comment on the proposed TPP FTA, and we look forward to working closely with USTR as this initiative proceeds.”

Winnipeg public service workers rally ahead of labour negotiations
CBC News, June 9, 2016

A few dozen workers rallied on Broadway Wednesday afternoon, calling on the federal Liberals to provide more for public service employees in labour negotiations.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, a union representing federal public service workers, organized the rally in advance of several groups of workers heading back to the bargaining table this month.

Union calls for inquiry into death of Toronto Star reporter Raveena Aulakh
Global News, June 8, 2016

The union representing Toronto Star newsroom employees says it has asked the newspaper to appoint an outside investigator to conduct an inquiry into events surrounding the death of a reporter.

A memo from Steve Gjorkes on behalf of Unifor’s Star unit said it wants “the third-party investigator’s mandate to include workplace health and safety and harassment issues, along with company policies and practices.”

Conservative changes to TFW program leaves workers vulnerable to “widespread exploitation”: report
Press Progress, June 9, 2016

Sounds like it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

A new report released by the Metcalf Foundation says Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is leaving low-wage migrant workers in an even more precarious situation than they found themselves before the former Conservative government announced changes in 2014.

Two years after former Employment Minister Jason Kenney overhauled the TFWP, what’s been left behind is “an uneven patchwork of regulation” and a system that “imposes conditions of deep insecurity that leave migrant workers vulnerable to widespread exploitation.”

With the controversial program now under review, the report calls for reforms “anchored in human rights and labour rights” and include a “firm commitment to worker protection.”

Jobs numbers give early glimpse at wildfire’s economic devastation
Toronto Star, June 10, 2016

As a huge wildfire raged, Alberta’s labour market continued to struggle last month — job losses mounted, the unemployment rate surged and total hours worked hit their lowest mark in 30 years.

Statistics Canada released its first batch of labour data that captures some of the fallout of a blaze that forced production shutdowns in Alberta’s economically critical oilsands region and triggered the evacuation of Fort McMurray.

The report released Friday found that Alberta’s unemployment rate soared from 7.2 per cent to 7.8 per cent in May following the loss of 24,100 jobs across several industries. The biggest drops were seen in the resources and construction sectors.

The true cost of your cheap clothes: slave wages for Bangladesh factory workers
Post Magazine, June 12, 2016

In a suite of offices lined with racks of clothes on the seventh floor of an industrial building in the back streets of Lai Chi Kok, the head of a trading company explains the economic reality that has transformed the global garment industry over the past decade.

“Ten years ago, you could only buy a T-shirt for US$5. Now you can buy a sweater for US$6, and for US$9 you can buy a jacket,” says Mandarin Lui Wing-har, managing director of the low-profile but highly influential Top Grade International Enterprise. “Of course, at the high end of the market, people will still pay US$500 for a T-shirt. They don’t care about the price, only the brand, and maybe only 50 T-shirts will be made in that style. But we are making maybe 50,000 T-shirts in each style – and that is why we can sell them for US$3 or US$4.”

WSIB critics say spending cuts are ‘devastating’ injured workers
Toronto Star, June 10, 2016

Dramatic changes to health-care services for injured workers, including a 40 per cent funding drop in rehabilitative treatment and a 30 per cent drop in drug benefit spending, is having a “devastating” impact on some of the province’s most vulnerable citizens, according to a letter obtained by the Star.

The letter, to be delivered Friday to senior Ontario government figures and signed by more than 140 doctors, legal clinics and labour groups, expresses deep concern about injured workers who are increasingly unable to get the treatment their doctors recommend because of significant health-care changes at the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. The letter claims that shift is designed by the board to cut costs at the expense of injured workers.

Strikes Sweep France, Opposing Labor Law Rollbacks
Labor Notes, June 9, 2016

Just as the tourist season is starting in France, strikes are preventing half the trains from running. Fuel is in short supply, as workers blockade oil refineries. The news is full of riots, burning tires, and police attacking protesters.
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Strikes across multiple industries are shutting down transportation across France, as workers protest a labor reform bill that would strip them of certain basic rights, such as ceilings on overtime hours and job security.

Rail workers with the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) and Solidaires union federations began their eighth strike in three months on May 31, and they have no end date in sight. The CGT is also leading blockades at oil refineries, docks, and nuclear power plants.

Private investors eye public assets like airports, highways
Maclean’s, June 6, 2016

Major public assets like airports, ports and highways would offer some the most intriguing opportunities for private investment should stakes in such assets ever go on the block, says one of the country’s biggest potential investors.

The federal Liberals are considering a system that could see Ottawa – as well as other levels of government – sell infrastructure assets under their jurisdiction.

Mature Canadian infrastructure is still mostly owned by governments and putting a “For Sale” sign on it would offer a tantalizing opportunity for large players such as the massive Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

Stop the stalling: expand the CPP NOW
CUPE

Canada is facing an undeniable pension crisis.

Over 11 million Canadian workers are without workplace pension plans. Unless things change now, Canadians will have to work longer for less and face poverty when they retire.

A universal expansion of the Canada Pension Plan is the best way to ensure retirement security for Canadians. With a modest increase to the contributions made by employers and workers, phased in gradually over several years, CPP benefits could be doubled, ensuring as many Canadians as possible can retire with dignity.

We are at a critical moment in the campaign to increase CPP benefits. Despite growing consensus on the need to expand the CPP, efforts have stalled.

Please join us and tell Canada’s Finance Ministers (federal, provincial and territorial) to stop the stalling, and expand the CPP NOW.

First ever jail sentence handed to NS repeat workplace safety offender
Global News, June 9, 2016

For the first time ever in Nova Scotia, an individual has been handed a jail sentence for charges under the province’s occupational health and safety act.

Joseph Isnor was handed a 15-day sentence on May 24, for repeat offences under the act while operating a roofing company, Global News has learned.

Crown attorney Alex Keaveny said Isnor faced three separate sets of charges for incidents dating back to 2010/11.

Rachel Notley intervenes in South African firefighter pay dispute
CBC News, June 9, 2016

Premier Rachel Notley is promising that South African firefighters who stopped working in a fight over their pay level will be compensated in accordance with Alberta labour laws.

Notley said Thursday the Alberta government had thought the contract negotiated with the firefighters to help battle the Fort McMurray wildfire would allow them to earn acceptable levels of pay. She was “disturbed” to hear that had not happened.

About 300 firefighters involved in the wage dispute ceased working Wednesday and Thursday due to the wage issue.

Postal Banking: Powering our Communities
CUPW, June 9, 2016

Postal banking can help power a transition to renewable energy.

Union threatens strike at GM Canada if new vehicles aren’t allocated to Oshawa plant
Financial Post, June 8, 2016

The union that represents blue-collar workers at General Motors of Canada Ltd. says there will be a strike if the company doesn’t allocate new vehicles to its plant in Oshawa, Ont.

GM Canada will announce on Friday that it plans hire up to 1,000 engineers at its Oshawa engineering centre as well as other sites in Ontario, significantly expanding its research and development capabilities in Canada.

Reform Unpaid Internships Now!
Rankandfile.ca, June 8, 2016

The internship, especially with the rise of the so-called “knowledge economy” since the 1980s, has become an unavoidable part of the college- and university-age experience for many young Canadians. For good reason, too: internships offer students practical on-the-job experience in many of the fields they will one day work in. They offer students a footholds into their industry, with opportunities to network, develop relationships, cultivate skills, and oftentimes end with an important letter of reference and resume material.

Book Review: The Package King
Rankandfile.ca, June 10, 2016

United Parcel Service was founded nearly 108 years ago. In that time, both the American and world economies have gone through massive transformations. And throughout all of these changes, UPS has managed to capitalize on them and become one of the world’s most recognizable corporate brands.

In the new e-book, The Package King: A Rank and File History of United Parcel Service, writer and activist Joe Allen traces UPS’ rise and the activism of its unionized employees.

New rules for employees’ tips take effect Friday
CTV News, June 9, 2016

Tipping may be governed by a set of unwritten rules, but what happens to the tips after they are collected is about to become law.

Starting Friday, it will be illegal for many employers in Ontario to take their employees’ tips.
The law makes exceptions for “tip pooling”-type situations where tips are combined and then distributed among multiple employees, and for cases where employers have court orders allowing them to take tips.

Via Rail strike could begin as soon as Monday, company warns
CBC News, June 10, 2016

Via Rail passengers across Canada have received warnings that their travel plans for next week could be interrupted by a strike at the rail company.

Anyone who absolutely needs to travel on Monday and in the following days is being urged to make alternate arrangements.

Unifor, which represents some 1,800 Via Rail employees, intends to strike as of 12:01 a.m. on Monday, June, 13, Via Rail said in a message to ticket holders.

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