Labour News Update: June 20, 2016

Oil Sands Workers Fear Becoming Climate Change Casualties | Tories & Fraser Institute team up against CPP expansion | Canada lagging on pension investment | Pay equity raise for NB education workers | No safety training for Fort McMurray cleaners | Tax loopholes cost Canada billions | Strike wave sweeps France | Complaints over uncertified LRT workers | Migrant agricultural workers deserve full rights | Fish plant workers: stop gutting West Coast fishery | P3 schools in NS a failure | Unifor members in MB protest proposed labour law changes | Moose Jaw pushes back against Canada Post | Re-tendering Hibernia contracts stressing workers | Sask. Party budget leaves school boards on hook for half of teachers’ salaries increases

Oil Sands Workers Fear Becoming Climate Change Casualties
Mychaylo Prystupa,The Tyee
June 17, 2016

Ken Smith is one frustrated oil sands labour leader. The giant wildfire that forced Fort McMurray’s evacuation came as the Unifor Local 707A president was in the middle of contract negotiations, fighting to save bitumen mining jobs despite the tough times for oil companies.

But he found himself fleeing the flames along with thousands of others. Negotiations to protect the 3,450 Suncor workers he represents were put on hold.

“I really can’t talk right now,” he said in an interview from his truck May 3. “We are literally in bumper to bumper traffic. It’s a disaster. I’ve never seen anything like it, nor want to.”

When the Tories and the Fraser Institute team up to attack plans to improve the CPP, you know it needs fixing!
David Climenhaga,
June 19, 2016 CiYMtlmWgAAfjsy

Wow! Talk about a full-court press! All the usual suspects are pouring on their attacks against improvements to the Canada Pension Plan.

It’s almost as if they’re all singing from the same hymnbook — probably one printed in the musty basement of the Fraser Institute bunker not far down the road from Vancouver’s old Pacific Press Building, which is nowadays home to pricey, empty condos.

It should tell you something when the likes of the Fraser Institute, the remaining journalists of Canada’s shrivelling “news industry,” and the Conservative Party of Canada are all shouting at you about why improving the CPP is such a terrible idea.

Morneau briefing book raises red flags on public pension investment
Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press
June 17, 2016

OTTAWA — A briefing book prepared last fall for incoming Finance Minister Bill Morneau warns that Canada’s spending on public pensions is dramatically lower than many other rich countries — even though private-sector pension coverage has deteriorated.

The document, obtained by The Canadian Press, said that between 1991 and 2013, private-sector pension coverage fell from 31 per cent to 24 per cent.

But at the same time, the document suggests the federal government is not picking up the slack.

Pay-equity raises going to CUPE school workers
Jacques Poitras, CBC News
June 16, 2016

About 3,000 people working in New Brunswick’s education system, almost all of them women, are getting a pay-equity raise from the provincial government.

Finance Minister Cathy Rogers said the move comes after an evaluation found the jobs had lower salaries because they were traditionally done by women.

The affected positions include educational assistants, administrative assistants, school library workers and intervention workers.

Ex-cleaner says no safety training for clearing Fort McMurray toxic ash: ‘I thought people were going to die’
Eric MacKenzie, National Post
June 15, 2016

Dave Gallop was excited to help out when an Abbotsford-based company hired him to assist in cleanup efforts in Fort McMurray earlier this month.

Instead, he’s come back to B.C. frustrated and diagnosed with inflamed bronchi, alleging that his employer provided no safety training or equipment, and exposed him and dozens of other workers to dangerous conditions, including microscopic ash and ozone gas.

Gallop, a Chilliwack resident, was hired by ServiceMaster Restore to travel to the community that was crippled by wildfire last month, where he cleaned suites in an apartment complex that was not severely affected by the fires. Though he was one of a few British Columbians who were hired, Gallop said nearly 100 workers were hired through ServiceMaster to work for a company called Fort Mac Cleaning Services.

Tax loopholes cost Canada billions in lost revenue
Marco Chown Oved, The Toronto Star
June 17, 2016

Under the guise of combating tax evasion, the federal government opened up dozens of tax loopholes that have allowed Canadian corporations to avoid paying tax on $55 billion in international profits over the last five years.

The money is funnelled into offshore tax havens and can be brought back to Canada tax free by multinationals based in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.

These offshore manoeuvres translate into billions of dollars in lost tax revenue for Canada, not because companies are cheating, but because they are encouraged to avoid taxes by government policies.

Strike waves sweeps France
Dawn Tefft, 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.

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.

Warning issued over ‘mess’ left by uncertified LRT workers
Julie Ireton, CBC News
June 16, 2016

Unskilled, unlicensed labourers have been performing electrical work on portions of Ottawa’s light rail system this spring, prompting complaints, inspections and at least one warning over violations, CBC News has learned.

The union representing electrical tradespeople said it’s concerned public safety is being put at risk and taxpayer money squandered because uncertified labourers are doing the work of licensed tradespeople.

The Ontario College of Trades has confirmed that earlier this spring, work that falls under the scope of electricians was in fact being performed by uncertified labourers at the Ottawa LRT maintenance and storage facility at 805 Belfast Rd., known as Belfast Yard.

A seasonal migrant worker in Holland Marsh, Ont. Photo by Peter Power, The Globe and Mail.

Canada’s migrant agricultural workers deserve full and equal rights. Here’s why
Janet McLaughlin, TVO
June 16, 2016

Earlier this year, a quiet decision by Loblaw to remove French’s brand ketchup from its shelves was met by an unexpected firestorm of protest from angry consumers. In the weeks following, the brand rose from relative obscurity into superhero status over its local tomato origins. Over the course of 24 hours, Canadians told Loblaw loud and clear that they wanted local Leamington, Ont., tomatoes in the popular condiment gracing their barbequed eats this summer. A surprised Loblaw management team quickly reversed its decision.

Supporting local agriculture makes sense. Buying food produced close to home generates positive ripple effects for local economies, lowers greenhouse gas emissions and promotes Ontario’s food sovereignty and security. The great irony is that often our much-celebrated local food system relies on imported labour, under conditions in which exploitation can be ripe for the picking.

I’ve been doing research and health-based community work with migrant farm workers for over a decade. Travelling alongside workers between their Ontario workplaces and their homes in Mexico and Jamaica, I have been continually shocked and saddened by the long-term challenges they face as they spend their adult lives living between two countries.

Fish plant workers: stop gutting West Coast fishery
Nelson Bennett, Business in Vancouver
June 14, 2016

On the same day the first commercial fishery of the season was expected to open for Nass River salmon, union leaders representing commercial fishermen and fish plant workers weren’t on the water or canning fish – they were in Ottawa asking the federal government to stop gutting the West Coast fishing industry.

Specifically, they were lobbying the parliamentary standing committee on fisheries and oceans to break what they describe as a monopoly held by Jim Pattison and his Canadian Fishing Co. (Canfisco) on fishing fleets, quotas and licences.

They also want the government to restrict the practice of sending fish caught in B.C. for secondary processing to the U.S. or China.

Private Profit at a Public Price
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Nova Scotia
June 14, 2016

This study evaluates the P3 schools program in Nova Scotia and finds it to be a failure in terms of cost, risk management and evidence-based decision-making. As the study demonstrates, no cost-benefit analysis was done prior to the initiation of the projects, or at any time since. In addition, there were several examples of mismanagement of the program, ranging from a lack of oversight by the province to safety violations that placed students at risk.

Over the next few years, the province must decide whether to purchase the schools, renew the leases or surrender the buildings back to the developers. With the first deadline regarding the 39 P3 schools approaching, the study finds purchasing the schools is the best option for the province.

Unifor members attend Manitoba question period to protest Premier Pallister’s plan to change labour laws
CBC News
June 14, 2016

Dozens of labour union workers attended question period at the Manitoba Legislature on Tuesday to protest the Tory Government’s plan to change labour laws so that non-union workers can vote by secret ballot.

Frank Wright was at the Manitoba legislative building sitting in the gallery along with 49 other members of Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union representing more than 310,000 members across the country.

“We just want to make sure that he knows that we’re watching him,” said Frank Wright, a national representative for Unifor Canada.

City Pushes Back Against Canada Post
Hayley Hart, Discover Moose Jaw
June 14, 2016

The battle between Canada Post and the City of Moose Jaw continues.

It started in January when council refused a $16,000, one time payment from the federal mail carrier. At the time City administration voiced a concern that accepting the cheque could be a sign that City Hall supports the community mailboxes and would remove Canada Post from any potential legal obligations regarding damage that was done by contractors who installed the mailboxes.

The City was also concerned that by accepting the money, it would then fall upon municipal crews to look after snow removal from the mailbox areas, which fall under federal jurisdiction.

Re-tendering Hibernia contracts stressing workers, says union
Terry Roberts, CBC News
June 15, 2016

An unprecedented overhaul of Hibernia contracts is creating widespread uncertainty among workers, and exposing a serious shortcoming in the Atlantic Accord, says the union representing employees on the iconic oil platform.

“What we don’t understand is why somebody after 18 years out there that their jobs are just up for grabs. They’re just saying ‘sorry, we can replace you,'” Tom Kennedy, president of Unifor Local 2121, told CBC News Tuesday.

There are 16 contractors providing services on Hibernia, and most of those contracts are being re-tendered as the oil companies that own the project look to find efficiencies in the face of a prolonged slump in oil prices.

Unprecedented Sask. Party budget leaves school boards on hook for half of teachers’ salaries
CBC News
June 14, 2016

In an unprecedented move, the provincial government confirmed on Tuesday it would only cover half of the 1.9 per cent increase it promised teachers as part of its collective bargaining agreement.

Although teachers will still receive the increase, the additional funding will need to be covered by school boards.

Education Minister Don Morgan told reporters that tough economic conditions forced the government to reduce its contribution.

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