Labour news update: July 18, 2016

Liberal’s “asset recycling” | Layoffs at Mosaic’s Colonsay potash mine | Supreme Court ruling protects federally regulated workers from unfair just dismissal | Low-wage earners with graduate degrees on the rise | Halifax civic workers vote for strike | Sky-high electric prices for Ontarians | PSAC supports CUPW | Minimum wage hikes create healthier babies |  Canada Post’s pension myth | Minimum wage as an economic stimulus | Sarnia plastics employer in receivership  | Saskatoon crisis nursery workers deserve respect |

How not to fund infrastructure
Political Eh-conomy, July 14, 2016

Recycling is supposed to be a good thing, so when the federal Liberals quietly announced that “asset recycling” would be part of their strategy for meeting their much-ballyhooed infrastructure promises, not many eyebrows were raised. They should have been. Asset recycling is an obscure code word for selling our public goods for private profit. It’s privatization by another name.

Workers ‘blindsided’ by layoffs at Mosaic’s Colonsay potash mine
Saskatoon Star Pheonix, July 14, 2016

Workers at Mosaic Co.’s Colonsay potash mine were “totally blindsided” as they arrived for a shift change and were escorted to boardrooms by private security to be told they were out of a job, a staff representative says.

About 330 workers at the mine 60 kilometres east of Saskatoon received layoff notices on Wednesday. They’ve been told they’re out of a job until Jan. 3, said Mike Pulak, staff representative for United Steelworkers (USW) Local 7656.

Supreme Court ruling protects federally regulated workers from unfair dismissal
Globe and Mail, July 14, 2016

Non-unionized workers at the big banks and media companies and others in the federally regulated work force are protected from being unjustly fired, much as unionized workers are, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Thursday.

The 6-3 ruling was delivered in a case initiated by a supervisor at Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. who was fired without an explicit reason and given a generous severance package. The supervisor, Joseph Wilson, claimed that his 2009 firing was in reprisal for blowing the whistle on corrupt procurement practices at the Crown corporation. AECL argued that giving notice or severance meant that it did not need to give a reason for the dismissal.

Low-wage earners with graduate degrees on rise, new study shows
Globe and Mail, July 13, 2016

University degrees do not always lead to higher wages.rb-ca-graduate-cap

A new study shows that the ranks of low-wage earners with a master’s degree or PhD has soared over the past two decades.

Of the employees with a MA or PhD, 12.4 per cent were low-income earners in 2014 compared with 7.7 per cent in 1997, according to a study by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, an economics research group.

Receiver appointed for Sarnia company that employs 155 workers
The Observer, July 14, 2016

A Sarnia-based plastic recycling company with 155 employees announced Thursday it has ceased manufacturing operations.

Entropex, located on Lougar Street in Sarnia, said in a press release that its bankers went to court earlier in the day Thursday to ask for the appointment of a receiver to take over management and control of the company.

The press release said Entropex has struggled in recent months to meet financial challenges caused by declining oil prices and a competitive business environment.

Halifax Civic Workers vote in favour of strike action
CUPE Nova Scotia, July 15, 2016

Members of CUPE 108 Unit 1, outside municipal workers employed by the City of Halifax, gave their union a strong strike vote on July 14, 2016.

“When we explained to our members how little effort the employer made to sit down with us and negotiate, the members were understandably frustrated and disappointed,” says CUPE 108 President Mark Cunningham.

“The last thing we want is a disruption of Halifax’s outdoor municipal services to the residents of Halifax. Hopefully this will motivate the City to agree to discuss the issues that are important to our members and to negotiate a fair collective agreement.”

canada_post_engPSAC urges Canada Post to bargain fairly with CUPW workers
PSAC

For weeks, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has tried to reach a fair agreement with Canada Post, including requesting a cooling-off period in order to come back to the negotiation table.

The Harper-appointed CEO of Canada Post, Deepak Chopra first refused to bargain, ‎put workers on notice of a lockout and now is showing openness to negotiating again. These tactics are harmful to postal workers and all Canadians.

Sky-high hydro bills: Ontario energy minister says there’s no crisis
Global News, July 14, 2016

Global News looked for answers about the sky-high power bills rural Ontario residents are being hit with. Hydro One repeatedly refused requests for an interview. But Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault did agree to talk, but he doesn’t think the situation is a crisis. Shirlee Engel reports.

All smoke no substance in Canada Post’s pension argument
Rabble.ca, July 14, 2016

Canada Post’s vigilance in promoting the $6.2 billion solvency cost of its pension plan has created a debate around why a public corporation should be risking so much for workers’ retirement.

As contract negotiations continue — with two near-lockouts already overcome — labour reporter Teuila Fuatai examines the pension plan debate in detail, and looks at the role of the federal government in removing this obstacle from the bargaining table.

Do Minimum-Wage Hikes Mean Healthier Babies?
The Atlantic, July 14, 2016

Economists are still debating the limited data that exists on whether raising the minimum wage leads employers to lay off a significant amount of workers. But what about the impact on other areas of life, outside the labor market? This is another elusive question that a growing number of academics have been exploring in recent years. For instance, the White House’s economic advisors recently found a correlation between increasing the minimum wage and reduced crime rates.

Minimum wages as economic stimulus?
Rankandfile.ca, July 15, 2015

The Alberta government has announced their timeline for getting to $15 / hour, which includes eliminating the lower minimum wage for liquor servers.

The Alberta Federation of Labour has an excellent minimum wage campaign, called “15 is fair”. I provided some research support for a paper they produced on the positive economic impact of increasing minimum wages, which you can read in full here, but I wanted to share some of the key points.

Saskatoon’s Crisis Nursery workers deserve respect
Rankandfile.ca, July 5, 2016

Saskatoon Crisis Nursery is a safe place where children can go to be cared for and to feel safe. The nursery also provides a home-like environment where children receive quality care during their stay. In 2014-2015 Saskatoon Crisis Nursery served almost 1,500 children and over 700 families.crisis-logo

Recently, the Nursery’s 25 workers are disappointed that management is not honouring its commitment to providing a 1% negotiated pay increase this summer. The workers are represented by SEIU-West.

Knowing that the non-profit organization relies on funding from the government and private donors, workers are used to accepting offers that fall below the rate of inflation during bargaining. Any gains are typically embraced by these essential care workers. Historically, negotiations between management and the union have gone smoothly, but this trend appears to be coming to an end.

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