Labour News Update: August 22, 2016

NTCL looks to cuts pensions | Unsafe working conditions persist in Saskatchewan | Best Western Seven Oaks workers opt out of union | Evolution of labour market is leaving government regulation in the dust | SLGA lays of 150 | Liberals probe unpaid internships in public service | CUPW leaders left frustrated by lack of answers from Canada Post | 300 city workers reject HRM proposal despite lockout threat | Ontario Teachers outsource 108 IT positions | The business case for investing in Canada’s auto industry | Advisors recommend paying U.S. Steel Canada bonuses, but not benefits | Arbitrator sides with Canada Post in contract negotiation with rural postmasters | Fields of Dreams
With no buyer in sight, NTCL looks to cut pension payments
Guy Quenneville, CBC News
August 19, 2016

As its financial pressures mount, Northern Transportation Company Limited says it wants to cut back on pension payments for over 600 current and former NTCL employees.

This afternoon in an Alberta courtroom, lawyers for the embattled Northern sealift company will argue that it should no longer have to make special monthly payments of $229,000 into the NTCL pension fund.

Unsafe working conditions persist at job sites across Saskatchewan: OHS report
Alicia Bridges, CBC News
August 20, 2016

New numbers from the province’s Occupational Health and Safety division show unsafe working conditions persist at job sites across Saskatchewan.

A report from the OHS released on Wednesday found around half of all sites inspected were out of compliance when it came to use of protective headgear and fall protection.

Best Western Seven Oaks workers on strike in January 2016. Photo: Andrew Stevens.

Best Western Seven Oaks employees have opted out of their union
Kerry Benjoe, Redgina Leader-Post
August 19, 2016

Sometimes breaking up is hard to do.

This week, the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board granted the employees at the Best Western Seven Oaks Inn to rescind their membership with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1400.

The results drew a mixed response from the three parties involved.

The evolution of the labour market is leaving government regulation in the dust
Lauren Heuser, National Post
August 15, 2016

Speaking from recent experience, being precariously employed is no walk in the park. To try my hand at writing, I forfeited income security, benefits and a good workplace, and — quite literally — shouldered a level of stress I have never previously known. I would have a masseuse work on my neck and shoulders, but I no longer have health benefits.

My reality is one shared by an increasing number of Canadians. According to a recent Ontario Ministry of Labour report, non-standard employment (which includes part-time, temporary, casual, seasonal and on-call work) is rising, growing at an average annual rate of 2.3 per cent from 1997 to 2015, or nearly double the growth rate of standard employment. More than a quarter of Ontario’s workforce now holds non-standard work positions, a trend seen across the country.

Over 150 pink slips handed out to SLGA workers due to Sask. Party liquor privatization
Brandon Gonez, Global News
August 17, 2016

Over 150 Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) employees have been given layoff notices, according to the union representing government employees.

The Saskatchewan Government Employees Union (SGEU) said the layoffs are a result of the Saskatchewan Party’s liquor privatization plan.

Liberals Probe Unpaid Internships In Federal Government
Dean Beeby, CBC News
August 19, 2016

The Liberal government wants to know why a dozen federal departments and agencies do not pay their interns.

The review was ordered by Treasury Board President Scott Brison earlier this year as the government grappled with the politically charged issue of unpaid internships in the federal jurisdiction.

Canada Post union leaders left frustrated by lack of answers at annual meeting
The Canadian Press
August 19, 2016

Union leaders attending Canada Post’s annual meeting were left frustrated Friday as the Crown corporation refused to provide details on its calculations on the cost of the union’s latest contract proposals.

Canada Post has estimated the union’s position surrounding pensions and pay equity would cost $1 billion.

More than 300 outside workers reject offer from HRM despite lockout notice
Heide Pearson
August 18, 2016

More than 300 Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) outside workers have rejected the city’s contract offer, despite being faced with a lockout notice.

The workers, all members of CUPE 108 Unit 1, voted by 90 per cent to reject the offer Wednesday night.

Ontario Teachers’ to outsource 108 IT positions
Sara Tatelman, Benefits Canada
August 16, 2016

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan is coming under criticism for a plan to outsource 108 technology jobs.

The move will outsource 35 bargaining unit positions, 12 management roles and 61 contract jobs to Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. The affected roles, which will continue until Jan. 1, 2017, are in Ontario Teachers’ enterprise technology service division that oversees data management and security. Some positions will move to Tata’s Ontario facility, with others sent to India. Some will remain at Ontario Teachers’ offices as well.

The business case for investing in Canada’s auto industry
Armine Yalnizyan, The Toronto Star
August 18, 2016

Contract talks currently underway between Unifor and the Big Three U.S. auto manufacturers are being called the most significant in a generation, maybe a half-century. The union has put future investments at the top of its wish list. Underlying it all is that old existential question: does Canada really need an auto industry, especially now that Mexico is such a magnet for new investment?

It’s true demand is expanding in Mexico, but it only represents around 10 per cent of all Big Three sales in North America now. Population growth is faster there, and the Panama Canal has just been deepened to accommodate bigger ships, making Mexico a possible launching pad to other emerging markets. But there is a strong business case for why Canada is critical to the Big Three’s business plan. It’s not a case of Mexico versus Canada, but of Mexico and Canada.

February 2016 protest in Hamilton calling on US Steel to keep the Stelco plant in Hamilton open and pensions paid out. Photo: David Bush

Advisors recommend paying U.S. Steel Canada bonuses, but not benefits
Kelly Bennett, CBC News
August 16, 2016

U.S. Steel Canada is offering $2.7 million to a fund set up to help retired steelworkers get access to benefits. But, in exchange, they want workers to back off their opposition to pay bonuses to “key employees” and drop their motion to fully reinstate the benefits.

That’s one of the proposals, back and forth, on whether U.S. Steel Canada will be allowed to earmark bonuses and whether the company will reinstate retirement medical benefits for more than 20,000 employees and their families that were temporarily cut off last October.

Arbitrator sides with Canada Post in contract negotiation with rural postmasters
The Canadian Press
August 16, 2016

An arbitrator has accepted Canada Post’s proposal for a new collective agreement with its postmasters and assistants in rural offices across the country.

Key changes under the agreement include a defined contribution pension plan for new employees represented by the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association.

Fields of Dreams
Janie Ginsberg and Nicole Thompson, Toronto Life

Every year, some 25,000 migrant labourers from Mexico and the Caribbean come to Ontario through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. They spend six to eight months of the year on farms in Niagara and Simcoe and Prince Edward County, and send as much money home as possible. Participants live on the farms, sometimes with 20 men to a house, and get paid minimum wage to till the soil, harvest the crops, thin the trees—jobs that most Canadians won’t do. The program is strict: they sign an exclusivity clause, which makes it difficult to work for anyone other than the employer who contracted them. Workers have to pay the bulk of their own travel costs. And if they’re fired, they’re sent home immediately, with little opportunity for appeal. An advocacy group called Justice for Migrant Workers recently launched a campaign called Harvesting Freedom, which is petitioning the federal government to improve workers’ rights.

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