Labour News Update: September 5, 2016

CUPW reaches tentative deal with Canada Post | Unifor convention | Organizing migrant farmworkers | Labour Day reflections | Unifor autoworker negotiations | 1 in 5 Alberta workers earns $15 or less | Canada Post review | Halifax Chronicle Herald strike | Ottawa watching leave for domestic violence victims in Manitoba, Ontario | Bullying and harassment allegations made against James Bay health | CETA is a bad deal | National Steel Car layoffs loom | How not to fund infrastructure | Pre-order Fight for $15 and Fairness Now! | Vancouver school closur | Millions strike in India |

From RankandFile.ca

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson should not be welcome at Labour Day
RankandFile.ca, September 3

Over the past several years myself and other activists in Ottawa felt very uncomfortable with Mayor Jim Watson participating in the Ottawa Labour Day. Mayor Watson is not a friend of workers, the labour movement or our community allies. While I am not certain if Mayor Watson ever received an official invitation from the Ottawa and District Labour Council to participate, it makes no sense for him to be welcomed at our labour day celebrations as some sort of working class hero. He has a clear track record that is anti-labour.

R&F Podcast Episode 4: Organizing Migrant Farm Workers
RankandFile.ca, September 2

This week our West Coast correspondent Daniel Tseghay interviews Adriana Paz Ramirez, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers. She’s also the co-author with Jennifer Jihye of the chapter “Struggling Against History Migrant Farmworker organizing in British Columbia,” in the new book Unfree Labour: Struggles of Migrant and Immigrant Workers in Canada.

Pre-order Fight for $15 and Fairness Now!
RankandFile.ca, September 2

This handbook will show you how to build a local $15 campaign in your town. You’ll learn how to start from scratch in a town, in your workplace or on a campus, how to use effective organizing tactics, build a coalition of unions and community organizations, and defeat the arguments against a $15 minimum wage. It’s also about education. Learn what the Fight for $15 and Fairness means for women, climate change, union bargaining, and the social safety net. This handbook covers it all: from on-the-ground organizing to the big political and economic questions.

How not to fund infrastructure
RankandFile.ca, September 1

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.

“Machines can do a better job than you and this is what you get for asking questions”
RankandFile.ca, August 31

In the early nineties, two TV stations (CKY\CKND) in Winnipeg, Manitoba locked out their workers. Both of these lockouts would start lengthy disputes – rare for the Canadian broadcasting industry. The two lockouts demonstrate that while workers in the Canadian broadcasting industry face similar issues as workers in other industries (wages, benefits, working conditions), the industry itself affects tactics that labour can use. Through advertising boycott campaigns and speaking tours, media workers were able to garner increasing leverage.

When Trudeau shows up at the workers’ convention
RankandFile.ca, August 30

With more than 310,000 members, Unifor isn’t just Canada’s largest private sector union, but it is also one of 15 bargaining agents that represent federal employees in their negotiations with the Treasury Board. Air traffic controllers, radio operators and workers in non-supervisory printing services are trudeau at uniforproud members of Unifor and are also part and parcel of the federal public service. Thus it was surprising – at least for those of us with close ties to federal workers – to see that Justin Trudeau, the big boss of the Federal Public Service, was scheduled to appear as a keynote speaker at the second Unifor Convention held August 22-26 in Ottawa.

In Other News

post office save signCanada Post reaches tentative deal with union, averting job action
CBC News, August 31

Following marathon bargaining sessions that reached into the wee hours, Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers have reached tentative agreements, averting a possible mail disruption that had loomed for months. The union provided no details but said its negotiating committee is unanimously recommending the draft pacts to members. The union’s two bargaining units — for rural and urban workers, respectively — will each have to ratify the new terms by a majority vote.

Canada auto union faces pension pressure from single plant deal
Financial Post, September 1

Canada’s autoworkers’ union will face additional pressure to accept less generous retirement benefits for new hires in contract talks due to a 2013 deal signed by workers at one General Motors Co plant, according to a top union official. Canada’s Unifor union and GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler kicked off bargaining last month for new contracts for assembly workers. Talks will shift into high gear on Tuesday as the union picks its first strike target.

It’s time for Labour and the NDP to figure out their relationship
Ottawa Citizen, September 2

Sept. 5 marks the annual Labour Day parade in many Canadian cities. And just after Labour Day, the federal NDP’s leadership campaign will start ramping up. It’s time Labour and the NDP had a frank talk.

14233099_10210379014296780_8910796986737178797_nOntario labour laws need to change
Hamilton Spectator, September 2

The OFL has told the government that employers need to offer permanent jobs, not contract after contract. Workers need schedules at least two weeks in advance so that they can plan for things like child care and elder care. Minimum wage should be raised to $15 an hour. It should be easier to join and keep a union.

Nearly one in five Alberta workers earns $15 an hour or less, advocacy group says
CBC News, September 1

Nearly one in five Alberta workers earns $15 per hour or less, Public Interest Alberta reported Thursday in a pre-Labour Day look at low-wage earners. Statistics Canada data compiled by the advocacy group, in partnership with the Alberta College of Social Workers, shows that for the year ended June 30, there were 354,700 workers in Alberta earning $15 an hour or less. Sixty per cent of low-wage Alberta workers are women, the data shows, and 77 per cent are age 20 or older. More than 22 per cent of low-wage workers are 45 or older.

West Vancouver Blue Bus drivers vote for strike mandate
CBC News, August 31

The union representing West Vancouver’s transit operators have voted in favour of a strike mandate after talks with the district broke down. Geoff Devlin, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 134, said in a statement that the union will issue a 72-hour strike notice on Thursday. Members voted 100 per cent in favour of the job action, Devlin said.

More National Steel Car layoffs loom
Hamilton Spectator, September 2

Hal Bruckner, the company’s vice-president for human resources, confirms the plant could be idled, at least temporarily, unless new orders are found to keep its production lines moving. “That is the potential we’re facing if the order book doesn’t improve,” he said. “The last of our current orders will be finished in December,” he added. “After that, without new orders, we will be in a wait mode with a very small crew here able to start us up again.” As 2,000 industrial workers face being pushed into a barren job market, government funding for the job action centre designed to help them will run out at the end of September.

Herald employees still waiting for resolution as strike passes 8th month
CBC News, September 2

Unionized Chronicle Herald workers have been on strike for more than eight months, but the president of the union said there’s no end in sight. Ingrid Bulmer, president of the Halifax Typographical Union, said there is “backroom” dialogue between the company lawyer and union lawyer. “They talk back and forth and it’s all in the hopes that we can finally get back to the table where we can sit down face to face and actually negotiate a deal,” she told CBC’s Information Morning. “But we’re nowhere near that.”

CETA will undermine Canadian democracy
Toronto Star, September 1

Foreign investors – including some of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful corporations – typically generate little public sympathy and aren’t usually lumped in with groups deemed worthy of special protections. So the Trudeau government, which is in the process of granting wealthy foreign investors extraordinary legal protections and access to public money, is probably hoping the public isn’t paying much attention. The special privileges for investors are a key part of CETA, the Canada-Europe trade deal, which Justin Trudeau is planning to sign in Brussels in October.

Who really benefits from Vancouver school closures?
Vancouver Sun, August 31

A cloud of uncertainty hangs over thousands of Vancouver children and their parents as the new school year approaches with 12 schools identified by the Vancouver school board for possible closure as early as June 2017. But, while many parents are mobilizing to fight to save their schools, Education Minister Mike Bernier is extolling the benefits of school closures and amalgamation. “Closing schools,” he says, “will save $37 million in money wasted on empty seats that can go into more programs for students.” If this is true, perhaps there is a silver lining to the massive disruption and upheaval this scale of simultaneous school closures will entail.

Liberals face stark choices on Canada Post
Toronto Star, August 31

The bitter contract talks between Canada Post and its main union are prelude. The main event – what to do with the Crown corporation – is set to begin next month. That’s when a four-person task force set up by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is due to report. Chaired by the head of the Quebec Chamber of Commerce, the task force has been told to “identify viable options” for Canada Post.

Halifax newspaper accused of hiring ex-heavyweight fighter to ‘spy’ on striking journalists
Press Progress, August 31

Sounds like management at the Halifax Chronicle Herald are opting for a heavy-handed approach. The Chronicle Herald’s management has been paying a private firm hundreds of thousands of dollars to “spy” on journalists at the same time as the paper is demanding striking workers accept wage cuts and layoffs, says the union representing newsroom workers.

Ottawa watching leave for domestic violence victims in Manitoba, Ontario
Metro News, August 30

Mary Daoust has seen it all too often: women who stay in a dangerous relationship for fear of being unable to pay the bills or of getting fired amid the ensuing personal tumult. “They should not be penalized for living in abuse,” said Daoust, executive director of Minwaashin Lodge, an Ottawa-based aboriginal support centre that runs a 21-bed shelter for First Nations, Metis and Inuit women and children who are fleeing abuse. Doust welcomes ideas like the new legislation Manitoba passed this year, which allows victims of domestic violence to take time away from work — including five paid days — to benefit from services that can be hard to access outside weekday hours.

Bullying and harassment allegations made against James Bay health authority
CBC News, August 30

At least seven mental health workers in northern Ontario say they have been pushed out of their jobs at the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA) because of what they describe as bullying and harassment by supervisors. The health organization serves patients in communities across the James Bay Coast, including Attawapiskat where a string of suicide attempts prompted chief and council to declare a state of emergency this spring. The workers who have spoken to CBC have chosen to leave their employer or have been fired. They say they fear for the well-being of vulnerable people on the coast because of how health professionals are being treated. “We’re supposed to be the ones taking care of their mental health, but we had no one taking care of our mental health,” former psychiatric nurse Linda Taylor said.

Privatizing public infrastructure is enormously costly lets not repeat the mistake
Policynote.ca, September 1

An announcement is expected next week on a plan for the long-awaited Victoria wastewater treatment plant, which has been the subject of ongoing controversy about its need and location. But one question has received much less attention: will this roughly billion-dollar piece of infrastructure be publicly owned and controlled, or will it be handed over to a private for-profit corporation to run?

Indian workers participate in a rally during a nationwide strike called by trade unions in Hyderabad
Indian workers participate in a rally during a nationwide strike called by trade unions in Hyderabad

Tens of millions strike in India in battle for higher wages
The Independent, September 3

Millions of public sector workers have gone on strike in India to protest against the government’s economic policies. Public transport was disrupted and state-run banks, power stations and factories were closed as 10 trade unions called nationwide walkouts. Reports suggested more than 150 million workers were taking part in the industrial action.

French unions and students protest regressive labour laws
CCPA, September 1

Some of the largest demonstrations and labour strikes France has ever seen spread across the country from March to July. The action is set to continue in September as hundreds of thousands of workers and students protest a neoliberal labour law forced through the national assembly by the ruling Socialist Party (PS) led by President François Hollande. The government passed the Loi Travail in July without debate or a vote (Hollande invoked a rarely used article of the French constitution that allows the president to rule by decree). The labour reform makes it easier for employers to hire and fire employees, and to impose wages and working hours. Hollande’s reforms, which are opposed by a large majority of the French public, threaten labour rights won by French workers in struggles over the course of the last century.

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