Labour News Update: October 10, 2016

Trudeau dismisses raising minimum wage | Nova Scotia Teachers reject contract | Liberals not fixing the Phoenix pay system mess | Ford Oakville autoworkers say the will reject any GM type deal | Alberta NDP ices labour in Cold Lake | The McIntyre Powder Project | Harvesting Freedom march arrives in Ottawa | High Prices, Low Wages: In Cineplex Theatres | Injured farm worker struggles to survive after support cut off | Allegations against OPSEU listed in formal complaint submitted by OPSSU | Union drives reignite at WestJet | Essex County Library strike | Canada-wide asbestos inventory ‘a positive step,’ say health and safety advocates |More than half of Phoenix pay backlog remains as Oct. 31 deadline looms | Getting Ready for the Tory Storm in Manitoba | $12M ask: N.W.T. gov’t workers want fuel allowance, wage hikes | TTC applies to labour board to quash job action |


The McIntyre Powder Project: An interview with Janice Martell, October 4

Hailed as an indispensable tool in the battle against silicosis, between 1943 and 1979 thousands of mineworkers across Canada – and around the world – were forced to inhale McIntyre aluminum powder as a condition of employment. Before each shift sealed change rooms were filled with the black powder, which workers then were encouraged to breathe in as deep as they could. But nothing was known of the long-term effects of repeated exposure to aluminum powder. Even as more and more mining companies purchased the licensing agreement to use the powder at their worksites, the McIntyre Foundation never once subjected its product to controlled testing. Mineworkers were the unwilling guinea pigs in an awful experiment.

Alberta’s NDP ices labour in Cold Lake, October 5

Last week, workers represented by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) at the Points West Living (PWL) senior centre in Cold Lake were set to strike. The employer had also served lockout notice.
PWL is one of the most profitable and fastest growing seniors care providers in Alberta. PWL receives public funding to provide seniors’ care. Worker pay is poor so turnover is high.

Solidarity, uncertainty and hope as Harvesting Freedom reaches Ottawa, October 6

Farmworkers and their supporters from across Ontario have travelled 1500 kilometres, from Leamington and Windsor to Ottawa. Some communities welcomed them with open arms, while others have been lukewarm and even openly hostile. On Monday morning, the caravan marched through the streets of the capital after a brief press conference at Parliament. Reaching the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Office, they held a picket, calling on federal immigration minister John McCallum to attend to the concerns of migrant workers.

High Prices, Low Wages: In Cineplex Theatres Now, October 7

Cineplex announced this week that ticket prices are going up and they’re blaming minimum wage increases. The media has been giving this story a lot of coverage, but most reports read like a press release from Cineplex. The CBC’s coverage, for instance, repeats the company’s line without doing basic research, talking to workers, or even fact-checking the claims of Cineplex. The truth is Cineplex dominates Canada’s movie theatre market. They have 78 percent of the movie theatre market and 93% of the Canadian box office.

In Other News

cl53yexwuaa3xtvFederal Minimum Wage Hike Won’t Help Low-Income Canadians, Trudeau Says
Huffington Post, October 7

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government isn’t looking at raising the minimum wage, hinting that it won’t be a “magic bullet” to help those who face various economic barriers. “It’s not just about putting a little more money in peoples’ pockets, it’s about making sure that they have the conditions to be able to succeed,” Trudeau said during a question-and-answer session hosted by Thomson Reuters in Toronto on Friday.

Unifor rep at Oakville Ford plant says no to template of GM deal
CBC News, October 4

A union local at Ford Motor Co.’s Oakville, Ont., assembly plant says it is not willing to accept the same deal its national parent, Unifor, recently negotiated with GM Canada. “We as a local bargaining committee have sent a very clear message to Ford Motor Company and the national union that the framework agreement between GM and the membership will not suit the needs of the membership in Oakville,” Local 707 president Dave Thomas said in a message on the group’s website.

Injured farm worker struggles to survive after support cut off
Toronto Star, October 7

Anthony Brown is illiterate, permanently injured, and lives on a farm in rural Jamaica. But according to Ontario’s worker compensation board, he could still reasonably be expected to land a full-time sales job in Canada. Which is why the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board has cut the former migrant worker off long-term benefits, after the father of three was thrown off the back of a flatbed truck at a Niagara-area fruit picking operation, sustaining traumatic injuries.

Allegations against OPSEU listed in formal complaint submitted by OPSSU
Toronto Star, October 6

Allegations of “unfair labour practices” by employers are routine at the Ontario Labour Relations Board. But it’s not often that a major public sector union is itself the target of such complaints in its capacity as employer — accused by its own unionized workers of a litany of abuses. The unexpected role reversal is shining a spotlight on how the Ontario Public Service Employees Union treats its unionized employees. An ongoing civil war pits the 130,000-strong OPSEU against a tiny union representing its support staff, the Ontario Public Service Staff Union (OPSSU).

Winnipeg worker says no minimum wage hike could mean families like his go hungry
CBC News, October 6

Robert Giles says minimum wage increases make a huge difference for people like him. The Manitoba government elected in April has said minimum wage won’t go up this year, which could cost full-time workers more than $450 in annual salary. Giles, a cleaner at a North End non-profit organization who lived on minimum wage for three years before recently getting a raise, supports two children and a grandchild. He said the small government-mandated increases in minimum wage are needed.
“It might not seem that much for other people, but for a minimum wage earner, it could mean another meal or two for the week,” he said. “You either pay the bills and pay rent or buy food.”

$12M ask: N.W.T. gov’t workers want fuel allowance, wage hikes
CBC News, October 5

The union representing nearly three quarters of the N.W.T. government’s workforce is demanding a new biweekly allowance for fuel and utilities on top of a three per cent yearly wage increase, but the government is balking, saying it would all cost an extra $12 million a year. It’s the latest widening of the gulf between the government and the Union of Northern Workers, who have been at odds over pay increases for the approximately 3,900 workers since early in the negotiations, which began in January.

Nova Scotia teachers reject latest tentative contract deal with province
CBC News, October 4

Nova Scotia’s 9,000 public school teachers have rejected the latest deal from the province and are considering going on strike as the government says it won’t be returning to the bargaining table. The Nova Scotia Teachers Union said voter turnout was at 94 per cent, exactly the same as for the last contract vote in December 2015. The union tweeted that 70 per cent voted against it on Tuesday. That’s up from 61 per cent in December.

NSGEU poised to reject tentative civil service deal
CBC News, October 6

Members of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union are gearing up for a fight with the province and are poised to reject a tentative labour deal struck nearly a year ago. On Tuesday, the province’s 9,000 teachers overwhelming rejected a tentative agreement with the province. That move has emboldened the NSGEU, whose 7,600 civil service workers still have to vote on their tentative agreement.

More than half of Phoenix pay backlog remains as Oct. 31 deadline looms
CBC News, October 5

More than half of the tens of thousands of federal workers who filed claims over payroll issues before June are still waiting for their problems to be resolved, according to the deputy minister in charge of fixing the Phoenix payroll system. With less than a month to go before the government’s self-imposed Oct. 31 deadline to deal with the backlog of more than 80,000 cases, deputy minister of public services and procurement Marie Lemay said they have dealt with 38,228 cases, including close to 15,000 since the last update two weeks ago.

Essex County council no longer listening to constituents regarding 100+ day library strike
CUPE, October 5

Essex County councillors have made it clear that they are no longer interested in listening to their constituents. With Essex Library workers on strike for over 100 days, the people of Essex County are standing in support with the workers in asking council to change its directive over a new sick plan and bring this long and unnecessary strike to an end. Council has responded by cancelling its regular meeting, citing a “light agenda,” even as residents were preparing to speak to the library strike at the meeting. Council is also trying to prevent the use of an automated voice message that contacts Essex County residents to inform them about the strike, giving them the option to press #1 to call their councillors.

14615702_1315998518444723_6002242611940028665_oUnion drives reignite at WestJet
CBC News, October 3

After unsuccessful drives in 2015, pilots and flight attendants at WestJet are working again to form unions at the fast-growing airline. There’s one key difference this time around, though. Last year, they were racing against the calendar as labour laws changed in June 2015 to make certification more difficult. Now the opposite is true.

Canada-wide asbestos inventory ‘a positive step,’ say health and safety advocates
CBC News, October 3

After years of lobbying, an official public inventory of Canadian government buildings containing asbestos is now available online — and workplace health and safety advocates say the document is a good start. The government’s major property owner, Public Services and Procurement Canada (formerly Public Works), has developed the National Asbestos Inventory, which lists all the buildings owned or leased by the department and indicates whether or not they contain asbestos.

Workers demoted, offered less pay amid layoffs at 5 Wing Goose Bay, according to union
CBC News, October 5

Twenty-nine non-military workers are losing their jobs at 5 Wing Goose Bay, while 18 others are being demoted, according to the Union of National Defence Employees. “If you’re a manager, they’re eliminating the manager, creating a supervisor position, and they’re offering that to the person at a much lesser salary,” said Bernie Bolger, president of Local 90125. “The wages, most are cut in half.”

What is an Employer Owed when an Employee Quits? A Primer on Mandatory Employee Notice Periods
PinkLarkin, October 5

More often than not, when an employment relationship ends, it is the employer who is scrutinized. Did they give the employee adequate notice, or pay in lieu of notice? The requirement for appropriate notice responds to the concern that employees invest time and effort into the employer’s business, and will need something to cushion the blow of losing their job. But what happens when the employee terminates the relationship? What are employers owed and how can they pursue their interests?

Liberals dragging heels on $450M class-action lawsuit, moms denied EI say
Toronto Star, October 4

A group of mothers who say they were wrongly denied sickness benefits are breaking their silence as the federal Liberal government continues to fight them in court despite a promise to do otherwise. The Liberals said during last year’s election campaign that they would drop federal opposition to a lawsuit involving thousands of Canadians who were denied benefits to which they were entitled while on maternity leave.

TTC files application with labour board to quash job action by some employees
CP24, October 7

The TTC says it is moving to quash a concerted effort by some of its employees to disrupt service over organizational changes they’re not happy with. “Recent postings on social media have come to the TTC’s attention which, in the TTC’s view, shows plans that a clear, concerted effort is being made to illegally disrupt TTC service,” the organization said in a letter to employees Friday.

Getting Ready for the Tory Storm in Manitoba
SolidarityWinnipeg, October 5

With this in mind, people who recognize what the Tories have in mind for Manitoba should set ourselves the goal of building active opposition to their attacks. Just waiting for the next election will mean not even trying to repel Tory attacks. Just waiting will also demoralize people hurt by the Tories, making them less likely to bother to vote in the next election.

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