Labour News Update: October 17, 2016

Montreal rally calls for $15 an hour minimum wage | Nova Scotia teachers reach breaking point with workplace concerns | Unifor FCA tentative deal | Edmonton railroad workers take on CN over workplace fatigue | Trudeau pushing CETA | Manitoba Tories pushing through anti-union Bill 7 | Nova Scotia nursing homes feeling the pinch | Irving fined $10,000 for shipyard accident | Privatization the root of skyrocketing hydro rates | Anti-union lobbyist is chairing big fundraising dinner for Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown | Students who honour Catholic school pickets lines to be marked absent | The BC Liberals and a Disability Jobs Plan that does not deliver | Fight for $15 in Saskatchewan | Halifax municipal candidates support fair wages, boycott scab reporters | Canadian firm faces new forced labour claims over Eritrean mine | A better work-life balance? | Supporting Guyana’s sugar workers | Three Years On From Its Sale, The Privatisation Of Royal Mail is a mess | Zuckerman v. Hoffa a battle for the Teamsters |


R&F Podcast Episode 5 – Fight for $15 in Saskatchewan, October 11’s West Coast Correspondent Daniel Tseghay interviews Dennel Pickering about the Fight for $15 movement that is getting underway in Saskatchewan.

The BC Liberals and a Disability Jobs Plan that does not deliver, October 12

On October 3rd, the BC Liberals announced a Job Creation Plan that they claim would benefit people with disabilities. The project, in alliance with the Rick Hansen Foundation, WorkBC Employment Services Centres, and the Victoria Disability Resource Centre, would temporarily employ 14 people as “access assistants”. “Participants will complete about 90 on-site accessibility surveys of medium- and large-sized buildings and community locations in Victoria and the Lower Mainland,” reads the press release. “Through this work, participants will have an opportunity to apply inclusive design principles and gain skills in the professional field of accessibility through training, field experience and user testing.”

Halifax municipal candidates support fair wages, boycott scab reporters, October 13

Labour issues have become part of the Halifax municipal election in more ways than one. A substantial number of candidates promised not to talk to Chronicle Herald scab reporters and made a public commitment to a living wage for city workers and contractors. 19 municipal candidates running for councillor in the Halifax Regional Municipality have formalized their refusal to deal with scab Chronicle Herald reporters. Altogether 50 candidates are contesting 12 seats on Council. Four other seats have been acclaimed.

Supporting Guyana’s sugar workers, October 14

The history of the sugar workers in Guyana and their union GAWU is one of international solidarity. In 1977 when faced with having their wages reduced to pay for the newly enacted export tax the union struck and was met with support from dock workers across Britain whose trade unions refused to unload any ships which carried Guyanese sugar. Today, while many of the same ties which once united unions in Canada, Britain, and the US to Guyana have disappeared, the reasons they formed haven’t changed: resisting austerity. The current struggle against closures and privatization of the sugar industry in Guyana are an opportunity to rebuild those ties and exchange tactics in the fight against austerity everywhere.

In Other News

gmh101367276-high-jpgMontreal rally calls for $15 an hour minimum wage
Toronto Star, October 15

Saturday’s event was the culmination of a summer-long campaign led by a coalition of unions, anti-poverty activists and students. Although the campaign for the $15 is nothing new, many organizers said there is a growing momentum on the issue, pointing to other jurisdictions that have already decided to adopt the higher minimum wage. The American states of New York and California have approved measures to gradually implement a $15 minimum wage, and Alberta passed regulations in September to follow suit. Rallies to urge the government to raise the minimum wage have been held in cities such as Toronto and Vancouver.

‘It’s an attack on workers’: NDP pans PC labour bill
CBC News, October 14

A new government bill designed to change the rules about how workers form unions passed its second reading this week. While Tories say it will make the process more democratic, opponents argue it’s a concealed attempt to throw obstacles in the path of organized labour. Union members protest secret ballot proposed by Manitoba government Bill 7, the Labour Relations Amendment Act, would do away with the long-standing card check system in Manitoba, which allowed unions to form automatically if a super-majority — 65 per cent — of workers sign union cards. Instead, the new rules would require all potential unions to hold a secret ballot vote.

Nova Scotia teachers reach breaking point with workplace concerns
CBC News, October 12

Teachers in Nova Scotia don’t usually speak about their workplace concerns, but Nancie de la Chevotiere says it’s time for that to change. De la Chevotiere teaches English and drama at Halifax West High School. She and her 9,000 colleagues will vote Oct. 25 on whether or not to strike after rejecting two contract offers from the provincial government. Demands on teachers have dramatically changed since de la Chevotiere started teaching 20 years ago, and she said the support for those changes hasn’t kept pace.

FCA to upgrade Brampton, invest in Etobicoke as part of Unifor deal
Automotive News Canada, October 10

The aging paint shop at Fiat Chrysler’s Brampton, Ont., assembly plant will be gutted and rebuilt in 2017 as part of the tentative labor deal the automaker and Unifor reached on Monday, a significant victory for the union following weeks of contentious talks. The deal, which also includes an investment in the Etobicoke casting plant in Toronto, wage gains and changes to pension plans for new hires, was reached late Monday just minutes before workers were set to strike at midnight.

Edmonton railroad workers take on CN over workplace fatigue, ‘culture of fear and intimidation’
Metro, October 12

Some CN railroad workers in Edmonton say they are fed up with a “culture of fear and intimidation” that keeps them working longer hours than they can handle. Workers rallied near Grand Trunk Park on the city’s north side last Wednesday to push their employer to take workplace fatigue seriously. “They’re forcing us to come to work when we’re tired and to remain at work tired, despite provisions in our collective agreement that allow for us to be the judges of our own condition while we’re at work,” said a locomotive engineer, who has worked with CN for 10 years.

Irving fined $10,000 for shipyard accident, ordered to make $40,000 donation
Local Xpress, October 12

Irving Shipbuilding Inc. has been slapped with $50,000 in penalties in connection with an industrial accident at the Halifax Shipyard in January 2014 that seriously injured a worker. The company was scheduled to go to trial this week in Halifax provincial court on four charges under the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act. But Irving Shipbuilding actually pleaded out on one of the charges several months ago without any media coverage. The company accepted responsibility for a charge of failing to take every precaution reasonable to ensure health and safety in the workplace.

CEO of nurses’ association denounces LHSC for sending letter about public meeting it’s hosting Friday
London Free Press, October 13

A nursing association says London’s largest hospital has again launched an offensive against those who speak out against changes they say harm patients, this time enlisting a lawyer to threaten nurses hosting a public meeting Friday in London. “(This) is a blatant attempt to intimidate (the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario) into staying silent on matters of interest to our members and the public. We recognize it as a bullying tactic and we will not be influenced by it in any way, shape or form,” Doris Grinspun, chief executive of the nurses’ association, wrote Thursday to Murray Glendining, chief executive of London Health Sciences Centre, and hospital board chair Tom Gergely.

Students who honour Catholic school pickets lines to be marked absent
Windsor Star, October 14

No further negotiation talks are scheduled on the weekend, so a strike by Catholic school custodians, secretaries and other support staff appears imminent on Monday morning. Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board officials said both its elementary and secondary schools will remain open as a scheduled strike occurs. But there are some concerns, administrators say, some students may use the opportunity to skip classes out of protest or respecting the picket line.

CETA and democratic governance
CCPA, October 14

Imagine a far-off dystopia when foreign corporations are given the same status as citizens in public hearings. When the overriding priority for government in issuing licenses for fracking, pipeline and other projects is to make the process simple for corporations. When, regardless of how much a project is opposed by the public, governments have to ensure protests and court challenges do not cause “undue” delays. Unfortunately, this scenario is not some distant possibility but may become legally binding reality by 2017. That is when CETA – the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement – between Canada and the European Union is supposed to come into force.

14650197_1320406794670562_3514339853040881672_nNova Scotia nursing homes feeling the pinch
Truro Daily News, October 10

Nursing home staff and residents alike are being negatively impacted by provincial healthcare cutbacks, several sources say. The impacts are the result of $6.7 million in budget cuts to long-term care announced recently by the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness.

‘We see a lot of our members in the North are losing good-paying jobs…’
The Nugget, October 12

CUPE Northern delegates who met in Timmins last week, were urged to return their communities and get citizens onside on issues such as privatization and cuts to the public service sector. “We see a lot of our members in the North are losing good-paying jobs through hospital cuts, through hydro privatization,” says Henri Giroux, Northern Ontario regional vice-president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Privatization the root of skyrocketing hydro rates, meeting hears
Windsor Star, October 11

Privatization of Ontario Hydro is at the root of skyrocketing hydro rates, a public meeting heard Tuesday night. About 100 people gathered at St. Mary’s Church Hall in Maidstone to listen to former NDP MPP Rosario Marchese, who is now chair with the Citizens Coalition Against Privatization, explain the history of hydro in Ontario and why rates have risen so quickly.

The way to a better work-life balance? Unions, not self-help
The Guardian, October 11

The trouble with much work-life balance advice is that it’s been captured by the self-help movement. It all centres on the individual. If you want to rekindle your wellbeing and discover your inner potential, then take control of your choices, find a job that better fits your temperament, erect firm boundaries between work and leisure and learn to say no. This gives an unrealistic picture of what is possible in most jobs, and would probably end with an untimely trip to the Jobcentre if taken seriously. Want a heathier work-life balance? Join a union. Or better still, create your own. But steer clear of that self-help section at the airport bookshop. It pretends the ideology of work might still be tamed by individual willpower. But it can’t.

Anti-union lobbyist is chairing big fundraising dinner for Ontario PC leader Patrick BrownPress Progress, October 13

Who’s helping out at Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown’s annual “Leader’s Dinner” Thursday night in Ottawa The president of Canada’s biggest anti-union lobby group, for one. In fact, according to a flyer promoting the event, not only is Merit Canada president Terrance Oakey co-chairing the big fundraising event – he’s handling corporate donations too.

Zuckerman v. Hoffa: Can a “Pissed-off Teamster” Push Out the Incumbent?
In These Times, October 12

At last, November’s election deadline is almost here—clinching a dramatic race that featured a nail-biter of a nomination contest, a raucous convention, and an email scandal. Few undecided voters are left. The candidates have painted starkly different visions for the future of jobs, health care, retirement, and democracy itself. Now the outcome depends on how effectively each side can turn out its votes. Trump vs. Clinton? Nope—I’m talking about the battle for the top seats in the Teamsters Union. Ballots hit the mail October 6, and the vote count begins November 14.

Canadian firm faces new forced labour claims over Eritrean mine
The Guardian, October 14

Dozens of Eritreans are to join a groundbreaking civil action in Canada as plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Nevsun Resources, which majority-owns the Bisha mine in north-west Eritrea, following a ruling last week. Two of them – Kadane, a security guard, and Aman, an administrator – spoke out for the first time about what they claim they experienced at the mine: forced labour, horrendous working conditions and a climate of fear and intimidation.

Three Years On From Its Sale, The Privatisation Of Royal Mail Is A Story Of Our Times
Huffington Post, October 15

Royal Mail is 500 years old this year, an anniversary marked with some fanfare last month. Today however, is three years since Royal Mail was privatised – and this is an anniversary we’re unlikely to be hearing much about. The government has good reason for keeping it quiet because the sell-off of Royal Mail is a damning indictment of its approach to key industries and public services. So let’s take stock: what has the impact been on our postal service? The Post Office was split from the profitable Royal Mail business in order to pave the way for privatisation – and all too predictably it is now at crisis point. This year alone it is shedding 2,000 jobs and closing down flagship branches across the country.

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