Labour News Update: December 12, 2016

NS Liberals retreat in fight against teachers, students | Toronto UberEats drivers protest pay cuts | Electoral reform and labour | Solid strike wins gains at the University of Manitoba | Phoenix pay system debacle | Canada should stop asbestos imports | Posties ratify tentative deal with Canada Post | Pallister takes aim at organized labour in 1st state of province address | Chance refinery layoffs | Wages, full-time work sliding for young Canadians | Syrian refugees continue to face employment barriers | Striking Peel CAS workers overwhelmingly reject contract offer | Call centre workers speak out about abuse by public | Skilled trades protest Wynne’s section 17 | Bedrock agrees to buy Stelco, union remains skeptical | Blue Water bridge strike ends | WestJet pilots union drive takes flight again |


img_9242-e1480980835449NS Liberals retreat in fight against teachers, students, December 6

What a mess. With less than 48 hours notice the government closed all schools to students today, leaving parents, scrambling for daycare. Parents, students and teachers were mad as hell. The government’s argument that safety could not be guaranteed while teachers worked to rule convinced nobody. Feeling the heat, in a day full of surprising twists and turns including rumours of a bit of a caucus revolt, the Liberal government beat an embarrassing retreat.

Solid strike wins gains at the University of Manitoba, December 7

The University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) went on strike on November 1 and returned to work with a new contract on November 22. UMFA is the union for around 1200 workers: people classified as professors, most librarians, and instructors (teaching staff whose contracts are open-ended or longer than a year; teachers and librarians hired on short-term contracts are members of CUPE 3909). What made this strike different from most recent strikes in Canada is that it was mainly an attempt to win new collective agreement rights rather than fend off employer demands for concessions or raise wages.

Electoral reform and labour, December 8

The federal Liberal retreat from their big flashy promise of electoral reform has definitely killed the Trudeau honeymoon. Meanwhile, Prince Edward Islanders narrowly voted for electoral reform but Premier MacLauchlan has decided to ignore the results, leading to an angry protest of hundreds in Charlottetown. The PEI fiasco is just the latest modern electoral reform mess that we’re still mired in. Electoral reform seems pretty easy to support if you want greater democracy, but things get pretty murky once you go into detail.

UberEats Wages, December 9

On Saturday December 3 dozens of UberEats drivers protested outside Uber’s downtown Toronto office in response to steep cuts in the rates they receive for driving for the food delivery service. The cuts are significant. The old rate structure offered up $6.50 for every order picked up at a restaurant which could add up quick if a driver was picking up multiple orders from one restaurant. Drivers were then paid $1.85 per kilometer.

In Other News

Canada should stop asbestos imports
CBC News, December 7

The Canadian Labour Congress is calling for a ban on asbestos. Exposure to asbestos — a fibrous mineral used in building and construction — is the leading cause of workplace-related death in Canada. Canada stopped exporting asbestos in 2011, and its last asbestos mine closed in 2012. But Canada still imports asbestos for use in construction products and automotive parts. According to the Canadian Labour Congress, the value of the imports has increased from $4.7 million in 2011 to $8.2 million in 2015.

Pallister takes aim at organized labour in 1st state of province address
CBC News, December 8

Premier Brian Pallister launched an attack on organized labour in Manitoba in his first state of the province speech to a packed audience at Winnipeg’s RBC Convention Centre on Thursday. He said there are too many bargaining units in the province and the number should come down. Manitoba Federation of Labour President Kevin Rebeck said he was puzzled by the premier’s comments. “It was a surprise to hear that today,” he said. “The reality is when workers want a union in a workplace they often let a union know and they vote to join a union of their choice and then they have to bargain a collective agreement…. Workers need to have that choice and they’ve exercised that choice and have agreements they worked hard to get.”

Shades of Steinbeck: Boy, 11, working on B.C. farm exposes child labour issues, says advocate
CBC News, December 10

The idea of children working in a hot, dusty field picking berries seems better suited to a Steinbeck novel than the blueberry farms of Metro Vancouver — as it should be. But an advocate for British Columbia’s agricultural workers says a recent Employment Standards Tribunal decision highlights how child labour is still prevalent in the province’s farming sector. “It’s very common in this industry,” said Charan Gill, CEO of the Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society and president of the Canadian Farmworkers’ Union. “We’ve known it for many, many years. Enforcement is lacking.”

Union digs in heels over Come By Chance refinery layoffs, North Atlantic complains
CBC News, December 6

The union representing workers at the Come By Chance refinery is digging in its heels on potential job losses, North Atlantic complained Tuesday. At a meeting between the two sides on Tuesday that aimed to find ways to reduce job losses at the refinery, union representatives told their employer they would only be willing to discuss a commitment to zero job reductions, North Atlantic said.

Phoenix pay system leaves Ottawa man broke while recovering from nearly fatal heart issue
CTV News, December 6

A federal government employee is relying on friends, family, and charity to help him keep up with bills and provide Christmas gifts for his two young children after Ottawa’s broken Phoenix pay system cut off his income while he recovered from a nearly fatal heart condition. Denis Begin is one of the 18,000 public servants impacted by the outstanding pay backlog, according to the latest update from deputy minister of public services and procurement Marie Lemay last month.

Postal workers ratify agreement reached last summer with Canada Post
Toronto Star, December 5

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers announced Monday its members have ratified a tentative deal reached last summer with Canada Post. Rural and suburban mail carriers voted 55 per cent in favour of the new contract, while urban postal workers voted 63 per cent in favour, said Lise-Lyne Gelineau, president of the union’s Montreal section.

blue-water-bridgeStriking Blue Water Bridge workers accept deal
CBC News, December 9

Workers at the Blue Water Bridge have agreed to a new contract with their employer after nearly three weeks of being on strike. Members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada walked off the job Nov. 21, saying the federal bridge corporation was trying to slash their benefits in the latest contract negotiations. Union officials representing the 47 workers reached the tentative agreement Thursday evening after a full day of talks. The union met with workers Friday morning to review the details of the proposed deal. Workers then voted and accepted the deal.

Call centre workers speak out about abuse by public
Toronto Star, December 7

Kaoutar Belaaziz says she has been told by customers that her name doesn’t sound white, and that they want to speak to someone who is white. “I’ve been asked if I am in Canada — if I am Canadian,” said Belaaziz, who has worked at a Montreal call centre for nearly seven years. “You almost feel like a second-class citizen.” That’s just one example of discrimination that call-centre employees like Belaaziz say they experience, thanks to the anonymity that the phone provides. In addition, there is sometimes endless swearing, racial slurs, threats of violence or even sexually explicit comments. That’s why the union representing call centre workers is launching a campaign on Wednesday called Hang Up On Abuse, urging employers and governments to protect workers.

CUPE officially files lawsuit against Wynne over sale of Hydro One
CTV News, December 7

Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees have officially filed a lawsuit against Ontario’s premier regarding the sale of Hydro One. News of the lawsuit came in September when CUPE president Fred Hahn announced that lawyers representing the union served the premier, Minister Charles Sousa and Minister Glenn Thibeault with a 60-day notice of intent to sue. On Wednesday, the union confirmed that the documents had been formally filed in court.

Striking Peel CAS workers overwhelmingly reject contract offer, 12-week walkout continues
Brampton Guardian, December 7

A resounding rejection of the Peel Children’s Aid Society’s (CAS) final contract offer on Tuesday means the 12-week walkout by child protection workers will continue and demonstrates there are no visible cracks in union solidarity during what has become a protracted and increasingly bitter strike. During a secret-ballot vote forced by Peel CAS, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 4914 voted 93 per cent to reject the agency’s contract proposal.

Teachers rally ’round Province House
Local Xpress, December 6

Carrying signs that read Negotiate Don’t Dictate, Respect The Profession and Let Teachers Teach, members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and their supporters encircled Province House on Tuesday evening in the latest move in the labour dispute between the province’s public school teachers and the provincial government. Organized by the union, the rally was held to highlight the challenging conditions it said students and teachers face as well as the need to increase funding to improve the education system.

One year after arrival, Syrian refugees continue to face employment barriers
Globe and Mail, December 5

Adnan Almekdad is a former veterinarian from southern Syria, where he ran a large-animal clinic and provided vet services to a poultry farm. He spent another decade as a manager and strategist at several pharmaceutical startups. He has also published two books. His background, he says wryly, is in “poetry and poultry.” Now in Canada after fleeing the war, he has stable housing, his three daughters are flourishing in school and his wife is volunteering and attending language classes. He has a supportive sponsorship group, some of whom have become close friends, and his English is remarkably good, after just 10 months in the country.

Bedrock agrees to buy Stelco, union remains skeptical
Hamilton Spectator, December 10

Bedrock Industries is poised to take over a floundering U.S. Steel Canada, with the announcement Friday of a potentially historic purchase agreement, driving what some see as a spike of hope into the long dreary saga of Stelco’s decline. The restructuring plan in the agreement enjoys the support of the United Steelworkers Local 8782 and 8782(B), United States Steel, Bedrock and Ontario, all subject to conditions. But the leadership of Local 1005, which represents about 600 Hamilton Stelco workers as well as 8,000-plus retirees, is considering opposing the motion. “There’s a good possibility we’ll be opposing it …We are still reviewing all the details,” said Local 1005 head Gary Howe.

Wages, full-time work sliding for young Canadians, StatsCan says
CBC News, December 5

Unemployment rates among young Canadians have held relatively steady when compared with the mid-1970s, but the proportion of full-time or permanent jobs has changed sharply over that time, says Statistics Canada. In a study released Monday that looks at changes in the youth labour market from 1976 to 2015, Statistics Canada said the unemployment rate for the 15 to 24 age group averaged 13.2 per cent in 2015, slightly higher than the rate of 12.4 per cent seen in 1976.

schedule_17_protest_ottawa_dec_8_2016_7Over 700 Skilled Trades Protest Liberal Fundraiser in Ottawa
IBEW, December 9

Members of IBEW Local 586, IBEW Local 105, UA Local 71 and SMWA Local 47 worked together to bring traffic to a standstill outside the Shaw Centre on December 8, 2016. In spite of the inconvenience, there was a lot of positive response from the public. People honked, rolled down the windows to give a thumbs up, and passersby even stopped to learn about the issue. “We had a thousand leaflets, and gave away every one,” said IBEW Local 586 Business Manager John Bourke.

WestJet pilots union drive takes flight again
CBC News, December 7

The Air Line Pilots Association has formalized its drive to unionize pilots at WestJet. After months of laying the groundwork, the U.S.-based international union said in a letter to pilots that it is collecting membership cards, and warns about a pushback from the Calgary-based airline.

Canada’s Dirty Secret
Jacobin, December 4

In downtown Vancouver on September 12, activists in solidarity with the Standing Rock protesters occupied a TD Bank, one of several Canadian financial institutions backing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). TD’s support for the project shouldn’t be surprising. As Canada’s economy now heavily relies on the finance sector and resource extraction industries, many corporations invest in such international projects. TD’s recent history exemplifies this. In 2004, it expanded into the United States and is now the nineteenth largest bank in the world. Many of Canada’s largest corporations followed TD’s lead and now wreak havoc across the globe.

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