Labour news update: December 26, 2016

Canada lacks stats on homeless population | Canadian bank didn’t report 1200 suspicious transactions | CAPE breaks of contract talks with federal government | WestJet CEO vows to fight union drive | Woman says she was fired from Halifax nightclub partly for not wearing heels | 1,000 unionized oilsands camp jobs lost and more to come | Hundreds of Amazon Warehouse Workers Are Expected to Strike in Germany | Over 1 million retail workers won’t earn a living wage | The trouble with Canadian airport privatization | Trudeau’s neo-liberalism with a human face | Meet the defiant library workers waging one of the region’s longest strikes ever | Toronto budget cuts will harm those most vulnerable | Workers at D-J Composites in Gander locked out

Comprehensive statistics lacking on number of homeless people in Canada
Julian Gignac, The Globe and Mail
December 23, 2016

National surveys by Statistics Canada depend on participants having a fixed address, making it likely that comprehensive numbers of homeless people across Canada are sketchy at best.

Tim Richter, the president and CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, says that lack of reliable information has deadly consequences.ww

Canadian bank failed to report 1,200 suspicious transactions
Robert Cribb, Marco Chown Oved, and Robert De Souza, The Toronto Star/National Observer
December 22, 2016

A convicted felon attempted to move at least $12 million through a Canadian bank, which failed to report the transactions to authorities in a breach of anti-money-laundering law, new documents obtained by the Toronto Star and National Observer show.

For keeping the transactions secret, the bank, whose name has been removed from the documents, was fined $1.15 million — the first and only time a bank has been penalized for this kind of offence in Canada.

It committed the “very serious” offence of failing to report “a suspicious transaction related to the commission or attempted commission of a money laundering offence,” according to 109 pages of heavily censored documents obtained through an access to information request by the National Observer.

CAPE breaks off contract talks with federal government
Kathryn May, Ottawa Citizen
December 22, 2016

Federal economists and social scientists have walked out of negotiations with the federal government over its refusal to give them raises to cover inflation and to enshrine the right to provide evidence-based policy advice in their contracts.

The Canadian Association of Professional Employees, which represents the 12,000 economists and social scientists working in government, declared an impasse Tuesday after more than two years of negotiations and is now seeking binding conciliation to reach a settlement.

WestJet CEO Saretsky will ‘go down fighting’ to prevent unionization
Amanda Stephenson, Calgary Herald
December 22, 2016

After soundly rejecting the company’s initial offer, WestJet pilots are voting on a new contract the airline hopes will pave the way for the expansion of its wide-body fleet and help stave off the looming threat of unionization.

In an interview, WestJet CEO Gregg Saretsky said voting is set to close Friday on the new tentative agreement. The company has said it needs a new deal with its pilots before it can expand its wide-body fleet and start doing more long-haul international flights. However, the company’s first attempt at a contract offer was rejected in November by 80 per cent of pilots who voted.

Woman says she was fired from Halifax nightclub partly for not wearing heels
Hayley Ryan, Metro Halifax
December 21, 2016

A Dartmouth single mom is questioning whether her recent firing from a popular Halifax nightclub was over high heels, but her employer says they did everything “in line with labour standards.”

Ally Robinson, 25, said she’s worked in the service industry for years, including at Grafton Connor Group locations like Cheers, and as a bartender at The Dome since October.

Last Friday, Robinson said a manager sent her home for not wearing high heels during her shift.

1,000 unionized oilsands camp jobs lost and more to come: Trade union
David Thurton, CBC News
December 22, 2016

Oilsands companies have recently cut about 1,000 jobs, and 170 workers at a lodge just north of Fort McMurray will lose their positions the day after Christmas, trade unions said.

“It’s really cutthroat up there in the Fort McMurray area,” said Doug O’Halloran, the president of United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW) Local 401.

“But it’s big business — they don’t have any concerns about the average worker. It’s all about the profit they need to make.”

Hundreds of Amazon Warehouse Workers Are Expected to Strike in Germany
December 21, 2016

Workers at German warehouses of U.S. online retailer Amazon were called out on strike by labour union Verdi on Wednesday as part of a long-running dispute over pay and conditions.

Verdi said in a statement it was calling on workers at three of the nine Amazon warehouses in Germany to join the strike, which will run until Dec. 24. Workers at Amazon’s warehouse in Koblenz already launched a strike on Monday.

Over 1 million Canadian retail workers won’t earn a living wage this holiday shopping season
December 20, 2016

Canadian retailers are expecting billions in revenue this holiday shopping season, but the low-paid retail clerks and cashiers who ring in those sales might wish their employers left their stockings a little fuller.

Nearly two million Canadians will be working in the retail sector this holiday season and one-fifth of those workers earn the minimum wage – a number that has almost doubled since the late 1990s.

Overall, Canadian retail workers earn an average wage of $14.15/hr. And six in 10 retail workers earn below $15/hr, generally considered the floor for making ends meet in Canada.

The trouble with Canadian airport privatization
Calin Rovinescu, The Globe and Mail
December 19, 2016

There is an irony not lost on us where, as a former Crown Corporation celebrating 30 years of privatization in 2018, Air Canada emerges as distinctly anti-privatization when it comes to Canadian airports – in effect, public facilities that airlines such as Air Canada have invested billions in helping to develop.

But it is not inconsistent for us to make this argument.

Yes, some changes are in order. Airport security needs to be streamlined if not overhauled. Governance of airports needs to change to provide more accountability. And, above all, the federal government needs to reduce the infrastructure fees, taxes and charges imposed on aviation that make many of our airports uncompetitive and drive up airfares. Privatization will not fix this and, indeed, risks exacerbating it.

Justin Trudeau’s neo-liberalism with a human face: Walkom
Thomas Walkom, The Toronto Star
December 19, 2016

Justin Trudeau promised neo-liberalism with a human face. Those weren’t the words he used. But the phrase expresses the gist of the election campaign he successfully waged just over a year ago.

In that campaign, Trudeau said his Liberals would pursue most of Conservative Stephen Harper’s economic goals — including resource exploitation, pipelines and free trade. But they would do so in a way that distributed the proceeds more equitably.

In effect, he promised to be Tony Blair to Harper’s Margaret Thatcher — doing much the same as his political nemesis, but in a more acceptable manner.

Jarvis: Meet the defiant library workers waging one of the region’s longest strikes ever
Anne Jarvis, Windsor Star
December 19, 2016

Lori Wightman has four copies of her favourite book, the American classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

She’s also a Stephen King fan.

She reads 75 to 100 books a year. She can’t go in a second-hand bookstore without buying something.

“You can live in a different world for a while,” she says. “And I like to learn.”

City budget cuts will harm those most vulnerable
Shaurya Taran and Naheed Dosani, The Toronto Star
December 19, 2016

Earlier this month, after many revisions and much debate, city council finally revealed its budget draft for 2017. As health care providers, we followed the buildup to this announcement with a shrinking sense of optimism. Earlier versions of the draft made it clear we should expect spending cuts to key municipal programs and services, many of which directly affect our patients. But the true extent of those cuts was not apparent until now. After carefully reviewing the budget draft for 2017, which is available for public access online, we believe these cuts will have dire consequences for the health and well-being of our patients.

In particular, patients living in poverty are at highest risk of compromise. The most vulnerable members of our city depend on key social services to stay clothed, sheltered, and out of the hospital. Their medical problems are very often perpetuated by systemic failures — lack of affordable housing, limited opportunities for stable employment, barriers to education, and so on. Even in their currently funded state (which fall short of previously promised targets), poverty reduction programs are not nearly robust enough to meet the city’s growing needs.

D-J Composites in Gander picket after ‘shocking and disrespectful’ lockout
Stephanie Kinsella, CBC News
December 20, 2016

About 40 employees of an aerospace manufacturing plant in Gander were on the picket line Tuesday morning after being locked out by the company.

“It was shocking and disrespectful, as far as I’m concerned,” said Igantius Oram, plant chair of Unifor Local 597.

Workers at D-J Composites, part of the U.S-owned D-J Engineering Inc., voted 100% in favour of a strike Monday afternoon, but the company locked them out first.

Union leaders say workers have been without a collective agreement for 21 months, and added wages and job protection are the most contentious issues.

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