Labour News Update January 2, 2017

Mark Lever, 2016 Scumbag of the Year | 2016: The Canadian labour movement in review | The Best of in 2016 | The Invisible Workload That Drags Women Down | Unions suspend Phoenix court challenge in exchange for inside information on payroll fiasco | FISH-NL strategy for certification bid | SEIU-West says premier should discuss cutting Sask. government jobs with union | 80th anniversary of start of Flint Sit-Down Strike | Premier Brad Wall hints at wage rollbacks as province faces ballooning deficit | Ontario’s Ministry of Labour cracks down on law-breaking bosses | Montreal union prepares for legal battle ahead of pension cuts | Minimum wage hikes not effective in reducing poverty: Manitoba premier| 7 Fraser Institute reports published in 2016 are completely nuts | Reflecting on University of Manitoba strike |


Mark Lever, 2016 Scumbag of the Year, December 31

The votes are in and it is official: Mark Lever is the winner of’s Scumbag of the Year award for 2016. Lever, the president and CEO of the Halifax Herald Ltd., eked out victory against a strong field of contenders in our open voting. Each of his competitors would have been a worthy choice.

2016: The Canadian labour movement in review, December 30

It’s been a year of bruising battles and bully governments for Canadian workers. But despite all this, there have always been glimpses of what’s possible when workers organize and fight. During the October 2015 federal election, millions of Canadians jumped at the chance to get rid of Harper, betting on the Liberals when the NDP showed up with a lacklustre set of policies and Mulcair’s conservatism. The election of the Liberals proved disorienting for sections of organized labour. Some labour leaders tried to cozy up to the Liberals when they reversed some of the worst Tory legislation, such as Bill C-377 and C-525. The Liberals also didn’t interfere too negatively in Canada Post negotiations with back-to-work legislation as previous Tory and Liberal governments have, but they didn’t turf the Harper-appointed executives hell-bent on a confrontation with postal workers.

The Best of in 2016, December 29

2016 was another big year for We posted 320 stories, videos, interviews, news updates and job posting this year. 145 of those were original stories, news reports or interviews. We had over 60 different authors writing for us. This year we launched two amazing projects: our podcast which has in-depth interviews with labour activists across the country and our new organizer’s handbook, 15 and Fairness Now!. To celebrate our achievements the editors have chosen their top three stories of the year.

In Other News

The Invisible Workload That Drags Women Down
Time, December 29

Sociologist Susan Walzer published a research article in 1996, called “Thinking About the Baby,” pointing to this household gender gap. Scholars had already documented that women, even those who worked full time, were doing the majority of what came to be called the “second shift”: the work that greets us when we come home from work. Walzer was interested in the invisible part of this work, the kind that occupied people’s minds. She interviewed 23 husband-wife couples, finding them through the rather quaint method of reading birth announcements in a local newspaper. All had brought a baby home in the last year.

FISH-NL to reveal strategy for certification bid on Friday
CBC, December 29

The leaders of an upstart union movement in Newfoundland and Labrador will reveal their strategy for a certification bid Friday, months after launching a bitter and divisive campaign to try and raid the province’s influential fisheries union. Representatives from the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters (FISH-NL) will visit the Labour Relations Board in St. John’s in the morning, and plans to speak with reporters at their office on Job Street at 11 a.m.

Today marks 80th anniversary of start of Flint Sit-Down Strike
MLive, December 30

Today marks the beginning of the 80th anniversary of the Flint Sit-Down Strike. The strike began Dec. 30, 1936, when about 50 men sat down on the line inside General Motors’ Fisher Body Plant 2, protesting the transfer of three inspectors who refused to quit the union. It ended 44 days later on Feb. 11, 1937, when both sides reached an agreement that allowed the United Auto Workers union to act as the bargaining representative for hourly workers. This is the first year there are no known strikers to talk about it. The last known surviving Sit-Down striker, Richard Wiecorek, died earlier this year at the age of 99.

SEIU-West says premier should discuss cutting Sask. government jobs with union
CBC, December 29

The president of a union representing more than 13,000 government employees in Saskatchewan is disappointed the premier is talking about possibly cutting government jobs without reaching out to it first. “My premier is musing about these sorts of things in a year-end interview instead of actually having these conversations with the unions and the members that he’s talking about,” said Barbara Cape, president of the Service Employees International Union’s western Canada branch.

Union prepares for legal battle ahead of pension cuts
Montreal Gazette, December 28

A union leader representing 17,000 retired municipal workers said Wednesday he’s prepared to take the city of Montreal to court over pension cuts set to begin on Jan. 1. As of next year, thousands of retirees will no longer see an annual one per cent cost-of-living increase in their pensions. Though the employees and city had previously signed a deal that guaranteed the increases, a controversial provincial law allows cities to back out of that obligation.

Minimum wage hikes not effective in reducing poverty: Manitoba premier
CBC, December 29

There is no guarantee Manitoba’s frozen minimum wage will thaw in 2017, as the premier and labour leaders disagree over whether a higher minimum pay rate helps the poor. In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press, Premier Brian Pallister said he doesn’t believe a higher minimum wage is the best way to reduce poverty.

Former union official wants ‘scabs’ investigated
The Nugget, December 27

As past CUPE Local 2049 president and protection worker, I call it a screw the union plan. What does “helper from another areas” really mean? Well it really means scabs. In many cases, they are union employees from another agency. But they could also be supervisors and /or other managerial staff. Lets look at union employees (scabs) who are willing to work under the conditions now being rejected by the striking employees. Is this not despicable and a slap in the face to those who now are walking the picket line?

13524526_1232670540110855_2405882057801317837_nUnions suspend Phoenix court challenge in exchange for inside information on payroll fiasco
Ottawa Citizen, December 27

Unions suspended their court battle to force the federal government to pay public servants properly in exchange for being kept in the loop about what’s wrong with the malfunctioning Phoenix payroll system and how to fix it. The 14 unions and government mutually agreed to a consent order, approved by the Federal Court, in which the government promises to share more information and expert opinion on problems plaguing the payroll system.

Premier Brad Wall hints at wage rollbacks as province faces ballooning deficit
CTV, December 28

Public sector workers in Saskatchewan will be asked to help tackle the province’s $1 billion deficit in the coming year, potentially through wage rollbacks or layoffs. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said wages make up 60 per cent of government spending and everything has to be on the table when it comes to filling the huge hole in the budget.

These 7 Fraser Institute reports published in 2016 are completely nuts and also 100% real
Press Progress, December 27

Thought 2016 was a rough year? Thankfully the Fraser Institute, Canada’s intrepid right-wing think tank, was able to get to the bottom of many important questions that are top-of-mind for ordinary Canadians, like: Is university a form of child care? Should the government privatize Canada Day? Are dancing chimney sweeps transmitting secret communist messages through your family’s DVD player?

bzynm8qcaampfysMinistry of Labour cracks down on law-breaking bosses
Toronto Star, December 27

The number of law-breaking Ontario bosses facing prosecution has risen by more than 40 per cent over the past year, statistics requested by the Star show, with more fines than in any other year on record for employers who failed to pay workers. The provincial Ministry of Labour convicted 122 employers in 2016 for failing to meet employment standards, including refusing to comply with government orders to pay their workers. Such convictions come with hefty financial penalties in the thousands of dollars — and possible imprisonment.

Beyond Bread and Butter
Jacobin, December 27

When we think of strikes, we usually think of disputes over wages and benefits. Strikes make the case that it’s easier for bosses to pay workers more than to run a company without them. But unions often fight for more than money. Workers can walk off the job to demand new rights at work, fighting for control over their working conditions.

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