Labour News Update: February 20, 2017

Nova Scotia Teachers strike | Strike at JIBC bookstore | Toronto garbage privatization plan kicked to the curb | York food workers take on Aramark and the university | Long hours, low wages linked to rise in accidents on Pearson tarmac | EU parliament ratifies CETA | Tensions high as negotiations continue about future of Lear Corporation’s Whitby plant | The case for paid sick days | The other side of Hunter Harrison’s CP legacy | Transportation Safety Board says unnoticed cracks in rail caused 2015 Gogama, Ont. train derailment | WSIB unfair benefit cuts | Unions rally to support locked out CAS workers | Saskatchewan finance minister mulls unpaid days off for workers | Time for all NBA D-Leaguers to be paid a living wage | Iowa Moves To Restrict Collective Bargaining For Public Sector Workers | Basic Income as a neoliberal weapon |


Strike at JIBC bookstore, February 14

Since January 23rd the five bookstore employees at the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC), a public safety educator, have been on strike. Their previous contract expired on June 30th of 2016 and they began negotiations in November with the assistance of their union, the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU).

York food workers take on Aramark and the university, February 15

Over 200 food service workers at York University are doing precisely this: declaring their right to be full human beings in this society, here and now. For their audacity, they find themselves up against Aramark, a giant, scandal-plagued multinational corporation, and a feckless university administration that proclaims social justice while letting toil and abuse fester in its midst.

Toronto mayor’s garbage privatization plan kicked to the curb, February 16

This campaign provides many lessons. For unions, it shows that privatization can be stopped. For citizens, it shows that privatization is not all that it is made out to be, reduces accountability and control, and costs more. Perhaps most importantly, for politicians, it shows that ideologically driven agendas to privatize public services will be defeated, and that the false hope it promises will be exposed.

Striking Nova Scotia Teachers are making history, February 17

Today, 9300 Nova Scotia public school teachers, with Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU), will be on strike for the first time in its 122-year history.The strike will be a one-day walkout. Teachers from across the province will be picketing at the legislature, where Premier Stephen McNeil and his Liberal government are sitting around the clock in an effort to impose a contract on members of the NSTU. The convergence of teachers and their allies on the legislature is set to be one of the largest demonstrations in Nova Scotia’s history.

In Other News

Long hours, low wages linked to rise in accidents on Pearson tarmac
CBC, February 18

There is no way to know for sure what hours people are putting in at Canada’s largest airport. But union leaders say long hours and low wages pose risks for workers as well as for the public and may be partly responsible for an increase in accidents “airside,” which means on the Pearson tarmac in the vicinity of the planes.
Class action against WSIB claiming unfair benefit cuts given go-ahead
Toronto Star, February 14

A class action lawsuit alleging Ontario injured workers had their benefits wrongfully slashed has been granted permission to proceed, after the province’s compensation board sought unsuccessfully to block the case. The suit filed by Toronto lawyer Richard Fink against the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board could impact hundreds of workers. It argues accident victims between 2012 and 2014 were “denied the full extent of benefits to which they were entitled” as a result of “misfeasance in public office” and “negligence” at the board.

EU parliament ratifies CETA (only three dozen more votes to go)
BehindtheNumbers, February 15

Prime Minister Trudeau travelled to Europe this week, in part to be there when the European Parliament voted on CETA, the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, Tuesday morning. Just under two-thirds of MEPs voted yes, which means CETA can come into force provisionally as soon as ratifying legislation receives royal assent in Canada. Interestingly, a poll came out today showing only 55% of Canadians approve of the deal—down considerably from 80% support in principle at the beginning of the negotiations in 2010.

Nova Scotia teachers walk off the job and make tracks for Province House
CBC, February 17

Subdued debate inside Province House early Friday morning was counterbalanced by noisy protesters outside as public school teachers began their first strike in Nova Scotia history. MLAs have been in the legislature almost around the clock this week debating Bill 75, which will impose a contract on teachers. The legislation follows three rejected tentative agreements by union members in the last 15 months. Premier Stephen McNeil has said the bill is about ending work-to-rule job action. But the theme that’s emerged through the week at Province House is teachers are frustrated and have lost patience with government.

Saskatchewan finance minister mulls unpaid days off for workers to save the province money
Financial Post, February 16

Saskatchewan Finance Minister Kevin Doherty says forcing public servants to take unpaid time could save the province $11 million for every day off. Doherty says it’s one option the government is looking at as it grapples with a $1.2-billion deficit. “We have a serious revenue problem,” Doherty said Wednesday while on a lunch break from budget talks. The government wants to ensure that workers are fairly compensated, he said, but it also needs to hold costs steady “without a major impact to our public service.” Wage rollbacks, layoffs in health care and education and tax increases are also being considered.

11214240_1081243108586933_4450425121955926683_nFighting the Flu with Labour Laws: The Case for Paid Sick Days
HealthyDebate, February 15

At the beginning of 2017, there were a number of news reports detailing overcrowded emergency departments. This overcrowding has resulted in spirited discussions about how to resolve a systemic health system problem. In Ontario, hundreds of health providers have been calling for one particular, proven strategy to prevent the spread and worsening of acute illnesses: paid sick days. A study by the Public Health Agency of Canada reports that when people cannot afford to take time off, they continue to show up to their jobs, even in high-risk settings such as food services or childcare environments.

Situations like these fuel the threat of public health outbreaks that compromise public health and put greater burdens on the healthcare system.

Unions rally to support locked out CAS workers
Bay Today, February 13

More than 200 union workers from more than 15 unions across the region converged on McIntyre Street to show their support for locked out Children’s Aid workers who have been off the job since December 23rd. Supporters bused in from Sudbury and Toronto to support the workers as talks broke down again over the weekend.

Tensions high as negotiations continue about future of Lear Corporation’s Whitby plant
Whitby this Week, February 17

More than 350 workers are fearing for their jobs after contract negotiations between Lear Corporation and the union came to a head Thursday with the company threatening to halt future production. Unifor Local 222 president Colin James said the union has been meeting with Lear, a General Motors feeder plant in Whitby, for the past couple of weeks to reach an agreement that meets the needs of its members.

The other side of Hunter Harrison’s CP legacy: white-collar workers driving trains
Financial Post, February 16

An employee of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. was asleep in a small Prairie town hotel when a middle-of-the-night phone call startled him awake. He’d been called for the 4 a.m. train and a cab would be there shortly to pick him up. The life of a railroader is not an easy one, with unpredictable hours, long shifts and plenty of nights spent in dreary small-town hotels. But this employee was different: He was an office worker who had been pushed into the railroading life against his will, just like hundreds of other white-collar CP employees. These employees are being pulled away from their desk jobs on a regular basis to work as conductors and engineers, raising serious safety concerns and potentially putting themselves and others in harm’s way.

As a call centre worker I saw how employees are stripped of their rights
The Guardian, February 16

In the call centre workers were constantly watched. Every action was logged, from the number of sales made, to the time spent on calls and the length of breaks taken – measured precisely to the second. Because calls were recorded, errors – which were often hard to avoid under such pressurised conditions – were used to discipline and fire workers on the spot.

Transportation Safety Board says unnoticed cracks in rail caused 2015 Gogama, Ont. train derailment
CBC, February 16

The Transportation Safety Board is calling for new rules surrounding the transport of oil by rail and says trains carrying dangerous goods need to slow down. That announcement was made at a news conference on Thursday in Sudbury, Ont. as investigators shared their findings about a derailment near Gogama, about 200 kilometres north of Sudbury on Feb. 14, 2015.

It Is Time For All NBA D-Leaguers To Be Paid A Living Wage
Deadspin, February 14

The NBA announced an extensive multiyear partnership agreement between the D-League and a popular sports drink company this morning, which will see the popular sports drink company’s logo on all basketballs, jerseys, and court side signage, as well as the league being renamed for the 2017-18 season to incorporate the popular sports drink company’s name.

Iowa Moves To Restrict Collective Bargaining For Public Sector Workers
NPR, February 14

Lawmakers in Iowa began debating a bill Tuesday to dramatically change how public sector unions negotiate their contracts, part of a wave of legislation in statehouses across the country to roll back union rights. The bill, similar to a 2011 law in Wisconsin, is high on the state’s legislative agenda and comes as Republicans control both chambers of the state Legislature and the governor’s mansion for the first time in nearly 20 years.
Basic Income as a Neoliberal Weapon
Telesur, February 17

Rather than hope neoliberal governments will offer us a social policy end-run around austerity, far better to press for income support systems that offer full entitlement, adequate payments and that are no longer based on bureaucratic intrusion and moral policing. Basic Income is a false hope and a pathway to the commodification of social provision that, while it may be paved with good intentions, leads to a destination entirely to the liking of those who design and operate the neoliberal order.

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