Labour News Update: May 1, 2017

Day of Mourning | CHS Strike | Nova Scotia Election | BC Election | Manitoba nurses protest | Ontario budget | Ontario Hydro CEO salary jumps to $3.8 million | Union slams TTC over subway air pollution study, raises concerns about worker health | Basic Income pilot  |LCBO workers vote 93% to strike over contract demands |Precarious young retail workers |Most Canadians think privatizing airports is a bad idea | Protesters swarm cars outside dinner event hosted by Sask. Premier Brad Wall | Beware the false equivalence of comparing corporate political donations with union contributions | Number of highest-earning Canadians paying no income tax is growing |


The history behind Canada’s National Day of Mourning, April 28

April 28 has many names. In Canada, it’s the Day of Mourning. In the United States and the United Kingdom, it’s Workers’ Memorial Day. The International Labour Organization calls it the World Day for Safety and Health at Work. Marked around the world, there’s confusion about its origins, even in Canada. Around 1983, the health and safety director of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Colin Lambert, and his long-time friend and fellow activist, Ray Sentes, came up with the idea of a day to recognize workers killed and injured on the job.

Precarious young retail workers: Part 1, April 26

On October 25, during the Canadian Labour Congress’s Young Worker Summit, Justin Trudeau took the stage. His reception wasn’t as warm as he might have expected. Dozens of the 400 young union activists from various locals and sectors throughout the country turned their back on the Prime Minister as he spoke. They were protesting his support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union, his opposition to a $15 federal minimum wage, and other policies they believe disproportionately affect young workers. Just a few days before the demonstration, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Canadians should get used to “job churn”, the short-term and precarious employment the young demonstrators rightfully felt no one should accept.

Precarious young retail workers: Part 2, April 27

“Young people are acutely aware of issues in their workplaces, and are interested in joining unions. In fact, while the unionization rate for core-age workers has decreased over the past two decades, the unionization rate for young workers has actually risen slightly,” says the report, “Diving Without a Parachute”. “Although union-busting employers and politicians have eroded the historic strength of unions and created some negative misperceptions of the labour movement, unions’ core principles of empowering workers, social justice, fairness and collaboration resonate heartily with young Canadians.”
The scheming Liberals’ Basic Income, April 25

This is why the merits of the basic income must be untangled from a binary debate between it or a higher minimum wage, but also why any basic income debate must be wedded to the current political context. For example, it’s not good enough to say that a basic income will help people while assuming they’d be accompanied with rent control policies, because rent controls are so far off the table they’re practically in a garbage basement apartment. The Ontario Liberals’ Basic Income will be funded and developed in a schemy way. Will social services like ODSP be eliminated to fund it? Rather than extolling the virtues of a basic income in theory, progressives would be better off fighting to protect the social programs that might be eliminated to pay for the Liberals’ basic income plans.

17211796_10154540918609422_5076835425460427639_oIn Other News

Local miners remembered during National Day of Mourning
Timmins Today, April 30

Members of the Timmins and District Labour Council and their supporters gathered at the Porcupine Miners Memorial at 11 a.m. on Friday for the annual observation of a moment of silence for all those who died on the job in Timmins and across Canada. This year marked the 25th anniversary the Westray coal mine disaster in Nova Scotia, where 26 coal miners were killed in a methane gas explosion.

Hundreds of Manitoba nurses rally against health-care cuts
CBC News, April 26

Hundreds of nurses and other front-line workers rallied at the Manitoba Legislature Wednesday about cuts they say could “compromise safe patient care” in the province. “We want the government to put patients first and focus on making investments and improvements in health care,” Manitoba Nurses Union president Sandi Mowat said in a statement. Protesters, including about 600 nurses, gathered on the steps of the legislative building to oppose the provincial government’s plans to close three emergency rooms and trim the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s budget by $83 million.

Little help for workers laid out in Ontario budget
Toronto Star, April 27

Decent work is the “expectation, and not the exception,” Ontario’s new budget document says, but specific monetary commitments to that end remain vague in this year’s plan. Instead, government — and workers — await the final recommendations of the so-called Changing Workplaces Review, which is examining labour and employment law reform and is expected in the coming weeks.

Nova Scotians to go to the polls on May 30
CBC News, April 30

Nova Scotians are heading to the polls on Tuesday, May 30. Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil met with Lt.-Gov. J.J. Grant at about 1 p.m. and requested he dissolve the current House of Assembly. He left the lieutenant-governnor’s residence in downtown Halifax about 20 minutes later, without speaking to media who were gathered outside, except to say “he [Grant] said yes.” The 30-day campaign that will result is the minimum allowed under Nova Scotia’s election laws. All three political parties had campaign rallies scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Liberals promised Ontario budget would combat overcrowded hospitals. Instead, they’re about to get worse
National Post, April 28

Of all the provinces, Ontario has the fewest number of hospital beds per 1,000 people available at 2.3, while Newfoundland and Labrador tops the list with 4.6. Between 2012 and 2015, funding for operational costs was frozen and in 2016, hospitals only received a one per cent increase. “You can’t continue to have years and year of cuts and then one year before an election put some money in and pretend everything is OK,” Mehra said.

Beware the false equivalence of comparing corporate political donations with union contributions
The Straight, April 27

During last night’s B.C. political leaders’ debate, there was a great deal of emphasis on union donations to the B.C. NDP. The party’s leader, John Horgan, left himself vulnerable to criticism after the United Steelworkers of America contributed $672,000 last year. The union is also paying NDP campaign workers’ salaries and the party has also received tremendous financial support from other unions. Naturally, this is leading some observers to wonder if this means organized labour will have excessive influence over an NDP government on issues ranging from education to liquefied natural gas to language in the B.C. Labour Code. At the same time, the B.C. Liberals have collected tens of millions from the corporate sector over the years.

Provincial government having conversations with private company around SaskTel partnership
Leader Post, April 28

SaskTel Minister Dustin Duncan told a legislative committee on Wednesday while the government has met with a private telecom firm “there has been no formal offer made. There’s been no formal conversation about what an offer would look like” about a partial sale of the Crown corporation. The meeting with a major, Canadian, telecommunications company involved Duncan’s chief of staff. Duncan said he was introduced to the company’s representative and told them about Bill 40 because he wanted to make it known there was potential for opportunity.

Number of highest-earning Canadians paying no income tax is growing
CBC News, April 27

A CBC News analysis of Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) data shows that, between 2011 and 2014, a growing number of Canadians earning a six-figure income or more didn’t pay a cent in income tax. The analysis compiled all individual income tax and benefit returns filed with the CRA and focused on the top three income brackets: $100,000 to $149,999, $150,000 to $249,999 and $250,000 and over. During those four fiscal years, the number of Canadians who legally avoided paying income tax rose about 50 per cent from 4,050 to 6,110. The number of filers who made more than $250,000 a year and completely avoided taxes doubled.

‘We should be paid a living wage’: Discount grocery store workers speak out against management, unions
CBC News, April 26

“I did assume there were full-time jobs available and that I would eventually get one,” said Pascuzzi. He added that there hasn’t been a full-time job position become available since he started working there and that the store only has one full-time staff member. “There are people that are doing this to survive,” he said. “We should be able to be paid a living wage if we’re doing a job and it’s got to be the retail company that’s willing to pay.” In response, Loblaw Companies Limited, the parent company of No Frills, says it’s “simply misleading” to say part-time employees commonly work 40 hours a week.

Ontario judge certifies lawsuit against OHL as class action
TSN, April 27

Ontario Hockey League players who are suing the league for minimum wage won a major court decision Thursday in Toronto. Ratcheting up the potential damages that might be awarded to the players, Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Perell certified their three-year-old case as a class-action lawsuit and appointed as representative plaintiffs Sam Berg, who played for the Niagara IceDogs in 2013, and Daniel Pachis, who played for the Saginaw Spirit and Oshawa Generals during an OHL career that started in 2007 and ended in the 2009-10 season. Justice Perell wrote that he certified the case despite the warnings from the OHL that the “allegedly selfish class action would bring on the eve of destruction for hockey players.”

18156954_1533756683335571_6183424224974408909_nNova Scotia budget invests in dribs and drabs while economy stagnates
CCPA, April 28

Nova Scotia’s Minister of Finance proudly stood up to table a tiny surplus, and to convince us that a stable economy is good. However, stable is another word for stagnant. With no net job growth to speak of and very little economic growth, and with consumer spending flat; these are not good signs. They tell us that the government failed to use fiscal policy to provide the boost our economy needs; it did the opposite.The government’s proposed wage settlements –which are effectively real wage cuts – have been used to produce the surplus. This government continues to undermine collective bargaining rights and as a result is faced with hundreds of expired collective agreements.

Protesters swarm cars outside dinner event hosted by Sask. Premier Brad Wall
CBC News, April 28

Hundreds of people from more than a dozen organizations rallied outside the Premier’s Dinner venue in Saskatoon Thursday night, where Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall gave a keynote address. Protesters outside the event showed their opposition to cuts outlined in the 2017-2018 provincial budget.
Canadian Hearing Society strike drags on while CEO salary jumps 75 per cent
Bay Today, April 25

Workers from the Canadian Hearing Society (CHS) were at Queen’s Park Tuesday as the NDP’s Social Services Critic Lisa Gretzky demanded that Premier Kathleen Wynne resolve the ongoing strike at the provincially funded Canadian Hearing Society where frontline workers have been cut, but the CEO received a 75 per cent pay hike. “Workers at the Canadian Hearing Society are here today, along with allies, fighting to have their work valued.”

Christy Clark took big foreign donations from U.S. softwood lumber baron, Trump Tower owner
Press Progress, April 25

Looks like Christy Clark’s hypocrisy is valued around half a million dollars. The BC Liberal leader has spent the week thinking up ways to suggest the opposition BC NDP is anti-Canadian and somehow sympathetic to far-right US President Donald Trump. Never mind that barely a week earlier, Christy Clark was herself praising Trump’s approach to softwood lumber. But after suggesting her opponents “stand with Donald Trump” and stating no one should be “taking money” from those who “financially support” people “who want to slap duties on our lumber,” guess what? Surprise, surprise – it looks like Clark’s BC Liberals are the ones who are actually “taking money” from foreign entities that want to “slap duties” on BC lumber and others who have business dealings with Donald Trump.

Kathleen Wynne’s basic income plan is bread without circuses
Toronto Star, April 27

What’s both interesting and disturbing about the discussions over basic income today is that they seem to assume poverty is permanent and unfixable — that it is an inherent part of the modern gig economy. This, at least, is the impression I get from the Ontario Liberal government’s just-announced plan for basic income pilot projects. Entitled “Giving more people the opportunity to get ahead and stay ahead,” the scheme would provide no-strings-attached subsidies to roughly 4,000 people selected randomly from three areas across the province. To qualify, single people would have to make less than $34,000 a year. Couples would have to make less than $48,000 annually. They need not be disabled or unable to work. In fact, the government expects that 70 per cent of the recipients will have jobs. But since these jobs don’t provide a living wage, the government will fill part of the gap.

Hearing Society strike enters 8th week
CBC News, April 26

227 workers in the union representing the Canadian Hearing Society are entering their eighth week of strike action. According to union officials, there is no sign of an end to the dispute that began March 6. Joyce Haynes, CUPE 2073 picket captain at the Kitchener office where 13 people are employed, said there is no indication of management willing to negotiate or come back to the table to resolve the issues. “We just want some resolution so that our clients can receive the service they so much deserve and need for their quality of life,” she told CBC.

Union slams TTC over subway air pollution study, raises concerns about worker health
CBC News, April 25

The largest TTC workers’ union has slammed the transit commission over new study results revealing high air pollution levels within the city’s subway system — which they fear could be causing long-term health impacts among workers. The research, published on Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, found airborne pollutants on trains and platforms in the city’s subway system were up to 10 times higher than outside air. “This has potential long-term effects on the people that work there … these workers have been working down there, in some cases, 30 to 40 years,” said Kevin Morton, secretary-treasurer of Local 113, which represents around 11,000 active TTC workers. “They’ve been breathing this stuff in.”

Hydro CEO salary jumps to $3.8 million
Bay Today, April 25

NDP Energy Critic Peter Tabuns is demanding that Premier Kathleen Wynne explain “why she thinks families who can’t afford their skyrocketing hydro bills should pay for a 100 per cent raise for the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) CEO, who is now set to receive a whopping $3.8 million salary”. “How does the premier explain to families who may lose their hydro why she thinks they should pay for a 100 per cent salary increase for the OPG CEO?” said Tabuns in a news release. Late last week, the Wynne government quietly announced that it had approved a massive increase in the salary ranges for OPG executives. The top salary of the OPG CEO is now $3.8 million, which is double his current salary, and already the highest on the Sunshine List.

LCBO workers vote 93% to strike over contract demands
Toronto Star, April 25

Liquor Control Board of Ontario staff have voted 93 per cent in favour of a strike as their union continues to bargain for a new collective agreement. Voting by members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union was held Monday and Tuesday. Denise Davis, the head of the OPSEU bargaining team, says they will now return to negotiations with a strong mandate from the workers. The vote was called by the union in late March after what they described as management’s “complete lack of respect for workers.”

Most Canadians think privatizing airports is a bad idea: poll
Globe and Mail, April 26

Canadians aren’t sold on airport privatization, according to a new poll that found most people think it’s a bad idea. The federal Liberals continue to study options for privatizing Canada’s largest airports, based on the advice of two government panels that urged Ottawa to consider the idea as a way to raise billions in revenue that could help pay for new infrastructure. However, a survey by the Angus Reid Institute found 53 per cent of Canadians said privatizing Canada’s eight largest airports would be either a bad or very bad idea. Only 21 per cent said it was a good or very good idea, while 26 per cent said they didn’t know.

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