Labour News Update: June 19 2017

Vancouver workers mark public service week with Phoenix pay system protest | Construction union, Assembly of First Nations sign pact to promote Indigenous workforce | Sabotaged cars and threats of assault: Why CUPE felt it had to take control of Montreal’s blue-collar union | Union wants higher base wage for all at YVR | New cabinet, same position on labour negotiations for McNeil government | Average hourly wages in Canada have barely budged in 40 years | Alberta judge certifies class action against Western Hockey League | Ontario owes teachers, education workers more than $100M for violating rights | Ontario Liberals ink deal giving public servants 7.5-per-cent raise | Canada’s unions celebrate repeal of controversial anti-union legislation | Toronto plans to regulate Airbnb: does it go far enough? | Toronto Zoo to reopen Thursday after agreement ratified | Miners union will try to organize workers at Donkin | Manitoba’s unions are ready to fight proposed labour legislation

Vancouver workers mark public service week with Phoenix pay system protest
Cory Correia, CBC News
June 16 2017

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PSAC members rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Photo via @leapingmuskrat on Twitter.

Federal public service workers rallied at the Vancouver Art Gallery Friday to voice their grievances about the problematic Phoenix pay system.

Nearly a hundred people gathered to call out the federal government for ongoing issues with their computerized payroll system, which has caused pay issues for tens of thousands of public servants.

“I would just like the government to fix this system, and/or get rid of it completely, because it’s not working, it’s not paying the members,” said Virginia Vaillancourt, who represents members of Veteran Affairs Canada.

Construction union, Assembly of First Nations sign pact to promote Indigenous workforce
Justine Hunter, The Globe and Mail
June 11 2017

Canada’s largest construction union has signed a pact with the national Assembly of First Nations to promote a larger Indigenous work force. In doing so, the union’s leadership accepts some construction projects will not proceed when First Nations are in opposition.

There are at least two major projects in British Columbia – the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion and the Site C dam, with a combined worth of over $15-billion – that are in jeopardy in large measure because of First Nations’ opposition.

The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) has formally embraced the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, making free, prior and informed consent from those communities a requirement for resource development.

Sabotaged cars and threats of assault: Why CUPE felt it had to take control of Montreal’s blue-collar union
Graeme Hamilton, National Post
June 15 2017

MONTREAL — The intimidation tactics sound like something out of a movie. Lug nuts loosened on the car wheels of unsuspecting drivers. A mob encircling a panicked man in a corridor, yelling insults and preventing his escape. A lunch meeting that ends with the boss lifting a finger and warning, “You know, that’s all I have to do, and your face gets smashed in.”

But in this case, as alleged in court documents, the boss was the president of Montreal’s blue-collar union, and the people on the receiving end were fellow union members who had fallen out of her favour.

Union wants higher base wage for all at YVR
Graeme Wood, Richmond News
June 15 2017

Fipe Wong, 64, is an HMSHost employee who has worked in the food service business at the airport for 21 years. She makes $16.50 per hour and maintains another part-time job, regularly working about 55 hours each week, to pay the bills.

According to Wong, a story such as hers is common, if not the norm, at Vancouver International Airport (YVR), where many of the employees who work for contractors are subject to low wages and precarious employment.

It’s something Wong and her union, UNITE HERE Local 40, want to change. As such, they have made YVR a local battleground for minimum wage reform — a debate swirling both in B.C. and, more recently, Ontario.

New cabinet, same position on labour negotiations for McNeil government
Michael Gorman, CBC News
June 16 2017

There was lots of talk about rebuilding relationships as Premier Stephen McNeil announced his new cabinet Thursday, but while the people doing the talking were different, the government’s overall bargaining position doesn’t appear set to change.

The man now tasked with overseeing all government labour negotiations is newly-minted Labour Relations Minister Mark Furey.

Average hourly wages in Canada have barely budged in 40 years
Amy Minsky, CBC News
June 15 2017

The average wage Canadians are paid per hour has hardly changed since the 1970s, even as an increasing number of people become increasingly educated, according to recent Statistics Canada data.

In 2016, the average hourly wage paid to full-time employees was $27.70, wage data released Thursday found.

Alberta judge certifies class action against Western Hockey League
The Canadian Press
June 15 2017

CALGARY — An Alberta judge has ruled that a class-action lawsuit against the Western Hockey League may proceed, making it the second such case against a major junior league in Canada.

The suit contends that WHL players have been paid less than the minimum wage required by law in their regions and asks for back wages, overtime and vacation pay.

Alberta Justice R.J. Hall granted certification to the lawsuit with some conditions on Thursday. He ruled players with the WHL’s five U.S. teams — four in Washington and one in Oregon — were exempt from the class action because they are out of the court’s jurisdiction.

Ontario owes teachers, education workers more than $100M for violating rights
Allison Jones, The Hamilton Spectator
June 15 2017

TORONTO — Ontario is on the hook for more than $100 million and counting to compensate teachers and education workers for violating their rights.

Deals have so far been struck to pay the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

A judge ruled last year that the government “substantially interfered with meaningful collective bargaining” in 2012 legislation that imposed contracts on teachers and education workers.

Ontario Liberals ink deal giving public servants 7.5-per-cent raise
Rob Ferguson, The Toronto Star
June 14 2017

The provincial government has signed another quick deal giving thousands of civil servants a 7.5-per-cent raise over four years, prompting accusations the Liberals are buying labour peace for next June’s election.

Treasury Board President Liz Sandals said Wednesday that it made sense to negotiate contract extensions early to avoid any possibility of strikes and interruptions to government services.

Precedent-setting employment law set after argument in Peterborough doctor’s office
Lois Tuffin, MyKawartha.com
June 14 2017

A long-running legal battle between a Peterborough plastic surgeon and his former assistant of 22 years ended with him paying her more than $137,000 in damages and legal fees.

The case also raised the bar in defining what constitutes constructive dismissal.

According to court documents, Dr. Lawrence Mok lost his temper with Tanya Sweeting on June 20, 2012 and dismissed her by saying “get out of my face.” The duo had been discussing her workload and the time needed to switch to digital records, which would save her time.

Canada’s unions celebrate repeal of controversial anti-union legislation
Canadian Labour Congress
June 14 2017

Canada’s unions are celebrating the adoption of Bill C-4, legislation that repeals the former Conservative government’s controversial anti-union Bills
C-377 and C-525.

“Our affiliates and labour activists across the country have organized and campaigned against these bills from the beginning, and this is their victory to celebrate,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff.

Toronto plans to regulate Airbnb: does it go far enough?
Zohra Jamasi, Behind the Numbers
June 14 2017

The City of Toronto has responded to the explosion of Airbnb-type short-term rentals in a staff report detailing measures to regulate this emerging sector.

The number of Airbnb listings in Toronto grew by a whopping 288 per cent between 2013 and 2016 but these types of online platforms that facilitate short-term rentals have not been subject to the same rules that hotels or bed-and-breakfasts are subject to.

It’s time Toronto caught up with this commercial activity, especially given mounting concerns about the impact companies such as Airbnb could have on the availability of affordable long-term rentals in a city where housing costs are growing out of reach for many.

Toronto Zoo to reopen Thursday after agreement ratified
The Canadian Press
June 12 2017

The Toronto Zoo will reopen Thursday after being closed by a month-long strike.

Unionized workers at Canada’s largest zoo ratified a new four-year collective agreement on Sunday.

The Toronto Zoo Board of Management announced Monday that it too had ratified the accord.

Miners union will try to organize workers at Donkin
Hal Higgins, CBC News
June 13 2017

The United Mine Workers of America has served notice that it intends to organize a union drive at the recently opened coal mine operated by Kameron Collieries in Donkin, N.S.

The announcement came in a speech this week by Bob Burchell, who retired earlier this year as international representative for the UMWA. He spoke during ceremonies marking the annual Miners’ Memorial Day in Glace Bay on Sunday.

Manitoba’s unions are ready to fight proposed labour legislation
Meagan Gillmore, rabble.ca
June 12 2017

Manitoba’s labour leaders are pushing back against new legislation they say drastically reduces workers’ rights and puts Manitobans’ health care at risk.

Earlier this month, the provincial government passed Bill 28 and Bill 29. Bill 28, The Public Services Sustainability Act, creates a rolling four-year period of wage freezes or minimal wage increases. Bill 29, The Health Sector Bargaining Review Act, dramatically decreases the number of unions in the health-care sector, and could possibly pit unions against each other.

Both bills were introduced on March 20 and received royal assent on June 2. Neither has come into effect.

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