Labour News Update: July 17, 2017

| Sears layoffs and executive bonuses | Government to intervene in Chronicle Herald strike | OLG lockout | Hamilton transit union fights privatization | Fight for $15 wins: how to beat the employers’ counter offensive | Aging delivery trucks poisoning postal workers | Temp agencies on rise in Ontario | BC hospital support service workers ready to fight back | New case study documents Alberta’s WCB failings | Rebuilding a transit union under right-to-work | WestJet CEO sends email to employees warning against unionization | Postal workers want home delivery restored | Edmonton city council squashes talk of partnering with Uber | Talks continue between Outlook group home and locked out workers | A $15 Minimum Wage Is A Feminist Issue | AFL call for criminal charges against Suncor managers after worker’s death |


Rebuilding a transit union under right-to-work, July 11

Going into its latest contract, the transit union in Fairfax County, Virginia, was in tough shape. People weren’t active because they didn’t believe the union could do much—and the union couldn’t do much because people weren’t active. Management never budged on the issues that stewards brought up. Grievances piled up, unresolved. And since Virginia is a “right-to-work” state, half the workers in the bargaining unit weren’t even members of Transit (ATU) Local 1764. But after a robust union campaign, in a matter of months the Fairfax Connector went from a unit at risk of decertifying to a strong union shop.

BC hospital support service workers ready to fight back, July 12

In 2015, 900 workers in the health services support sector – laundry staff, dietary workers, and housekeepers – lost their jobs and were forced to reapply for them. They worked for two BC Health Authorities, Vancouver Coastal and Providence Health, public health providers who had nonetheless contracted out some of their services – “non-clinical services” – to private multinationals. In that case, the two health authorities ended their cleaning contract with Aramark and signed one with Compass. But they did so without a transition agreement meaning that when the new-Aramark employees began work they did so as if they hadn’t worked at the same facility for, sometimes, years and they lost all their seniority.

Fight for $15 wins: how to beat the employers’ counter offensive, July 13

Within 24 hours of the historic breakthrough by the Fight for $15 & Fairness campaign, where Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government conceded the largest single increase to the minimum wage in Canadian history, the employer’s offensive intensified. Immediately the Toronto Sun lamented on their front page that the “New minimum wage effectively unionizes Ontario”. Conservative politicians who weren’t confident enough to challenge Bill 148 (legislation containing $15 minimum wage and other labour reforms) began to preach on the imminent small business extinction, and the media began a full offensive against the gains of the movement.

New case study documents Alberta’s WCB failings, July 14

The Alberta Workers’ Health Centre recently concluded a multi-year project aimed at improving the health and safety of new Alberta workers. The summary report is here. One of the most interesting outcomes is a case study of a new Alberta worker who was injured on the job. “Betty” experienced great difficulty in obtaining compensation for a debilitating workplace injury.

In Other News

Sears managers to earn thousands in bonuses while laid-off workers get no severance
CBC News, July 14

Sears Canada plans to dole out big bonuses to senior management while the retailer restructures, even as thousands of laid-off workers aren’t being paid severance. According to court documents, Sears will pay up to $7.6 million in retention bonuses to 43 executives and senior managers at the company’s head office in Toronto. That works out to an average of $176,744 per employee, although it’s unlikely the money will be divided up so evenly. The news isn’t going over well with the company’s laid-off workers. The cash-strapped retailer plans to close 59 stores and eliminate 2,900 jobs across the country as part of a court-supervised restructuring process. Sears won’t be paying the employees severance which, for some, adds up to a loss of tens of thousands of dollars.

striking-chronicle-herald-reporters-erin-pottie-tom-ayersProvince using rarely used power to help end Chronicle Herald strike
CBC News, July 14

The province has announced it will start a commission in August to help end the almost 18-month long contract dispute between The Chronicle Herald and the union representing striking newspaper employees. Employees with the Halifax Typographical Union, representing 53 striking reporters, photographers and other workers, have been on strike since Jan. 23, 2016. Acting Labour Minister Derek Mombourquette made the surprise announcement Thursday following a regularly scheduled cabinet meeting. He said the government decided to step in now because of the length of the strike and the fact numerous talks between the parties broke down.

OLG locks out employees at Woodbine Racetrack facility
CP24, July 14

About 400 workers at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation facility at Woodbine Racetrack have been locked out, just days after voting to reject a tentative agreement that had been reached with their employer. The workers, who are members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, voted to reject the offer over the weekend. The union says that it did send a revised offer to the OLG on Wednesday but were rebuffed.

Temp agencies on rise as province seeks to protect vulnerable workers
Toronto Star, July 15

Ontario has seen a steady growth in the number of temp agencies starting up at a time the province seeks to enact new protection for its most vulnerable workers. Statistics obtained by the Star show a 20 per cent increase in temp agencies in Ontario over the past decade, with much of that growth driven by businesses registering in the Toronto area. In the GTA alone, there are now almost 1,700 active temp agencies — more than the combined total of seven Canadian provinces that track such stats. It’s “like a huge warning bell to anyone who is concerned about (work) conditions and low wages and precariousness,” said Deena Ladd of the Toronto-based Workers’ Action Centre.

Aging delivery trucks poisoning us, postal workers claim
CBC News, July 12

Some Canada Post workers on rural routes near Ottawa have become so concerned about exhaust spewing into the cabs of their aging delivery trucks that they’ve started carrying carbon monoxide detectors. For Julie Stewart, a Canada Post delivery driver in Kemptville,Ont., the problems began back in the spring. One day in April, the 48-year-old parked her white Grumman LLV truck and walked into the local hospital, believing she was experiencing a heart attack.

WestJet CEO sends email to employees warning against unionization of airline staff
Global News, July 13

The head of WestJet has stepped up his fight against the growing push to unionize the airline’s staff, telling them to resist organized labour’s pitch because it will chomp into their paycheques. The president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which is trying to unionize WestJet flight attendants, said Saretsky’s email reflects he is “way out of whack” when it comes to understanding unions.

Edmonton city council squashes talk of partnering with Uber in transit
Edmonton Journal, July 11

Edmonton officials will not even start a conversation with Uber about partnering to get people from their homes to key LRT stops after a narrow vote Tuesday. Council voted 5-5 against exploring the option, which administration proposed as part of the transit strategy. The tie vote failed, while three councillors were absent

A $15 Minimum Wage Is A Feminist Issue
Huffington Post, July 13

Chances are you know someone working part-time, from contract to contract, or in a low-wage job — and research shows that person is most likely a woman. Across Canada, women account for 70 per cent of part-time employees and 60 per cent of minimum-wage earners. There is a lot at stake for women — and gender equity — in the movement to end precarious employment.

Hamilton transit doesn’t need privatization
Hamilton Spectator, July 10

An arm’s length commission would solve HSR’s problems — not privatization. As an HSR bus driver for almost 29 years, and the president of ATU 107 — which represents HSR employees — I’m all too familiar with HSR’s shortcomings. Schedules haven’t kept up with demands. Large parts of the city are under-served. Holidays, weekends and special-event service is often lacking. The HSR, under city management, clearly does not work as well as it could and has not kept up with the growing need for transit in our city. Whether this is a problem of bad hiring choices by HR management, or meddling from city bureaucrats, the result is the same. The HSR needs to be a lot better than it is today. But just because you don’t like the direction of the school board, doesn’t mean the solution is to privatize public schools.

19989440_1612413398770310_2363523250853962115_nEmployee featured in hit Sears Canada ad with famous brother Mike Myers loses job and severance
CBC News, July 13

To give beleaguered Sears Canada a boost in 2014, employee Peter Myers recruited his famous brother, comedian Mike Myers, to star in a commercial for the retailer. The ad was a hit. It featured both Myers brothers using humorous banter to spread the message that, despite rumours, Sears wasn’t shutting down. “I was the face of ‘we’re not closing,'” says Peter Myers, who at the time was a senior director of planning at Sears head office in Toronto. Three years later, Sears still promotes the ad on the main page of its YouTube site. But Myers — who worked for the retail giant for almost 36 years — is out of a job and not getting severance.

Some Manitobans will pay out-of-pocket for physiotherapy starting this fall
CBC News, July 12

Some Manitobans will have to pay out-of-pocket for outpatient physiotherapy and occupational therapy starting this fall, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says. The health authority is “moving adult outpatient physiotherapy and occupational therapy clinics out of hospital to private-practice providers by mid-October,” the WRHA announced Tuesday.

Talks continue between Outlook group home and locked out workers
Saskatoon StarPhoenix, July 11

Bargaining continued Tuesday between SEIU-West and Variety Place Association to end the lockout that began May 21. The talks included a labour ministry-appointed mediator, SEIU-West president Barbara Cape said. The workers have been without a contract since September 2013. “There hasn’t been a whole lot of progress,” she said. “There was an offer made a couple weeks ago that the membership here rejected, so that’s why we’re back at the table agin today. We’re hopeful, but you never know.”

Criminal charges against Suncor managers warranted after worker’s death, AFL says
CBC News, July 10

Alberta’s association of trade unions is questioning whether Suncor managers should face criminal charges, after court documents show the company ignored safety problems at a tailings pond months before a worker fell in and drowned in January 2014. Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said the province should consider laying criminal charges under the Westray Act, which came into force after the Nova Scotia Westray mining disaster killed 26 coal miners in 1992.

Bombardier signs deal with Thunder Bay, Ont. workers building Toronto streetcars
Canadian Manufacturing, July 10

Bombardier Inc. and workers at the company’s Thunder Bay, Ont. plant have agreed on a new three-year deal. The 900 members of Unifor Local 1075 ratified the new collective agreement July 9. The union said the deal includes wage increases for both production and skilled trades workers at the Northern Ontario facility along with pension increases. The agreement will also ensure the vehicle production at the plant continues smoothly, Unifor head Jerry Dias, said.

Spare me the hysteria over minimum wage hikes
Toronto Sun, July 11

Our far bigger problem was that we were the victims of larger businesses that sucked blood out of a stone, primarily greedy landlords who could evict us at will and the franchisors at whose mercy we existed. Had business executives now complaining about hikes to the minimum wage spoken out against harsh, one-sided regulations favouring commercial landlords over retail tenants, I might have been more amenable to paying attention to their arguments against raising the minimum wage now.My message to business executives and others campaigning against a $15 minimum wage is this: If your business cannot afford to pay a $15 minimum wage, then you should probably not be in business.

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