Labour News Update: July 24, 2017

| #BoycottSearsCanada | Farm fatality highlights gaps in Alberta’s new Employment Standard Code | Bill 148: The Sky is not falling | Ottawa hires consultants to advise on airport sell-offs | A brief history of Ontario employers crying wolf over the minimum wage | 340 jobs axed at Siemens wind turbine plant in Tillsonburg | NAFTA renegotiations | Fifteen plus: the minimum wage & austerity in Québec | Liberals miss deadline for decision on Canada Post home delivery | Effects of TTC’s random alcohol and drug testing | STC closure puts more hitchhikers at risk | Nova Scotia to buy 10 public-private partnership schools for $49.3M | Parents and educators express concerns about Nova Scotia’s new pre-primary program | Why Finland’s Basic Income Experiment Isn’t Working | Winnipeg doctors informed their jobs are being eliminated |


Too much, too soon: A brief history of Ontario employers crying wolf over the minimum wage, July 21

The business lobby and the Tories are crying wolf. The truth is employers and the right-wing have vehemently opposed the creation and every increase to Ontario’s minimum wage. If they had their way the minimum wage would either be stuck at $1, with a possible 99 year phase in to $15 pending an economic impact syudy, or not exist at all. In their bid to squash the minimum wage, they become prophets of doom and gloom. Their predictions have always turned out to be wrong, but that has never stopped them from recycling their campaign of false fear.

Farm fatality highlights gaps in Alberta’s new Employment Standard Code, July 20

Alberta’s Bill 17 amended the Employment Standard Code. These amendments including extending certain employment rights to farm workers. One of the gaps in Bill 17’s coverage of farm workers is that there continue to be no rules around the hours of work, rest periods, and over time. Farm workers are guaranteed four days of rest in 28 (a variation on the one-day-in-seven rule everyone else faces). Given the seasonal nature of farm work, the lack of rules to manage fatigue represent a clear health-and-safety issues that the government ducked.

8 and rising: Effects of TTC’s random alcohol and drug testing, July 19

It will be interesting how ATU Local 113’s arbitration case will play out now that the appeal has been lost and with the case decision in Stewart v. Elk Valley Coal Corp. where a breach of a workplace self-disclosure policy is enforceable and grounds for termination. ATU members will start contract negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement as the current one runs into its final year. Clearly, the ramifications will be felt across the country and ATU Local 113 has a challenging fight on their hands as the growing trend support public safety measures. Yet this will be a landmark win for ATU Local 113 for the compensation towards the invasion of privacy and proven false positive tests has yet to be determined.

Fifteen plus: the minimum wage & austerity in Québec, July 18

At a time when the people of Québec have been repeatedly demonized in English Canada for being more susceptible to racism and Islamophobia, it is critical to remember how deep class politics runs in Québec. The fight for decent wages and working conditions is part and parcel of the “trampoline” of resistance to the capitalist agenda in Québec and the scapegoating politics of those who benefit from exploitation and racism.

In Other News

Protecting vulnerable workers a must for modernizing Ontario’s economy, labour advocates say
Toronto Star, July 21

Robust protections for vulnerable workers are critical to modernizing Ontario’s economy, advocates told government Friday at a packed committee hearing on its sweeping proposals for labour reform. If passed, the legislation introduced in May will be the most far reaching set of updates to existing laws in two decades — boosting the minimum wage from $11.40 to $15 an hour by 2019, and prohibiting pay discrimination against part-time and temporary employees doing the same work as their full time counterparts. But at the last in a set of province-wide public deputations, economists, labour activists and business leaders clashed over Bill 148’s implications.

Ottawa hires consultants to advise on airport sell-offs
CBC News, July 19

A secretive project to generate billions of dollars from the sale of major Canadian airports is pushing ahead with the hiring of consultant firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The firm is to “act as a commercial adviser assisting with additional analytical work with respect to advancing a new governance framework for one or more Canadian airports.” A Crown corporation acting for the federal Finance Department, the Canada Development Investment Corp. or CDEV, signed the open-ended, per-diem deal with PwC and has retained outside legal advisers to help with any sales.

340 jobs axed at Siemens wind turbine plant in Tillsonburg
CBC News, July 18

More than 300 employees at a wind turnbine plant in Tillsonburg learned Tuesday they will be out of a job by 2018, with 206 being given notice immediately. Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy announced the closure of the blade manufacturing plant in the small southwestern Ontario town at an all-staff meeting. The plant closure nonetheless took the community by surprise with reaction coming quickly following the announcement. Oxford County MPP Ernie Hardeman, who represents the region that has already hard-hit by job losses, called the news devastating. “It’s one of the largest employers in the community and now the people there are left high and dry,” Hardeman said. This is the third large employer to leave the Tillsonburg area in less than a year. Ingersoll’s Cami plant announcing 600 layoffs in early 2017. In Nov. 2016, Thamesford’s Maple Leaf plant slashed 400 jobs.

Deadline for decision on Canada Post home delivery missed as Liberals ponder way forward
CBC News, July 19

The promised deadline for a decision on whether the Liberal government will restore door-to-door mail delivery has passed — with the government now saying it will announce its decision on the future of home delivery sometime before the end of 2017. Minister of Public Services and Procurement Judy Foote had promised a decision would be announced this past spring, but the government has backed away from that timeline. “Our government is delivering on its promise to suspend the conversion to community mailboxes and undertake a review of Canada Post,” said a spokesperson for the minister in an email. “It’s a complex issue and we want to make sure to get it right for all Canadians.” The president of the union representing postal workers said he’s not buying that explanation.

Province to buy 10 public-private partnership schools for $49.3M
CBC News, July 19

The Nova Scotia government is buying 10 public-private partnership schools from developers Nova Learning and Ashford Investment for $49.3 million dollars, saying it’s cheaper to own these buildings than to continue to lease them. Each of the schools will stay open because the school boards in those communities have told the province there is a need for them. The province signed agreements with four developers in 1998 to lease 39 public-private partnership schools (also known as P3 schools) for 20 years. Through a review process, the school boards confirmed 37 of the 39 schools are still needed. The two remaining school buildings will be surrendered to the developer. The cost of buying 37 schools — which includes the 10 announced Wednesday — is $215.9 million.

Front line workers with the Aids Committee of North Bay and Area could soon be facing a strike or lockout situation, July 20

Frontline workers with the AIDS Committee of North Bay and Area, held a noon hour information rally Wednesday, to bring attention to what it refers to as ‘government underfunding for HIV and Hep C services.’ “We want to let the federal and provincial governments and the employer know that they can no longer balance the books on the backs of their workers. Let’s negotiate a fair deal,” said Kathleen Jodouin, strike coordinator for CUPE Local 4720-4.

Can NAFTA be fixed? Six modest proposals
Behindthenumbers, July 19

The Trump administration’s long-running NAFTA drama took centre stage this week as the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released its objectives for the impending renegotiation—and it looks more like a summer rerun than the transformative spectacle we were promised. In short, the U.S. is pushing for an updated NAFTA modelled on the floundering Trans-Pacific Partnership, even though President Trump campaigned against the “job-killing” TPP and pulled the U.S. out of the deal in January. The CCPA has long held the position that the TPP would not be in Canada’s best interests, and the prospect of TPP-style provisions forming the core of NAFTA 2.0 is troubling. This model favours corporate rights and restricts the policy space of governments in a way that undercuts our ability to address crucial social priorities, such as improving job security and job quality, fighting inequality, and mitigating and adapting to climate change.

DFC8r5dWAAAVC09#BoycottSearsCanada: Retailer faces ‘PR nightmare’ over treatment of laid-off workers
CBC News, July 23

Sears Canada is striving to reinvent itself and entice customers. But every time it posts an ad promoting products on its Facebook site, the retailer is bombarded with angry comments. “No one cares!” wrote one person, commenting on a dishware ad. “As far as I’m concerned the whole company should go belly-up. “Empty plates are what Sears ex-employees will be staring at after they have been rooked out of their severance and retirement payments,” posted another person.

Parents and educators express concerns about province’s new pre-primary program
Metro, July 18

Jamieson said the new program doesn’t benefit working parents or students who are parents.
“Working parents cannot pick their children up at 1:20. This program is not helping those who need the help,” wrote one parent named Courtney. Others worry about who’s been earmarked to fill the positions and believe the program was set up too quickly without proper consultation with teachers and early childhood educators.

‘No one is really doing anything’: Frustrations mount over rural ER closures
CBC News, July 18

People in Cumberland County are expressing concern over the number of emergency room closures in the region and suggesting more should be done by the Nova Scotia Health Authority to recruit physicians and staff the emergency rooms. Between May 1 and July 10, there were 65 closures — a total of 764 hours where emergency rooms had their doors shut. A lack of family doctors, struggles to recruit new physicians and recent cuts to programs that brought medical graduates to the province have been cited as reasons for so many closures, which often happen during overnight hours.

Winnipeg doctors informed their jobs are being eliminated
Global News, July 17

Some emergency care doctors have received letters saying their jobs will no longer exist. The changes are part of the major shake-up happening at the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA). The WRHA is focusing first on doctors at Misercordia Health Centre and Victoria Hospital, since those facilities will be part of the first wave of changes in October.

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 1.35.29 PMWhen minimum wage goes up, will the sky fall?
Hamilton Spectator, July 20

Harris then asked Ritch Whyman, who’d been speaking for Hamilton $15 and Fairness Committee, if he was concerned that the increase had come out of the blue. Glaring as though in disbelief, Whyman shot back with a don’t-ask-me tone, “You’re the politician! You’re the member of a political party that tells you this and does that, ran on a platform and then did something different that you hadn’t talked about,” initiating a freeze on minimum wage under Mike Harris. “These repetitive quotes on cutbacks, closures, etc.,” he added. “The sky’s been falling (on the working poor) for decades now! Walk down the street and see the effects of a 10-year freeze on minimum wage.”

‘Dangers are out there’: Highway of Tears researcher says STC closure puts more hitchhikers at risk
CBC News, July 17

David Fineday says it’s a good day for a hike but he’d rather be on the bus. At 7:30 a.m. CST, the 30-year-old was carrying a duffel bag as he walked northbound on the shoulder of Highway 11. Traffic was heavy and fast, but few drivers did little more than glance at Fineday. “I’m going back home,” he said. Home is the Ahtahkakoop First Nation, Sask., about 60 kilometres east of Prince Albert. The trip by thumb from Saskatoon could take anywhere from three hours to all day. He used to bus, until this spring. “It was the bus till that STC got shut down, now I’m forced to hike,” he said.

Why Finland’s Basic Income Experiment Isn’t Working
New York Times, July 20

Universal basic income is generating considerable interest these days, from Bernie Sanders, who says he is “absolutely sympathetic” to the idea, to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and other tech billionaires. The basic idea behind it is that handing out unconditional cash to all citizens, employed or not, would help reduce poverty and inequality, and increase individual liberty. This is why eyes turned to Finland at the beginning of the year, when the government initiated a national test run for universal basic income. As a rich country in the European Union, with one of the highest rates of social spending in the world, Finland seemed like an ideal testing ground for a state-of-the-art social welfare experiment. In reality, the Finnish trial was poorly designed, and is little more than a publicity stunt.

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