Labour News Update: September 4, 2017

Workers take on Cineplex management in Quebec | Labour day | B.C. NDP abandons 2021 deadline to reach $15 minimum wage | NSGEU gives notice of charter challenge to Bill 148| Teamsters strike at Pearson airport | First responders and mental health | Phoenix pay crisis | Union employees on strike at Holiday Inn Express in downtown Regina | He’s considered Canada’s founding father, but many Ontario teachers want his name stripped from public schools | Strike vote set for Ontario college teachers | Healthcare cuts | Hamilton fire fighters cancer claims | Employers whine about Alberta’s first OHS review in 41 years | Reflections on the Chronicle Herald strike | Employers can afford a $15 minimum wage| P3 schools in Saskatoon are a bureaucratic nightmare | Remembering Brad Wall: The man who hated unions | #Mcstrike in the UK

21167607_1663770200334218_6564297237797388004_oFrom RankandFile.ca

Labour Day: Recognizing labour’s ongoing successes
RankandFile.ca, September 3

With Labour Day approaching on Monday, it will sadly be close to 51 weeks before many folks to care about labour again. Labour Day presents an important time to reflect upon the important struggles and victories that the labour movement has helped to bring about in the past, but it is also an equally important time, and perhaps even a more important time, to focus on the important role that the labour movement plays in the present day, as well as the role that it will continue to play in the future.

Premier McNeil’s Bill 148 takes us back to the dark ages
RankandFile.ca, September 1

On Tuesday, August 22, the provincial government enforced the Public Services Sustainability Act (Bill 148), imposing a four-year wage package on 75,000 public employees. Even at current low rates of inflation, this could result in a real wage cut of about 7%. In addition, the Act peremptorily removes a long service award scheme that the unions accepted many years ago in lieu of up-front wage increases. That approximately a further 2% pay cut for new employees. Together, the two measures shrink the standard of living our public service workers, which is among the lowest in the country.

Employers whine about Alberta’s first OHS review in 41 years
RankandFile.ca, August 31

Last week, Alberta announced a review of its occupational health and safety system. Alberta has not done a comprehensive review of its OHS system since it was created in 1976. Not surprisingly, employers representatives (such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses) were quick to whine about the government reviewing whether it is possible to make workplaces safer and reduce injuries and fatalities for the first time in 41 years.

Box office brawl: Workers take on Cineplex management
RankandFile.ca, August 30

Cineplex workers in Quebec. with local 262 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), are planning to go on strike. Created in 1912 in Montreal, this union has been actively fighting for decent work for theatre employees in Quebec. From representing the cinema projectionists, to the front of the house employees, to live theatre and other entertainment related businesses, they have emerged as powerful advocates for theatre and cinema workers.

Reflections on the Chronicle Herald strike
RankandFile.ca, August 29

My Herald colleagues voted on August 10 to accept a deal after a year and a half on strike. For many — most, I dare say — this is little cause for celebration. Yes, it brings a much-needed resolution to this toxic situation. But the toll it has taken is deep. Unless you’ve been on strike for a lengthy period, you probably can’t fathom what that feels like.

In Other News

Increasing the minimum wage to $15 can only pay off
Toronto Star, September 1

The economic research on the minimum wage has not yielded evidence that higher minimum wages effect employment levels. They appear to neither rise nor fall appreciably with what amounts to the only pay raise that several million Canadians will ever see. Frank Luk, 61, owner of several Toronto restaurants, told the CBC that this province’s minimum-wage policy has been “the biggest small business killer in Ontario history.” A similar concern has been expressed by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Retail Council of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and Restaurants Canada. It is the same concern that has been expressed ever since the minimum wage was first introduced generations ago. The evidence fails to bear out those fears.

1B.C. NDP abandons 2021 deadline to reach $15 minimum wage
Vancouver Sun, August 31

The B.C. NDP government has altered an election promise to implement a $15 minimum wage by 2021, and will instead give an independent review panel free rein to suggest a new, possibly longer, timeline. Labour Minister Harry Bains said he agrees with criticism from Green party Leader Andrew Weaver that mandating the review panel to a 2021 timeline is too restrictive and locks in the outcome. So Bains said he’ll remove the deadline when he announces details of his Fair Wages Commission in the next few weeks.

The face of health-care cuts: Grandmother dies and no paramedics available to help
CBC News, August 30

One of the last voices Catherine Terry ever heard was her daughter, telling her that everything was going to be OK. She was wrong. Terry died of a heart attack inside her central Hamilton apartment on July 10, waiting for paramedics to save her. No one in her family knew it then, but Terry had called for help while the city was in the midst of a “code zero” event. That’s when there is only one — or even zero — ambulances across the service’s entire fleet available for a call. It’s a crisis that’s happening more frequently, leaving Hamiltonians in medical distress at risk of having no one available to help them when they need it most.

NSGEU gives notice of charter challenge to Bill 148
Global News, August 30

Nova Scotia’s biggest union has sent warning to the government that it will ask the courts to strike down Bill 148. The wage legislation was proclaimed last week by the provincial Liberals. It legislates a wage pattern on 75,000 public sector workers, strips the long service award from all new employees retroactive to April 2015 and freezes it for all previous employees to the same date.

Ottawa offering up financial perks to attract staff to fix Phoenix pay system
CBC News, August 29

Struggling to make improvements to its troubled pay system, Ottawa is now offering financial incentives to attract qualified employees to address the Phoenix program. The Treasury Board made the announcement today by news release, saying it will offer one time payments of $4,000, temporarily increase overtime rates from time and a half to double-time and temporarily drop restrictions on the amount of vacation that compensation advisors can carry over.

Researchers find significantly higher rate of mental disorders among first responders
CBC News, August 30

Results from Canada’s first national survey looking at operational stress injuries among first responders such as police, paramedics, firefighters and 911 operators suggest they are much more likely to develop a mental disorder than the general population. The research was conducted online between September 2016 and January 2017 by a group of mental health experts from across the country. It is published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Of the 5,813 participants, 44.5 per cent “screened positive for clinically significant symptom clusters consistent with one or more mental disorders.” Statistics Canada has reported that the rate for the general population is 10 per cent.

The Man Who Hated Unions
Planet S, September 1

“If there’s a part of Wall’s legacy that resonates with conservatives across the board, it’s his clear disdain for organized labour — both with respect to public sector unions and some of the personalities in the broader labour movement, including the president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, Larry Hubich,” Smith says. Early in the Wall government’s first term, the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses did land a sizeable wage increase. But that doesn’t necessarily qualify as a big win for labour, says Smith. “When you look at the numbers, that was really catch-up for a decade where nurses fell behind other jurisdictions. So in some ways, the government had no choice.” Overall, though, the Wall government has been very heavy-handed with labour, says Smith.

Ontario corporations can afford to pay decent wages
Toronto Star, September 1

There’s been a lot of resistance by some businesses and lobby groups to the Ontario government’s plans to hike the province’s minimum wage to $15/hour. They claim it will cost employers $13 billion over two years and put many jobs “at risk.” What they haven’t mentioned is that corporate profits in Ontario are now at record levels and at all-time record shares of the economy. Meanwhile, wage increases continue to stumble along at rates close to inflation, which means no real wage increases at all for most workers.

Teachers at Saskatoon’s new P3 schools must apply for permission to put nails in walls
CBC News, August 30

A new policy at Saskatoon’s P3 joint-use school sites requires teachers to apply for permission to penetrate the walls of their classroom with nails or other objects when decorating their rooms. “With the P3 schools it is a different process, so that’s going to be a process we haven’t used in the past and that everyone is going to have to get used to,” said Diane Boyko, board chair at Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools.

21273324_10154649490476854_3309475066483229267_oUnion employees on strike at Holiday Inn Express in downtown Regina
Leader-Post, August 30

Union employees at Holiday Inn Express & Suites Regina Downtown have been walking the picket lines since Monday morning, following more than two years of contract negotiations. “We’ve been trying to negotiate for two years now and it just finally come to (a strike). We went to mediation, that didn’t help. The company’s making just ridiculous demands. So we felt we had to,” said Garry Whalen, president of UNITE HERE Local 41.

‘Deeply regretful’ Susur Lee to reimburse workers after illegally docking tips at his eateries
CBC NEWS, August 28

World-renowned chef and reality TV star Susur Lee has told his employees he has changed a system at his restaurants that illegally forced them to hand over a portion of their tips to pay for common mistakes, and he has promised to reimburse staff after workers at his eateries blasted the policy. This assurance, however, comes over a year after the Ministry of Labour changed its rules on deductions from workers’ tips. “Employers can’t withhold, make deductions from, or make their employees return their tips and other gratuities,” the ministry’s website reads.

Why thousands of Ontario plant workers may take to the picket line this fall
CBC News, August 27

Thousands of CAMI Assembly plant workers in Ingersoll, Ont., are preparing to strike if union negotiation agreements aren’t reached with General Motors Canada in the fall. About 1,200 of approximately 3,000 unionized plant workers green-lighted a decision to strike when they voted 99.8 per cent in favour of it at a strike mandate meeting on Sunday in London. “The membership has given us the support and the ammunition to take to the company to show that we have a strong mandate — almost 100 per cent — in achieving the demands that we put forth to the company,” said Dan Borthwick, the president of Unifor Local 88. Contract talks between the two sides began on Aug. 10 and will intensify after the Labour Day weekend.

Hamilton fire fighters cancer claims
CHCH News, August 28

Fire fighters in Hamilton are filing work-related cancer claims at twice the provincial rate and many are still fighting to get their illness recognized. Toxic fires, like the Plastimet blaze 20 years ago are likely to blame. Almost 300 Hamilton firefighters worked the Plastimet fire. The factory, larger than a football field was packed with plastics and for over 70 hours firefighters drowned the huge flames. Breathing in the thick harzardous smoke, most of them reported some health effects. Following the Platimet fire firefighters now have annual health exams, which have caught about 15 cancers and other illnesses. Hamilton firefighters also played a big role in the push for legislation to make it easier for firefighters to claim work related illnesses. But 10 years after they won the right to compensation, many still aren’t getting it.

A Son On His Family’s Anxiety About His Dad Losing His Job When GE Plant Closes
PTBOCanada, August 28

The Fuller family, like many other GE families in Peterborough, are all feeling anxious right now. With the GE Plant here closing in Fall 2018 after 125 years in the community, Robert Fuller will be one of about 350 employees losing his job. “I think our biggest fear is the unknown of what next year will bring when GE closes,” his son Connor, 24, tells PTBOCanada. “What will my Dad do for work? How will our living situation change? How will GE compensate its employees? There’s a lot of unanswered questions that I feel many families are thinking about right now.”

Strike vote set for Ontario college teachers
Mississauga, August 30

Precarious work is one reason Ontario college teachers are displeased with current contract negotiations with the College Employer Council. So much so faculty represented by Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPESEU) will participate in a strike vote on Sept. 14. The current contract expires Sept. 30. After nine days of bargaining with the council, which negotiates on behalf of the province’s 24 colleges, union spokesperson JP Hornick said one of the key issues is unstable employment for contract faculty. Hornick said more than 80 per cent of college teachers in the province are part-time.

Job Action at Toronto Pearson Airport Shows Why Little Strikes Matter
The Bullet, September 2

Teamsters Local 419 represents 700 workers employed by Swissport, a multinational company subcontracted to handle baggage for several airlines at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport (YYZ). The workers have been on strike since July 27. The demands are modest – wage increases that will be only slightly above the proposed increases to the Ontario minimum wage and the maintenance of benefits for part-time workers.

Poverty, illness, homelessness – no wonder McDonald’s UK workers are going on strike
The Guardian, September 1

It will be a small strike, but it is nonetheless remarkable for two reasons. First, it is a globalised industrial action, influenced by the Fight for $15 movement in the US – even down to the strike date of 4 September, US Labor Day – and the successful campaign by fast-food workers in New Zealand to ban zero-hours contracts. Activists from both those fights have flown in to advise their British counterparts. McDonald’s is an emblem of globalisation; now the protest against it is globalising too. Second, it is one of the first industrial actions that is distinctly Corbynite in character. At the last election, the Labour leader suggested that workers of all ages should be entitled to £10 an hour – his proposal is now the McStrike’s demand, and he and John McDonnell have met the strikers.

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