Labour News Update: October 16, 2017

Tentative agreement reached at CAMI | Sear closes shop in Canada fires 12,000 workers | Tentative deal for strike at Pearson airport | Ontario’s college faculty on verge of strike | Ontario pledges $1M to help ailing miners exposed to toxic dust| Unions want government-run cannabis stores in Alberta | Chaos inside the Phoenix pay centres | Unifor enters into negotiations with Irving and Bell | Bring the union meeting to the members | Leamington is at the frontlines of the boom in migrant workers | The dangers of Basic Income | NAFTA negotiations | $15 and Fairness |


The Economics of $15: A Reader, October 10

The demand for a $15 minimum wage is hugely popular. However, doubts remain about whether raising the minimum wage to $15 would benefit or hurt workers and the economy. These doubts have been sowed by conservative politicians, right-wing think-tanks, employer groups, and a largely uncritical media. Luckily, over the last couple of years progressive economists have been hard at work studying the potential impacts of a $15 minimum wage and critically examining the claims made by those who oppose the minimum wage. The results have been an overwhelming set of studies, think pieces, and critical reviews that show not only will a $15 minimum wage not cause major job loss or inflation, it will be a boon for economic activity. We compiled some of these studies, reviews, and opinion pieces by economists.

The Neoliberal Danger of Basic Income, October 11

We are convinced that the emerging model of basic income, reflected in pilot projects and other initiatives in a number of countries and jurisdictions, is one that would intensify the neoliberal agenda. The hope that there is any realistic chance of ensuring a truly adequate, universal payment, that isn’t financed by undermining other vital elements of social provision, is misplaced in our view.

Bring the Union Meeting to the Members, October 11

How many members attend your union meetings? And how do you feel about that? Whether it’s just a handful or a hundred, no activist is ever satisfied. But you can drop a whole load of frustration if you stop expecting a majority of members to travel to the union hall for a two-hour monthly meeting. Thinking about members and meetings in a different way can allow you to bring shorter union meetings to more and more members—at the workplace.

Fake News Fights Against $15, October 12

This was a push poll aimed at showing the weakening of the support for a $15 minimum wage. What is surprising is the strength of support despite the obvious bias in the question. Only 17 percent of respondents favoured cancelling the initiative, while a full 83 percent wanted to see a $15 minimum wage. Two in five said they wanted to see the 18-month phase-in of $15 go forward despite being confronted with a question designed to get them to choose a longer phase-in or oppose outright. Bias and misleading polls tilted towards employers are nothing new. As the fear campaign by employers ramps up and we near the election expect more polls aimed at stoking fear and sowing doubt about raising the minimum wage and strengthening labour law. The media will not do our job for us.

In Other News

Sears Canada going out of business, laying off 12,000
Toronto Star, October 10

Once a titan of Canadian retail, Sears Canada announced Tuesday that it is going out of business, putting 12,000 people out of work and shuttering all operations nationwide. Among the first to lose their jobs will be most of the 800 people at head office near Dundas Square, who will be let go next week. Liquidation sales at stores are scheduled to begin Oct. 19 and to take 10 to 14 weeks.

GM, union reach tentative deal at Ontario CAMI plant
CBC News, October 13

A tentative agreement has been reached to end the nearly month-long strike at the CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ont. Unifor announced that it reached a tentative deal with General Motors at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday. In a statement posted on the Local 88 website, the union said details of the agreement will not be released until a ratification vote is held. The vote is scheduled for Monday at 10 a.m. at the Western Fair grounds in London. If the tentative agreement is approved, the union says the employees will start going back to work Monday at 11 p.m.

‘Poorly paid, overworked, no job security’: Why Mohawk faculty are set to strike
CBC News, October 12

Faculty at Ontario colleges say they are set to hit the picket lines Monday morning over issues with precarious employment and academic policy. Kevin Mackay, a faculty member at Hamilton’s Mohawk College and a member of OPSEU’s bargaining team, appeared on southwestern Ontario’s Afternoon Drive CBC Radio show to talk about the issues he says are affecting teachers in colleges across the province. He said faculty members were “poorly paid, overworked, (and had) no job security.” One of the biggest issues, Mackay says, is precarious employment. He says over 70 per cent of professors working in local colleges are not full time faculty.

Pearson ground crew workers strike tentative deal with Swissport after months of delays
CBC News, October 11

The union representing some 700 ground crew workers has reached a tentative deal with Swissport Canada, meaning baggage handlers, cabin cleaners and other ground staff will be ending their work stoppage, which has gone on for 10 weeks. CBC Toronto has learned that Teamsters Local 419 members agreed to the tentative deal with Swissport yesterday after overwhelmingly rejecting previous offers.

Nova Scotia union takes on two major employers
Chronicle Herald, October 12

Two of the Atlantic region’s major employers are facing off with one of the region’s largest trade unions, representing a total of about 35,000 workers in the Atlantic provinces. Currently, Bell Aliant is at the negotiating table with about 2,000 of its employees in the Atlantic region. Unifor’s Atlantic regional director, Lana Payne, told me on Thursday that this is the first time her union has been at the table with the larger parent Bell Canada Enterprises since that company took Bell Aliant private in 2014. Meanwhile, about 800 members of Unifor Marine Workers Federation, Local 1, working in Irving Shipbuilding Inc.’s Halifax yard, are getting ready to enter their own negotiations with their employer during the first week of November.

Time to follow America’s lead on minimum wage
Toronto Star, October 11

Despite the scare stories, a proposed $15 hourly wage in 2019 is proving wildly popular. By all accounts, it is a vote-winner. The usual suspects are upset: TD Bank, Loblaws, Metro, the Chamber of Commerce and the small business lobby are warning higher wages will hit hard, and hurt the working poor by costing them jobs. It’s a recurring tale of two competing victimhoods — businesses at risk and jobs in jeopardy — but people aren’t buying it. The old fable about the boy (or business) who cried wolf is a hard sell when few believe the wolf is at the door. The big change is not just in new economic thinking, but a broader societal consensus. The ground has shifted.

Unions want government-run cannabis stores in Alberta
Calgary Herald, October 10

The Alberta Federation of Labour is calling for the NDP government to set up a system of government-owned and operated cannabis stores in the province when recreational marijuana becomes legal next year. “The government should keep the broader public interest in mind and, in determining that interest, they should look at things like public revenue and health and safety and job creation as opposed to just the narrow interests of investors and the potential owners of stores,” Gil McGowan said in an interview.

Ontario pledges $1M to help ailing miners exposed to toxic dust
Toronto Star, October 11

The Ontario government will commit $1 million in funding to assist Ontario miners who believe years of exposure to toxic aluminum dust left them with debilitating neurological diseases, the Star has learned. The Ministry of Labour is expected to announce Wednesday that it will finance the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) to assess miners exposed to the substance known as McIntyre Powder establish whether their health conditions are linked to its use, and make compensation claims for work-related illnesses where possible. But miners who already made claims under previous guidelines will not be eligible to have their cases reopened.

Chaos inside the Phoenix pay centres — Is anyone’s pay right?
CBC News, October 10

Federal payroll workers are falling back on Excel spreadsheets, Google and, in some cases, pen and paper to make up for the litany of problems with the Phoenix pay system which, several staffers say, is weakening the integrity of the entire compensation system. Workers from offices in Winnipeg, Edmonton and the central pay centre in Miramichi, N.B., who spoke to CBC News on condition of anonymity, said they’re often forced to come up with creative solutions to the pay system’s glitches. “They do what they have to do,” said Donna Lackie, former national president of the union representing the pay workers, who recently visited the centre in Miramichi.

22405962_1704124339632137_925612307464692124_nCanadians pessimistic about economic futures
Ipolitics, October 9

A new poll suggests the political battle constantly waged for the support of Canada’s middle class is being fought over increasingly shrinking territory. An Ekos-Canadian Press survey of 4,839 Canadians indicates the number of people who self-identify as working class sits at 37 per cent, while 43 per cent place themselves in the middle. It’s the lowest recorded since 2002, Ekos said — at the outset of the century, about 70 per cent of Canadians defined themselves in middle class terms. At the same time the incidence of those in the working class has nearly doubled.

‘A complete joke’: Laid-off Sears workers say hardship fund cash amounts to nothing after EI cut
CBC News, October 9

Laid-off Sears Canada workers say the hardship fund set up to help them is pointless because any payout counts as income, so it’s deducted from their employment insurance benefits. “You have to give it back. We are getting absolutely nothing,” says Vera Asselin, a former inventory analyst at the company’s head office in Toronto. “It’s a complete joke.”

Leamington is at the frontlines of the boom in migrant workers. Here’s how it’s changed
Toronto Star, October

What distinguishes the earlier waves of migrants from those coming now is that the former came as permanent residents, while the majority nowadays are guest workers — mostly lonely men separated from their families, with temporary status only. More than 10 per cent of the 54,000 average migrant farm workers to Canada work in Leamington, accounting for one-sixth of the town’s population during the farming season. The number of migrant farm workers in Leamington has surged in the last decade, mostly because of the exponential growth of the greenhouse operations here. Today, the town has more than 1,500 acres of greenhouses, with another 200 acres waiting for municipal approvals.

Concerns mount that NAFTA could die before it’s renegotiated
CBC News, October 12

Blunt warnings about the fate of the North America Free Trade Agreement suggest Canada needs to prepare for a world without the trade pact. “This thing is going into the toilet,” said Jerry Dias, the head of UNIFOR, Canada’s largest private sector union. Dias said it is clear the Americans are not looking to reach an agreement, and he scoffed at the idea of negotiations being completed before the end of the year.
“We are going to have to start having serious conversations about life after NAFTA,” Dias said. The stark assessment comes in the middle of the fourth round of NAFTA talks — negotiators from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are meeting behind closed doors at a hotel in suburban Virginia, just outside of Washington.

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