Labour News Update: October 23, 2017

Ontario college faculty strike | Sears execs get big bonuses | Sexual harassment in the workplace | Temporary Foreign Worker Program | CAMI workers strike, but can’t get guarantee on jobs | Public sector showdown in Saskatchewan | Grovelling for Amazon jobs | Loblaws to slash 500 jobs | Ailing GE Peterborough workers still waiting for justice | Strike vote set for Ontario college teachers | Understaffing in BC care homes | Labour rally takes aim at Nova Scotia Liberals | New Saskatoon library structure threatens jobs | 40 Winnipeg nurses to lose their jobs at Victoria Hospital | Bill C 27 | Booming B.C. restaurants struggles to keep workers | Montreal bus drivers and public protest Islamophobic law |

Picket line leaflet. Click to zoom in
Picket line leaflet. Click to zoom in


Ontario College Strike 101, October 17

On Monday, October 16, the 12,000 members of OPSEU’s College Academic Division – professors, instructors, librarians, and counsellors at Ontario’s 24 public colleges – hit the picket line after the College Employer Council rejected OPSEU’s final offer on October 15. OPSEU’s membership gave the bargaining committee a 68% strike mandate in September.

No Casting Couch for Low-Wage Women, But Lots of Sexual Harassment, October 18

Sexual harassment doesn’t happen just to glamorous women in glamorous industries. Since sexual harassment is about power, not sex, it’s not surprising that low-wage women in lousy jobs get a lot of it.

Predicting the future of migrant labour programs…in the 60s and 70s, October 19

The Thanksgiving season is often seized upon by farmworkers and activists to highlight agricultural workers’ contributions to society and the precarious conditions that so often characterize their work and life. In both Canada and the United States, farm labour activists have riffed on a popular motif which recognizes farmers, modifying it to some variation of: “Got Food? Thank a Farmworker.” In Canada, these messages have drawn attention in particular to migrant farmworkers, who in various Temporary Foreign Worker Programs (TFWPs), represent a crucial component of the country’s agricultural labour force. In the spirit of joining the Thanksgiving shout-out to farmworkers, in this post I share two finds from the archives, uncovered in the course of my research on the history of tobacco farm labour in Ontario, in which senior federal bureaucrats in the 1960s and 1970s issue some eerily prescient warnings about what TFWPs might become in the future.

CAMI workers strike, but can’t get guarantee on jobs, October 20

As negotiators from Canada, the U.S., and Mexico carry out secretive talks aimed at fixing NAFTA, a strike at an Ontario auto plant shows how difficult it can be to challenge the power amassed by corporations thanks to the trade deal. The 2,800 members of Unifor Local 88 walked off the job September 17 at the CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll seeking contract language to secure their jobs. They returned a month later without it. Their contract is similar to the one reached at all the other Big Three plants in Ontario in fall 2016.

In Other News

Sears managers, execs will still pocket big cash bonuses even though retailer is closing
CBC News, October 19

Sears Canada will pay a final $2.8 million in retention bonuses to 36 head office staff, even though the retailer’s restructuring efforts failed and the company is closing its doors. Promised bonuses were only supposed to be paid in full if the company found a way to survive. However, Sears got court approval on Wednesday to continue paying retention bonuses to key staff such as executives and managers who will now steer the retailer through the wind-down and liquidation process. In total, Sears will end up paying up to $6.5-million in bonus payments to head office staff from the time it filed for insolvency in June until it closes for good.

Public sector unions unlikely to accept government-mandated wage cuts
Star Phoenix, October 18

The 25 public sector unions slated to renegotiate their contracts this year are not likely to accept a 3.5 per cent wage cut proposed by the provincial government as a way to save money, according to the head of Saskatchewan’s largest labour organization. Those unions, which represent about 38,000 civil servants, and other public sector unions, are “prepared to do whatever’s necessary” to resist the government’s attempts to cut back their wages, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour president Larry Hubich said.

Ailing GE Peterborough workers still waiting for justice, group says
Toronto Star, October 18

Roger Fowler has been fighting for 26 years for compensation for the cancer he says was caused by the many years he worked amid asbestos and chemicals at the General Electric plant in Peterborough. His hopes were raised earlier this year when the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board promised to take another look at some 250 previously rejected cases. Then, last Friday, Fowler received a call from the WSIB and was told that, yet again, his case wouldn’t be reexamined — because it has been denied in the past.

40 Winnipeg nurses to lose their jobs at Victoria Hospital as of Friday
Global News, October 17

The Manitoba Nurses’ Union said 40 nurses will be out of a job Oct 20. The nurses, all from Victoria General Hospital, will be laid off from their jobs this week and will need to seek new positions. Nurses Union president Sandi Mowatt said Tuesday that the Victoria Hospital nurses in question had already gone through the application process initiated when the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority re-structuring began, but were not successful in finding new positions at VGH. As their permanent positions come to an end, the nurses will be given re-deployment numbers to use in applying for positions at other hospitals.

Loblaws to slash 500 jobs
Hamilton Spectator, October 16

About 500 jobs are being cut at Loblaw Companies Ltd., beginning Monday, the company has confirmed. The cuts are being made in corporate offices and include executives, members of management and employees across divisions and functions that support Loblaws, Shoppers Drug Mart and other retail stores, including No Frills, Joe Fresh and Zehrs.

‘Start listening to workers’: Labour rally takes aim at Nova Scotia Liberals
CBC News, October 14

About 50 people gathered in downtown Halifax on Saturday to protest what they’re calling anti-union attacks from the provincial government. The Nova Scotia Federation of Labour organized the rally in front of The Westin Nova Scotian hotel, where the Nova Scotia Liberal Party was holding its annual general meeting. “The reason for the rally is to let Stephen McNeil know we’re not going to stop following him. What he needs to do is start listening to workers,” said Jason MacLean, the president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU).

Low wages, shrinking workforce leaves booming B.C. restaurants without chefs
Globe and Mail, October 15

“The millennial generation … even the older chefs I’m seeing and the older cooks I’m seeing, are just saying ‘We don’t want to do this anymore. That’s not the career we want. That’s not how hard we want to work.’ It’s certainly not an easy industry,” he said. “I think there needs to be some levelling in the playing field … to get that wage up to a living wage, which at the end of the day entices more people to be in the industry.”

New library structure threatens jobs, union says
Star Phoenix, October 16

A new organizational structure at the Saskatoon Public Library has employees jittery about their futures. About 40 library employees and supporters rallied on Monday outside City Hall, where Yvonne Siermacheski of CUPE local 2669 said more than 20 positions were eliminated this year and it’s possible all workers will have to reapply to work at one of the library branches to stay employed by April. The new “community led service model” is vague and the public hasn’t been told about the organizational structure that will accompany it, she said. “There is no guarantee that all staff will have a position.”

Not Everyone Is Happy About Amazon Building Its Second Headquarters In Their Towns
Buzzfeed, October 17

“Amazon has a history of getting a lot of corporate welfare in cities where it’s built warehouses and data centers,” Erin Johansson, research director with Jobs With Justice, a workers’ advocacy group in Washington, DC, that has signed the letter, told BuzzFeed News. They’re a highly profitable company and shouldn’t need a handout, but they take advantage of cities’ willingness to do that,” she added. “That’s been their M.O. We see an opportunity to say, ‘We don’t want a repeat of that.”

22528376_1715476258496945_1061413218505674698_nMontreal protesters don surgical masks, scarves over new face-covering law
CBC News, October 20

Protesters wearing surgical masks and scarves over their faces lined up Friday along a Montreal bus route to rally against a new law that would force anyone using public services, including Muslim women wearing a niqab or burka, to uncover their faces. Bill 62, passed on Wednesday in Quebec’s National Assembly, prohibits public-sector employees — including doctors, teachers and daycare employees — from covering their faces. It also obliges anyone seeking public services like taking public transit to have uncovered faces. “STM bus drivers don’t want that responsibility. When it comes to applying the law, they want clear directives from the STM,” union spokesperson Ronald Boisrond said in an interview this week.

Gov’t says it has right to legislate public-sector pay freeze
Winnipeg Sun, October 17

More than a dozen unions, representing 110,000 government workers, nurses, teachers and others, filed a court challenge in July that said the government’s plan undermines collective bargaining rights and violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The unions’ statement of claim asks the Court of Queen’s Bench for an injunction against the bill, which has not yet taken effect, and a declaration that the wage freeze is a violation of the right to collective bargaining.

Understaffing in care homes ‘puts everyone in harm’s way’
The Province, October 18

Care aides are among the highest injured of all workers in the province. And in health care, they suffer the highest rate of injury due to patient and resident violence. These are shocking facts by anyone’s standards. And when you look at the province’s seniors’ care homes, in particular, they have become some of the most dangerous workplaces in B.C., both in terms of violence and strain-related injuries. Why? Because there are not enough staff in most long-term care facilities to provide the level of dignified, timely and compassionate care that every senior deserves. And that every care aide wants to provide.

Now more than ever, it’s time for Bill C 27 to go
CUPE, October 19

One year ago today, Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled Bill C‑27 in the House of Commons, and today, amidst a stunning wave of revelations about the minister’s conflicts of interest, CUPE is reiterating its call for this bad legislation to be revoked. “Not only would Bill C‑27 allow employers to break promises made to workers and retirees about their pensions,” said CUPE National President Mark Hancock. “We’ve learned this week that, since Minister Morneau never placed his assets in Morneau Shepell in a blind trust, he stood to personally benefit from selling out the retirement security of Canadian workers.”

No, Chipotle isn’t paying workers too much
Slate, October 19

Chipotle had its stock downgraded on Wednesday by an analyst at Bank of America. It makes sense. The chain has endured a tough time. Health-safety issues that had scared customers away resurfaced this summer. Bill Ackman—the erratic, hypomanic hedge-fund manager—has amassed a large stake in the company, which is often a contrary indicator. Chipotle’s latest game-changing product—queso!—hasn’t met a rapturous reception. In this golden age of lunch, competition is intense, and consumers have fantastic, affordable choices. The stock has fallen about 20 percent in the past year—a year in which the S&P 500 rose 20 percent.

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