Labour News Update: November 20, 2017

Liberals use back-to-work legislation to end Ontario college strike | Paradise Papers | Alberta NDP signals austerity | Winnipeg mayor cuts transit jobs, hikes fares | Bill 148 scheduling and equal pay amendments | Tories pledge to delay $15 minimum wage to 2022 | Stelco pension plan now administered by Morneau Shepell | Manitoba Tory legislation | Ontario small businesses get a tax cut | Phoenix pay fiasco | Worker abuse is rampant, and sexual harassment is just the start | Omnitrax, Ottawa trade multimillion-dollar legal punches over unrepaired Churchill rail line, port failure | Loblaw closing 22 stores | River Rock casino organizes | Alberta’s Bill 19 a missed opportunity on violence prevention | Ippolito strike ends in victory |


College faculty deserve a fair deal not back-to-work legislation, November 18

If the Wynne Liberals valued our community college system, this statement from teachers should have sent a clear message: there are deep and abiding grievances with the status quo. Instead, the Wynne Liberals tabled back-to-work legislation, making a mockery of the collective bargaining process. The employer now has no reason to settle this dispute, and college teachers have little reason to believe this government has their interests, or the interests of Ontario’s students, at heart. An inflamed situation has now been made immeasurably worse.

NAFTA Talks: What’s the Deal?, November 17

NAFTA’s renegotiation should be an opportunity to end its quarter-century legacy of job loss and wage suppression. Longtime fair trade advocates warn, however, that without increased public pressure, Trump could end up making NAFTA even worse for working people. Rather than put good-paying jobs, better wages, and human rights at the center of NAFTA’s renegotiation, as unions and others have demanded, big corporations are pushing to “modernize” NAFTA in ways that strengthen corporate power.

Union victory at River Rock Casino Resort, November 16

When nearly 1,000 workers at River Rock Casino unionized with BCGEU near the end of September, their average wage increase was 19 per cent. But for some classifications it was high as 57 per cent. “He was getting a 10 dollar an hour wage increase,” Smith continued, “which would now allow him to support his family to maybe not work a second or third job.”

Alberta’s Bill 19 a missed opportunity on violence prevention, November 15

On November 2 Alberta passed Bill 19, An Act to Protect Gas and Convenience Store Workers. This legislation requires customers to pay before pumping in an effort to prevent gas-and-dash injuries as well as increases employers’ obligations around staff safety. Unfortunately, Bill 19 was only a half-measure that leaves workers vulnerable to other, more common forms of workplace violence.

Bosses breaking the law on Remembrance Day, November 14

On Remembrance Day morning, I drove to a gas station near downtown Halifax to fill up the car for a trip to the Annapolis Valley At the cashier’s counter a woman customer said, “wish me luck. I have to work today and it’s going to be busy.” She said she worked as a bartender. The cashier at the counter said, “Yeah, I wish this was a holiday so we’d get extra pay.” I told the cashier and the bartender about the Remembrance Day Act in NS – if they were paid for 15 of the last 30 days, and worked Remembrance Day, they had to get an extra day off with pay.

In Other News

College strike nears end as back-to-work bill passes second reading
Toronto Star, November 19

Bill 178, which puts an end to the five-week-old job action by college instructors and mandates binding mediation-arbitration, was approved 37-18. It was supported by all Liberal and Progressive Conservative MPPs in attendance, with the New Democrats and an independent MPP voting against. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who has come under fire for rejecting moves to pass the legislation immediately, said her party remains opposed to it because it is “anti-worker,” but the stance won’t affect when students return to class.

Canada’s biggest corporations have more than 1,000 subsidiaries in tax havens, report says
Toronto Star, November 15

Canada’s 60 biggest corporations have more than 1,000 subsidiaries in offshore tax havens, depriving government coffers of up to $15 billion annually, according to a new report being published Wednesday. The report, titled “Bay Street and Tax Havens: Curbing Corporate Canada’s Addiction” and prepared by the group Canadians for Tax Fairness, shines a light on one of the legal methods used by big corporations to reduce their taxes — tax havens. “The reality is that most companies do this,” said Diana Gibson, the report’s author. “It’s not illegal, but it should be.”

Former Stock drivers say they are paying the price for whistle-blowing
CBC News, November 17

Two former Stock Transportation drivers say they were “heartbroken” to lose jobs they loved after refusing an order to drive beyond the allowable time limit. But they say they’re happy that the provincial regulator used their information to crack down on the company that ordered them to break the law. “We said it from the get-go — we’ve got to do something,” Kelly Bishop told CBC News about a decision by her and co-worker Andrew LePage to blow the whistle on the company.

‘Tighten our belts’: NDP signals fiscal restraint, reduced spending
Edmonton Journal, November 16

The NDP is signalling a move towards fiscal restraint after warning the province will tighten its purse strings. “Now is the point in the plan where the same steady approach that saw us through the recession is going to see us carefully and compassionately tighten our belts,” said Premier Rachel Notley in a speech at the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) annual convention Thursday at the Shaw Conference Centre. Notley’s speech echoed statements made by Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson at the convention Wednesday. “I won’t mince words — difficult decisions will have to be made and we will have to tighten our belts to return Alberta to fiscal balance,” he told the audience.

Injured Windsor workers call for changes to WSIB compensation program
CBC News, November 15

Shannon DeWit has no car insurance, no phone and no internet. What she does have is the back of a 56-year-old man. The Windsor woman said she was working as a custodian for Chrysler in Windsor when she was injured twice — the first time while on a jitney (a small forklift) and the second time while moving some boxes up stairs. Now the 35-year-old has a degenerative disc disease her doctor says gives her the back pain of a much older man and has kept her from work. DeWit’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board claims were initially approved, but she said the organization has since rejected her benefits claim because they believe the conditions are pre-existing. As a result, she was pushed into poverty last year.

Phoenix pay system should be scrapped completely, union tells Liberal government
Toronto Star, November 14

Give us a year, and we’ll build a working replacement for the trouble-plagued Phoenix pay system, one of the country’s biggest civil service unions told the Trudeau Liberals on Tuesday. Tired of months of repeated promises that the system’s shortcomings would be fixed soon, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) wants the government to scrap the system and start over almost from scratch — a call the government isn’t dismissing out of hand.

DO7cWOsV4AEPzzYOntario NDP calls for arbitration for workers involved in negotiating their first contracts
Toronto Star, November 15

The NDP is calling on the government to introduce arbitration for workers involved in negotiating their first contracts, citing the case of striking staff for a fresh produce company that receives up to $1.7 million in aid through the government from Ontario taxpayers. New Democrat MPP Cheri DiNovo said arbitration would ensure negotiations for a first contract “don’t drag out” and accused the Liberal administration of “subsidizing bad labour practices” at Burlington-based Ippolito Produce.

Winnipeg mayor warns of fare hikes, cuts to 59 transit routes and 120 layoffs
CBC News, November 15

Mayor Brian Bowman is warning of the potential for widespread Winnipeg Transit cuts a week before he presents a draft version of the city’s budget for 2018. The mayor issued a statement Wednesday morning stating Winnipeg Transit may lay off up to 120 drivers, eliminate service on 59 bus routes and hike transit fares by as much as 25 cents to deal with a $10-million funding shortfall he blames on the province. Premier Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservative government announced earlier this year it will no longer cover half of Winnipeg Transit’s operating costs and effectively froze city funding at 2016 levels.

Province moves to boost equal-pay protections for temp agency workers
Toronto Star, November 16

New measures intended to protect vulnerable temp agency, casual, and part-time workers from pay discrimination got a boost Thursday when the province moved to strengthen their provisions and make it harder for employers to violate the spirit of the proposed law. Bill 148, which will update the province’s employment standards and is expected to come into force by the end of the year, was amended Thursday to address widespread concern among workers’ rights advocates that new equal-pay policies would not fulfill their stated purpose: to guarantee parity for workers doing the same job, regardless of employment status.

Stelco pension plans have new administrator
Hamilton Spectator, November 16

Stelco’s five pension plans will be administered by Morneau Shepell, the high-profiled HR consulting and pension management firm founded by federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s father. The announcement Wednesday by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario comes after the regulatory agency last month said the company would take over administrative responsibilities for the Sears Registered Retirement Plan.

Loblaw closing 22 stores
CTV News, November 15

Loblaw Companies Ltd. is closing 22 stores and launching home delivery in two major Canadian cities, ahead of what it believes will be a challenging new year. Loblaw reported that it more than doubled its third-quarter profit compared with a year ago as its results were boosted by the sale of its gas bar business.

Lights Out: The Rise and Fall of CGE Peterborough Part 4: ‘Toxic Legacy’
Global, November 15

Several hundred former Canadian General Electric workers are fighting for compensation for occupational illness. They say they were made sick by their exposure to chemicals while working at the Peterborough factory over the past 50 years. They say those chemicals include solvents, lead and asbestos. Sue James, whose father died after years at CGE, works with a group created to support and organize the claimants. The GE Retirees Advisory Committee issued a report detailing the chemicals and materials used at the plant. “I would say over the years, thousands, and some have never put claims in, some are long gone, so we fight for the 300 plus that are still living with cancer or who have passed away,” James said.

As Liberals rev up $15-an-hour minimum wage, Tories pledge to delay it
Toronto Star, November 14

The Conservatives fired their first salvo of the June 7, 2018 election, promising to gradually phase in the higher minimum wage by 25 cents a year so it would not reach $15 until 2022. “Ontario families deserve a much more reasonable approach,” said Tory MPP John Yakabuski (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke), warning the Liberal plan means “massive job losses across the province.”

Stronger protections needed to fight erratic scheduling, advocates say
Toronto Star, November 15

Ina Labuschagne describes her working life as akin to a juggling act: three part-time jobs plus an assortment of gigs on the side to make ends meet: loading trucks, gardening, snow shovelling. It’s a common state of being, she says, in her Regent Park community. Now, she’s worried the solution is just out of reach. As lawmakers at Queen’s Park prepare to finalize updates to the province’s employment laws, advocates say new scheduling protections contained in Bill 148 — while laudable — do not go far enough. “Fair scheduling is so important for your mental health,” says Labuschagne. “To know what hours you’re going to work, that would be good.”

Omnitrax, Ottawa trade multimillion-dollar legal punches over unrepaired Churchill rail line, port failure
Winnipeg Free Press, November 14

Omnitrax and the federal government doubled down Tuesday in their feud over the damaged rail line to Churchill and its port, accusing each other of sabotaging northern Manitoba in new court filings seeking millions of dollars. In a claim filed Tuesday under the North American Free Trade Agreement, Omnitrax says it will sue the government for $150 million if arbitration doesn’t result in a settlement that sees the railway repaired and transferred alongside the Port of Churchill for a negotiated amount.

Ontario small businesses get a tax cut only months before election
CBC News, November 14

With companies up in arms over a looming hike to Ontario’s minimum wage and an election barely six months away, the Wynne government is offering small businesses a tax cut and new incentives to hire and retain young workers. Ontario will cut its corporate tax rate on the first $500,000 of profits to 3.5 per cent effective Jan. 1, down from the current level of 4.5 per cent, Finance Minister Charles Sousa announced Tuesday.

Worker Abuse Is Rampant, and Sexual Harassment Is Just the Start
Slate, November 13

Well, one case that comes to mind was the allegations against Dominique Strauss Kahn made by a hotel housekeeper. But I was also thinking about the numbers found by the hotel housekeepers union in Chicago, Unite Here. They found a shocking number, almost 60 percent of hotel housekeepers, reports being sexually harassed on the job. They go up to somebody’s room and there’s no one else there, and some guy tries something or is there with no clothes on while they try to do their jobs. This is routine. And the other big category of workers we should talk about are waitresses. A waitress has to be prepared basically all the time to hear remarks on her body. And I have experience with that. I worked as a housekeeper for [Nickel and Dimed] and earned $6/hour. But I also worked as a waitress for the book, and I was a waitress when I was in my late teens. I was much prettier then—though I’m not sure what that has to do with it. It happened all the time. The worst thing is a pat on the butt. And waitresses talk to each other—we’ll say, “Hey, watch out for that one,” but it’s thought of as just a part of the job. It’s like, “Well, do you want a tip?”

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