Labour News Update: December 4, 2017

Postmedia, Torstar deal will see 36 community papers closed | Keeping transit public in the age of austerity | Winnipeg transit cuts | Alberta NDP signals austerity | Royal Bank profits a record $11.5B | Bill Morneau neck deep in scandal | The price of workplace deaths | Gender pay gap persists, census data shows | Racialized Canadians continue to face barriers to decent work | Workplace violence plagues personal support workers | College instructors who say they can’t fit material into school year suspended for ‘insubordination’ | CUPE Local 79 votes out president Tim Maguire | Strike Black Friday at |


Keeping Transit Public in the Age of Austerity, November 28

Since launching the Keep Transit Public campaign, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) has focused attention on the failures of privatization in the public sector and countered the common line that private companies manage services better. Following on other anti-privatization campaigns springing up across the province and country (Hydro, long-term care, education) ATU has couched its argument in the economic language of efficiency. This includes pointing to the costs of privatization and arguing that a public transit system will be cheaper in the long-run and secure ‘good’ jobs for workers.

Hamilton transit in the Age of Austerity, November 29

Like all transit systems in the province, the HSR was the victim of city budget cuts in the 1990s stemming from provincial cuts under Premier Mike Harris and others. A startling statistic is that the total number of buses on the street was higher in the 1980s than it is now, despite the city having grown in size. This unsurprisingly has seen a drop in ridership from 29 million trips per year in the late 1980s to roughly 22 million trips per year today. In recent years the city has started to put more money back into the system, but it has never recovered from these cuts.

Ontario Food Terminal workers strike and win, November 30

After staying strong on the picket line, and building solidarity that helped shut down the Ontario Food Terminal, Ippolito workers have reached a deal. Workers with Teamsters Local 419 had been striking for paid sick days, fair wages, job security, and respect on the workplace.

How workers organized to win big in Ontario, December 1

This was not an insular or top-down campaign, but one predicated on building grassroots leadership across sectors.The third strength came from the thoughtful, skilled, intellectually curious, and compassionate people involved in the organizing. The movement culture they cultivated cares about the people involved in it, aims to build people up, and gives workers the chance to shape the movement in a way that reflects their own experiences and communities. The final lesson from the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign is not simply that winning a $15 minimum wage is achievable, but that it can be transformative. The campaign’s efforts to raise the floor of labor standards is about building the capacity, confidence, and power of all workers to go further and fight for what they truly deserve.

In Other News

‘The alarm bells should go off:’ Postmedia, Torstar deal will see 36 community papers closed
Financial Post, November 27

Canada’s two largest newspaper chains will close three-dozen community and free commuter newspapers after striking a deal to swap newspapers struggling with declining print advertising revenue. Postmedia Network Inc. and Torstar Corp. announced Monday they traded 41 publications and plan to close 36 papers in places where they compete. The shuttering of 34 papers in Southern Ontario, one in Winnipeg and one in Vancouver will eliminate 291 jobs.

Royal Bank quarterly profit up 12%, enough to push annual profit to record $11.5B
CBC News, November 29

Profit at the Royal Bank of Canada increased by 12 per cent in its fiscal fourth quarter, enough to push its annual net income to an all-time record of $11.47 billion. Canada’s largest lender earned $2.84 billion in the three-month period ending on Oct. 31, led by double-digit increases in personal and commercial banking, wealth management and capital markets. “We had a great year in 2017, with record earnings of $11.5 billion, driven by robust growth across our businesses,” RBC president and CEO Dave McKay said in a statement Wednesday.

Alberta NDP says ‘recession behind us,’ wants unions to agree to wage freeze
Edmonton Journal, November 28

The public sector needs to pitch in and reject raises in current contract negotiations if Alberta’s economy is going to continue its path to recovery, the finance minister says. Joe Ceci released second-quarter fiscal results Tuesday, and it was the rosiest picture the province has presented in years. The economy is projected to grow four per cent in 2017, up from the 2.6 per cent forecast at budget. Since mid-2016, 70,000 full-time jobs have been added, the bulk of which are in the private sector, and higher income positions are returning. “Alberta is back in the saddle,” Ceci said.

Bill Morneau’s father sold 200K shares in family company days before tax changes announced
Global News, November 30

As Finance Minister Bill Morneau is pressed in the House of Commons for details on the circumstances of the sale of shares he held in his family business, Morneau Shepell Inc., Global News has analyzed insider trading reports of the company and discovered that Morneau’s father sold a significant number of shares days before his son announced a major tax policy change. Regulatory filings show that William F. Morneau Sr. sold 100,000 shares of Morneau Sheppell Inc. (MSI) at a price of $15.20 per share on Nov. 23, 2015, and sold another 100,000 shares on Dec 3, 2015, at a price of $15 a share.

24129466_1755911301120107_9041566986698076821_nThe price of death
CBC News, November 30

Drawing from a sample of more than 250 cases from across Canada, CBC News found fines varied widely across jurisdictions, and the median fine for the country as a whole was $97,500. In only a handful of cases, someone did time behind bars. For some families, the search for justice is never-ending as they struggle with fines they believe are too low and penalties they argue will not be a catalyst to make other workplaces safer. Here are their stories.

Gender pay gap persists, census data shows
Toronto Star, November 29

Women continue to earn far less than men in Canada, the latest census numbers show. The wage gap persisted across all fields with women holding a bachelor’s degree having a median income of $68,342 in 2016, while men with the same level of education earned $82,082, according to Statistics Canada data released Wednesday. That $13,740 difference is enough to buy a small car – and take the family for a sunny vacation.

Racialized Canadians continue to face barriers to decent work
BehindtheNumbers, November 29

Census data released by Statistics Canada today show us that racialized Canadians are more than willing to work but the barriers to finding employment that existed in 2005 remain firmly in place. The labour force participation rate for racialized workers in 2016 was 66.5 per cent — almost two percentage points higher than non-racialized Canadians (64.8 per cent). That reflects a strong willingness to work. But 9.2 per cent of racialized Canadians were unemployed in 2016, compared to 7.3 per cent of non-racialized Canadians. This gap has narrowed slightly since 2005, but only because the unemployment rate of non-racialized Canadians has risen.

Workplace violence plagues personal support workers
The Star, November 27

Though research is limited, experts say PSWs face high rates of workplace violence, some of which is related to critical levels of understaffing in settings like long-term care or community living residences. There is no data available on a provincial or national level to analyze the relationship between a PSW’s working conditions and their health, according to a study published in June 2017 in the BMC Health Services Research journal. A recent poll conducted for the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) found 68 per cent of nurses and PSWs across the province have experienced physical violence at least once on the job over the past year.

CUPE Local 79 votes out president Tim Maguire
Toronto Star, November 29

Tim Maguire is blaming his loss as president of the City of Toronto inside workers’ union on members’ feelings of “instability” after years of contract concessions and budget restraint. In a shock to many CUPE Local 79 members — including himself, Maguire admitted — his six-year run as president ended Tuesday when Dave Mitchell, from the city’s transportation division, got more votes in the local’s election. Maguire said in an interview Wednesday he is proud of his work rallying roughly 20,000 members to fight cost-cutting by the mayoral administrations of Rob Ford and then John Tory, and reaching out to community organizations and other “allies” to pressure city council to maintain or increase city services and jobs. But he acknowledged lingering resentment over their 2016 concession-laden contract, accepted by members grudgingly after a work-to-rule campaign amid the spectre of a strike or lockout, which followed a 2012 deal that was also a bitter pill.

All Winnipeg needs for Christmas is fair transit fare
CBC News, November 26

This is the time of year when people are busy running around getting ready for the holidays. But instead of giving gifts, the City of Winnipeg has proposed making it harder for some people to get around by hiking bus fare by 25 cents and cutting bus routes. “It’s only 25 cents,” some people will say. “There are other ways to get around.” But speaking from personal experience, I can say that for a lot of people, that 25 cents really matters — and there aren’t good options for getting around.

College instructors who say they can’t fit material into school year suspended for ‘insubordination’
Ottawa Citizen, November 29

Four instructors in La Cité Collégiale’s respiratory therapy program have been suspended for “insubordination” after they balked at squeezing the remaining year’s material into a condensed school calendar following a five-week strike. The francophone college wanted the instructors to sign a document guaranteeing that all the necessary competencies required of the program’s 77 students would be met while still finishing the school year by the end of April, said their union.

24173798_1754333621277875_8852280322439825443_oStatistics Canada: Less Than Half of All Canadians Aged 25-54 Now Have Full-Time, Year-Round Jobs
Pressprogress, November 30

New census data from Statistics Canada suggests the quality of Canadian jobs continues to fall while precarious work continues to rise. Most disturbingly, StatCan reports less than half of all Canadian workers (49.8%) between the ages of 25 and 54 worked full-time, full-year jobs in 2015. According to StatCan, “the period from 2005 to 2015 saw an overall shift from full-time, full-year employment to part-time or part-year work,” something they attribute to “social and economic changes, such as the 2008-2009 financial crisis,” as well as “a shift from traditional to more flexible work schedules.

Brutal life working in Amazon warehouse
Daily Mirror, November 26

It is a far cry from the singing, smiling faces that fill Amazon’s Christmas adverts on TV. Its army of 24,000 unhappy elves are paid as little as seven pence per item to help pack and deliver each one across the UK. My final shift was two days ago, Black Friday – when millions of Brits logged on to help founder Jeff Bezos earn an extra £1.8billion overnight. But the firm has been hit by a series of scandals, prompting our undercover probe. And employees at UK warehouses have told of sleeping in tents and under bridges just to get to work on time.

Strike Friday at
Jacobin, November 29

Black Friday 2016 saw increase their orders by 1.1 million. But its executives had less to celebrate this Black Friday — workers at the Castel San Giovanni hub launched their first strike. The facility is Amazon’s largest in Italy, where the retail giant employs up to four thousand workers, less than half of whom have a permanent contract. The strike — called by the three largest Italian unions, the Italian General Confederation of Labor (CGIL), the Italian Confederation of Workers’ Trade Unions (CISL), and the Italian Labor Union (UIL) — saw about half the permanent workers and some precarious workers crossing arms. They demanded better working conditions, higher wages, and permanent contracts for all.

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