Labour News Update: December 18, 2017

Alberta’s Bill 30 | The high cost of low corporate taxes | WSIB reverses majority of denied GE Peterborough cancer claims | Union communications strategies and the #MeToo campaign | Hunter Harrison takes a dirt nap | B.C. needs a $15 minimum wage now! | The Gendered And Racialized Wage Gap | Halifax fire department admits to systemic gender discrimination | Woman who says her employer docked pay for washroom breaks will have human rights hearing | The Fight for a $15 Minimum Wage in Saskatchewan | WSIB to abolish policy that slashed benefits for thousands | The Phoenix pay system has become Ottawa’s Scrooge | Winnipeg council hops on board Uber | NATFA | Scumbag of the year |

From RankandFile.ca

Alberta’s Bill 30: Psychological Injuries, Deeming, and RT
RankandFile.ca, December 15

What is the effect of the workers’ compensation changes in Alberta’s Bill 30 (An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans) on receiving and maintaining compensation? Bill 30 makes it harder for the WCB to deem wages by requiring that “the Board may [deem a worker’s earnings] only after the Board has demonstrated it has made every reasonable effort to support the worker in the worker’s search for suitable employment.” This does not preclude deeming, but it sets some limits around it: “every reasonable effort” is a high bar.

Nominate your 2017 Scumbag of the Year
RankandFile.ca, December 14

It’s that wonderful time of year again where we gather with friends, family, and co-workers to swap stories about the scumbag employers making our lives miserable. As per tradition, we at RankandFile.ca take this time of year to bestow our coveted Scumbag of The Year award on the one special scumbag who made workers’ lives hell in 2017.

B.C. needs a $15 minimum wage now!
RankandFile.ca, December 13

Many competitor jurisdictions will be at a $15 minimum wage or higher in the very near future. Alberta will be at $15 by October, 2018, Ontario by January, 2019. All businesses in Seattle will (given a stable exchange rate) be paying over the equivalent of $15 Canadian per hour by 2019 as well, with many well above that. Opponents of raising the minimum wage or advocates for going so slow as to make any gains barely felt are swimming against the tide of economic evidence. Increasing the minimum wage is beneficial for workers and the economy. It is a boost that British Columbia sorely needs.

Union communications strategies and the #MeToo campaign
RankandFile.ca, December 12

Are union communicators prepared for the moment that #metoo involves one of their union’s leaders? What are the crisis communications plans for unions if someone (or many people) make a claim of sexual assault or harassment against someone currently or formerly involved with the union, whether in leadership or as staff? These questions were posed at a CALM mini-conference session at the end of November, and generally, the responses revealed that unions are not ready for this moment, or this movement.

regulators overreactedIn Other News

The high cost of low corporate taxes
Toronto Star, December 14

or every dollar corporations pay to the Canadian government in income tax, people pay $3.50. The proportion of the public budget funded by personal income taxes has never been greater. At a time when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made tax fairness a centrepiece of his government, the Toronto Star and Corporate Knights magazine spent six months poring over tax data to determine how much income tax corporations are really paying. We found the amount of tax most big companies pay has been dropping as a proportion of their profits for years, and not only because the corporate tax rate has been cut repeatedly. Canada’s largest corporations use complex techniques and tax loopholes to reduce their taxes significantly below the official corporate tax rate set by the government.

Hunter Harrison, railway executive at CP and CN, dies at 73Toronto Star, December 17

Hunter Harrison, the plain-spoken, gruff American who rewrote the Canadian railroading book during his years heading both of this country’s largest railways, has died. He was 73. CSX Corp., the American railroad Harrison began leading earlier this year, issued a statement on Saturday announcing his death. The company attributed his death to “unexpectedly severe complications from a recent illness,” the same reason offered when Harrison formally went on medical leave earlier this week.

Phoenix plays Scrooge: Single mom gets $89 paycheque before Christmas
Ottawa Citizen, December 14

The Phoenix pay system has become Ottawa’s Scrooge. “They don’t understand the repercussions,” Polomeno said Tuesday. “I don’t know how I’m going to get Christmas for my kids.”Polomeno, 33, is a paralegal for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, employed by the federal government for 11 years. She has a three-year-old son and five-year-old daughter. for the next two pay periods, she’ll have to live with $89.27 paycheques because the government is now looking to recoup some emergency salary advances Polomeno received more than a year ago.
Polomeno learned Monday about the two piddly paycheques. She logged onto her computer to check her pay status and saw the pending deposit. “I started crying,” she said. “It was awful.”

Halifax fire department admits to systemic gender discrimination
CBC News, December 12

Female firefighters in Halifax have faced systemic historic gender discrimination at work, according to a settlement involving the city, the Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Service and former firefighter Liane Tessier. CBC News has learned the city plans to publicly apologise to Tessier during a media conference at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission on Monday. The resolution signals the end of a 12-year legal battle by 53-year old Tessier, whose case was initially dismissed by the commission in 2012. She took the commission to court for mishandling her claim. The settlement coincided with a slew of sexual harassment allegations in Hollywood that sparked a broader conversation about women’s treatment in the workplace.

WSIB reverses majority of denied GE Peterborough cancer claims
Toronto Star, December 17

After a decades-long battle for compensation, the voices of ailing General Electric Peterborough workers are finally being heard. About 64 per cent of previously denied claims of occupational disease made by former employees at one of Canada’s oldest industrial operations have now been overturned, the Star has learned. The reversals are part of an ongoing review by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, which committed to re-open 250 rejected claims for a range of devastating illnesses, following a Star investigation into hazardous working conditions at the Peterborough factory. Of the 47 files reviewed to date, the WSIB has now approved 30.

Supreme Court rules employees can allege workplace harassment against people from other companies
CBC News, December 15

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled a B.C. worker who was harassed at a worksite by a contractor for another company can file a human rights complaint. According to the ruling, “the code is not limited to protecting employees solely from discriminatory harassment by their superiors in the workplace.…This may include discrimination by their co‑workers, even when those co‑workers have a different employer.” University of British Columbia law professor Margot Young says the decision reflects the modern workforce, where employees are often brought in on individual contracts and have no formal employment relationship.

Winnipeg council passes contentious bylaw; ride-hailing services could begin as early as March 1
Winnipeg Free Press, December 13

In a 10-6 vote, council Wednesday approved the Vehicles For Hire bylaw that overhauls the regulation of the taxi industry and allows services like Uber and Lyft to start operation March 1. The bylaw was prompted by the Pallister government’s decision last March to bring more competition to the industry by disbanding the Manitoba Taxicab Board and turning over regulation, at least within Winnipeg, to city hall. Other municipalities already regulate the taxi industry in their own communities. The legislature passed the enabling legislation Nov. 9 and set a deadline of March 1 for Winnipeg to take over regulation of the industry.

A Deficit Worth Worrying About: The Gendered And Racialized Wage Gap
Behindthenumbers.ca, December 13

Gaps in pay for women and racialized groups persist. Ditto for immigrants and Indigenous peoples. Consider Toronto, Canada’s largest city and one of its most diverse. More than half of Toronto’s population are immigrants. Exactly 50 per cent of the city’s population identifies as a visible minority. Maybe in the next Census, Statistics Canada will swap “visible minority” for “racialized,” seeing as 50 per cent is not a minority.

WSIB to abolish policy that slashed benefits for thousands
Toronto Star, December 15

The provincial workers’ compensation board will reverse a controversial policy that slashed benefits by blaming injuries on “pre-existing conditions,” even if they had no physical impact on workers before they got hurt on the job, the Star has learned. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board will also review 4,500 claims made by workers whose compensation may have been unfairly reduced as a result of the policy.

100 years of Canadian income taxes
Toronto Star, December 14

Canada’s top corporations often pay far less than the official average corporate tax rate. As revealed by a Toronto Star/Corporate Knights investigation, Canadian companies have used complex techniques and loopholes to reduce their tax bills by $62.9 billion over the past six years. As corporate tax rates have dropped, people have had to make up the difference. In 2015-2016, for every dollar that corporations paid in tax, the Canadian public paid $3.50. You have to go back 65 years to 1952 to find the last year that people and corporations paid the same amount in income tax. Since then, the gap has steadily grown.

Woman who says her employer docked pay for washroom breaks will have human rights hearing
Toronto Star, December 13

A southwestern Ontario woman is challenging her employer at a human rights tribunal hearing after she says her pay was docked because of washroom breaks she needs for her disability. Laurie Bates filed the complaint against Presstran Industries, a St. Thomas-based subsidiary of auto parts manufacturer Magna International, claiming her supervisors embarrassed her and docked her wages because she has irritable bowel syndrome. “I just felt as if I was being made a mockery of,” Bates told the Star in an interview.

World’s richest 0.1% have boosted their wealth by as much as poorest half
The Guardian, December 14

The richest 0.1% of the world’s population have increased their combined wealth by as much as the poorest 50% – or 3.8 billion people – since 1980, according to a report detailing the widening gap between the very rich and poor. The World Inequality Report, published on Thursday by French economist Thomas Piketty, warned that inequality had ballooned to “extreme levels” in some countries and said the problem would only get worse unless governments took coordinated action to increase taxes and prevent tax avoidance.

25075209_10155027236837256_2191018093448870828_oThe Fight for a $15 Minimum Wage in Saskatchewan
CCPA, December 13

In The Fight for a $15 Minimum Wage in Saskatchewan, University of Regina Business professor Dr. Andrew Stevens explodes many of the more prevalent myths about the minimum wage and minimum wage workers. Dr. Stevens shows that minimum wage workers can no longer be perceived as mostly teenagers working part-time in a small family-run business. Rather, minimum wage earners in the province are older, disproportionately female and many work for large, corporate employers. As Dr. Stevens argues, these realities need to guide us in any debate over a $15 per hour minimum wage rather than the myths and distortions that seem to regularly dominate arguments over raising the minimum wage in Saskatchewan.

Progressive trade requires more than just titles and talking points
Toronto Star, December 11

Since the adoption of NAFTA, almost 25 years ago, Canada has become the most-sued government in the developed world. We’ve been sued almost 40 times under NAFTA’s Chapter 11, dishing out close to $250 million in public money to private corporations. That’s a serious assault on the public purse, but more importantly on the right of governments in Canada to exercise and uphold their own democratic decision-making. (The U.S., by contrast, has never been successfully sued under Chapter 11.) NAFTA has also cost us countless manufacturing jobs and put public resources like water, and our environment, in serious jeopardy.

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