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A bi-weekly feature recapping the top stories from the labour movement. Established in 1976, The Canadian Association of Labour Media (CALM) provides training, news and online services to a network of union activists and editors. We aim to strengthen the labour movement by building media literacy. Follow us on Twitter @CanLabourMedia.

Labour news this week: Quebec court upholds farm workers' right to bargain, migrant workers detained in Vancouver, and more

| March 15, 2013
Labour news this week: Quebec court upholds farm workers' right to bargain, migrant workers detained in Vancouver, and more

Seasonal farm workers have right to unionize, rules Quebec Superior Court

The Superior Court of Quebec has upheld a lower court ruling that struck down as unconstitutional a section of the Quebec Labour Code that denied collective bargaining rights to workers on farms that have three or fewer employees working on a year-round basis. The law, challenged by the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada union, had kept thousands of seasonal workers on Quebec farms from being able to effectively unionize and bargain.

Agricultural workers in many provinces are granted fewer workplace protections than employees in other sectors. In Alberta, for instance, they aren't even covered by the province's Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Border service police round up dozens of undocumented workers in Vancouver

Migrant solidarity activists estimate that at least 29 construction workers were arrested and detained in Vancouver on Wednesday after dozens of officers from the Canadian Border Services Agency raided their worksites and found they did not have work permits. The officers were accompanied by film crews for the reality TV show Border Security. (Needless to say, the Canadian employer who hired those labourers was not taken away in handcuffs.)

The same day, no televised battalion of law enforcers descended on construction sites in Vancouver to root out incidents of employers breaking health, safety or employment rights laws.

Supporters of the detained workers, including their Canadian spouses and children, held a protest yesterday outside the Vancouver office of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Outrage is also building over the case of a Surrey, B.C. immigrant who has been denied re-entry to Canada after a routine stint in the U.S. in his job as a trucker, in what appears to be an innocent misunderstanding about the paperwork requirements following his trip to India for a wedding earlier this winter. 

Opposition growing to proposed Saskatchewan Employment Act

More labour groups spoke out this week to denounce the Saskatchewan government's proposed new employment act, Bill 85, that would replace all existing workplace and employment legislation in the province.

Labour advocates say the changes brought by the bill are so sweeping, and its timeline for review so rushed, that no one's had time to do a thorough analysis of what all of its implications would be for workers and businesses. On first reading, it does not look good for workers.

The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union wrote this week that the bill would "weaken unions by interfering with bargaining and dues remittance, restricting strikes, forcing small Locals to run costly audits, allowing for the decertification of a union at any time and removing successor rights for some of the most vulnerable workers. It also eliminates the eight-hour workday, meal breaks and employees' right to refuse overtime in excess of 44 hours per week, as well as undercutting weekends and public holidays."

The National Union of Public and General Employees says that "thousands of employees in Saskatchewan could lose their union rights and protections... An employee who gives policy advice, is involved in budget planning or implementation, or business strategic planning, for example, will not be allowed to belong to a union." 

Porter Airline workers block passengers and fuel delivery, attract more support from labour allies

Striking workers who re-fuel airplanes for Porter Airlines were joined by dozens of supporters this week in blocking the ferry service that brings passengers and fuel to the Toronto Island airport. They staged two blockades Sunday and Monday, lasting from 50 minutes to two hours.

The workers have been on strike since early January, in an increasingly bitter dispute over low pay and a lengthy list and health and safety concerns.

Also this week, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association made donations to the Porter workers' strike fund. 

Target's arrival in Canada greeted by union protest

The United Food and Commercial Workers Canada union (UFCW) is targeting American-based chain retail giant Target in a public campaign to pressure the company for fair treatment of workers as it opens outlets in hundreds of former Zellers locations across Canada.

Shoppers outside the new stores were greeted last weekend by "activists with information flyers to remind the community that the newest retail department store in their neighbourhood has been anything but neighbourly to tens of thousands of Zellers workers who were denied a chance to reclaim their jobs."

The union is asking supporters to send a message to Target through its campaign website at www.targetfairness.ca. 

Other headlines of note

Austerity anger: Thousands protest outside EU summit in Brussels

CCPA Alternative Budget calls on feds to stop austerity

My Exchange With Senator Eaton On Bill C-377 (The Union Transparency Tax Bill)

Tories put public servants' sick leave in sights

Bon Appetit from Stephen Harper! New campaign takes on cuts to public services

Shaw broke employment law with contract workers

Two assaults against cab drivers have taxi union calling for special protection

Striking airport workers mark six months

Nonprofits are major employers: study

For 20-Somethings, the No-Limits, No-Pay Job 

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