This week's labour news: Labour hits the books

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It's freezing cold in most of Canada right now, and the temperature at a few Canadian universities has been chilly too as negotiations continue.

It's not just universities where labour is in action but this week's labour round up will start in the post-secondary environment. Here's the labour news:

  • Toronto's two biggest universities were on the brink of striking this week. More than 300 students, teachers, and contract faculty rallied on Thursday at the University of Toronto's Simcoe Hall, where bargaining was taking place between CUPE 3902 and the university's administration. The strike deadline was Thursday at midnight for members of CUPE 3902 Unit 1, which represents 6,000 teaching assistants, fellows, and instructors at the University of Toronto. At 2:45 am on Friday, the bargain committee reached a tentative agreement. The general membership will vote today on whether or not to ratify the contract.
  • CUPE 3903, which represents 3,700 teaching assistants and contract faculty at York University will go on strike next week if an agreement is not reached by a strike deadline on Tuesday. Demands include more job security for contract faculty teach, who 64 per cent of York’s undergraduate courses, and fairer tuition fees for international graduate students.
  • Don't forget the Trent University Teaching Assistants! Members of CUPE 3908 were also ready to go on strike today if an agreement was not reached by the midnight strike deadline.  After 19 hours of bargaining, a tentative agreement was reached. A strike has been averted until the membership votes on ratification.
  • Also from Ontario's post-secondary sector, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) has launched a campaign to draw attention to the university's increased reliance on contract faculty in Ontario. The campaign was launched on Wednesday, in solidarity with U.S.-led National Adjunct Walkout Day.
  • In the Northwest Territories, two components of the Union of Northern Workers continue to walk the picket line. Workers with the Town of Hay River and the Fort Smith Housing Authority have been on strike since early February. Both groups are represented by the Union of Northern Workers, a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. Talks resumed Thursday between the Housing Authority and the union after the mediation officer invited both parties back to the bargaining table to resume negotiations. However, Town of Hay River workers walked away from the table on Wednesday, after being offered “an ultimatum with no room to bargain fairly.
  • The Nova Scotia labour movement called for a boycott of the Chronicle Herald after the newspaper locked-out 13 pressroom workers last week. The Halifax Media Co-op reports that the lockout occurred even though the Halifax Typographical Union (HTU) wants to return to the negotiating table and is willing to consider further monetary concessions.
  • The Save Canada Post campaign is going strong. Among other efforts, Montreal and Hamilton continue to block the installation of community mail boxes. You can find out more about the campaigns here.
  • BC's Labour Board has rejected the Hospital Union Employee (HUE) claim that workers at West Vancouver’s Inglewood care home, 80 per cent of whom are people of colour, are being paid lower wages than white homecare workers at other institutions. Most of the workers are women from the Phillipines, while 80 per cent of workers at the other locations are white. The union says that wages have not really increased at the institution in 20 years. HUE were also hoping to negotiate a first contract for the workers they represent at Inglewood when CareCorp, the company which provides contract staff at institution, announced that it will be ending its contract there, according to Northshore news.
  • Deviating from standard bargaining practice, Air Canada has applied for conciliation in its negotiations with Unifor Local 2002, which represents 4,100 Customer Sales and Service Agents at the airline. Conciliation is usually used as a last resort when negotiations reach an impasse. "We're only 14 days into bargaining and they're already pressing the panic button," said Leslie Dias, lead negotiator for Local 2002. "In all my years at Air Canada, I've never seen management so quick to declare an impasse."
  • MiningWatch Canada and the United Steelworkers have released a report showing that Canadian diplomats in Mexico supported repression against a peaceful protest and were complicit in a Toronto-based company's efforts to avoid redressing violated land use contracts and poor working conditions.

Those are a few of the events happening in Canadian Labour. We'll be back with more next week.

Ella Bedard is rabble.ca's labour intern and an associate editor at GUTS Canadian Feminist Magazine. She has written about labour issues for Dominion.ca and the Halifax Media Co-op and is the co-producer of the radio documentary The Amelie: Canadian Refugee Policy and the Story of the 1987 Boat People. 

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