This week in labour: Take that, austerity!

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In addition to all this great news, you should know that this is World Health Workers Week! That means that if you see your doctor, nurse, physical therapist, hospital cleaner, security guard, occupational therapist -- whatever their position -- maybe don't forget to smile and wave and say "Thank you for keeping me alive!"

Here are some of the big stories in Canadian Labour this week:

 

  • Alberta's superior court, the Court of Queen's Bench has ruled that two Alberta laws that interfere with the right of public-sector workers to go on strike is in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In his decision, rendered last Friday, Justice Thomas cited the historic Supreme Court decision in Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v. Saskatchewan, which confirmed that workers have a constitutional right to strike.

  • General Motors Co. is putting major pressure on Unifor to scrap its defined benefit pension plan in favour of the less desirable defined contribution plan. The union represents hourly paid workers at two GM plants in Ontario, but if they agree to this deal, it will extend to workers at both FCA Canada (formerly Chrysler) and Ford, because of pattern bargaining agreements.

  • Save Canada Post! Several Ontario cities are slated for community mailboxes this year, including London, Milton, Whitby and St. Thomas. Campaigners from London Ontario are lobbying to have their city councillors join more than 510 municipal councils that have passed resolutions against Canada Post's service cuts.

  • Toronto's Crown can workers are still on strike! This week the Canadian Labour Congress joined the fight, calling for a national boycott of canned beer, in support of crown workers who have been on the picket lines for 19 months. If you're a beer drinker, you might want to refresh your memory on how to drink beer and support striking workers.

  • The Nova Scotia Federation of Labour announced on Thursday that they believe the austerity budget proposed by the provincial Liberal's will hurt Nova Scotia's economy while doing nothing to create good jobs.

  • Contract negotiations between Halifax Water and CUPE Locals 1431 and 227 have broken off, and will soon be in a legal lockout/strike position. Main bargaining issues are wages and benefits.

  • In their current round of provincial negotiations, Ontario education workers have given their union a sweeping 93 per cent strike mandate if a resolution cannot reached at the bargaining table. The parties have been meeting since the fall of 2014 and have so far been unable to reach agreement on a long list of items.

  • Also in the Ontario education sector, high school teachers in Durham Region may be the first of many Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) bargaining units to go on strike if they don't reach a deal by April 20th. Like other education workers, the teachers negotiate some of their contract terms centrally, while other issues are addressed at local bargaining tables in each school district. This is the first time this process has been used in Ontario.

Ella Bedard is rabble'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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