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Labour news round-up: Hudak attacks unions, OPSEU fights back and Superstore employees may go on strike

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Tory policy vote approves no mandatory union membership

After Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak’s relentless attack on unionized workers, it came as no surprise that the party voted in favour of a policy that would eliminate the mandatory collection of union dues at this past weekend’s convention. What was surprising was that the vote was divided, with just 53 per cent of delegates voting in favour of the motion. Some party members feared that this and other anti-worker policies would drive union members away from the party.

Tim Hudak’s labour policies targeted by documentary

The Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union (OPSEU) launched a 20-minute documentary in London, Ontario, which demonstrates the havoc that Tim Hudak’s proposed labour legislation will wreak on Ontario’s workers. The film features stories from the United States where similar legislation has been implemented. One of the elements of the legislation has meant that states with so-called “Right to Work” legislation pay workers, on average, $1500 less. The documentary’s premiere aired at the same time as the convention of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario

Public sector unions brace for tough, divisive bargaining

With 17 of 27 federal public service contracts expiring in 2014, the leaders of 18 unions representing public sector workers held a summit in Montreal on Tuesday, Sept. 24 to develop a common strategy. The union leaders are anticipating that bargaining will be difficult, as some government officials have already announced their intention to overhaul sick days and replace them with short-term disability leaves and challenge mandatory dues collection. With bargaining happening a year in advance of the next federal election, some fear that bargaining will be influenced by the Tories’ electoral strategy.

Union representing Real Canadian Superstore employees in Alberta serves strike notice

8,500 Real Canadian Superstore workers from across Alberta have served notice for their intent to strike, with a strike date set for October 6. According to the union, UFCW Local 401, Loblaw’s is proposing to cut wages by 30-40%. Employees rejected this offer and are demanding that workers be given more opportunity to work more hours, as the vast majority of workers work 20 hours a week or less.

Vale mine death plea disappoints union

An Ontario court ruled that mining giant Vale must pay just over $1 million for the 2011 death of two workers in Sudbury. The sum was the largest fine ever levied by the Occupational Health and Safety Act but Steelworkers Local 6500 representative Mike Bond said that the fine isn’t high enough to act as a deterrent for Vale. Over the last four-month reporting period, Vale’s profits were $424 million. Since the deaths, Vale says that they have made 31 changes to improve safety.

Firefighters’ union says cost-cutting putting safety at risk

Firefighters in the City of Winnipeg have criticized cutbacks that have reduced the number of trucks and available firefighters to try and curb overtime costs. Alex Forrest, president of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg argues that these cutbacks will place public safety at risk. In a letter to Mayor Sam Katz and all city councilors, Forrest said that the decision not only increases the potential to public danger, but it is also a violation of the collective agreement. One of the changes proposed is that fire trucks will not be dispatched until a fire is confirmed, slowing response times.
Hospital Employees' Union picket outside Royal Columbian Hospital

On Sept. 18, 20 hospital cleaners and food workers in Burnaby, BC, staged an information picket outside the Royal Columbian Hospital. The workers, represented by the Hospital Employees’ Union, are seeking a strike mandate after negotiations with Aramark and Compass group stalled on wages. Workers argue that their wages are not enough to earn a living and many must consider taking on a second job. Hospital service workers were privatized by the BC government 10 years ago. Workers have been in bargaining with both companies for more than a year.

Action continues against Richtree's union busting

After the Toronto Eaton Centre Richtree restaurant closed in January, laid off workers were surprised to see it re-open in September with 200 new workers. The union that formerly represented them was no longer there, and laid off workers were not rehired. Unite HERE Local 75 filed a grievance against Richtree on the day of its reopening and a rally was held to support the workers. Hundreds of people protested outside of the restaurant, including city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.

Jim Flaherty’s EI dilemma

Toronto Star columnist Carol Goar criticized how Jim Flaherty has managed the Employment Insurance file. She identified that Flaherty is overseeing year-over-year budget surpluses, despite having pledged to reform EI to ensure that this would not happen. Goar estimates that this year’s surplus will surpass $9 billion while demand for premiums have stagnated, in part due to the Tories’ policies that have restricted the amount of people drawing claims on the program. Rather than expand access to EI, Flaherty has announced that he will instead freeze EI premiums, a move that Goar predicts, will likely result in the eventual justification to further cut the program at election time in 2015.

Unifor interview series at Rank and File 

Last week, Rank and File.ca posted its series of interviews with various Unifor members about what they are expecting of the new union. The series features interviews with Bruce Allen, Vice-President of Unifor Local 199 and Niagara Region Labour Council VP, presidential candidate Lindsay Hinshelwood, Unifor staff person Roxanne Dubois, former CEP president Dave Coles and Unifor Local 2000 Vice-President Gary Engler.


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