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Strikes! Posties! UP!: Labour's summer in review

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B.C. Teachers strike continues through end of the school year

Teachers in British Columbia continued their strike through the end of the academic year, cancelling final exams for students and ending classes several weeks early. The B.C. Teachers' Federation (B.C.TF) voted for a strike on June 10th, trying to end deadlock at the bargaining table and respond to a partial lock-out imposed by the B.C. government. Teachers are fighting to reinstate class size and support provisions the government unilaterally - and illegally - stripped from their contracts in 2002, as well as increase funding for their positions. After a four-year wage freeze, B.C. teachers currently make less than the national average, and funding per student is the lowest in Canada. Despite the strike, premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Peter Fassbender have not yet agreed to discuss the B.C.TF's demands, instead making trips to the Labour Relations Board to get more and more of the teachers' work deemed "essential." One B.C. teacher, Christine Adams, wrote a public letter to the B.C. Premier which quickly spread through on social media. In it, Adams tears into the government's actions, calling their fight with teachers the first step in instituting a "two-tiered education system...that might work well for you and your well-paid staff, but not for the majority of us." 

Opposition to Canada Post's plan to end home delivery mounts 

Results of a recent survey by Stratcom proved what many were already thinking – Canadians disagree with Canada Post's plan to phase out home delivery service. Sixty percent of the survey's respondents opposed the changes, and as of June 1st, 70 municipalities in Canada have publicly declared their opposition to the cuts as well. Canada Post announced the first 11 municipalities to lose service in February, affecting 96,600 homes from Calgary to Halifax. The loss of home delivery would be a major change for Canadians and put thousands of postal worker jobs at risk. But CUPW president Denis Lemelin sees signs of hope as communities push back against the changes, like a public demonstration in Halifax on June 24. "The public outcry began the moment these cuts were announced by Canada Post and approved by the Conservatives," he said. "Lawn signs are going up all across the country. People are organizing. Municipalities are taking action."

Wal-Mart workers celebrate Supreme Court decision 

Former workers from the Jonquière, Quebec Wal-Mart could celebrate a victory in June after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Wal-Mart broke the law in 2004. Wal-Mart shut down their Jonquière location shortly after employees there formed a union with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). The Supreme Court decision said the store closure violated Quebec law forbidding any change to working conditions from the time a union is accredited until the first collective agreement is signed. While the Court cannot compel Wal-Mart to re-open its store, it sent the case to an arbitrator who will likely force the company to pay damages to the 190 workers who were laid off. Despite it's notoriously anti-union policies in the United States and elsewhere, Wal-Mart claimed they did not close the store because of the unionization. Paul Meinema, UFCW president, disagrees. In a statement released after the decision he said, "year after year Wal-Mart uses dirty tricks to stop its associates from exercising their democratic right to join a union, and that is exactly what happened with the employees at the Jonquière store."

New labour movement forum launched at rabble.ca

rabble.ca has started a new series that examines the current challenges of Canada's labour movement. UP! Canadian Labour Rising is curated by Nora Loreto, a CALM editor currently on leave. The series features writing about organizing, strategy and tactics, grassroots movements, and offers perspectives from rank and file workers, labour leaders, and progressive writers and analysts. Its latest article makes a case for why workers and unions should unite against the latest generation of trade pacts, in view of the threat they pose to labour rights, public services and social programs, and positive government intervention in the economy. 

As one-year anniversary of Lac Megantic disaster passes, workers still being blamed and corporate profits still priority

The one-year anniversary of the Lac Megantic oil train disaster was commemorated in early July, with marches, vigils, and renewed demands for the government to take safety more seriously, which has dragged its heels on reforms in response to the disaster. In 2014, the federal governmentgave in to industry lobbying and removed the requirement that oil trains have someone in attendance at all times. The United Steelworkers also are setting up a fund to cover the legal costs of two workers charged in connection with the oil exposition, calling their conviction and trial a "smokescreen" that distracts from the real culprits – the federal government and the MM&A Railway company. In 2012, the Canadian government granted the company authorization to run trains operated by just one worker, which coincided with the company starting to carry oil, part of a trend of massively increased shipment of fossil fuels by rail. "We are appealing to people's generosity to help ensure that these workers are not made scapegoats, while those who are truly responsible for this tragedy come out of it without a scratch," said Daniel Roy, director of Steelworker's Quebec.

New smoking gun document reveals Harper's plans to privatize Canada Post

An access to information document obtained by Blacklock's Reporter has revealed that the Prime Minister's Office did a secret study into privatization just months before Canada Post announced their plan to cut services and jobs and increase prices, raising the criticism that the Conservatives misled the public about their aims. These revelations build on the news that Canada Post had previously been studying the potential benefits of an expansion of services, rather than a cut, and had looked at joining many other countries around the world in developing postal banking. One month after Harper received the privatization report, in September 2013, all work on the postal banking project stopped, and a month later Canada Post announced their plans. 

Temporary Foreign Worker program reforms decried as "band-aid measures"

In response to media attention on Canadians losing their jobs because of migrant workers, Conservative Minister Jason Kenney announced a number of reforms to the Temporary Foreign Workers program in late June. But many critics argue that the changes are band-aid measures that do nothing to change the exploitation of migrant workers. Harsha Walia writes that such reforms "cater to reactionary sentiments to privilege Canadians and ‘get rid of migrant workers' without addressing the structural abuse inherent to the program." Migrant workers can now be removed more quickly, will continued to be hitched to a single employer, and won't have equal access to social services or labour protection. Over the last few years, Canada has moved to a situation in which it accepts more migrants under temporary permits than permanent immigrants. Migrant rights advocates have been arguing that there should be clear pathways to citizenship and that making the case for migrant workers can only strengthen workers across the board, as the Canadian government continues to attack workers rights in their drive to maintain cheap labor and mechanisms to control workers.

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