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Labour news this week: Unions rally behind Spence, investigation of rail worker accident, Ont. imposes contract on teachers

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Labour groups throw support behind Chief Theresa Spence and Idle No More

Several labour groups have come out in support of the indigenous Idle No More movement and the hunger strike of Theresa Spence, Chief of Attawapiskat First Nation. Chief Spence vowed not to eat until Prime Minister Harper agrees to meet directly with her and other First Nations chiefs -- a meeting which today he announced will take place next Friday.

Labour groups including the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Auto Workers union, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers joined scores of indigenous and human rights groups in calling for Harper to meet with Spence immediately. 


Safety board and companies launch investigations into Alberta rail accident that injured three workers

Following a Boxing Day accident in which three workers clearing snow from CN Rail tracks near Edmonton were struck by a train, the federal Transportation Safety Board, Alberta Occupational Health and Safety, CN Rail and A&B Rail Services (the company employing the injured workers) have launched investigations into the incident.

Employees of companies covered by federal labour legislation must work in teams that include spotters who keep an eye out for trains when they are working on tracks. The workers injured last week, by contrast, were covered by Alberta provincial law, which does not require spotters.


Ontario imposes contracts on school teachers

Public school teachers' unions in Ontario were outraged Thursday after Education Minister Laurel Broten used the reviled Bill 115 to impose contracts on the 126,000 teachers and education workers who had not yet reached agreements through collective bargaining with their local school boards. The contracts include a wage freeze and cuts to sick days and other benefits.

Elementary and high school teachers earlier voted in favour of political protests, possibly including walkouts, if the government were to impose contracts as it has now done.

"This impasse was never about pay increases; it is about the democratic right of people in this province to collectively bargain," said the president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario following Minster Broten's announcement.


Top CEOs now earning 235 times more than average worker in Canada

A report released this week by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives finds that the average income of the 50 highest paid chief executive officers in Canada was 235 times that of the average Canadian in 2011. That's a huge widening of the pay gap since 1995, when top CEOs were pocketing about 85 times the average income.


NHL contract talks drag on, approaching January 11 deadline

Talks dragged on between National Hockey League owners and players this week, with *reports that progress was made on several areas of disagreement. The two sides now have one week to settle on a contract in time to preserve a minimum 48-game season.

Players, meanwhile, began voting Thursday to restore their executive board's authority to dissolve the union, a move that would allow them to file an antitrust lawsuit against the league over the lockout. 

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