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Labour news this week: EI changes kick in, proposed new banking rules endorse status quo, fight continues for Ontario teachers

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Unemployed workers face tightened EI rules

Unemployed Canadians are facing stricter rules for accessing and keeping employment insurance benefits after the Harper government's new rules for EI took effect on January 6th.

The new rules say that claimants must be prepared to accept jobs that pay less and are outside their previous occupation. "Frequent" EI claimants are required to accept any job within a one-hour commute, even if it pays up to 30 percent less than their previous job.

Last Friday, hundreds protested outside a Conservative MP's office in Moncton, New Brunswick over the changes.

The Canadian Labour Congress estimates that there are 5.3 unemployed people for every job vacancy in Canada.

New global rules to let banks continue with risky status quo

The Basel Committee -- a body formed to develop new global banking rules to reign in the sort of risky behaviour that led to the crash of 2008 -- released its final proposal this week for new rules setting the minimum amount of cash and liquid assets banks must hold.

The final proposed rules are reportedly so watered down that most international banks already meet them. Those that don't will be given until 2019 to do so.

Workers of the world, prepare to bail out the big banks once more... 


Strife continues in Ontario schools following imposition of contracts by government

Teachers in Ontario aren't backing down in their face-off with the government following last week's imposition of contracts by Education Minister Laurel Broten -- contracts that have teachers locked in for the next two years.

The union representing elementary school teachers had planned a one-day walk-out protest today, but called off the move this morning after the province's labour relations board ruled it would be unlawful

High school teachers continue to boycott extracurricular activities, and had planned their own one-day protest for January 16th.

The teachers' and education workers' unions have been picketing Liberal leadership debates all week, and plan to attend a massive protest rally outside the Liberal convention on January 26th in Toronto. They're seeking assurances from candidates that they'll never again suspend bargaining and arbitration rights for the province's workers, as the McGuinty government has done with Bill 115. 


New ILO report and execution in Saudi Arabia put spotlight on domestic workers

The global exploitation of domestic workers came under media scrutiny this week with a new report on the topic released by the International Labour Organization. The report details how the vast majority of the world's 50 to 100 million domestic workers -- overwhelmingly female, and often migrants from poorer countries -- are not covered by standard labor laws in the countries where they work.

A former domestic worker was executed in Saudi Arabia on January 9th after being found guilty, through a dubious legal process, of killing an infant she had cared for while a teenager. The case highlights the extremely vulnerable status of migrant domestic workers in Saudi Arabia.

Migrant domestic workers in Canada are employed through the temporary foreign worker program, which is the subject of an excellent in-depth series published this week on The Tyee. 


NHL lockout ends

The NHL lockout of hockey players came to end on Sunday when players and owners reached a deal on the framework for a collective agreement that will extend to 2020.

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