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Labour news this week: RBC temp foreign worker backlash forces promise of reform; second major blow to EI recipients kicks in

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Backlash on RBC temporary foreign worker case forces government promise to reform program

Prime Minister Harper has said his government is drafting reforms to the temporary foreign worker program to ensure it is only used to temporarily fill spots in fields with "absolute and acute" domestic labour shortages. (Which has always been the stated purpose of the program. Perhaps he'll admit the reforms his government introduced just last year are almost certain to ensure the exact opposite?)

His remarks come in the wake of public outcry over the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) bringing in temp foreign workers to train for dozens of the bank's Canada-based jobs that are soon to be outsourced overseas.

A group of B.C. construction union pension funds has said it will pull more than $1 billion of its investments out of RBC unless the bank drops its outsourcing plan.

Harper government's second major blow to EI recipients kicks in

A measure buried in the 2012 federal budget that will slash benefits payouts for the majority of new Employment Insurance recipients kicked in this week.

"Employment insurance rates are set by formulas so complex they defy explanation," reports Toronto Star columnist Carol Goar. "But the essence of this change is that the government has pushed the threshold to qualify for the most generous form of EI treatment out of reach for most Canadians."

"Until Sunday anyone living in a region with an unemployment rate above 8 per cent was eligible. Now the benchmark is a 13.1-per-cent jobless rate. Only a handful of regions qualify." 

Ontario teachers' boycott of extracurricular duties was "unlawful strike," rules labour board

Despite extracurricular activities being outside the contractual duties of teachers in Ontario, the province's labour relations board has ruled that the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario advised illegal strike action by urging its members to stop participating in extracurriculars during the bitter labour dispute that unfolded this winter.

"By encouraging members to no longer perform any of these activities, ETFO (was) interfering with the normal activities of a board -- these activities have been routinely offered for long periods of time," says the ruling.

The union plans to challenge the labour board's ruling in court. 

Report shines light on impact of federal public service job cuts

The Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives has released a report showing which federal departments and services will be hardest hit by the Conservative government's job cuts.

It finds that Statistics Canada will lose 35 per cent of its workforce, Human Resources and Skills Development and Veterans Affairs will each lose about a quarter, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Aboriginal Affairs will lose roughly one fifth. 

Cross-country survey of nurses suggests high burnout, understaffing

Stress and burnout among nurses in Canadian hospitals came into the spotlight this week with CBC's "Rate my Hospital" series. The media outlet polled about 4,500 registered nurses from 257 hospitals across the country in an online survey.

Nearly 40 per cent of nurses who responded said they felt burnt out to a high degree, and 60 per cent said staffing levels in their workplace are too low for them to properly do their jobs.

Other headlines of note

Don't believe the hype! RBC layoffs not about foreigners vs. Canadians

Employer shuts down palliative care facility to avoid union contract, says OPSEU

Canada Post Suicides: At Least 7 Montreal Workers Have Taken Their Lives In Recent Years

OLRB cites unfair labour practices - Ontario Labour Relations Board orders immediate certification of SEIU Healthcare as union for Sunrise of Aurora

For unionists, Iraq's oil war rages on

Thousands of Workers Rally in Jakarta for Better Health Care, Wages

Immigrant Workers Strike Hits Warehouse Sector in Italy

Republicans see Chamber of Commerce guest worker deal as too small and worker-friendly

We can't eradicate poverty until we eradicate slavery 

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