Top labour stories this week: From Europe's general strike to migrant workers' plight in Canada

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It's been a significant week for the labour movement worldwide, with an unprecedented multi-national general strike yesterday in Europe. So we feel like it's an appropriate time for us to launch a new weekly feature, recapping the top stories from the labour movement. Each week top labour stories will be compiled and summarized by our new labour reporter, Lori Theresa Waller. If you have a suggestion for next week's list, contact lori[at]rabble[dot]ca 


European workers march by the millions against austerity 

Millions of European workers in 23 countries -- most notably Spain, Portugal, Italy, France and Belgium -- walked off the job Wednesday in a day of action against austerity. The event is reported to be the largest European strike in history.  


Ontario teachers take job action

After weekend talks between Ontario public school teacher unions and the government fizzled out with no progress, high school teachers in 20 boards began job action by ceasing to perform any work falling outside regular classroom teaching duties. Ontario's Education Minister claimed locking out teachers was the 'only tool' available to school boards to ensure student saftety; meanwhile, a Hamiltion teachers' rep called the Minister a liar. For background on this dispute, see the OSSTF's description of Bill 115


Feds reviewing foreign temporary worker program; B.C. unions go to court over mining case

The controversy over a government-approved plan by a mining company to import over 200 temporary workers from China deepened last week. Two B.C. unions have filed a motion asking the Federal Court to overturn the government's decision to issue permits for the temporary foreign workers. Last Thursday, the federal minister responsible for human resources announced that the exploitive Temporary Foreign Worker Program was under review, acknowledging that there "there are some problems" with the scheme. Meanwhile, four Mexican workers who participated in the program filed a human rights complaint against their former employer, a Tim Hortons franchise owner, for abuse.


Conservative bill targeting unions under fire

Bill C-377, a Conservative MP bill that would put onerous financial reporting requirements on unions, continued to receive heavy criticism from labour groups and opposition MPs. The federal privacy commissioner weighed in on the bill too, calling it "a significant privacy intrusion." According to the International Union of Operating Engineers, the bill's requirements could cause unions' administrative costs for their pension and benefit plans to increase by up to 20 percent.


Public sector workers in strike positions across B.C.

Support staff at Simon Fraser University and Vancouver Community College staged a one-day walkout last week, and staff at Douglas College went on strike Wednesday. Rotating strike actions by B.C.'s community social service workers also continued this week. The potential looms for strike action by the province's hospital workers, nurses, health science professionals and community health care workers. As members of the Facilities Bargaining Association, these workers voted 96 per cent in favour of strike action last weekend.


NHL lockout drags on; talks stalled with no agreement in sight

The NHL lockout is now entering its ninth week, and no signs of hope for an agreement between players and owners are on the horizon. On Sunday, talks between the two parties lasted only 90 minutes before falling apart amidst disagreement over player contract terms. No new bargaining sessions were planned, as of November 13. For a progressive, alternative look at the NHL lockout, check out this piece from the sports and politics blog Left Hook. 


Lori Theresa Waller is's new labour reporter. 


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