This week in labour: Unions gear up for a summer struggle

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Photo: Flickr/Chris Yakimov

June 1 signalled the beginning of summer, and this one is shaping up to be hot with unrest.

With protests and strikes across the country and a federal election on its way, workers will be pounding the pavement to make their priorities known.

You heard it here first: this is going to be a protest summer. 


  • Monday June 1 was Injured Workers' Day. In Ontario, events included a lively march from Queen's Park to the Ministry of Labour with roughly 300 people in attendance. The marchers then went on to the Steelworkers Hall, where the Ontario Network of Injured Worker Groups and the Ontario Federation of Labour co-sponsored a two-day conference celebrating 100 years of workers compensation. The conference concluded that the system is being dismantled and wrote to Premier Kathleen Wynne requesting an urgent meeting.

  • That wasn't all that happened in Ontario on June 1. Monday was a big labour day at Queen's Park. While injured workers rallied outside and cab drivers honked and slowed down traffic to protest UberX, striking Crown Holdings workers held a press conference inside. Joined by labour movement leaders like CLC President Hassan Yussuff, the striking workers called on the Ontario government to help them end their 21-month long labour dispute. 

  • The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made a recommendation that all public servants be educated on the history and legacy of Aboriginal peoples, residential schools, treaties and Aboriginal rights. The Public Service Alliance of Canada says it welcomes the recommendation.

  • A union drive has been reignited at the Toyota plants in Cambridge and Woodstock, Ontario. Unifor initiated the organizing drive in 2013 but the campaign was withdrawn. When Toyota announced last month that it would no longer be building the Corolla in Canada, the workers decided to rev the campaign up again. 

  • Premier Wynne will propose election reform legislation that would potentially prevent third-party advertising during campaigns. Such legislation would make the type of advertisements paid for by unions during the "Stop Hudak" campaign illegal. Similar legislation was used to shut down an Alberta Federation of Labour website during the Alberta provincial elections. 

  • On Monday, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternations released a report that pegs the living wage in Halifax at double the current minimum wage. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has suggested that small business owners should boycott the United Way, which commissioned the report, for advocating raising the minimum wage.

  • Also in Halifax, workers at Halifax Water finished their third week on the picket line. CUPE Nova Scotia President Danny Cavanaugh wonders why the public utility is "pleading poverty," while at the same time paying a security firm $28,000 a day to monitor the strikers.

  • Two USW Locals have ratified their collective agreements with the Hudbay mining company in Flin Flon, Manitoba. Meanwhile, 180 engineers and machinists, members of IAM Local 1848 remain on strike. Operations at the plant continue but at a diminished capacity.

  • Notable: CBC ombudsman found that an interview on The Exchange with Amanda Lang during a contract dispute between CN and Unifor failed to reflect the union's perspective.

  • Health-care workers who transport patients to and from medical appointments at hospitals and clinics in the Lower Mainland, B.C. are on strike. Picket lines and job actions are restricted by a labour board ruling, which has deemed their work an essential service.

  • Meanwhile, a new report finds that the B.C.'s home-care system is in crisis due to critical underfunding.

  • Some good news for pensioners: Air Canada is on its way to fixing its pension insolvency problems, and will no longer need relief funds from the federal government.


Ella Bedard is's labour intern and an associate editor at GUTS Canadian Feminist Magazine. She has written about labour issues for and the Halifax Media Co-op and is the co-producer of the radio documentary The Amelie: Canadian Refugee Policy and the Story of the 1987 Boat People


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