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Unifor advocacy helps win domestic violence leave for NS workers

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After two years of dedicated activism by Unifor, Nova Scotia became the latest province to provide paid protected leave for survivors of democratic violence.

This followed a similar and recent decision in Newfoundland and Labrador - also after a lengthy campaign by the labour movement, including Unifor and women’s rights groups. In both provinces, the NDP joined in the campaign.

“Our members, some of whom are survivors of domestic violence themselves, fought long and hard for this in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Lana Payne, Atlantic Regional Director. “Leaving a violent relationship is known to be the most dangerous time for women. Having paid and protected leave and extended job security will make a big difference for survivors, perhaps all the difference.”

Both provinces have provided three days of paid leave. Unifor had advocated for a minimum of 10 days, or at least for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador to follow the lead of New Brunswick which set the standard this year when the Gallant government announced five paid days.

Unifor has bargained this paid leave with many employers but made it a priority in its government advocacy work several years ago in an effort to extend this protection to all workers.

According to a study done by Western University researchers, 80 per cent of domestic violence victims report that their work performance was negatively affected. Absenteeism and poor work performance can leave victims vulnerable to discipline and even job loss.

“Domestic violence can happen to anyone, no matter your economic circumstances, and having protected leave ensures women don’t have to worry about their jobs when fleeing a violent home,” said Koren Beaman, chair of the Atlantic Region Women’s Committee and a Women’s Advocate at MWF Local 1, the Irving Shipyard. “Being a survivor myself, this means so much to me. I wanted to see protected leave in every province across Canada and I am glad to see the hard work of Unifor activists and allies has paid off as we have achieved it throughout Atlantic Canada.”

Paid Domestic Violence Leave gives employees job protection and financial support to seek lives free of violence. Unifor is also committed to addressing violence against women at the bargaining table and has negotiated to have more than 350 Women’s Advocates as well as paid domestic violence leave in workplaces across Canada.

Will Canada sever economic growth from carbon emissions?

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Since the dawn of the industrial revolution some 250 years ago, economic growth has been dependent upon the growth of fossil fuel emissions. The historically unprecedented economic growth that is the product of industrial development has drastically improved the quality of human life. People with higher incomes live longer, healthier, more secure and altogether happier lives. However, as we’ve learned in the past half century, the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is the prime cause of runaway climate change, which poses a threat to civilization itself.

The challenge, then, is to ‘decouple’ economic growth from greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Historically, for an economy to increase its national income it would also have to combust more fossil fuel. The relationship between GDP growth and GHG emissions must be broken, and a combination of technological and policy factors are making it possible (for the first time in history) to increase GDP while decreasing greenhouse gases.

Some societies have already begun this decoupling (see the chart below). Since 2005, the United States has managed to add 21 percent to its GDP while shrinking its carbon emissions by 13 percent. A variety of technological and policy factors appear to be at play, including vehicle emissions standards, a reduced reliance on coal-powered electricity, the shale revolution and the explosion of renewable energies like wind and solar. The European Union, too, has severed growth from emissions, having increased its GDP by 16 percent since 2005 while lowering its carbon footprint by 11 percent.

In Canada, the Liberal Government’s carbon tax plan will commence in 2019 and the hope is that it will decouple GDP growth from greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Climate Accord mandates a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from 2005 levels by 2030. Canada has become more efficient with the use of carbon, to be sure, having added just three percent to its emissions since 2005 while adding 23 percent to its GDP, but it has still not severed the link between the two. The hope is that the continued growth in renewable energies in combination with smart climate policy will decouple GDP growth from GHG emissions.

Contributor: Jordan Brennan

Ontario Regional Council delegates commit to continued advocacy

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Delegates to the 2018 Ontario Regional Council made it clear that they represent a bold movement to defend workers’ rights in the province.

“We are going to move forward to implement a working peoples’ agenda in this province and stop Ford in his tracks,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “If it’s not our role to lead and give hope, to fight and fix a wrong, then why are we here?”

Operating in opposition to a Conservative government that already rolled back hard-won rights, Unifor leadership and speakers at the Council emphasized the strength of members to organize and win. In a moving show of solidarity and commitment to action, members unanimously passed a resolution to strengthen mobilization efforts in support of Local 222 members and all workers affected by GM’s threat to close the Oshawa facility.

Fight for Workers’ Rights

In response to the conservative rollback of workers’ rights and minimum wage through Bill 47, delegates adopted a provincial bargaining strategy to bargain for decent work.

As a result of the bargaining directive a $15 minimum wage, fair scheduling, paid personal emergency leave and equal pay for equal work will be presented at every Unifor bargaining table.

To mark the passing of the recommendation, the more than 900 ORC delegates marched to the Minster of Labour’s office to announce the new program.

Watch a video of the media conference here.

“We are giving notice to employers– that you may have hid behind this government and pushed for lower standards for your workers, but we will bargain back those labour standards,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director.

Support from Solidarity Partners

Delegates heard messages of support and struggle from an impressive roster of speakers.  

Andrea Horwath, Ontario New Democratic Party Leader, Tracey Ramsey, MP for Essex (NDP) and Unifor Local 200 member and Jennifer French, MPP for Oshawa (NDP) all shared solidarity with the Oshawa community, with Ramsay encouraging Unifor members to become directly involved in electoral politics.

An exciting partnership with OPSEU was revealed by Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President, and Jerry Dias. 

Diversity and Community

The two-day Council was preceded by a provincial President’s Meeting, industry council meetings and ORC standing committee meetings, all coming together to reflect and plan for the year ahead.

At the Presidents’ Meeting, ORC Chairperson Scott McIlmoyle led an exciting discussion about current issues and upcoming challenges for local unions, saying, “the year ahead presents a challenge for Unifor members from every corner of this province. But looking around this room I know that together we will win.”

A Young Workers’ Conference also welcomed more than 50 young activists for the day before Council. During the council, members also had the opportunity to attend a round-table discussion on human rights, racism and Islamophobia in Ontario. Over caucuses, delegates were able to learn more about the work of Unifor’s five equity committees. Following council adjournment, an allies caucus brought together activists working in this various realms.

A Strong Leadership Team

Elections were held for ten positions at the Ontario Regional Council and the following members joined the ORC executive and standing committees:

  • Stephanie Haskell (Local 938), Vice Chairperson
  • Carly Finch (Local 87-M), Member at Large
  • Jamie Martinez (Local 1090), Member at Large
  • Jim Fling (Local 34-O), Member at Large
  • Sandy Knight (Local 584), Health & Safety Committee
  • Dharshan Rajasinham (Local 6006), Young Workers Committee
  • Kelly Janes (Local 1120), EI/CPP Committee
  • Dan Cushenan (Local 504), EI/CPP Committee
  • Kathleen Brooks (Local 8300), Workers’ Compensation Committee
  • Jessica Ridgwell (Local 1285), Employee and Family Assistance Committee

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