The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is expressing concern over the termination of Steve Boyd from his position as track and field head coach at Queen’s University.
Boyd says he was fired for speaking out against the University of Guelph’s handling of misconduct allegations against former coach Dave Scott-Thomas.
While Boyd did not hold an academic post at Queen’s, CAUT Executive Director David Robinson says universities have a special obligation to respect the exercise of free expression, within the law, of all members of the campus community.
“Free expression is crucial to the university,” states Robinson. “Academic freedom cannot thrive in an environment where free expression is suppressed.”
Montreal – February 20, 2020 – Workers at the Première Moisson bakery in the Baie-d’Urfé suburb of Montreal are the newest members of UFCW Local 501 after recently saying “Yes!” to joining the union.
Ottawa – February 20, 2020 – UFCW Local 175 members working at Imperial Parking in Ottawa have ratified a new three-year collective agreement that provides wage gains, higher premiums, and better benefits.
Unifor was disappointed to watch new scab trailers arrive at the Co-op Refinery on Friday, February 14. The trailers’ arrival comes just one day after Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) agreed to begin talks with assistance of a provincially-appointed mediator to end the 11-week lockout.
“We have a great deal of confidence in mediator Vince Ready but our experience with FCL gives us little confidence this employer is willing to bargain,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “We’ve seen too many tactics to prolong this dispute, but we will proceed in good faith and hope the mediation process will be a turning point.”
The start of FCL’s bad faith actions goes back to the construction of scab housing camps on refinery property during bargaining in the Spring of 2019. Negotiations broke down quickly when the company demanded massive concessions to the pension plan it promised to protect just three years earlier. On December 5, the company locked out more than 730 members of Local 594.
During the dispute, FCL has relied on police to force supplies through picket lines and has benefitted from a largely invisible premier, says Dias.
“What incentive has FCL had to bargain? Police are doing their dirty work and the profits Unifor members have helped generate are being turned against them,” said Dias.
It was only after aggressive policing that included the arrest of Unifor’s National President did Unifor escalate to secondary pickets and enhanced onsite picket lines with activists from across the country.
When FCL re-joined Unifor at the bargaining table briefly last month, it brought a long list of new concessions.
Local 594 President Kevin Bittman says the tactics deployed by the employer during bargaining and now during the lockout have shown the true colours of FCL CEO Scott Banda and his allies on the FCL board of directors.
“Imagine how our members felt, locked out in frigid weather for ten weeks now and they have to move aside for new trailers to house the scabs who are stealing their wages?” said Kevin Bittman, President of Unifor Local 594. “We just hope Premier Scott Moe is also watching and can appreciate what we are dealing with.”
Bittman says that if mediation fails, there is still another important tool at the premier’s disposal: binding arbitration.
Unlike mediated talks, parties to binding arbitration are bound by the proposals of an independent arbitrator. Binding arbitration raises the stakes for stubborn employers to bargain a resolution of their choosing, rather than being saddled with what an arbitrator decides is final.
Although it is not Unifor’s first choice to resolve difficult negotiations, binding arbitration is commonly used as the last resort in extended labour disputes that don’t otherwise have a hope of being resolved.
Under conservative premier Brian Pallister in Manitoba, the Labour Relations Act calls for binding arbitration after a dispute has gone on for longer than 60 days.
“It’s time to stop letting Co-op off the hook. Binding arbitration must be considered if mediation fails this month,” said Dias.
Workers at an Oshawa warehouse for Del Monte have voted overwhelmingly to join Unifor, following certification vote ordered by the Labour Board because of the company’s actions.
“This vote really shows the power of workers to stand up and resist the intimidation tactics of their employer,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.
“Here we have a company that aggressively tried to keep its workers form unionizing, and yet they stood together and collectively gained a voice in the workplace. This is a real example of workers showing true solidarity.”
The 250 workers, employed by Premier Implementation Solutions to work in the canning company’s warehouse, voted 94 per cent in favour of joining Unifor.
The Ontario Labour Relations Board ordered the February 18 vote after the employer fired two workers who were active in the organizing drive. Those workers received a Unifor-negotiated settlement from the company before the vote was held.
Unifor organizers immediately stepped up communications with the diverse workforce at the warehouse, including flyers and other materials in English, Punjabi and Tagalog, the primary languages spoken in the warehouse.
“These workers were not going to be intimidated, and showed great resolve in voting to join Unifor,” said Unifor Organizing Director Kellie Scanlan. “I am proud to welcome them to our union.”
Members of Local 40-N at Agropur Dairy Cooperative in Bedford, Nova Scotia, ratified a strong collective agreement following a round of bargaining the members viewed as respectful and collaborative.
“It’s encouraging to see an employer develop a good relationship with its workers and treat bargaining as a way to improve the workplace, keep workers happy and safe, and make their business a place where people want to work,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “I congratulate the bargaining team for their hard work in securing a deal that clearly resonated with the membership.”
The four-year deal was ratified at 89 per cent and sees wage increases totalling nearly 10 per cent over the life of the agreement. Members secured improvements to scheduling practices, earlier qualification for the top vacation tier, enhancements to pension bridging funds, increases to uniform allowances, and Paid Education Leave (PEL).
Importantly, the agreement also includes five days of Paid Domestic Violence Leave – two more days than what is offered under legislation in Nova Scotia. Paid leave offers potentially life-saving support to those fleeing a violent situation.
“We’re proud of this agreement, for the improvements and protections our members will see over the next few years, and pleased we didn’t take any concessions,” said Doug Gray, President of Unifor Local 40-N. “Our committee heard problems and concerns from the membership and came into bargaining to find solutions. I want to thank the whole bargaining committee for their hard work and congratulate them on a solid outcome.”
The agreement covers 150 members who work as delivery truck drivers, mechanics, laboratory technicians, electricians, power engineers, production, and shipping workers.
Unifor Quebec Director Renaud Gagné is currently meeting with local union officers as part of his annual regional tour, which includes stops in more than 11 Quebec cities from late January to mid-April. During visits to Montreal, Montreal’s South Shore and North Shore, Gatineau, Amos, Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke, Quebec City, Saguenay, Baie-Comeau and Rimouski, he has had the opportunity to meet with over 350 members.
The aim of this annual tour of the regions is to take stock of the union’s recent activities, not only at the national level, but also regionally, including, for example, developments in the aluminum file, the signing of the Canada-United-States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), the situation in the forestry industry and issues related to the working conditions of fishermen’s helpers.
Various presentations have been made, notably on the issue of camera surveillance in the workplace, human rights, a quiz and recommendations for recognizing false news as well as an update from the Solidarity Fund QFL. During these meetings, the floor is often given over to members so they can share what’s going on in their workplaces and talk about the issues they’re facing.
These regional meetings are also a good opportunity for us to meet with local media, who are always eager to share our news.
Unions and others who believe the public good should come ahead of corporate profits must continue to fight to protect public services.
The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) expresses solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en Nation and its Hereditary Chiefs who are insisting upon respect for their autonomy and sovereignty over their unceded land. Forceful intervention by the police will not resolve this dispute. Respectful and meaningful nation-to-nation dialogue, consistent with the principles of reconciliation, is needed.
CAUT calls upon the federal government to ensure that peaceful negotiations are conducted, and that Indigenous rights – which are enshrined in our Constitution, in court rulings, and through the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – are upheld. Governments and communities must acknowledge these rights and the Wet'suwet'en Nation’s inherent right to self-governance. CAUT offers its support and remains committed to reconciliation and a meaningful, peaceful path towards decolonization.