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UFCW observes Injured Workers Day – June 1, 2020

UFCW Canada -

Toronto – May 30, 2020 – Every year on June 1, UFCW Canada joins with advocates from across Ontario in support of Injured Workers Day by celebrating the health and safety gains won through united action, raising current concerns for today’s workers, and reminding governments that injured workers cannot be ignored.

Co-op Refinery spill highlights dangers of relying on scab workers

Unifor -

REGINA—Unifor Local 594 is extremely disappointed, but not surprised, to learn of the major loss of containment from the Co-op Refinery Complex that occurred on May 22, 2020, that resulted in the contamination of the City of Regina’s sewer system.

“With the Co-op Refinery using inexperienced scab labour to operate an intricate and complex refinery, it’s these types of major incidents that we were afraid of when we were locked out back on December 5, 2019,” said Kevin Bittman, Local 594 President. “I’ve worked at the refinery for 23 years, and windy conditions are not abnormal in Saskatchewan, so Mr. DeLorey’s explanation doesn’t have merit. There is more to this than just weather.”

It was reported in the Leader-Post on May 29, 2020, that the Co-op Refinery is guilty of discharging an “unknown amount” of oil into the City of Regina sewer system. The alarming fact that it was the City of Regina that discovered the spill, and was not reported by the Co-op Refinery, should concern almost everyone.

“Our hardworking members are highly skilled and highly trained for these exact scenarios and it’s clear we are the key to safety at the refinery. Bringing in replacement workers from out-of-province with little to no training and throwing them in to operating the refinery is a recipe for disaster," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.

This latest spill is not an isolated incident. Since the lockout began there have been numerous spills and releases that have the potential for significant impact on the environment. Picture and videos have circulated the internet of catalyst excursions to the atmosphere, abnormal sulphur releases, and transporting tank cars with the lids open or covered in product from spills during the loading process. These are just a few examples of incidents we have become aware of. Much like the latest spill, it’s impossible to say what else has gone unreported.

“At this point, it’s not clear what else needs to happen before Premier Scott Moe shows leadership and legislates an end to the lockout. Our lives have been threatened on the picket lines and at our homes, and now the environment has been impacted. It shouldn’t take a catastrophic event to occur before the government ends this,” said Dias.

Local 594 will be calling on the Ministry of Environment, and all other appropriate agencies, to conduct a full and thorough investigation into the release from the Co-op Refinery. There are real concerns that once oil enters the city wastewater system that it can easily migrate into the Qu’Appelle Valley water way that many farmers use for irrigation and drinking water. This incident is drawing similarities to the 2016 Husky spill into the North Saskatchewan River.

The collective agreement between Local 594 members and the Co-op Refinery Complex expired on February 1, 2019. Local 594 represents nearly 730 members. The union has accepted the recommendations of Special Mediators Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers, but the Co-op Refinery has rejected the mediators’ report and this unnecessary lockout continues.

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype/Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell).


Media Release: Private post-secondary layoffs continue; union concerned about what comes next

Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC -

May 29, 2020 FPSE News

For immediate release:

The closure of inlingua Vancouver effective May 29 adds 20 more job losses to a sector already hard-hit by COVID-19. Coupled with job losses or layoffs from other unionized institutions, the Education and Training Employees' Association, the union representing the workers, estimates that its membership has been reduced by half.

Among the workers affected is Graeme Cheadle, teacher at inlingua and First Vice President of ETEA.

“I’m disappointed and saddened about the closure of inlingua Vancouver,” said Cheadle. “Private English language schools are an important part of the BC economy, and the impact of COVID-19 has been devastating. Governments can and must also do more to help the workers in our sector – otherwise this may just be among the first of many schools to decide it’s easier to close than to keep employing people.”

The ESL industry employs more than 1,800 people, attracts nearly 50,000 students to the area, and contributes approximately $500-million/year to the economy, according to Languages Canada, the industry employer association. The ‘high season’ for enrollment is typically the summer, between June-August.

ETEA President Kevin Drager says layoffs and the closure of institutions pose long term problems beyond job losses.

“This will likely be the toughest challenge to have hit private post-secondary institutions and educators– and the end is nowhere in sight,” said Drager. “Low enrollment is putting a lot of pressure on school budgets. Obviously, we’re concerned that this could translate into further job losses.

We’re calling on employers to apply for COVID-19 financial support to avoid further losses, and financial supports like the rent subsidy extended for those who are working now, but might not be in July or August. We’d like to take a bit of stress away from those who are worried about paying their bills a month down the road.”

“On top of this, a lot of us are worried about what’s next in the industry when students eventually return,” Drager continued. “There are only a handful of institutions with unionized employees in Canada – and we’ve been successful in achieving higher wages and benefits for workers, while still allowing a profit margin for the institution. Job security also gives teachers the confidence to speak out about reports from students about misbehaviour from education agents or other problems. These improvements don’t just benefit our members, they put upward pressure on other institutions to provide these benefits as well. I worry that if enough of these institutions close, the improvements made over decades for workers and students will all be undone.”


About ETEA

The Education and Training Employees’ Association (ETEA) has represented over 200 private ESL and post-secondary teachers in Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria for 25 years. ETEA is Local 21 in the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC (FPSE). https://eteaunion.org/

Media Contact

Nicole Seguin

Communications Officer

604-831-6684 | nseguin@fpse.ca

Kenney’s attempt to criminalize dissent with Bill 1 will fail

Unifor -

EDMONTON—Premier Jason Kenney’s heavy-handed attempt to criminalize peaceful protest is an authoritarian over-reach, but will ultimately fail to silence his many critics and opponents, says Unifor.

“Jason Kenney doesn’t get it: disagreeing with government and corporate decisions is a constitutionally-protected right,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “We look forward to continuing to stand up to this bully, no matter what un-constitutional laws he pushes through the legislature.”

Earlier this spring, Western Canadian oil and gas workers locked out by Federated Co-op exercised their right to picket at a fuel terminal in Carseland, Alberta. Despite the Kenney government’s professed support for energy workers, the UCP vocally opposed the Carseland picket line. Unifor says these and other attacks on workers’ rights under the Kenney government shows that Bill 1 is aimed at more than just environmental protests.

“Kenney thinks he’s sending a message to international investors that Alberta is ‘open for business’, but the reality is that he’s coming across as a wannabe Vladimir Putin,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director, who also led the Carseland actions. “Authoritarianism isn’t attractive to most investors, and ultimately Kenney’s stunt will be struck down by Canadian courts.”

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype/Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell).

American Farmers, Ranchers and Food Workers Call for Better Worker Protections at Meatpacking Plants to Stop COVID-19 Outbreaks and Protect Food Supply

UFCW Press Releases -

Diverse Group Makes Urgent Call on Trump Administration to Take Immediate Safety Steps to Prevent Ongoing Spread of COVID-19

Union Announces New Numbers: At Least 44 Meatpacking Worker Deaths and Over 3,000 Meatpacking Workers Testing Positive for COVID-19

SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents over 250,000 workers in meatpacking and food processing, joined with a diverse group of American farmers and ranchers from Dakota Rural Action (DRA), Northern Plains Resource Council, Western Colorado Alliance, and the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) to call on meatpacking companies, the Trump Administration, as well as state and local governments, to take immediate and stronger steps to protect frontline meatpacking workers and our food supply from the deadly COVID-19 virus.

“The best way to protect our food supply is to protect the people who work within it,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “From frontline food processing workers to farmers and ranchers, we are all critical to keeping American families fed during this crisis. Enacting strong worker safety standards inside meatpacking plants will help people outside of them as well and ensure every link in our food supply chain is secure.”

The broad coalition which came together to protect workers and the food supply is calling on meatpacking companies to take immediate safety steps to stop the ongoing spread of COVID-19, which include, but are not limited to: (1) increased worker testing at meatpacking plants, (2) priority access to PPE for all meatpacking workers, (3) halting line speed waivers, (4) mandating social distancing inside meatpacking plants, and (5) isolating workers with symptoms or who test positive for COVID-19.

The need to take these immediate safety steps reflects the significant threat still facing America’s meatpacking workers. According to the UFCW internal estimates, there have already been at least 44 meatpacking worker deaths and over 3,000 meatpacking workers testing positive for COVID-19. Because of the continuing spread, at least 30 meatpacking plants have closed at some point since March 2020 – with closures impacting over 45,000 workers and contributing to a 40 percent reduction in pork slaughter capacity as well as a 25 percent reduction in beef slaughter capacity.

The following statements are from the leading members of the diverse coalition:

“Too many workers are being sent back into meatpacking plants without adequate protections in place, reigniting more outbreaks in the plants and our communities,” said Nick Nemec, a farmer, cattle producer and DRA member from Holabird, SD. “Leadership at all levels has shown a lack of support and concern for the workers and the farmers. A safe food system starts with the safety and respect of those doing the work to produce and process the food. Our current system fails because it treats farmers and workers with little respect and little regard for our safety.”

“We support the workers’ call for mandatory worker protections,” said Kathryn Bedell, rancher and Western Colorado Alliance member from Fruita, CO. “If they don’t get protective equipment and safe working conditions, the food system will remain vulnerable and we all lose – producer, workers and consumers. For too long, the government agencies have stepped back and allowed global meatpacking companies to voluntarily comply with antitrust laws. We know from firsthand experience that this is a failed approach, because it has allowed the meatpacking cartels to manipulate prices paid to livestock producers to the detriment to our livelihoods, and to the detriment of our rural communities who depend on the cattle business.”

“Safe food starts with safe workers,” said UFCW Local 304A member John Massalley who works at Smithfield in Sioux Falls, SD. “When meatpacking plants struggle to contain this virus, it’s not just the workers inside like me who are at risk, family farmers and ranchers are too. Regular testing is critical to stopping future outbreaks, keeping workers safe and protecting our food supply.”

“This pandemic didn’t create the crisis for workers and producers in the meat industry, but it has made a horrific situation even worse,” said Steve Charter, a Shepherd, MT rancher and Northern Plains Resource Council board member. “The consequences of this rigged system are now threatening the lives of meatpacking workers at the same time they’re killing the livelihoods of family ranchers. If leaders want to address this crisis, they need to start with enforcing antitrust laws, instead of abusing emergency authority to force workers to endanger their health. We must use this opportunity to create decentralized, local and regional food systems that are better for producers, consumers, and workers. Now, more than ever, we need policies that help folks who wear boots to work each day instead of shining the shoes of executives in board rooms.”


The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.


New Brunswick has ‘massive double standard’ for COVID-19 health guidelines

Unifor -

May 28, 2020

FREDERICTON – Community members and workers at the AV Group Nackawic pulp mill in Nackawic, NB, are deeply concerned about the company’s use of 60 out-of-province contractors and the lack of health and safety controls to protect local workers.

“New Brunswick has been prudent during the COVID-19 pandemic and was rewarded with weeks without positive cases as a result,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Restrictions are slowly being lifted for individuals and families, but while important family and life events are still being put on hold, corporations like AV Group Nackawic are getting a free pass to dive back into business as usual. This is a massive double standard and a huge risk to the health and well-being of New Brunswickers.”

Members of Unifor Local 219 at the mill raised the alarm after the company’s bidding process to hire contractors selected a Nova Scotia-based firm, despite there being hundreds of available workers already in the province.

“Now is not the time to be careless about pandemic protocols,” said Brady Moore, President of Local 219. “When my members and I are still required to keep within our family bubbles but my employer is bringing folks across the border without any isolation period, we have every right to be concerned.”

The business agent representing boilermakers in the province emphasized how necessary it is to employ people within the province during these challenging economic times.

“Due to job losses associated with the pandemic in New Brunswick, there are many qualified tradespersons available to do this work and support our local economy,” said David Noel, Business Manager for Boilermakers Local 73. “I firmly believe that if there are jobs in NB they should be filled with residents from our province. When government asked the people to follow the rules, we did our part. We need their support in return to protect our people and our province.”

On May 26, Unifor Atlantic Regional Director Linda MacNeil sent a letter to Premier Higgs outlining the concerns members brought forward about the use of out-of-province contractors and the lack of controls being set up in the workplace. Doug Jones, the president and CEO of Worksafe New Brunswick, offered a letter in response that did not answer the workers’ specific concerns and only referred to their generic guide for safely re-opening workplaces.

“AV Nackawic has not advised the workers or their union of any new infection control or sanitation protocols,” said MacNeil. “There seems to be a different set of rules around COVID-19 when it comes to corporations. We’ve recently seen what can happen when protocols aren’t followed for cross-border travel and we don’t need to invite more trouble.”

For media inquiries, or to arrange interviews in English or French by phone or video chat, contact National Communications Representative Shelley Amyotte at shelley.amyotte@unifor.org or 902-717-7491 (cell).