Latest Labour News

Unifor partners with Hospitality Workers Training Centre to support hotel and food service workers

Unifor -

May 25, 2020

TORONTO—Unifor is proud to partner with the Hospitality Workers Training Centre to support laid off workers in hospitality and food service across the Greater Toronto Area.

“Hotel and food service workers are among the hardest hit by the pandemic,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “That’s why our union acted immediately to ensure workers could access vital services from the Centre for job training, food and housing security, and mental health supports.”

Founded during the SARS pandemic in 2003, the Centre currently provides immediate one-on-one supports for all workers in the sector including job training. The centre’s training kitchen will also provide 18,000 meals to people across the Greater Toronto Area this month.

In addition to partnering with the centre, Unifor continues to pressure the federal and provincial governments and employers to adequately protect workers from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As hospitality and food services workers face job losses, Unifor continues to pursue greater enhancements to the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB), health benefits for those without coverage, and is pressuring governments and employers to increase participation in the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program. The union is also working to ensure that all workers have access to adequate personal protective equipment and safe workloads, public services, including transit and childcare, and sufficient health and safety measures are in place as workplaces reopen.

“Workers in hotels and restaurants are among some of the most vulnerable individuals in our community and will need significant help navigating the current crisis and what may be a lengthy recovery," said Lis Pimentel, Unifor organizer and Chair of the Board of the Hospitality Workers Training Centre. "The Centre is an integral part of a robust community COVID-19 response that provides fundamental services to workers facing the pandemic’s economic hardships.”

Hospitality and food service workers across the Greater Toronto Area can access the Hospitality Workers Training Centre’s Rapid Response here.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy, including more than 20,000 hospitality, gaming, and food service workers. 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 an interview via FaceTime or Skype, please contact Unifor Communications National Representative David Molenhuis at david.molenhuis@unifor.org or 416-575-7453 (cell).

Profits over health in Alberta

Rank and File - latest news -

By C. Rockarts On Thursday, May 14, Alberta “relaunched the economy” and began the first phase of the plan to re-open golf courses, provincial parks, as well as some retail stores, daycares, and museums. While many of the prairie provinces have decided to reopen, the comparison of cases between Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba is stark. Continue readingProfits over health in Alberta

Remote teaching during COVID-19

CAUT -

As universities and colleges develop plans for the 2020-21 academic year, many are preparing for the continuation of remote instruction either fully or in part. The initial pivot to remote teaching in March, 2020 was a specific response to an immediate and urgent public health situation arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. As institutions now focus on longer-term planning, decisions about the 2020-21 academic year, including the mode of course delivery, should be made in consultation with academic staff associations, and respect collegial governance processes and collective agreements.

Many academic staff associations have existing collective agreement language or letters of understanding regarding on-line and remote teaching. Modifications to these agreements should be negotiated with the association. While some flexibility may be needed in order to comply with public health orders, academic staff associations should ensure that emergency teaching measures are temporary and solely in response to an extraordinary situation. Any agreement about modifications to the collective agreement and members’ rights should be limited to the 2020-21 academic year, be reviewed regularly, and renewed only if conditions warrant.

Collegial Governance and Academic Freedom

Consistent with principles of collegial governance, the appropriate academic governance body should be responsible for all decisions about class cancellations, modifications, or the temporary continuation of remote teaching. In no case should the administration use the current situation to bypass collegial processes or assume final authority for academic decisions. The pandemic must not be used as a pretext to usher in a longer-term transformation of teaching.

The principle of academic freedom as well as specific language in many collective agreements grants academic staff the right to determine the mode of course delivery. Academic staff should have the right to determine the most pedagogically effective way to provide alternatives to in-class instruction and labs, subject to policies set by academic governance bodies and to the extent that alternatives might be necessary.

In the event that in-class instruction is not feasible, institutions and academic staff associations should ensure that academic freedom is not compromised in a remote teaching environment. Explicit protections should be in place to prevent data sharing, surveillance, and recording of on-line classes.

Special consideration should be given to students studying from abroad, as some course material may be blocked, monitored, or subject to censorship by local authorities, and potentially putting students and their families at risk.

Intellectual Property

Ownership over course materials has important implications for academic freedom, reputation, custody and control, and copyright. Academic staff should therefore retain their intellectual property rights over the content of their remote and on-line courses. Under no circumstances should on-line courses developed for internal use be shared with other institutions or transferred to third parties without the express permission of the course creator. Academic staff have the right to control the dissemination of their works and to make those works available under licensing arrangements of their choice.

When developing on-line course material, academic staff should be made aware of open educational resources, and follow the principle of fair dealing with respect to the use of copyrighted material. Fair dealing is a right to reproduce works without permission or payment within limits. In addition, the Copyright Act contains a number of specific exceptions that allow works to be reproduced without permission or payment. Some of these exceptions are limited to the educational context, while others are open to all users of copyrighted material. For more information, please consult CAUT’s Guidelines for the Use of Copyrighted Material.

Workload and Compensation

The development of on-line modes of instruction requires specialized technical support, training, and additional preparation time that will have an impact on workload. Administrations cannot simply expect staff to provide additional lectures, labs, and seminars to accommodate physical distancing protocols without additional staffing resources, credit, or compensation.

Some collective agreements have language that grants higher credit to on-line courses in the assignment of a member’s overall workload. Such language can be used to ensure a fair and reasonable distribution of remote teaching workload. Some academic staff associations have negotiated additional compensation, particularly for contract academic staff who cannot benefit from course load reductions.

Associations should be aware of other factors that may affect remote teaching workloads. Class sizes and the availability of teaching assistants and markers should be considered. The appropriate academic bodies should determine class sizes and teaching and grading support, subject to applicable collective agreement language.

Institutions must also provide appropriate technological support and personnel. Necessary equipment and software must be provided by the institution, or expenditures made by staff must be reimbursed. Failure to provide adequate resources and support may give rise to a policy or individual grievance. Where the administration requires a member to incur expenses while working from home, it must issue tax documents in compliance with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) guidelines.

Outsourcing

Some institutions may be considering the outsourcing of remote or on-line courses for the 2020-21 academic year. This may involve contracting with third-party providers, or sharing of courses between institutions in which classes are made available to students from other institutions using shared on-line portals, credit transfer, recognition agreements, or collaboration among institutions to develop joint courses. These plans raise concerns around the outsourcing of the work of members. Academic staff associations must ensure that the work of developing, teaching, and revising courses remains in the bargaining unit.

Associations should resist the private provision of on-line courses, and should discourage course sharing if it leads to a loss of bargaining unit work. Course sharing may be used in some cases by members as a supplement, but never as a replacement, to existing courses.

Some collective agreements allow administrations to enter into contracts with individual members to license on-line courses and other commissioned work. The association is not a signatory to individual contracts, but should be copied on all correspondence between the member and the administration. Members should be advised of their right to seek association assistance prior to signing such contracts. The association’s role is to ensure that no contract undermines academic freedom. Custody and control, and copyright should remain with the creator. Contracts should grant the institution no more than a one-year license allowing the course to be shared with specified partners. Associations should be watchful for contracts that give ownership to the institution or external partner, and for contracts that do not preserve the moral rights of the creator. In the absence of any explicit contractual terms to the contrary, copyright belongs to the creator.

In all cases, the creator should have the right to teach the course and should have control over revisions. Where it may be appropriate for these functions to be performed by different individuals, all should be members of the bargaining unit, the rights and responsibilities of each should be clearly spelled out, and the creator must give permission.

Equity and Inclusion

Remote teaching raises equity and accommodation issues for students and academic staff. Synchronous remote teaching will not be inclusive of students who may be in different time zones across the world. Some students and staff will have varying levels of access to a reliable Internet connection, devices, or required software. Academic staff may also need specialized support to ensure on-line materials are accessible to those with visual disabilities, hearing impairments, learning disorders, mental illness, and other accommodation needs. Institutions should provide support structures and programs for all students and staff who are experiencing increased hardship.

Conclusion

Academic staff associations should ensure that decisions made around remote teaching fully respect collegial governance, academic freedom, and the collective agreement. While some flexibility in approach may be necessary, associations should seek to protect the following core principles:

  • Academic decisions should be made through normal collegial processes. Academic staff, through their institution’s governance bodies, must make all academic decisions, including those involving changes to the mode of delivery of courses.
  • Method of delivery is a pedagogical decision and an academic freedom right. Academic staff, subject to collegially developed policies and provisions of the collective agreement, should determine the method of delivery for courses. In the current context, such decisions may be constrained by public health directives and safety considerations. However, academic staff should determine how best a course or program might be delivered remotely.
  • Copyright should remain with the course creator. Academic staff should maintain copyright over the course materials they produce. In the absence of any explicit contractual terms to the contrary, copyright belongs to the creator(s).
  • Remote teaching arrangements should protect against contracting out and outsourcing. Academic staff associations should be vigilant in protecting the work of the bargaining unit from outsourcing.
  • Staff should be compensated or credited for increased workloads. Extra time required for the preparation and delivery of remote courses should be recognized and compensated.

UFCW campaigns supporting front-line workers take off

UFCW Canada -

Toronto – May 22, 2020 – Two UFCW campaigns supporting workers in food processing, food retail, health care, security, and other front-line industries have garnered overwhelming support from people across the country, with thousands of Canadians signing on to the campaigns to show their solidarity with essential workers during COVID-19.

New OMERS CEO must immediately fix “dangerous mismanagement” at its company LifeLabs

NUPGE -

Just last week, a strong majority of the company’s couriers in Toronto voted to join OPSEU/NUPGE, but the company is holding up their union certification with stall tactics and baseless procedural wrangling. And now in the most hamfisted, anti-union move possible, directly linked to the successful union drive, the company is laying off up to 15 per cent of its workers in Toronto and sending them home immediately.

More than 200 organizations across Canada sign open letter for #HealthCare4All

Unifor -

May 21, 2020

TORONTO—At a moment of public health crisis in Canada due to COVID-19, the Healthcare for All National Coalition is calling on the federal government to work closely with provincial and territorial governments to ensure access to healthcare for all people living in Canada. The coalition, comprised of health and migrant justice advocacy organizations across the country, identifies this as both an issue of justice and equity, and of public health. The response across provincial and territorial governments has been inconsistent and fragmented. As such, the coalition has come together with over 200 civil society organizations nationally and sent an open letter to the federal government calling for access to healthcare for all people living in Canada, including those currently living in detention, regardless of immigration and citizenship status.

Carole Benedicte Ze, a refugee claimant from Cameroon who was initially refused access to testing after contracting COVID-19 while volunteering at a Montreal care home, said “It was hard for me to access testing, so just imagine how much worse it is for people who have no status. Nobody should be refused health care when they are sick, no matter what their status. We all need care.”

The network is calling on the Federal Government, in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, to ensure that health coverage is available to all, regardless of immigration status and that this policy change has a clear implementation plan in all hospitals and health centres. In addition, the coalition asks that these facilities be reminded of their ongoing legal obligation to protect patient privacy and not share information with Canada Border Services Agency. They are asking for further clarification to the CBSA and general public that people should not be subjected to detention or deportation when or after accessing healthcare.

Access to healthcare is a major determinant of health, even outside of the context of a pandemic - as such, the coalition also calls on the Federal Government, acting in concert with provincial and territorial governments, to ensure all above measures are made permanent.

“An Injury to One is An Injury to All. We need to understand that health problems in any community affect the whole society. Denying proper access to migrant, Black, Indigenous or People of Colour communities is unacceptable, and weakens any Federal or Provincial health strategy.”

- Marcos Luciano, Director of Migrante Alberta (member organization of the Migrant Rights Network)

Dr. Sandy Buchman, President of the Canadian Medical Association also said, “A global pandemic has shown us, now more than ever, that we must ensure equitable access to health care for all. And we must always strive to provide access to care for all people living in Canada.”

The letter with over 200 organizational signatories has been sent to the Federal Government, with copies to provincial and territorial governments. The coalition awaits a response.

Media Contacts

English Inquiries:

Dr. Nisha Kansal

nisha.kansal@medportal.ca

905-963-1304

Dr. Arnav Agarwal

arnav.agarwal@mail.utoronto.ca

647-542-9159

French Inquiries:

Mélissa Cabana, Conseillère principale aux communications, Médecins du Monde Canada

melissa.cabana@medecinsdumonde.ca

514-799-8985

Please direct general inquiries to: healthcare4allcoalition@gmail.com

 

Vancouver Island grocery workers go union and fight for hazard pay

Rank and File - latest news -

By Hanna Wallace and Billy May Similar to the community care movement that has sprung up during the COVID-19 pandemic, the workers at Lifestyle Markets decided to organize a union drive out of a sense of care and respect for our fellow workers.  Lifestyle Markets has three locations on Vancouver Island. The first and largest Continue readingVancouver Island grocery workers go union and fight for hazard pay

Unifor tells Federal Finance Committee to close gap in CERB

Unifor -

May 21, 2020

TORONTO–Unifor reiterated its call for the federal government to grant workers receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to receive the Supplemental Unemployment Benefits (SUB) they would be entitled to under normal layoff circumstances, during testimony today before the Federal Finance Committee.

“The CERB has flaws that need fixing. At the top of that list is for Ministers Morneau and Qualtrough to allow employer-paid, and Service Canada registered Supplemental Unemployment Benefits alongside CERB,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias told the Committee. “It is ludicrous that the Ministers are denying hundreds of thousands of workers additional income supports, some as much as $500-600 per week, that employers are ready, willing and able to pay,” added Dias.

Unifor alone has negotiated SUB plans for approximately 50,000 of its members in multiple sectors including auto, rail, steel, aerospace, public service and health care. In the health care industry, the SUB plans are designed to top up EI sick leave benefits for frontline workers in long-term care homes. Major companies, including General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, have also appealed to the government to allow SUB payments to their workers.

On April 15, Unifor sent a letter to Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough to ask the federal government to close the glaring gap in CERB and modify regulations to allow workers to collect both the CERB and SUB.

Subsequently, the union launched a national petition to close the loophole that unfairly denies workers SUB payments, won at the bargaining table, that they would normally receive when laid off.

“Fixing this will cost our public purse precisely nothing. Yet, the answer has consistently been no,” Dias testified. “It takes simple regulatory fix that Unifor proposed more than a month ago.”

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector and represents 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. Information about the union’s response to the pandemic, as well as resources for members can be found at unifor.org/COVID19. For media inquiries or to arrange a Skype or FaceTime interview with Jerry Dias please contact Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe at kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org or 416-896-3303 (cell).

Wage rollbacks will harm the economy

NUPGE -

The reason cutting public sector wages hurts the economy so badly is that, like almost all low- and middle-income earners, public sector workers spend what they earn in their communities. The bulk of what public sector workers earn goes to businesses providing items like like groceries or housing. When you take that money out of the community, everyone feels the pain.

Even in a Global Pandemic, Workers in Ontario Still Don’t Have a Right to Paid Sick Leave

Rank and File - latest news -

By Rawan Abdelbaki It has been just over two months since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. It was only a few days after that when the Conservative government of Ontario passed Bill 186, Infectious Disease Emergencies amendment to the Employment Standards Act. Bill 186 was designed to offer job protections to those workers who Continue readingEven in a Global Pandemic, Workers in Ontario Still Don’t Have a Right to Paid Sick Leave

In National Coronavirus Press Conference, America’s Largest Food & Retail Calls on Top Supermarket Companies to Reinstate Hazard Pay

UFCW Press Releases -

As Hazards Facing Grocery Workers Continue, UFCW Announces At Least 68 Grocery Workers Have Died and Over 10,000 Exposed or Infected in COVID Pandemic – More Than Double the Number of Deaths and Infections 5 Weeks Ago Walmart, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Kroger Condemned for Failing to Release Numbers on Worker Deaths and Infections and for Ending Hazard Pay for Millions of Grocery Workers 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, America’s largest food and retail union with 1.3 million workers in grocery, meatpacking, food processing and other industries, hosted a national press call with leading reporters from across the country to address the fact that many of America’s largest supermarket and food retail companies – including Kroger, Walmart, and Amazon – have recently ended so-called “hazard or hero pay’ even as the pandemic continues across the country. Click here for the full video recording of the press conference.

During the call, UFCW International President Marc Perrone called on these companies to immediately reinstate this essential pay until the need to wear masks and other protective measures are no longer necessary.

As a measure of the real and growing risk of the public health crisis facing grocery workers, the UFCW also released new internal numbers that at least 68 grocery workers have died and more than 10,000 have been infected or exposed. During the call, UFCW called on every leading food retailer to ensure public health by releasing the number of their food retail and supermarket workers who have died or become sick and/or exposed to COVID-19.

Excerpts of prepared remarks by UFCW International President Marc Perrone are below:

“As this pandemic continues, the threat of this virus is real across every grocery store in America. Yet, most states and supermarket chains are still failing to enforce social distancing or mask wearing in stores to keep customers and workers safe. Even worse, Walmart, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Kroger have failed to release internal numbers on worker deaths, infections, and exposure. Amazon even fired workers brave enough to speak out.

“Amazon, Whole Foods, Kroger, and other companies have shamefully announced pay cuts for millions of these workers on the frontlines, even as each company experiences record sales. When workers face higher risks, they should be paid more. These workers are not facing fewer hazards and are still putting themselves in harm’s way, interacting with thousands of customers a day, to help ensure our families have the food we need.

“While we hope some of these companies do change, and follow the lead of other national companies like Albertsons and Ahold who acted responsibly to extend this hazard pay, we are preparing options to ensure that every American knows which supermarket companies stood by their workers and their families and which did not. American consumers and workers deserve better and we will continue to stand with them.”

Grocery Workers Speak Out

As part of the call, Kroger grocery workers from across the country spoke about the serious risks they face, and how Kroger eliminating its ‘Hero Pay’ has had a damaging effect on them and their co-workers. The following are statements from these grocery workers.

“Five people in my household work for Kroger and together, we put in about 250 hours per week. When Kroger gave us ‘Hero Pay,’ it felt like we mattered and they were recognizing the risks we are taking. Every day, you fear that you might catch the virus at work. You fear that you might take the virus home to your family. I’ve had customers swear at me when we ask them to wear a mask. One customer even told me I might be dead in a month. After work each day, I want to cry, but I don’t have the tears to cry because it’s not going to make things better. We are working longer hours under stressful conditions. At my store, they take daily temperature scans, but the thermometers the company provides us don’t work. Kroger and all grocery companies need to provide the protective equipment, testing, and essential pay that all of us need so that we can keep our stores operating safely. Our lives are on the line,” said a Ralphs grocery worker in San Diego, California.

“There is a lot of fear in my store because of the virus. Every day, we prepare like we’re going into battle with the virus. We are exposed to thousands of people every day for hours and the reality is it only takes one person to expose an entire store. Kroger ended our ‘hero pay,’ but the crisis is not over. I face each day with anxiety and it gets worse when I see customers refuse to wear masks. I am a mother and my children need me to stay healthy,” said a Kroger meat department worker in Lansing, Michigan.

“Since the coronavirus outbreak began, I’ve been working 60-70 hours a week. As a cashier, it’s hard to social distance from customers. We put our lives on the line every day and I worry about taking the virus back to my grandchildren or husband. When Kroger took away our ‘Hero Pay,’it felt like a slap in the face. Because Kroger is not requiring our customers to wear masks, it’s putting us in jeopardy. The spread of the virus hasn’t stopped, so neither should the protections or ‘Hero Pay’ that our families need ,” said a Kroger cashier in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

“Since Kroger ended ‘Hero Pay,’ I’ve seen the morale in my store go down. My co-workers and I are facing the same struggles and risks, but now the company suddenly doesn’t want to recognize that. What changed? Kroger – and every supermarket company – should pay every grocery worker in America for the risk we are all facing, until this pandemic is over,” said a front-end Kroger worker in Columbus, Ohio.

 Background:

UFCW has been a leading national voice calling for action to support and protect grocery workers who are on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, the UFCW sent a letter to the CEOs of top supermarket chains across the country condemning them for suggesting that the health risks of this pandemic have diminished, and failing to provide the pay and protections necessary given the risks that America’s grocery workers face.

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 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.

Ford’s long-term care inquiry long overdue

Unifor -

May 20, 2020

TORONTO – Unifor welcomes the Ontario government’s announcement to launch an independent commission to investigate Ontario's Long-Term Care (LTC) system, so long as a manageable patient to staff ratio is put in place and recent changes such as pay increases and worker protection are maintained.

“The devastating reality is that it took a pandemic for Doug Ford’s government to understand just how broken the system really is in Ontario,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.  “I welcome this announcement, but this inquiry must take on new urgency to protect LTC residents and workers. Unions, along with coalition partners and health officials have already seen consecutive governments ignore their calls to fix the crisis.”

Yesterday the Ontario government announced that it would launch an independent commission into Ontario's long-term care system, to begin in September. The details of the commission, terms of reference, reporting timelines and membership have yet to be announced.

The last Public Inquiry into the Safety and Security of Residents in the Long-Term Care Homes, following the Wettlaufer tragedy, concluded in July 31, 2019, and included recommendations that the Government of Ontario increase staffing levels in LTC homes.

“Ontarians are relieved to see their government take action during a crisis and start valuing long-term care workers,” said Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director. “There are deep-rooted issues in the sector that cannot be ignored after this crisis, and progressive measures such as premium pay cannot be revoked while workers wait for the findings of this commission.”

Unifor supports the call from the Ontario Health Coalition that the commission should not be controlled by any partisan group or by long-term care owners and operators. The union believes the commission must be transparent, open to the public, and include input from residents and their families, and health care workers. This inquiry must be an aggressive fact finding mission with the final report delivered and acted on with urgency. 

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector and represents 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.

Information about the union's response to the pandemic, as well as resources for members can be found at unifor.org/COVID19.

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype or FaceTime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Hamid Osman at hamid.osman@unifor.org or 647-448-2823 (cell).

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