Latest Labour News

As COVID-19 Threatens America’s Food Supply Chain, UFCW Calls on Congress to Prioritize Safety by Slowing Production Speeds in Meatpacking Plants

UFCW Press Releases -

Union for 250,000 Workers in Meatpacking and Food Processing Calls for Slower Line Speeds, Safer Workplaces for Essential Workers Endangered by COVID-19 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents more than 250,000 workers in food processing and meatpacking plants, announced its support for the Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act, introduced by U.S. Representatives Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), and Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02), which would impose safe line speed limits at meatpacking plants to ensure worker safety and social distancing. This comes at a critical moment for the U.S. food supply chain as COVID-19 continues to impact meatpacking plants and workers across the country.  

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:  

“America’s meatpacking workers have been on the frontlines of this pandemic since day one, putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure our families have the food we need. As COVID-19 continues to put our country’s meatpacking workers at risk, we must take action to reduce line speeds in these plants to ensure workers can maintain social distancing and stay safe on the job.  

“This bill is a critical step to reining in the dangerously fast line speeds at so many meatpacking plants and will put the safety of workers and our country’s food supply first. Congress must pass this vital legislation immediately.”  

Congressional Leaders for Worker Safety  

Keeping frontline workers safe at meatpacking plants, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a key priority for the members of Congress introducing this legislation.  

“The meat and poultry processing industry has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with infection hotspots appearing in plants across the country,” said U.S. Representative Marcia Fudge (OH-11).  “Fast line speeds make the dangerous conditions workers at these plants already face even worse by packing them closer together and placing them at greater risk of contracting or spreading the virus.  Waiving limits on processing speeds also threatens the safety of our food supply.  As COVID-19 cases continue to soar at processing plants, we must prioritize worker, food, and animal safety over increased production and profits.”  

“For years, USDA has been complicit in the consolidation of the meat processing industry by gifting linespeed waivers to corporate meatpackers at the expense of worker safety, the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers, and the safety of the nation’s meat supply,” said U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (CT-03). “The high-profile COVID-19 outbreaks at meat packing plants have raised questions of the safety of the conditions inside these plants. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, these workers experienced injuries at a higher rate than comparable occupations. And now, faster linespeeds make it impossible for workers to practice social distancing and to comply with safety guidelines. That is why I am proud to join the leadership shown by Rep. Fudge in introducing this legislation that will reign in these reckless linespeed waivers for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.” 

“It is imperative that we ensure worker safety on slaughter lines,” said U.S. Representative Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02). “Safety can not be exchanged for high production. During this unprecedented time of COVID-19, we should take the necessary precautions to ensure employees are sare while working at meat and  poultry establishments.” 

Background 

UFCW recently announced that in the first 100 days of COVID-19, there have already been 238 worker deaths and nearly 29,000 workers infected or exposed among its members in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, healthcare facilities, and other essential businesses. This includes 93 worker deaths in the meatpacking and food processing industries. 

UFCW announced its support today for the Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act to ensure safe line speed limits in meatpacking plants.  

The USDA has repeatedly attempted to remove line speed limits in pork and poultry plants, increasing the risk to both workers and food safety.   

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the country’s food supply chain, the USDA has continued to grant waivers that allow plants to run faster and endanger more workers.  

In addition to calling on Congress for action today, UFCW is continuing to pursue litigation to maintain line speed limits in pork plants nationwide and prevent companies from further jeopardizing the health and safety of the nation’s food supply chain with dangerous increases to production speeds.

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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

ACP program cut at RRC a blow to Paramedics, rural health care: MAHCP President

Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals -

The Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals has the following comments on the suspension of Red River College’s Advanced Care Paramedic Program:

“The suspension of the Advanced Care Paramedic (ACP) diploma program at Red River College, reported yesterday, represents yet another short-sighted cut by the Manitoba Government and yet another blow to rural health care in our province. Manitoba has been moving toward a more consistent and professional model of Emergency Response Services for years now, and we’ve made some progress, but this cut takes us in the opposite direction. It will make it even more difficult to recruit and retain paramedics with advanced skills to serve rural Manitobans in an emergency, and it’s another signal that the Manitoba Government is moving in the wrong direction on rural health care. Manitoba Paramedics and all Manitobans deserve better.

“The Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals is calling on the Manitoba Government to immediately reinstate the Advanced Care Paramedic diploma program at Red River College, and to ensure that ACPs are recognized and able to work to their full scope of practice in rural Manitoba.”

– Bob Moroz, MAHCP President

CAUT condemns arrest of Beijing professor

CAUT -

(Ottawa – July 9, 2020) CAUT has written to Chinese President Xi Jinping protesting the arrest of professor Xu Zhangrun, and calling for the repeal of the National Security Act for Hong Kong.

 “Xu has joined a growing list of people who have been imprisoned for exercising their civil and professional rights,” charges CAUT Executive Director David Robinson, in the letter. “This arrest and the far-reaching security laws effectively curtail freedom of speech and threaten academic freedom.”

Xu, a legal scholar at Tsinghua University, was arrested July 6 after openly criticizing China’s direction under Xi’s government, including laying blame last January for the Corona virus outbreak directly upon the Chinese leader. The National Security Act for Hong Kong came into effect on June 30 and is likely to be used to crack down on dissent.

Read the entire letter

FUNSCAD votes no confidence in Board of Governors

CAUT -

(Ottawa – July 8, 2020) Members of the Faculty Union of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (FUNSCAD) have overwhelmingly voted no confidence in the College’s Board of Governors after the abrupt removal on June 26 of President Aoife Mac Namara.

“Our members have spoken,” says FUNSCAD President Mathew Reichertz. “The lack of transparency in the Board’s decision to remove the President after only 11 months in the position, and its unwillingness to share the reasons for its decision has created a vacuum of information that is destabilizing to the University and destroying our trust in the Board and its ability to responsibly fulfill its fiduciary duties.”

Over 95 per cent of FUNSCAD members voted, and more than 96 per cent voted no confidence.

Reichertz says the Board’s unexplained actions are damaging to NSCAD, and is calling for transparency about the decision. “The Board is the only entity that can repair this problem, either by providing a compelling and satisfactory explanation to the community it serves, and proving that it can act collegially and transparently; or by reinstating the President, and stepping down so that others who have the trust of the community may take up this important responsibility.”

Widespread VIA Rail layoffs reveal deep failure of CERB program rules

Unifor -

July 8, 2020

OTTAWA – More than 1000 VIA Rail workers received layoff notice today, along with news that Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s CERB rules still deny them employer-paid income top up.

“The CERB rules step all over longstanding income security practices that workers and employers have held for decades,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Many rail workers showed up throughout the early weeks of the pandemic, and continue to deliver service despite the risk to their own health. The least that workers deserve from the federal government is to honour their hard fought collective agreement benefits.”

VIA Rail, as a crown corporation, is unfairly barred from accessing the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy for its workers, despite a massive downturn in passenger rail service. The corporation paid its employees who did not have work due to the pandemic 70 per cent of wages until this point.

While on temporary layoff, the affected members will be able to apply for the CERB, but are denied the negotiated supplemental income plan (SUB plan) that is in their collective agreements.

 “Instead of allowing employers to hold up contractual obligations that are negotiated specifically for situations like this - the federal government prohibits it,” said Renaud Gagné, Unifor Quebec Director.

“More than 4000 Unifor members have already emailed Morneau and Minister Qualtrough demanding that this policy be revoked. How many thousands of workers need to lose their income and benefits before the government corrects this awful policy?” continued Gagné.

Unifor alone has negotiated SUB plans for about 50,000 members in many sectors. SUB plans are no cost to the public treasury, and are part of a contract that a worker, or their union, makes directly with an employer.

Unifor has a member-driven petition to ministers Morneau and Qualtrough, demanding that they stop denying SUB plans. Visit www.unifor.org/SUBplans for more information.

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 interviews via Skype, Facetime or Zoom contact Sarah McCue, Unifor National Communications Representative at 416-458-3307 (cell) or sarah.mccue@unifor.org.

For French interviews, please contact Unifor Quebec Communications Representative, Marie-Andrée L'Heureux at marie-andree.lheureux@unifor.org or 514-916-7373 (cell).

Severance payment for Northern Pulp workers must be priority

Unifor -

July 8, 2020

HALIFAX—Unifor is urging the Nova Scotia government to work with Northern Pulp to secure Debtor-In-Possession (DIP) financing amid the company’s restructuring.

“As one of the largest creditors to Northern Pulp, the Nova Scotia government is the one holding the purse strings and they will determine if the company can honour its obligations to the workers and maintain the facility during hibernation,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “There is no reason the government should object to DIP financing, especially considering the hundreds of families relying on severance to see them through job loss and a pandemic.”

Northern Pulp notified the union on Tuesday, July 7 that it would not be able to make the second planned severance payment to workers scheduled for the end of July if the company and province could not come to an agreement to allow for third party financing. The company advised members that government had requested more time to review financing terms prior to  the July 3 court date, pushing a decision back to a hearing on July 24.

“Unifor members at the mill received a paltry $650 from the government’s $63.5 million Forestry Transition Fund, so this promised severance is even more essential to them,” said Linda MacNeil, Atlantic Regional Director. “We expect the parties to come to a financial agreement that allows our members to be paid and all responsible maintenance and cleanup at the mill site to continue during shut down. Now is not the time to leave families in the lurch financially.”

Northern Pulp parent company Paper Excellence has reassured Unifor and its members that it is committed to supporting employees and maintaining the opportunity for long-term employment at the mill.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing more than 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy, including 24,000 in the forestry sector. 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.

For media inquiries contact National Communications Representative Shelley Amyotte at 902-717-7491 or shelley.amyotte@unifor.org.

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