Unifor presents Ontario budget recommendations

Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi voiced Unifor’s strong opposition to the deep financial cuts and overall economic strategy of the Ford government as she presented the union’s budget recommendations to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.  

“This budget is tabled at a time when Ontarians have lost confidence in this government. We have seen an aggressive agenda of funding cuts and legislative attacks on the vulnerable and on workers, and the people of Ontario have expressed their outrage,” said Rizvi. “Let’s be clear - the attack on the most vulnerable people in this province is nothing short of a disgrace.” 

At the January 17 pre-budget consultation hearing at Queen’s Park, Rizvi cited damaging government policies including the cancellation of the $15 minimum wage, the rolling back of sick days and the elimination of equal pay for equal work.

Rizvi also called out Doug Ford for opening the door to for-profit health care services, attacking school board workers and creating chaos in education, and for his Conservative government’s ongoing neglect of manufacturing workers.

“In recent months, this government has stood by while approximately 2,300 highly skilled assembly line workers and 1,200 independent parts supplier workers have lost their jobs in the Durham region,” Rizvi said. “Our communities are being decimated by the huge loss of manufacturing jobs.”

During her address to the Committee, Rizvi stressed the need for investment in electric vehicle technology and manufacturing, and repeated the union’s warning about lack of production orders at the Bombardier facility in Thunder Bay.

“It is time for a strong commitment to a “Buy Ontario” strategy that will put workers first and grow the province’s manufacturing sector into the future,” Rizvi stated.

Read Unifor’s Ontario Pre-Budget Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs here.

Unifor members across Canada bolster Regina picket lines

Unifor Local 594’s bold fight to defend the defined benefit pension plan against a massively profitable refinery has drawn reinforcements from across the country.

Members from three provinces have already travelled to Regina to join the picket lines, and dozens more are expected this weekend.

“Unifor members are ready to fight,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “When a greedy employer like FCL attacks our members, it can expect a fight with our entire union membership.”

Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) owns the Co-op Refinery, where nearly 800 Unifor members have been locked out since December 5, 2019 in freezing conditions. At issue is the employer’s demands for concessions for most that amount to a 50 per cent cut in the value of their pensions.

“Co-op Refinery makes $3 million in profit every single day when our members are at work,” said Kevin Bittman, Unifor Local 594 President. “Clearly the attack on our pension is an attempt to break the union.”

Leanne Marsh, a skilled trades worker at Unifor Local 2200 and Chairperson of Unifor’s B.C. Regional Council arrived January 8 to show support.

“I jumped at the chance to come out here to show B.C.’s support for this fight,” said Marsh. “While I’m here, there are secondary pickets happening at B.C. co-ops nearly every day. We’re supporting Unifor Local 594 in every way we can.”

Mohamad Alli, a retiree from Local 468 in Winnipeg, shares those sentiments: “I knew I had to come to show my support. Pensions are absolutely critical to retirement security for workers, and what FCL is trying to do to their loyal workforce is disgusting and wrong.”

If you want more information about joining Local 594 picket lines, please contact your local union president.

Unifor Local 302 Paramedics call on Elgin County to increase EMS service levels

Paramedics from Unifor Local 302 submitted a deputation in front of the Council of Elgin County on January 14, 2020, sounding the alarm bell on the need for enhanced ambulance services for residents.

The call for increased ambulance services comes at a time where the capacity for Emergency Medical Services in the county simply cannot meet the needs of the community. Service levels have remained stagnant over the last decade, while the county’s population has continued to grow and the demand has increased.

That means the system now can not handle the call volumes for medical emergencies on a regular basis, putting residents at risk due to the lengthy ambulance wait times and delays in treating those in need. Paramedics have seen first-hand that this under- servicing has created uncertainty, and puts lives at risk.

In order to meet the needs of Elgin County and of St. Thomas residents, Unifor is calling on the Council of Elgin County to develop a concrete plan for EMS going forward, and conduct an immediate review of call volumes. The union is also asking the council to immediately increase capacity by adding 36 hours of ambulance transport capacity to the system.

Elgin-St.Thomas EMS paramedics are dedicated to providing the best services for residents to ensure that someone is experiencing a medical emergency, they are safely and quickly transported to the hospital for care.

Come to Regina

Unifor is asking all locals across Canada to send as many members as possible to Regina starting January 19, 2020.

Their greedy employer has locked out nearly 800 Unifor Local 594 members since December 5, 2019. The Co-op Refinery makes $3 million dollars a day in profits. Last year, the Co-op parent company, Federated Co-operatives Limited earned more than $9.2 billion dollars. Yet the Co-op wants to cut the pensions of their loyal, hardworking employees by half, despite promising that these pensions would be protected in the last round of bargaining.

Help us fightback against the Co-op, which is acting like a greedy corporate bully.

Please contact your Local Union President for more details. If your president is not available, please email Josh.Coles@unifor.org.

For tips on what to pack for a prairie picket line watch this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sq5gD0witMg

If you can’t join us in Regina, you can still help by going to Boycottco-op.ca to add your name to the pledge to boycott all Co-op retailers until our members get a fair deal.

Solidarity action: Boycott Co-op

Nearly 800 members of Unifor Local 594 at the Co-op Refinery in Regina have been locked out for more than a month after the employer went after their pension plan.

Local 594 members have been fighting a courageous fight on a 24-7 picket line in bitterly cold conditions to defend what is rightfully theirs. This month Unifor will be escalating job action to pressure the company to get back to the table and drop their concessions.

Every message of solidarity is meaningful and deeply appreciated by these members. Please print off the poster below and take a photo with your various bargaining committees. Send photos as soon as possible to ian.boyko@unifor.org.

Download your poster here.

There are many other ways for Unifor members to get involved and show their support. Visit boycottco-op.ca to learn more.

Unifor bargains paid domestic violence leave where legislation falls short

Inspired by the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, Unifor continues to act to support women facing harassment and violence in and out of the workplace. In December, Unifor Local 114 and Clipper Navigation reached an agreement with significant gains to wages and improvements to address precarious work schedules and, importantly, Paid Domestic Violence Leave language.

“We are thrilled the company and union worked together to include paid domestic violence leave for workers at Clipper Navigation,” said Barbie Zipp, Local 114 bargaining committee member and BC Women’s Committee Chair. “Through my work with the union, I know how workplace protection like this can be life-saving and be the support someone needs to flee a dangerous situation.”

Zipp, along with fellow bargaining committee member MacKenzie Planedin and National Representative Jim Dixon, championed Paid Domestic Violence Leave during bargaining and they are hopeful it sends an important message to other employers and to the BC government that paid leave days are vital to every workplace.

Unifor Local 114 and the employer agreed to Paid Domestic Violence Leave for up to five days for cases involving an employee and/or an employee's child. Both the Union and the employer recognized that domestic violence is a workplace issue and working together to incorporate this language into the collective agreement provides employees economic security to make life-changing decisions.

A 2015 study commissioned by the Conference Board of Canada states that 71 per cent of employers have had to protect a victim of conjugal violence. Members of Unifor Women’s Committees across the country continue to push for stronger legislative protections and bring stronger supports to survivors.

“Domestic violence doesn’t end when you leave the home,” said Lisa Kelly, Unifor Women’s Director. “Our union continues to bargain Women’s Advocates and make sure domestic violence leave is paid so that more women can access the resources they need to escape and find safety. Governments and employers are coming on board, but more work is needed every day to end gender-based violence and put firm supports in place.

British Columbia was the last province to introduce Domestic Violence Leave in Labour the standards, but the leave is unpaid. All provinces have included paid days, with the exception of British Columbia and Alberta. This bargaining breakthrough will help us push British Columbia to introduce paid leave. 

Unifor is committed to establishing workplace programs and working conditions that protect its members in and out of their place of work, not just on December 6, but every day.

Read more about Unifor’s ground-breaking initiatives to support workers facing domestic violence here.

Unifor members picket Co-op across Western Canada

Unifor members across the country are stepping up to support the locked out members of Local 594 with secondary pickets at Co-op gas bars and grocery stores.

Information pickets have been conducted at Co-op retailers in Campbell River, Victoria, Abbotsford, Langley, Ladner, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, and Winnipeg. More locations are being added daily.

“Federated Co-op’s greedy attack on pensions has motivated Unifor members in communities large and small to get out and promote a boycott,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Co-op members need to know that their local co-op is directly benefitting from scab labour and concession bargaining at its refinery.”

Local Federated Co-ops are the owners of the Co-op Refinery in Regina, where nearly 800 members of Unifor Local 594 have been locked out since December 5. Negotiations hit an impasse when FCL demanded massive concessions on pensions, despite massive profits and an explicit commitment during the last round of bargaining to maintain current benefit levels.

Unifor’s national boycott campaign has been supported by radio and television ads.

Any member of the public can take action by visiting boycottco-op.ca and sending a letter to Co-op managers. On January 7, Unifor announced that the campaign would escalate in the coming weeks.

With Local 594 members covering 21 different job classifications locked out, refinery operations are being attempted by a much smaller group of managers and unqualified replacement workers, jeopardizing both safety and production.

Nova Scotian forestry workers already struggling as Northern Pulp prepares to close

Premier Stephen McNeil announced on December 20 that the Boat Harbour Act would stand, mandating a closure of the effluent treatment facility currently used by the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou, NS, by the end of January. Without a place to treat effluent, Northern Pulp must close. More than 300 workers at the mill will lose their jobs, along with an expected 2,700 forestry workers in the tightly-interconnected industry across the province.

“In all my years of doing this work I have never seen an elected official gut a rural industry, casting tens of thousands into unemployment and financial uncertainty for the sake of a regulatory timeline,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “This is a horrible outcome for our members at Northern Pulp, for thousands of workers connected to the forestry sector and a shameful mark on the McNeil government.”

Nova Scotia Environment announced on December 17 that it would need a complete environmental assessment on the proposed state-of-the-art effluent treatment facility to replace Boat Harbour. That process alone could take the company as long as two years to complete, making the legislated closure date of January 31, 2020 unattainable for the mill. 

Unifor has long been advocating for a solution to support thousands of jobs while the province rights a historical wrong and closes Boat Harbour, the treatment facility that was placed adjacent to Pictou Landing First Nation in the 1960s.

“We all agreed Boat Harbour had to close. That closure did not have to come at the cost of thousands of rural jobs ­­– there was a solution for the mill to coexist, but there was no political will from McNeil to make it happen,” said Linda MacNeil, Atlantic Regional Director. “Our members and other forestry workers are not the ones responsible for any wrong-doing here. They are people who worked a job that supported their families. They deserve better than to be blamed and sacrificed due to the government’s lack of leadership, consultation or clear regulatory expectations.”

In collaboration with Forest Nova Scotia, Unifor gathered more than a thousand forestry workers, landowners and contractors and 350 forestry trucks in downtown Halifax on December 19. They shared a united message of support for an extension to the Boat Harbour Act, to give time for the additional environmental evaluation to proceed. The following day, the premier announced no such delay would happen and the Boat Harbour Act would stand.

“McNeil’s decision is heartbreaking for so many workers who were committed to finding a path forward that would benefit the entire community,” said MacNeil. “Forestry sector workers across rural Nova Scotia feel abandoned by their premier and misunderstood by a general public who isn’t well-informed on this renewable and vital sector.”

Reports are already coming in from independent contractors who can’t sell their forestry equipment and are facing bankruptcy in the coming months. In a story from The Chronicle Herald, Athol Forestry Co-op in Cumberland County says they have already put a halt on progressive forest management treatments like the ones called for by the Lahey Report, a provincially-commissioned report with recommendations for a sustainable forestry sector.

Without the value-add market for pulp wood, proper silviculture and forest management may prove too expensive for many woodland operations.

Unifor is continuing conversations with the company and government to advocate for its members and their futures, considering all available options. The union issued an update to members on Friday, January 3 following a meeting with Forestry Transition team leader Kelliann Dean and the Department of Labour and Advanced Education.

“We haven’t given up,” said MacNeil. “At the very least, we need to keep speaking out to set the record straight: this is a case of a company investing in the environment, in the community, and in the sustainability of the operation and a government that changed the rules of the game multiple times in order to shut them down.”

PWHPA Dream Gap Tour returns to Toronto

The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) Dream Gap Tour will return to Toronto January 11-12, 2020 with a six-game tournament.

“Unifor has been a strong supporter of the PWHPA since its inception,” said Jerry Dias, National President. “Our union fully supports the goal of a sustainable professional women’s league that girls and women players can aspire to.”

This weekend’s tournament will be the fourth official PWHPA event. Unifor was the title sponsor of the first Dream Gap Tour tournament, which took place in Toronto back in September 2019. Since then the tour has held tournaments in Hudson, New Hampshire and Chicago with an upcoming tournament scheduled to take place in Philadelphia next month.

The Women’s Hockey Showcase, sponsored by Secret deodorant, will bring six teams comprised of 120 athletes from across North America for two days of action packed hockey. Four of the games will be held at Toronto’s Herb Carnegie Arena, with three on Saturday January 11 and one the morning of Sunday January 12.  A fifth game will be played Sunday morning in Vaughan at the Al Palladini Centre and the final game will take place Sunday afternoon at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre in downtown Toronto.

The event will showcase the best players in the world including Marie-Philip Poulin, Natalie Spooner, Hilary Knight, Kendall Coyne and many more.

The mission of PWHPA Dream Gap Tour is to draw attention to the continued lack of opportunity and support for professional female hockey players in North America.

More information and tickets are available here.


Pulp workers in Edmundston get 11.25% increase

Workers at Twin Rivers Paper Company Inc. in Edmunston have ratified a new five-year collective agreement that includes retroactive wage increase for a total of 11.25 percent over the life of the agreement which expires in 2023. 

“I want to thank the hard-working members for supporting the bargaining committee who worked to ensure that the management understood that members of Local 29 must share in the mill’s profits,” said Dave Boucher, President of Unifor Local 29.

Unifor Local 29 represents nearly 300 members who work at the Twin Rivers pulp mill in Northern New Brunswick.

Other gains include production adjustments of 20 cents an hour in 2018 and 2019 and skilled trades adjustments of 25 cents an hour in 2018 and 50 cents an hour in 2019 and 2021.

“The agreement follows the pattern set for the sector and the fact is this mill is making money and the company knows our members are essential to its success,” said Scott Doherty, Executive Assistant to Unifor’s National President at a ratification meeting in Edmunston December 20, 2019.

A side letter also provides 18 months of dental and health benefits for qualifying retirees.

Workers will also get family day starting next year.

Season's Greetings

This past year, our Unifor solidarity, friendship and fighting spirit made us stronger.

It has been a great honour to work with all of you to fight for a better world for workers, our members and their families. From making gains at hundreds of collective bargaining tables to our collective efforts fighting for enhanced workers rights, you should all be proud of the difference you have made.

Thank you for your incredible efforts and for inspiring us with your activism.

As Unifor’s leadership team, we know it is the great work done by our local leaders, activists and staff that makes this union such a force. This year we showed that when we come together, when we fight, when we build solidarity, we win. It’s at these moments that we know the better world we all strive for is possible.

When we gathered in Quebec City for what was an historic convention, your conviction and direction was clear. Building on the theme “Whatever it Takes,” we worked together to stop a conservative government from taking office in Ottawa. Together we pushed back on what would have been a disaster for workers’ rights and the kind of world we believe in.

We know the struggle continues as workers and their rights are under attack in many provinces across Canada. But we also know that we will use our solidarity to be bold in our demands for justice and equity.

We hope you enjoy this special time with loved ones, family and friends.

In the meantime, please join us in sending wishes of solidarity and friendship to our comrades walking a picket line this holiday season, defending our union and standing up for fairness. Their courage will win the day.

Our very best to you and yours.

Peace and Solidarity

Android LLC Brampton fined $65,000 after worker critically injured

After a Local 1285 member was struck by falling machinery from an overhead crane and sustained a critical injury the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development imposed fines of $65,000 while the employer plead guilty to the charges of violating Occupational Health and Safety Act.

“Employers who cut corners, neglect maintenance, and ignore the law are putting workers’ lives at risk every single day,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Director. “In this case, the incident was considered a recurring event and as such Unifor had hoped for maximum penalties to be imposed including consideration of jail time for the employer.”

The incident occurred on July 12, 2018, while a worker was installing parts into automotive rear differential units for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles at the Brampton Assembly Plant. The worker was struck by machinery after an overhead crane structure failed and detached requiring the worker to be hospitalized. The crane failure was deemed a recurring event, given a previous overhead crane failure in 2017, and that Android had not implemented measures to prevent this failure from recurring.

“The worker was fortunate to have survived this entirely preventable incident,” said Jaspal Brar, Unifor Local 1285 President. “The employer failed to keep the overhead crane in good working condition and neglected to prevent the same incident from occurring again.”

While Brar said the fine should be higher due to the severity of the recurring incident, he also credits Unifor for ensuring that workplaces are safe. With a union in the workplace, members can raise health and safety issues before injuries happen and work with health and safety representatives. But, when negligent employers do not maintain equipment properly, the union also provides swift action to seek recourse.

“Here is a prime example of the need to ensure that preventative maintenance is done on a regular basis and be performed by trained certified skilled tradespeople,” said Jaspal Brar.

Niagara long term care workers choose Unifor

Workers at the Albright Gardens Home in Beamsville have voted overwhelmingly to join Unifor after years of not getting the representation they needed from their previous union.

“These workers have taken a positive step to having effective representation of their own choosing in their workplace,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.

“Unifor believes strongly in the right of all workers to be a member of a union of their coice.”

The 240 new members of Unifor worker in the long-term care home nursing, recreation, dietary, housekeeping and maintenance.

The had previously been members of the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC), and had long complained of inadequate representation, including members required to represent themselves at second stage grievance hearings and being told by CLAC that nothing could be done when shifts were short-staffed.

When the members organized a rally, printing their own leaflets and posters, CLAC showed up at the last minute for the rally, but failed to maintain the momentum to keep up the pressure on the employer.

“These workers saw that Unifor members at other long-term care facilities were getting much better representation, and wanted to be part of that,” said Unifor Organizing Director Kellie Scanlan.

“In many ways, Albright shows the direct connection between being a strong servicing union and organizing success.”

Unifor supports food banks during holiday season

Unifor is contributing to food banks nationwide to aid children and adults facing hunger in communities across Canada.

“Unifor members are an integral part of their local communities and as a union we want to do our part to help eradicate hunger and ensure that everyone has enough to eat this holiday season,” said National President Jerry Dias.

With people struggling to get by due to underemployment, stagnant wages and the rising cost of living, many turn to local food banks for extra support. As Canada’s largest private sector union, Unifor responds annually to the crisis facing thousands of Canadian families.

This year 48 food banks will receive a total of $135,000.00 jointly provided by the Unifor Social Justice Fund, Unifor National and Unifor Regional Councils.

“Our union is pleased to support the important work of food bank organizations in helping those most in need,” said Unifor International Director Mohamad Alsadi.

According to the Campaign 2000 2018 National Report Card, one in six children in Canada are food insecure. The report also shows that poverty disproportionately discriminates against children in families that are lone female-led, racialized, newcomers, Indigenous or affected by disabilities.

View a photo gallery of donations on Unifor’s Facebook page here.

Unifor continues annual donation and support to women’s shelters across Canada

Leading up to December 6, Unifor members across the country delivered donations from Unifor’s Social Justice Fund to women’s shelters to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Donations of $2,000 were given to 74 shelters nation-wide for a total of $148,000.

“Unifor takes the commitment to ending gender-based violence very seriously,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “We’ve stepped up to fill a great void with these donations and direct initiatives such as assisting with shelter renovations through our skilled trades members. This supplements the broader work the union does through political advocacy, collective bargaining and grassroots collaborations and coalitions to support survivors and create workplaces and communities safe from gender-based harassment and violence.”

Members from coast to coast presented cheques to shelters to fund crisis services to assist women and children fleeing domestic abuse.

“We all long for a day when refuges and domestic violence survivor programs are no longer needed,” said Lisa Kelly, Unifor Women’s Director. “Our members’ activism gets us closer to that day through their continuing work to promote greater awareness and education and win stronger workplace and legislated supports like paid domestic violence leave.”

In addition to continuing to bargain Women’s Advocates and other workplace resources, Unifor will be pushing for Canada’s ratification of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention to eliminate violence and harassment in the world of work. This new global standard recognizes the right of everyone to a world free from violence and harassment and sets bold goals for workplaces everywhere.

See photos of this year’s cheque presentations on the Unifor Canada Facebook page.

Paccar lock-out ends as members accept the company’s last offer

Members of Unifor Local 728 voted 86 per cent in favour to accept the offer recommended by their bargaining committee, bringing an end to the labour dispute at the Paccar plant.

“We made good gains during this round of bargaining but unfortunately we were unable to deliver on one of our priorities, which was the elimination of two-tier pension plans,” said Unifor’s Quebec Director Renaud Gagné. “It makes no sense that employees had to face a lock-out and risk their jobs to do away with a measure that is now considered illegal.”

It should be noted that workers at the plant are covered by two different defined benefit pension plans depending on their date of hire. Group A, composed of workers having more seniority, receives higher benefits than Group B. Since June 2018, it is illegal to negotiate this type of provision in Quebec as it constitutes wage discrimination based on the employee’s hiring date. The problem is that the law does not ban such clauses in collective agreements negotiated before this amendment.

“Paccar makes a ridiculous amount of money, but it still refused to settle this issue. Even though we succeeded in reducing the gap in pension benefits between these two groups, there is still a difference of $15 per month per year of service. That’s a considerable amount. It should also be pointed out that the employer raised the possibility of moving production to other plants,” Gagné said.

The new collective agreement nonetheless offers numerous gains, including a 15 per cent wage increase over five years, the elimination of Group A and B in seniority calculations, an increase in pension benefits, including those in Group B, which are increased by 35 per cent (reducing the gap with Group A to 27 per cent), the addition of a second prevention representative for occupational health and safety, an increase in shift premiums and an increase in maximum group insurance earnings, which was also a bargaining priority.

The fact that the union was able to get more out of Paccar than what was in its final offer is without a doubt a significant victory. Another substantial gain to emerge from this dispute is the solidarity between members generated by the lock-out. As Gagné pointed out, “You could just feel how much solidarity and mobilization there was between everyone present at the ratification meeting.”

“It’s time for the Legault government to pass legislation to help us resolve these unfair and inequitable situations, but while making sure that it’s not done to the detriment of pension plan conditions. We need to raise the bar, not lower the bar,” the Quebec Director concluded.

Paccar employs 1,400 Unifor members who manufacture Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks. The employer declared a lock-out on December 1st.


A new collective agreement for 2,400 members at Bombardier

Members of Local 62 ratified a tentative agreement with Bombardier on December 8 with 75 per cent support.  

“This is a good labour contract. We made significant gains in terms of wages, but also in terms of work-life balance, both of which were priorities in the negotiations,” said Renaud Gagné, Unifor’s Quebec Director. “For the first time in its history, this group had obtained a strike mandate even before starting negotiations last September. Once again, mobilization made a big difference.”

Highlights of the deal include:

  • Pension benefit increases of $6 over the term of the three-year agreement ($77 as of January 1st, 2020, $79 as of January 1st, 2021 and $81 as of January 1st, 2022 – calculated on the base rate per year of service and per month),
  • An increase of $2 in the monthly bridging benefit over the term of the three-year agreement ($24 as of January 1st, 2020, $25 as of January 1st, 2022);
  • The possibility to accumulate 48 hours in a renewable hour bank, changes to work schedules: the day shift will start earlier (6:00 and 6:15 a.m.);
  • Evening shift over four 10-hour days; night shift over four 9-hour days;
  • Improved job stability with a letter of agreement providing for the repatriation of outsourced work before imposing lay-offs;
  • Wage increases of 2.5 per cent for each year of the three-year collective agreement.

The Bombardier unit of Local 62 represents 2,400 members who perform interior completion work on Global business jets.

Operation Christmas Cheer brightens spirits at Voith picket line

Operation Christmas Cheer brightened spirits as volunteers brought gifts and good will to striking Local 252 members at the Voith Hydro picket line.

“All of the members are grateful to Operation Christmas Cheer for helping to alleviate some of the hardships that the strikers are facing right now on the picket line,” said John Harte, Local 252 Financial Secretary.

Operation Christmas Cheer (OCC) is a non-profit organization driven by volunteers from the labour movement and the community. For 15 years, its mission has been to make sure every worker walking a picket line in Ontario during the holidays receives some cheer.

With the holidays rapidly approaching, Casandra Robinson, Founder of OCC, hand delivered a truckload of toys along with grocery and other gift cards to the striking members on December 9 as they picketed their Voith Hydro workplace in Mississauga, Ontario.

“When you first go out on strike people honk and stop by, but as time extends over the holidays when everyone is not here and you’re walking this picket line it’s real easy to feel cold, to feel alone, to feel forgotten,” Robinson told the strikers. “I bring you a message today that you are not forgotten. There are more than 240 different locals, individuals and councils that support OCC so we can do what we do every single year.”

Members began strike action at Voith Hydro on November 14, 2019 after the company tabled concessions that would reduce benefits, hurt pensions, and eliminate the Cost of Living Adjustment.

To learn more about Operation Christmas Cheer, or to get involved, visit operationcheer.com or follow them on Facebook.

Ontario Regional Council delegates empowered

Delegates at Ontario Regional Council were empowered to defend good jobs, healthcare, education, and women’s rights in an era of Ford government austerity.

“Now more than ever, we have to come together to carve out our path forward as we continue to fight off this very dangerous government,” Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi told delegates

Council convened on December 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. To mark the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre delegates held up their cell phone flashlights in a moving tribute as a candle lit procession carried purple ribbons bearing the names of the victims through the hall. 

Delegates discussed the union’s work to eradicate misogyny and to fight for equality both in our workplaces and in society. The power of women was further emphasized, as Canadian Olympians Sarah Nurse and Natalie Spooner and high school hockey player Danika Gravelle shared their experience fighting shocking inequality in the game.

“When we unite and stand up for what we believe in, then nothing is impossible,” said Sarah Nurse. “Thanks for your support for women in sport and for equality.”

As delegates discussed and debated an action plan for the upcoming year they passed Director’s Recommendations calling on the Ford government to end inaction on climate change, enact better protections for temporary workers and to provide better care for patients and safer working conditions in long-term care facilities.

In an emotional speech Unifor National President Jerry Dias shared his mother's experience in long-term care as he called for action from Premier Ford.

“This time Doug I’m asking you respectively as a man for the people. I want you to join me for just one shift in the long-term care facilities so we can fix once and for all the inherent disrespect of our seniors,” said Dias. 

The hundreds of representatives from Locals across the province also united in a show of public support for education workers as National President Jerry Dias was joined on stage by Harvey Bischof, OSSTF President, Sam Hammond, ETFO President, Liz Stuart, OECTA President and Smokey Thomas, OPSEU President.

“This is personal. It’s personal when they attack our kids,” said National President Jerry Dias. “It was the government’s plan to cut ten thousand teachers jobs.”

Amid chants of “solidarity”, the five union leaders raised arms before the more than 850 Council attendees.

Hammond called for workers and unions to stand together join forces.

“We are being attacked in the education sector and we need you with us as each affiliate starts to move to take a greater stand to protect children and public education in this province,” Hammond said.

Unifor offered its support to Ontario’s teachers and education workers in the fight against budget cuts that will increase class sizes, eliminate education options and career paths for students, and result in the loss of frontline jobs.

“The Minister of Education says we can fix the class size but the teachers and the workers have to pay for it,” said Stuart. “He’s stealing the money from the pockets of your children and he expects them to pay for it.”

Bischof told delegates that workers will not stand by as the Ford government attacks the future of the province.

“We will not allow this government to create a bargain basement education system,” said Bischof. “The only solution will be found at the bargaining table. If not we will work with you and we will drive them out of office.”

While Thomas sounded the alarm of looming threats to the broader labour movement.

“I feel it in my bones, I feel it in my heart that once Doug is done with the teachers he’s coming for the rest of us,” said Thomas.

Delegates voted to support a Ford Fightback Campaign to oppose any austerity measures that slash and burn labour regulations, social services, health care and education, and to continue to win back the provisions that the government removed from employment standards as the union negotiates new contracts with employers.

“We have held fast against this Premier. We have fought back,” said Rizvi. “But our work now is only getting started. We’re here to recommit to the next phase of this campaign and ensure that Doug Ford is a one-term Premier.”








Unifor members at Gesco ratify new collective agreement

Members of Unifor Local 462, representing warehouse workers at Gesco Industries in Brampton, have voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new three-year collective agreement.

“Unifor is Canada’s leading union for warehouse workers – we’re ensuring that workplace standards keep up with this rapidly growing industry,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “I’m proud of the gains the bargaining committee has made for workers at Gesco.”

The new agreement, ratified on November 30, 2019, includes milestone improvements on emergency and sick leave, enhanced language on equal pay for equal work, adoption of Unifor’s Women’s Advocate Program, new harassment and accident/incident investigation processes, and wage increases.

“We made breakthrough gains during this round of bargaining – importantly, we enhanced sick and emergency leave benefits that go well beyond what the Ford government had recently revoked,” said Charles Redden, Local 462 President. “We’re fighting back against Ford’s attack on workers at the bargaining table.”

In October 2018, the Ford government eliminated mandatory paid sick days. Unifor is advocating for change through federal and provincial lobbying and has adopted a province wide bargaining program to enhance sick and emergency leave benefits in collective agreements.

“The bargaining committee greatly exceeded our bottom line on language and wage improvements in this round of bargaining,” said Larry McIntyre, Local 462 Unit Chair.

The addition of the Women’s Advocate Program in this new three-year agreement means specially trained members will assist members and their families facing domestic violence, and the agreement includes new language that secures up to 26 weeks of domestic violence leave.