Unifor

Air Canada workers to receive income top-up, following union and employer negotiation

April 8, 2020

TORONTO— Unifor welcomes Air Canada’s announcement that it intends to use a new federal wage supplement plan to top up the pay of more than 3,000 Unifor members who were placed on Off Duty Status due to COVID-19.

“Canada’s airline industry has been resilient in the face of past economic downturns and health crises in the past. The same is not always true for airline workers who often bear hardship, loss of income, and deteriorating working conditions during the recovery process,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “This time must be different. We have to show airline workers that they are valued. Air Canada is taking a big step toward recognizing the contributions of hardworking employees with today’s announcement.”

On March 31, Air Canada announced that it was putting 15,600 of its unionized workers on Off Duty Status effective on or about April 3, 2020, with no stated end date. Today’s announcement by the company that subject to final review of the legislation it plans to access the proposed Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy program will benefit all employees on voluntary or involuntary layoff. The company will allow employees to stay at home while receiving 75 per cent of their wages to a maximum of $847 weekly.

“Unifor members in the airline sector face substantial, and lasting consequences as the efforts to contain the virus intensify around the world,” said Euila Leonard, President of Unifor Local 2002. “Today’s announcement gives a sigh of relief to workers, and shows that their employer respects the role they have played to make Air Canada one of the best airlines globally.”

On March 28, 2020, Unifor joined with other Canadian airline unions in sharing concerns and providing solutions to help the industry return to economic health and prosperity. Unifor has called on the government that any financial aid package delivered to any industry, including air travel must be accompanied by strong, enforceable conditions that ensure financial aid is tied to maintaining income for current employees and creating employment. 

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 further information: For media inquiries or to arrange an interview with Jerry Dias via Skype or FaceTime, contact Hamid Osman, Unifor National Communications Representative at 647-448-2823 (cell) or hamid.osman@unifor.org

Fish Processors Put Profits Over People in Push to Open Fishery

April 3, 2020

Fish harvesters and plant workers are raising the alarm on an aggressive push by fish processing companies to rush the opening of inshore fisheries in the province, despite serious concerns from workers that measures are not in place to ensure fishing vessels and processing plants can operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) cancelled a meeting with fish harvesters at the last minute yesterday and subsequently issued a media release calling for an opening to the crab fishery on April 20, despite the serious risks to health and opposition from harvesters and plant workers.

“ASP does not dictate when or if the fishery will open on April 20. It’s abundantly clear that these processing companies are putting profits ahead of people and are no longer interested in collaborating with fish harvesters and plant workers on best practices and protocols that must be in place before the fishery begins,” says Keith Sullivan, FFAW-Unifor President.

FFAW-Unifor and processing company representatives had been working together to develop best practices and common health and safety protocols for fishing vessels and processing plants in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This work abruptly ended yesterday when ASP walked away from the table and called for the fishery to open as soon as possible.

FFAW-Unifor elected snow crab committee members made the decision on March 24 to recommend a delay to the fishery until at least April 20, possibly longer, as they continue to re-evaluate the COVID-19 situation. FFAW-Unifor will recommend a further delay or closure if members are not safe at work.

Newfoundland and Labrador has the oldest population in Canada and the average age of fishery workers is older than the average age of the province. Most harvesters and plant workers are over 50 and a good number are in their 60s and 70s. As public health officials have made abundantly clear, COVID-19 is particularly harmful to older people, which is why harvesters and plant workers are demanding that companies prioritize and respect their health and the health of their families. 

Plant workers, for snow crab in particular, suffer from high rates of respiratory illness that puts them at a greater risk and in an extremely vulnerable position if exposed to COVID-19.

Health Minister John Haggie and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald have said that Newfoundland and Labrador is only at the start of this pandemic, and already the province has one of the highest per capita rates of infection in the country.

“The vast majority of harvesters are prioritizing safety over the profits of processing companies. The worst of this pandemic is yet to come. We will not recommend an opening to the fishery if our members are at risk,” concludes Sullivan.

For media inquiries, please contact: 

Courtney Glode

FFAW-Unifor Communications

cglode@ffaw.ca

709-743-4445

Story originally posted on the FFAW-Unifor website​.

Unifor calls on long-term care employers to recognize front-line workers during this pandemic

April 6, 2020

WINDSOR— Unifor calls on all long-term care employers to follow the lead of many essential industries, by providing a premium pay to workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Health care workers continue to take incredible risks for themselves and their families to help protect and care for their residents,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “LTC employers have shown a great reluctance to recognize the contribution of our members, so I applaud employers such as Heron Terrace in Windsor, Ontario that have initiated thank you bonuses for all hours worked during the pandemic. It is moments like these where you see which employers truly recognize the sacrifices made by these amazing COVID-19 heroes.”

At Heron Terrace Long-Term Care facility, there have been two confirmed cases of COVID-19. The employer has offered all health care workers a $3.00 per hour premium on regular hours, reimbursement for cab fares, and lodging should they need it.

“With chronic staffing shortages plaguing the industry for years, employers must do everything in their power to bring back personal support workers who have left the industry to support current care teams,” said Tullio DiPonti, President of Unifor Local 2458. “This is an issue of respect for health care workers, residents and their families. It starts by providing personal protective equipment, adequate childcare supports, providing a premium pay for front-line staff and doing everything in their power to ensure there is enough staff to provide safe care during this crisis.”

For years prior to the pandemic, Unifor has been calling on the Ontario government to address the urgent, crisis-level issues facing Personal Support Workers (PSWs). The union has long advocated for a regulatory minimum of four hours per patient of a standard of care in long-term care homes.

“The on-going crisis in long-term care existed well before the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has exposed the fact that a decade of below inflation wage increases and increased workload have exacerbated the shortage of PSW’s," said Dias.

The union calls on all long-term care homes in Ontario to provide personal protective equipment and adequate staff and fair compensation for long-term care workers during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unifor will continue to provide updates as information becomes available at unifor.org/COVID19.

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 an interview with Jerry Dias via Skype or FaceTime, contact Hamid Osman, Unifor National Communications Representative at 647-448-2823 (cell) or hamid.osman@unifor.org

Ford of Canada producing face shields for frontline health care workers and first responders

*The following is a joint media release with Ford Motor Company of Canada, Ltd. and Unifor*

OAKVILLE–Ford Motor Company of Canada, Ltd. has begun production of face shields at its Windsor Site operations to help protect Canadian medical personnel and first responders on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ford of Canada is working closely with the Ontario and federal governments to distribute face shields throughout the province, and across Canada. Shipments are scheduled to start this week.

“Ford of Canada has a long history of supporting Canada and its communities in times of need,” said Dean Stoneley, president and CEO, Ford Motor Company of Canada, Ltd. “By repurposing our production facilities in Windsor to meet the urgent demand for face shields, we can help protect the lives of our heroic healthcare professionals and first responders as they continue to treat the most vulnerable among us.”

Following the advice of government and health officials, Unifor and Ford of Canada remain in continuous communication at the national and plant level to ensure all safety actions and precautions are taken to help keep workers and their families protected.

“I am incredibly grateful to our members at Ford in Windsor for doing a tremendous service for their community and their country during this national emergency,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “I commend Ford for working with Unifor to ensure that strict health and safety protocols are in place that will ensure our members can manufacture badly needed medical supplies and return home safely to their homes and families.”

Ford of Canada is committed to the health and safety of its workforce, customers, dealers, suppliers and communities. With dedicated teams closely monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ford of Canada continues to explore creative solutions, bringing them forward in ongoing discussions with the Canadian government.

Ford of Canada will provide additional updates as these special projects progress.

Additional contribution of essential equipment made by Ford of Canada and its employees include the donation of 2,900 pairs of Nitrile gloves to the Brampton Civic Hospital by Ford of Canada’s Bramalea Parts Distribution Centre in Brampton, Ontario, and the donation of 80 N95 masks to the Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital by Ford of Canada’s national headquarters.

Equal access to personal protective equipment needed for all workers at London hospital

April 3, 2020

LONDON — Unifor is calling on London Health Science Centre (LHSC) to immediately provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to all health care workers, regardless of their occupation.

“We are not going to flatten the curve by picking and choosing which health care workers receive personal protective equipment,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “We know COVID-19 is now spread through community transmission and it’s mind boggling to see LHSC pick and choose who they will protect on the job when they have a responsibility to provide PPE to every worker, regardless of what task they perform in the hospital or their occupation.”

Over the past week Unifor has held daily conference calls with LHSC management and has reiterated the union’s position that regardless of your job title in hospital, workers on their way into the facility through the screening process should receive an mask.

“The argument that some workers have no chance of being exposed to COVID-19 is simply false,” said Brian Chapman, President of Unifor Local 27. “In a time of crisis LHSC needs to stop these dangerous games and put workers first.”

Recognizing the global shortage and increasing demand for PPE, Unifor’s positon is that the priority of governments and hospital administration should be in securing PPE from other industries in less urgent need and not on hoarding PPE, or otherwise refusing access to PPE for workers at risk, on the frontlines.

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 further information: contact Hamid Osman, Unifor National Communications Representative at 647-448-2823 (cell) or hamid.osman@unifor.org

Gaps in emergency income measures must be closed before applications open on Monday

April 3, 2020

TORONTO – Unifor is urging federal ministers to close the gaps in new emergency income programs, so that no worker is left behind.

“Canada’s workers need access to emergency benefits. The programs put forward show a commitment to support unemployed workers, but still leaves too many questions unanswered,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “When this system opens for applications on April 6, it must be fully universal  and leave no worker worse off, as they grapple with the long-term financial challenge of this viral pandemic.”

In a letter sent on Friday , April 3 to Minister Carla Qualtrough, the union requested assurances that workers can receive Supplementary Unemployment Benefits under Employment Insurance rules and that seasonal workers qualify for emergency benefits, among other asks.

“Millions of workers have applied for financial support from the federal government in the past two weeks. This is because they need those funds to provide the necessities to survive,” said Renaud Gagné, Unifor Quebec Director.

Unifor seeks assurances that new CERB and EI rules must expand eligibility for students, newcomers and people facing injury or disability, workers caring for those who are immunocompromised, and ensure a seamless transition to regular EI benefits, once the emergency benefits expire, with no waiting period or other claw back.

Unifor has produced this Fact Sheet on the CERB and has posted revised information about the union’s response to the pandemic, as well as resources for members at unifor.org/COVID19.

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.

For media inquiries or to arrange a Skye or FaceTime interview with Jerry Dias, please contact Unifor’s Director of Communications, Natalie Clancy at  Natalie.Clancy@unifor.org or 416-707-5794 (cell).

NS Health Care Workers Need Assurances on Safety Equipment

Five unions representing health care workers providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic are calling on government and employers to sign onto a safety protocol that would ensure these frontline workers feel protected and supported during this unprecedented time. 

The NSGEU, NSNU, CUPE, Unifor and IUOE jointly agreed to this protocol, which is similar to protocols that have recently been adopted by the provincial government and employers in Alberta and Ontario. On Monday, the protocol was sent to Premier Stephen McNeil, Health & Wellness Minister Randy Delorey, Chief Medical Officer Robert Strang, as well as Dr. Brendan Carr at the NSHA and Dr. Krista Jangaard at the IWK.

So far, government and employer representatives have not agreed to sign the document.

Our frontline health care workers deserve the same level of respect, peace of mind and protection that is being provided to health care workers in other parts of this country.

We understand that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is in short supply worldwide, but this protocol strikes a balance between protecting both our supply and our frontline workers; by protecting them it would ensure they remain healthy and able to treat the sick.

We are doing our best to work cooperatively with government at this time of crisis, reaffirming our commitment to the Good Neighbour Protocol in 2009 and working with our members to help provide care during this difficult time. We need government to meet us half way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada’s workers cannot afford more government delays for wage replacement

April 1, 2020

TORONTO – Unifor warns the Government of Canada against further delays to already overdue financial support for workers and employers.

“Many workers are entering their third week of self isolation, compounded by the most sudden, widespread job loss our country has ever experienced. Now, just days after the federal government presented something close to an inclusive plan, it seems like more roadblocks have been set up,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Now is not the time for partisan shots and delays, it’s time to streamline delivery of the responsible solutions that Canada’s workers need.”

Today Finance Minister Bill Minister Morneau announced that the portal for employers to access wage replacement funds will not be available for an additional 3-6 weeks. Earlier today, conservative politicians were critical of this necessary program and Prime Minister Trudeau announced that Parliament will be recalled again to vote on the economic stimulus package. 

Unifor has advocated for swift, comprehensive measures to protect workers’ jobs, financial interests, and health as early as March 5, 2020. However, many of the new measures have yet to be adopted, and the new benefits that have been announced are still not available for workers to apply for or receive.

“Workers are still waiting for the financial support announced weeks ago, with millions already out of work or laid off,” said Renaud Gagné, Unifor Quebec Director. “Canada’s workers are doing their part to stop the spread of this viral pandemic, it’s time for Ottawa to provide the clarity and leadership to bring us through this crisis together, with a comprehensive plan, not more patchwork announcements and irresponsible delays.”

Ahead of yet another emergency parliamentary session, Unifor urges policymakers to follow through with responsible regulations for employers that receive the expanded wage subsidy public benefit.

This includes the continuation of benefit programs and pension contributions and limits on executive compensation and shareholder payments.

Unifor has produced this Fact Sheet on the CERB and has posted revised information about the union’s response to the pandemic, as well as resources for members at unifor.org/COVID19.

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.

For media inquiries or to arrange a Skype or FaceTime interview with Jerry Dias,  please contact Unifor’s Director of Communications, Natalie Clancy at Natalie.Clancy@unifor.org or 416-707-5794 (cell).

Unifor commends Trudeau government for moving on more significant wage replacement plan

March 31, 2020

TORONTO – Following weeks of piecemeal announcements, Unifor commends the federal government for expanding eligibility of a 75 per cent wage subsidy to include large and small employers in Canada.

“We have said from day one that no worker should be forced to bear the economic cost of flattening the curve alone. We are completely united as a country in the efforts to slow this virus, and that must include taking care of workers who have lost their income or facing layoff,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.

Employer groups and unions were united in a call for this wage subsidy for Canada’s workers. Now, as employers await further details and guidance from the federal government, Unifor urges policymakers to follow through with responsible regulations for employers that receive this public benefit. This includes the continuation of benefit programs and pension contributions, limits on executive compensation and shareholder payments, and a commitment to remaining neutral during union certification drives.

“I hope that this is enough for large and small employers to do the right thing, work with the government to keep more of Canada’s workers on payroll, and ensure these public funds are used for the right reasons,” continued Dias. “We must work together to mitigate layoffs wherever possible, easing the burden on E.I. and continuing to deliver essential services.”

Unifor has produced this Fact Sheet on the CERB and has posted revised information about the union’s response to the pandemic, as well as resources for members at unifor.org/COVID19.

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.

For media inquiries or to arrange a Skye or FaceTime interview with Jerry Dias, please contact Unifor’s Director of Communications, Kathleen O’Keefe at kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org or 416-896-3303 (cell).

Unifor unable to accept the Co-op Refinery final offer

March 31, 2020

REGINA—After carefully analyzing the final offer tabled on March 30, 2020 by Co-op Refinery, the Unifor Local 594 Bargaining Committee is recommending the membership reject the offer when the forced final vote is conducted by the Saskatchewan Labour Board. 

The Co-op's latest final offer, their second in five days, includes new concessions not included in the Special Mediators' report.

“We stand by the recommendations of Premier Scott Moe’s mediators,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “The mediators’ recommendations were thoughtfully crafted and balanced. They represent the best path forward for both oil and gas workers and the company.”

On March 20, 2020, Local 594 members voted overwhelming to ratify the mediators' recommendations to end the 117-day lockout.

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.

For media inquiries please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell).

Kenney’s surprise cuts will damage education and the economy

EDMONTON—Alberta Premier Jason Kenney must reverse education cuts announced March 28, 2020 to avoid more harm to classroom education and an already fragile economy, says Unifor.

“Jason Kenney wants Albertans to think they have to choose between their children’s education and their health,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Instead of showing leadership, Kenney wants to pit Albertans against one another.”

Despite promising to honour the funding for boards of education until the end of the year, the Minister of Education emailed boards to announce a funding cut in several areas, including so-called “non-essential” staff at schools. 

Unifor represents 4,000 school support staff in Alberta’s Francophone and Catholic school system.  The union says the 14 per cent cut will be devastating for members and will impact learning.

“Support staff play a critical role in Alberta’s school system. Today’s cuts will hurt the quality of education, and in many cases, directly impact some of the most vulnerable children in the system,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director. “The Premier must reverse these cuts immediately.”

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.

For media inquiries please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell). 

Revised Ontario emergency powers may do more harm than good in long-term care

March 29, 2020

TORONTO— Unifor is concerned that the latest revisions to Ontario’s emergency powers could cause future health and safety issues for residents in long-term care homes, as they don’t have to report incidents or follow normal hiring guidelines. Shortages in personal support workers have already plagued the industry well before the pandemic.

“Our members understood the need for the Ontario government’s initial temporary order giving long-term care operators extraordinary emergency powers to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “These latest revisions to the act from Doug Ford jeopardize the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens. Our seniors deserve highly trained and qualified health care workers caring for them, not shoe-ins determined by the employer without appropriate oversight."

On March 23, 2020, the Ontario government introduced the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act giving long-term care homes extraordinary emergency powers to prevent the spread of COVID-19 similar to what they did days earlier for hospitals. The revisions to the act amend subsection 7.0.2 (4) of the Emergency management and civil protection act, which changes language on reporting obligations and hiring of new staff in long term care homes.

“The revised powers given to employers are extreme and allow long term care home employers to get out of many of their reporting obligations and they can now circumvent the qualifications needed to hire new employees,” said Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director. “We have already heard that some employers are asking library workers to temporarily work in long-term care homes. Library workers and health care workers are both important in their own right, but having any worker who is not trained to work in a long term care home is careless, dangerous and unfair to Ontarians.”

“We’ve given the Minister of Long-Term Care, Merrilee Fullerton concrete suggestions on how they could actually attract qualified personal support workers who have left the industry to come back,” said Katha Fortier, Assistant to the National President. “They can immediately up-staff all nursing homes, utilizing casual and part-time workers who are able to work full time hours so they actually have time to provide safe care practices to protect these residents, and add a modest premium to attract qualified staff. We know that COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care are deadly, and this government should be pulling out all the stops to protect lives.”

Unifor will continue to provide updates as information becomes available at unifor.org/COVID19.

Unifor salutes workers for delivering Canadian customer service in a crisis

March 27, 2020

OTTAWA – Unifor members at Bell Canada step up as shutdowns in offshore facilities combined with increased need for assistance cause a spike in calls to customer support agents.

“As millions of Canadians face sudden loss of income, Bell Canada has avoided layoffs and increased employment by bringing customer service calls back to Canada,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Unifor members across the country are stepping into new roles and taking customer service calls, keeping Canadians connected.”

Several overseas call centres are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing customer service calls back to Canada. Since the closure of international call centres, Unifor members in several different certifications have retrained to take customer service calls at home.

“Unifor members are ready to serve business and residential clients through the crisis and in the future,” said Renaud Gagné, Unifor Quebec Director. “Telecom workers right here in Canada are more than capable of delivering the service that Bell customers expect when they need assistance.”

The union remains in constant communication with Bell Canada and all telecommunications employers on solutions to decrease risk and secure safe working conditions for members across the industry during the pandemic.

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 further information, 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).

Ontario fiscal update fails to provide direct financial support to workers affected by COVID-19

March 25, 2020

TORONTO—The fiscal update provided by Ontario Minister of Finance Rod Phillips today failed to enact adequate measures to protect Ontarians from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“As this deadly and costly pandemic unfolds, Ontarians deserved to see far more from their government in today’s update,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Minister Philips spoke at length about protecting the cash flow of businesses but had shockingly little to say about the cash flow of Ontarians and that’s completely unacceptable.”

Unifor has been demanding urgent action from the Ford government, including immediate relief for workers affected by the pandemic or the broader economic effects of the government’s public health response. These measures should include instituting a minimum of 14 paid sick days and establishing direct, emergency income assistance measures. The full recommendations from Unifor are outlined in a letter to the Premier here.

The government announced only small one-time payments for families with children and limited other measures to offer minor relief with utility costs and student loans. With record-numbers of layoffs and Employment Insurance claims in recent days, the federal government and other provincial jurisdictions are providing greater direct support measures than the government of Ontario.

Minister Philips also announced a $3.3 billion funding increase as part of the government’s health care response to COVID-19. While greater detail is needed on the government’s planned deployment of the funding in the short-term, health care workers must see a more substantial investment to address chronic, long-term underfunding of health care in Ontario, with a clear plan to reopen and staff shuttered hospital beds.

“Today’s announcement leaves countless thousands of Ontarians out of what should have been the most ambitious and substantive direct income assistance plan we’ve seen in generations,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor’s Ontario Regional Director. “Instead, this government is failing in its responsibility to provide direct emergency relief to Ontario workers, as so many other provinces and countries have already done.” 

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 an interview, please contact Unifor Communications National Representative David Molenhuis at david.molenhuis@unifor.org or 416-575-7453 (cell).

After snubbing Moe’s mediators, Co-op demands more concessions

March 25, 2020

REGINA—Only 72 hours after rejecting all of the recommendations from Premier Scott Moe’s appointed mediators, Federated Co-operatives Limited has tabled new, aggressive concessions in bargaining with oil & gas workers in Regina.

“Right from the beginning, we called for mediation to be binding, not a friendly suggestion for Co-op to ignore,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “The province must introduce legislation to end to this dispute and force this rogue employer to restore safe operation of Saskatchewan’s largest refinery.”

On day 111 of the bitter lockout at the Co-op Refinery, the company has tabled a “final offer” with concessions that go far beyond what was proposed by Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers in their report commissioned and paid for by the Saskatchewan government. Co-op’s new demands include a significant reduction in the company’s pension responsibilities while gutting the employee savings plan.

“Co-op has never wanted to compromise, they want it all,” said Kevin Bittman, Unifor Local 594 President. “But it’s too late for that. The mediators’ report was the process that workers and the company agreed to, we ratified it, and it’s what Scott Moe needs to enforce.”

Local 594 voted 98 per cent in favour of the compromises contained in the report from the Premier’s appointed mediators, and say they are ready to return to work under that settlement, which includes workers contributing eight percent to their pensions. Unifor says that a return to work for the skilled workforce that normally operates the Regina refinery cannot happen soon enough.

“The crowded scab camp is a health disaster waiting to happen. It is in the province’s interest for Premier Moe to put an end to this lockout and close the scab camp once and for all,” said Dias.

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.

For media inquiries please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell).

Employers sabotage worker access to EI benefits, Great Canadian Casino workers speak out

March 24, 2020

TORONTO – Unifor calls on all employers to adhere to Service Canada’s demand that COVID-19 related work shortages be coded appropriately, instead of blocking workers’ access to EI.

“Some employers are sabotaging workers’ access to EI benefits and it has to stop,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Workers from across Canada are being delayed access to EI benefits because employers are miscoding Records of Employment.”

Unifor has received dozens of complaints from workers, notably those recently laid off from Great Canadian Casinos, that ROE forms are being miscoded. Service Canada has stated clearly that all ROEs must be coded as “shortage of work.” Employers who improperly code forms are causing excessive delays for workers trying to access EI.

“Workers are suffering as this crisis evolves and this error is only hurting workers and their families, and employers need to fall in line, and stop listening to a handful of law firms giving bad advice” said Dias.

The advice on Service Canada’s website to employers is very clear that workers laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic must be coded “shortage of work.”

Unifor recently urged all Members of Parliament to act quickly to address issues facing workers; including radical EI reform and emergency measures to ensure that wage loss is minimized.

“Emergency measures are needed immediately. Workers cannot wait another day while the EI system continues to fail those who need it,” continued Dias.

Unifor launched a comprehensive hub for information about the pandemic at unifor.org/COVID19 and encourages all members to visit the site regularly for updates.

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.

For media inquiries please contact National Communications Representative, Paul Whyte at Paul.Whyte@unifor.org or 647-221-9343 (cell).

Ford must re-invest $1 billion in health care to fight COVID-19

March 24, 2020

TORONTO—Unifor is urging the Government of Ontario to strengthen its COVID-19 strategy, restore $1 billion in health spending and adopt a series of policies to protect the health and economic security of Ontarians in advance of tomorrow’s economic update.

“By all estimations, the pandemic will get worse before it gets better. We need the Ontario government to abandon its piecemeal approach to this crisis,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Doug Ford’s slow-moving approach to this crisis will bring a whole host of economic perils for Ontarians that his government has not begun to address.”

The Ontario government previously cut an estimated $2.7 billion in health spending in its 2019 budget, including $13-million to Public Health Ontario which directly affected the province’s capacity to test for infectious diseases. As reports continue to show long wait times and delays for testing Ontarians for COVID-19, Unifor is calling for the province to immediately reverse health care cuts by a minimum of $1 billion. The funding must also be prioritized for long-term care as seniors are among the most vulnerable population to the effects of COVID-19 and the province has yet to address the Personal Support Worker (PSW) shortages across the province.

“There can be no doubt that the government’s funding cuts to health care made it much more difficult to adequately protect Ontarians from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director. “The Ford government is risking the health and safety of Personal Support Workers and long-term care facility residents in this province if funding isn’t restored by March 25.”

Unifor has called on the Ontario government to implement broad-based measures to protect Ontarians’ income and their health, as well as implement specific protections for seniors and health care workers. The union’s letter to the premier can be viewed here.

Unifor accounts for the dramatic economic disruption caused by the pandemic in its recommendations to government. As a significant number of laid off workers face potentially insurmountable financial pressures and a lack of relief from Employment Insurance payments, workers, especially gig economy, contract, and precarious workers, will require direct emergency income assistance. Unlike various other provinces, the Ontario government has so far provided no income support to workers that do not qualify for EI benefits and are either waiting, or ineligible, for pending federal supports. 

While the Ford government has implemented some protections already, a Toronto Star report released on Friday revealed that Ontario’s health authorities have been critical of Ontario’s COVID-19 strategy describing it as slow, incremental and ineffective.

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 an interview, please contact Unifor Communications National Representative David Molenhuis at david.molenhuis@unifor.org or 416-575-7453 (cell).

Ottawa has stalled too long on EI reform, new action needed

March 23, 2020

TORONTO - Unifor is calling on MPs to use the special Tuesday Parliamentary session to move quickly on reform and pass emergency measures to ensure all workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have a reliable, decent paycheque.

“We are facing a crisis of catastrophic proportions that requires fast action from government. Despite promising first steps, federal progress on worker supports has stalled and I’m afraid our opportunity for quick action may have passed,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.

Unifor is calling on Parliament to pass emergency measures on Tuesday to expedite the delivery of paycheques to displaced working families, through whatever means necessary, including via existing employer payroll systems or direct payments to households. 

“Canada’s workers were feeling the squeeze before they were forced out of a job by this pandemic. Without a dramatic change of tack, in a few more days laid-off workers will be left with empty cupboards and bare dinner tables,” said Dias.

In December of last year, a survey by MNP found that nearly half of Canadians were $200 or less away from financial insolvency. Federal funding announcements to date have not addressed the immediate need of Canadian families to cover necessities.

Two-thirds of the of the federal support package announced by government on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 is not income support but will instead be delivered in tax deferrals to business and individuals, while new income support programs for those who do not qualify for E.I. will take weeks to even begin accepting applications.

“Last week, more than 500,000 individual E.I. claims were filed and there is no reason to expect that number to slow down,” said Lana Payne, Unifor Secretary-Treasurer. “Millions more will have their work interrupted by this pandemic. The E.I. system, once overwhelmed, is now completely under water.”

Canada sits on the lower end of the spectrum as governments around the world such as New Zealand, Sweden, and America have already pledged four to six per cent of GDP towards immediate fiscal support. Canada should consider adopting creative solutions as the UK has done in pledging income replacement to be paid out to businesses that keep employees on payroll instead of forcing layoffs.

“Members of Parliament need to be prepared to make an immediate decision about how they plan to fund income replacement for Canada’s workers tomorrow. If the E.I. system cannot handle these claims in a timely way, an immediate and temporary alternative is needed to ensure hardworking Canadian families do not fall into financial ruin,” continued Dias.

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

For further information, contact Sarah McCue, Unifor National Communications Representative at 416-458-3307 (cell) or sarah.mccue@unifor.org.

Refinery workers overwhelmingly endorse independent mediator’s recommendations

REGINA—Unifor Local 594 members have voted in 98 per cent favour of the recommendations made by a Vince Ready and Amanda Rogers, the government-appointed mediators asked to help end the 109-day lockout at the Co-op Refinery.

“Premier Scott Moe appointed Ready and Rogers to resolve this dispute. They did their part. The union has now accepted the recommendations. The only thing standing in the way of an end to this lockout is an employer that demands new concessions to this day,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “We asked the premier for this process to be binding because clearly Co-op cannot be trusted to act in good faith. We were right.”

In addition to snubbing the recommendations of Moe’s appointed mediators, Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) used the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse to try to leverage even more concessions from oil and gas workers.

Ready and Rogers tabled eight recommendations on March 19, 2020 that included sweeping changes to the refinery workers’ pension plan, which FCL said were needed. The mediators’ terms would have saved the employer millions of dollars, as workers would have contributed up to eight per cent to their pensions, in addition to other major concessions the company had been seeking. 

“Refinery workers didn’t endorse the mediators’ recommendations because they gave us everything we wanted. We endorsed them because they represent a reasonable compromise that the company has little excuse to reject,” said Kevin Bittman, Unifor Local 594 President.

Unifor remains concerned that this lockout and use of scabs from out of province in a crowded work camp is dragging on amidst a public health crisis that threatens the provincial economy.

“We need Premier Moe to legislate an end to this and force FCL to accept the now-ratified deal,” said Dias.

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.

For media inquiries please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell). Unifor National President Jerry Dias is available for video interview FaceTime or Skype.

Media must be included in COVID-19 emergency plan: Unifor

March 23, 2020

TORONTO – Unifor is calling on the federal government to ensure that Canadian media organizations survive the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to provide vital information to the public.

“Almost every Canadian newspaper and television news outlet was teetering on the brink before the pandemic hit,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “Our media companies are experiencing unprecedented dips in advertising revenues, resulting in catastrophic losses.”

Dias commended media workers for their continued work to deliver crucial facts to Canadians during this time of crisis. Dias also applauded the many news organizations with pay-walled websites that have offered COVID-19 related information for free.

“The news industry is giving away its most sought after content because it’s the right thing to do, the only thing to do,” said Dias. “We have a long way to go to recovery so the federal government has to act now and include news organizations as part of the emergency plan.”

Dias proposed that the federal government increase the 25 per cent labour tax credit for written journalism passed in the 2019 Budget. It should also expand the program to include television companies, which the CRTC reports have been running annual losses of up to eight per cent since 2013.

Dias cited the report of the expert committee to reform the Broadcasting Act, which made the same recommendation at the end of January before the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was known.

Unifor represents 11,000 Canadian journalists and media workers, part of the 315,000 workers represented by the union in every major area of the economy. As Canada’s largest union in the private 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 please contact Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe at kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org  or 416-896-3303 (cell).

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