Unifor

Sodexo workers at Acadia University ratify first agreement

Sodexo Physical Plant workers at Acadia University ratified their first collective agreement after just two days of bargaining. Local 2107 members voted 91 per cent in favour of the contract that secured wages, shift premiums, Paid Education Leave, a Women’s Advocate, and enhanced safety language.

“We had an incredibly committed and focused team during bargaining and the results are a clear reflection of that,” said Darlene McIvor, National Representative. “These workers were eager to be Unifor members and were ready to work together to improve their working conditions.”

The vote on April 10 also included a vote for three shop stewards (pictured) and a Unit Chairperson.

The collective agreement covers workers who perform custodial and snow removal duties at the university.

Unifor Local 483 members ratify new agreement at Ingredion

Members who work at the Ingredion Canada corn processing plant in Cardinal, Ontario have voted 83 per cent in favour of a new collective agreement.

“We were successful in fighting off concessions proposed by the company and made some real gains for our hard-working members,” said Joe Roode, President of Local 483. “The bargaining committee would like to thank the members for their solidarity throughout the process because it helped us at the table.” 

Unifor Local 483 represents 143 workers at the plant. 

The agreement includes improved language, benefits and a 2.5 per cent wage increase in each year of the four-year agreement.

Trades will also see an additional increase of $.50 in the second year of the contract.  This equates to an average increase in wages of approximately $3.80 an hour during the term of the agreement.

Retail and Wholesale workers poised to make bargaining gains in face of workplace changes

Canadian retail, wholesale and warehousing industries are facing a major technological upheaval, as online shopping advances, consumer habits change and automation expands.  These changes raise serious questions about the future of work in the sector, our bargaining demands and our ability to organize new members.

More than 100 members attended the second Unifor Retail and Wholesale Workers Conference in Port Elgin, Ontario from April 12-14, 2019.

Themed “Making gains when confronted by change. Advancing Unifor’s ‘Program for Action’ in Retail-Wholesale” the Retail and Wholesale conference allowed workers to discuss new challenges affecting workplaces and continue building on the union's bargaining and political action strategy, that's resulted in landmark improvements to wages, scheduling and other gains for retail workers since 2015. Unifor locals are now preparing to renegotiate contracts for more than 10,000 supermarket workers across Canada over the next two years, starting with Toronto-area Metro stores in July.

Unifor represents more than 20,000 members working in retail stores, supermarkets, food warehouses, drug stores, wholesaling outlets and others across Canada. Workers in the sector face erratic work schedules, high turnover and many earn minimum wage. The previous Ontario government launched the changing workplace review to address the same inequities retail and wholesale workers in Ontario were facing.

Unifor became a leading voice in pushing for a living wage, equal pay for equal work and legislated paid sick days for all workers in Ontario. The Liberal government at the time passed Bill 148 that brought in progressive labour reforms. However, the Ford government immediately reversed the majority of the progressive labour reforms found in Bill 148.

“Metro and Loblaw lobbied the new right wing government hard on erasing the gains and going back to lower standards,” Naureen Rizvi Ontario Regional Director. “Employers needed to know that they may have won the battle but have yet to win to war. We developed the Emergency Collective Bargaining Directive that included eight of the key labour reforms that were included in Bill 148.

In a panel discussion on tackling the gender pay gap within the retail-wholesale sector, Lana Payne, Atlantic Regional Director led a conversation on the important role Unifor is playing in identifying and raising gender pay inequities with governments and employers.

“The work of Unifor, our sister unions and our community coalition partners is helping to narrow gender pay inequities,” said Payne. “Average wages in retail has jumped in Canada from $16 to $18 per hour since 2014. Even higher in provinces like Ontario and Alberta, thanks to major campaigns to increase minimum wage, and creative bargaining from our Union.

On the final day of the conference, Unifor National President Jerry Dias spoke of ways retail and wholesale workers are confronting e-commerce, online shopping and new automated technological changes in their workplace.

“The success we had in the retail and wholesale sector shows how critical both bargaining and political action are to make real gains for workers,” Unifor National President. “It shows how important community alliances and community solidarity is. It’s not one versus the other – it’s both. That’s how workers win.”

To read the Unifor’s retail and wholesale sector program for action click here.

Enriching and inspiring discussions mark the 2019 Quebec Director’s tour

On April 2, more than 50 representatives of Unifor local unions gathered for the final meeting of the 2019 regional tour by the Unifor Quebec Director.

The popularity of the annual tour is on the rise, with over 400 local union members participating this year in 10 meetings with the Quebec Director held in Saguenay, Baie-Comeau, Rimouski, Boisbriand (North Shore), Amos, Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Gatineau, Longueuil (South Shore) and Montreal. The tour offers a unique opportunity for the local unions and Quebec Director Renaud Gagné to discuss and share information on the challenges and realities facing the different workplaces. Current issues of interest to members are also addressed. Among other important files, brother Gagné updated members on the duties imposed by the U.S. on aluminum and softwood lumber, the campaign to save the GM plant in Oshawa, caribou protection measures and their impact on jobs, the upcoming federal election, organizing campaigns, etc.

In the regions, the tour is also an opportunity to meet with local media and to present our issues, to lobby local and national politicians and, more broadly, to contribute to the promotion of Unifor.

Unifor and Rexall reach tentative agreement

A new tentative collective agreement has been reached between Unifor Local 414 and Rexall.

“Congratulations to the bargaining committee, who have worked tirelessly for months to reach a fair deal for our hard working members,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.

Unifor represents approximately 425 workers at 27 stores located across the Greater Ottawa Area. Their collective agreement expired on December 31, 2018.

Talks between management and the Unifor bargaining team representing the workers began on January 5, 2019 with a deadline set for April 10, 2019.

The tentative agreement will be presented to members for a ratification vote on Monday, April 15 at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.

“We are pleased to report this deal is a big step forward and we are recommending it to our membership,” said Gord Currie, President of Local 414.

Details of the tentative agreement will not be released publicly until the agreement is presented to members, but negotiations were focused on good jobs and fair treatment for retail workers.

Workers interrupt Chartwell Retirement’s open house to demand fair wages

Members working for Chartwell Retirement Homes in Orangeville, Ottawa, Thunder Bay and Windsor organized coordinated actions to interrupt Chartwell’s open house this past weekend to demand Chartwell pay its workers a fair wage.

“Potential residents and their families need to be aware of the shamefully low wages being paid to Chartwell Retirement workers,” said Katha Fortier, Assistant to Unifor National President. “Chartwell is paying former Premier of Ontario Mike Harris $237,000 annually, meanwhile refusing to pay a living wage to front line workers who provide a safe and enjoyable living environment for seniors.”

The open house actions are part of the union’s Pay Fair Chartwell campaign. The campaign aims to inform residents, families and community members of Chartwell’s unwillingness to pay workers a fair wage.

“Many Chartwell Retirement Home workers earn minimum wage or little more. In fact, at one home the starting wage for a personal support worker is $14.35 an hour, so its no surprise staff turnover is incredibly high,” continued Fortier.

The Pay Fair Chartwell campaign also features billboard advertisements in all Chartwell Retirement Home communities, a petition calling on Chartwell CEO Brent Binions and Chair of the Board Mike Harris to pay workers a decent, living wage and the “Ask Hilda” video series, Unifor’s take on Chartwell’s “Ask Edna” videos.

Unifor represents more than 26,000 members in the health care sector. For more information on the campaign, visit www.unifor.org/payfairchartwell.

Unifor transforms children’s lives in Ethopia

The Unifor Social Justice Fund (SJF) is working to improve the lives of children with its support of Transforming Faces and Beautiful World initiatives in Ethiopia.

Shauna Wilcox, Unifor National Executive Board member representing health care and Jean Walters, Unifor National Representative, recently had the opportunity to observe the profound impact of the projects firsthand.

Transforming Faces is dedicated to providing comprehensive care for children with a cleft lip and/or palate, one of the most common birth anomalies in the world. A cleft occurs when a baby’s lip and/or palate do not fuse properly during pregnancy, causing an opening in the baby’s lip, roof of their mouth, or both. This impacts more than a child’s physical appearance as children born with cleft lip and palate commonly develop speech and communication problems, even after surgery.

The Unifor Social Justice Fund has been instrumental in launching a brand new undergraduate speech therapy program. This year the first two cohorts of speech students will graduate, bringing the number of speech professionals practicing in Ethiopia from two to eighteen. Unifor representatives Wilcox and Walters were able to celebrate this major milestone by meeting several students from the inaugural class.

“One does not make a visit like this and not be forever impacted. It was truly inspiring to see the smiles on the faces of the young children whose lives have been forever changed and the smiles and tears of gratitude of their parents,” said Wilcox. “I have so much admiration for the people who put the money to use on the frontline; they are truly a committed and dedicated team.”

Additionally, the Unifor Social Justice Fund has allowed Transforming Faces to expand speech therapy services in rural communities, with a partnership with Project Harar to train community speech assistants to provide home-based speech support to rural patients in the patient’s own language.

Wilcox and Walters meet the Project Harar Ethiopia team

“Transforming Faces is grateful for our long-term partnership with the Unifor Social Justice Fund,” said Hugh Brewster, Executive Director of Transforming Faces. “The development of the speech therapy profession in Ethiopia is a true example of the long-lasting, life-changing work that has been made possible with Unifor’s support.”

At Yekatit 12 Hospital, the only comprehensive cleft care centre in Ethiopia, to brief the Cleft Unit on the Unifor Social Justice Fund mission.

The Beautiful World Canada Foundation is also working for a better future by providing secondary and post-secondary scholarships to Ethiopian girls who have academic potential but lack the financial means to pursue higher education opportunities.

“We met young women who are aspiring nurses, doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs,” said Walters. “This experience was an emotional rollercoaster that left me immensely gratified.”

Beautiful World operates in several African countries and has recently expanded into Ethiopia in collaboration with the Reach One Touch One Ministries.

“The support of our program in Ethiopia by the Unifor Social Justice Fund has allowed 25 vulnerable girls the opportunity to achieve their dreams of attending school,” said Sara Dunkley, Founder and Board Chair of Beautiful World Canada Foundation. “They dream of a life free from poverty, of a career that provides a steady income and continuity, of a life much different than the very difficult one they have known.”

Meeting with Beautiful World scholarship families

The majority of the recipients are HIV orphans, being raised by grandmothers or other family members. “The students feel deeply blessed to be in school and are committed to working hard and doing their best,” said Dunkley. “They have big dreams to help their families and community once they graduate.” 

The scholarships provide everything the students require for success, ranging from tuition to toothpaste. The young women also receive additional support through mentorship, employment training and medical care programs.

“I had the honour through Transforming Faces and Beautiful World to visit Ethiopia and witness the inception of two great programs that are making change a reality for children,” summed up Walters. “I am incredibly proud of our union’s support of these charities through the Social Justice Fund.”

For more information visit unifor.org/sjf.

Senate urged to act on Bill C-262 and protect the rights of Indigenous People

Unifor is calling on the Senate of Canada to pass Bill C-262 to protect the collective and individual rights of Indigenous People, before it breaks for the summer.

The House of Commons passed Bill C-262, introduced by Quebec MP Romeo Saganash, on May 30, 2018. The bill ensures that Canadian laws are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

“The adoption and implementation of the UNDRIP was among the actions recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “The Senate has a duty to all Canadians and Indigenous People to pass this bill.”

Last year, the union organized the Truth, Reconciliation and Education conference that focused on educating members about racism and colonialism inflicted on Indigenous People.

“Our members have been working alongside Indigenous communities, pressuring the Federal Government to implement the findings of the truth and reconciliation report,” said Dias. “This is just one more way in which we can continue to support Indigenous People.”

Unifor supports the 150 Acts of Reconciliation movement providing average Canadians 150 everyday actions that they can undertake to show solidarity to Indigenous People.

To learn more about the 150 Acts of Reconciliation movement click here.

Unifor members making a difference in the Alberta election campaign

As elections go, it’s a nail biter.  Albertans will vote for a new provincial government on April 16 and the polls show it could be close, which is why Unifor members are fully engaged.

“I’m so proud of our members who have stepped up to the plate to help with this campaign,” said Joie Warnock, Unifor’s Western Regional Director. “They know how important this election is -   to their families, their communities and the province’s future. We risk losing so much.”

NDP Premier Rachel Notley is fighting for Alberta’s future and a strong economy that preserves public health care, education and worker’s rights.

United Conservative Party (UCP) leader Jason Kenney is planning cuts to all of those, including a cut to overtime pay for workers.

Unifor members are working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. Across the province, members are door knocking, speaking up and making calls to encourage fellow members to vote and get involved.

Unifor is asking members to click here to ‘Take the Pledge’ to vote on April 16 and in advance polls on which start on Tuesday, April 9.

‘Unifor Votes Alberta’ is a member to member campaign with a goal of ensuring Rachel Notley is re-elected. Click here to see the campaign website and more information on the key issues at stake in this election.

Members can sign up to volunteer for canvassing at this link.

“Jason Kenney’s polling numbers remain strong.  That’s why we are doing everything we can to ensure he doesn’t succeed on April 16th and if you live in Alberta, please get involved,” said Unifor political organizer Erin Harrison who is coordinating the union’s 28 day campaign.

To help motivate members to go to the polls, Unifor has posted info that provides more information about the top five issues: economy and jobs; healthcare; workers protections and rights; education and energy jobs. “The opposing forces are strong and well funded by business interests that stand to make enormous financial gains from Jason Kenney’s billion dollar plan for corporate tax cuts.  Make no mistake, those cuts will be on the backs of workers,” said Warnock.  

The UCP campaign has been dogged by repeated scandals, including homophobic candidates who want teachers fired for being gay, an RCMP investigation into the UCP leadership race, planned cuts to public services and a ban on workers’ overtime.

Follow our campaign on Facebook here or on Twitter @uniforvotesalberta.

Unifor members making a difference in the Alberta election campaign

As elections go, it’s a nail biter.  Albertans will vote for a new provincial government on April 16 and the polls show it could be close, which is why Unifor members are fully engaged

“I’m so proud of our members who have stepped up to the plate to help with this campaign,” said Joie Warnock, Unifor’s Western Regional Director. “They know how important this election is -   to their families, their communities and the province’s future. We risk losing so much.”

NDP Premier Rachel Notley is fighting for Alberta’s future and a strong economy that preserves public health care, education and worker’s rights.

United Conservative Party (UCP) leader Jason Kenney is planning cuts to all of those, including a cut to overtime pay for workers.

Unifor members are working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. Across the province, members are door knocking, speaking up and making calls to encourage fellow members to vote and get involved.

Unifor is asking members to click here to ‘Take the Pledge’ to vote on April 16 and in advance polls on which start on Tuesday, April 9.

‘Unifor Votes Alberta’ is a member to member campaign with a goal of ensuring Rachel Notley is re-elected. Click here to see the campaign website and more information on the key issues at stake in this election.

Members can sign up to volunteer for canvassing at this link.

“Despite many scandals, Jason Kenney’s polling numbers remain strong.  That’s why we are doing everything we can to ensure he doesn’t succeed on April 16th and if you live in Alberta, please get involved,” said Unifor political organizer Erin Harrison who is coordinating the union’s 28 day campaign. Harrison is a National Representative in the Membership Mobilization and Political Action Department.

To help motivate members to go to the polls, Unifor has posted info that provides more information about the top five issues: economy and jobs; healthcare; workers protections and rights; education and energy jobs. “The opposing forces are strong and well funded by business interests that stand to make enormous financial gains from Jason Kenney’s billion dollar plan for corporate tax cuts.  Make no mistake, those cuts will be on the backs of workers,” said Warnock.  

The UCP campaign has been dogged by repeated scandals, including homophobic candidates who want teachers fired for being gay, an RCMP investigation into the UCP leadership race, planned cuts to public services and a ban on workers’ overtime.

Follow our campaign on Facebook here or on Twitter @uniforvotesalberta.

Unifor members Rally for Education

Unifor members showed up in force to lend their voices to the thousands who attended the Rally for Education to oppose devastating changes to Ontario’s education system by the Conservative government.

“It is clear that Ford is hell-bent on implementing his corporate agenda with no qualms about injuring the most vulnerable or tearing down cherished institutions, as witnessed by his attack on elementary and highschool students and their teachers,” said National President Jerry Dias.

After a mass student walkout on Thursday, protesters filled the lawn of the Queen’s Park legislature on Saturday April 6, 2019, spilling out onto surrounding streets. Teachers, parents, students and workers united to demand a halt to plans to increase class sizes and eliminate thousands of teacher and support jobs.

Education Ministry memos acquired by the Toronto Star report that the Conservatives plan to cut 3,475 teaching jobs in Ontario. The average secondary school expected to see a loss of 11 full time teachers.

The Conservative government intends to:

  • Increase class sizes in grades 4-8 and in high school; reducing attention given to students and limiting access to equipment and other resources
  • Cut thousands of teacher and support staff jobs
  • Remove 1.4 billion dollars from the public education system
  • Download the government’s duty to support higher needs students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) onto schools without adequate funding
  • Require students to take several online courses; replacing personal attention with e-learning
  • Introduce a regressive sexual education curriculum

“Doug Ford is risking the future of students by eroding the very foundation of the public education system,” said Dias. “The people of Ontario will not tolerate this attack on our schools, our teachers and our children.”

The massive rally, organized by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSS), the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and sister unions followed province-wide student walkouts to protest the cuts to elementary and highschool education. In response, Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Lisa Thompson opted to attack workers instead of responding to the legitimate concerns of the tens of thousands of students who expressed their opposition.

“Ontarians, including high school and post-secondary students, are organizing massively successful grassroots actions to demonstrate opposition to the Conservatives’ destructive agenda,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director. “I commend the brave young activists who have organized rallies, walkouts, and strikes. Students and teachers deserve respect and acknowledgement from their government, not dismissal and cruelty.”

This is not the first time that Ford’s government has shown distain for students and public education. In addition to the changes at elementary and highschools the Ford government has also targeted postsecondary students by slashing OSAP, cutting $307.3 million in funding, cancelling three university satellite campuses and attacking students’ unions by forcing institutions to allow opt-out of democratically determined fees.

“Ontario workers are standing united against these cuts,” said Dias. “Unifor is in solidarity with students, teachers, and their unions.”

View a photo gallery of the Rally for Education here

 

 

 

Delegation meets with NS Premier and Official Opposition to discuss Northern Pulp

Unifor National President Jerry Dias and Atlantic Regional Director Lana Payne continued the union’s campaign to defend good jobs at the Northern Pulp mill and throughout the Nova Scotia forestry sector during a meeting with the Premier Stephen McNeil this week.

Dias and Payne were joined by Unifor Local 440 leaders Don MacKenzie and Wanda Skinner as well as Scott Doherty, Assistant to the National President, and Linda MacNeil, Atlantic Area Director.

“We want to make sure there is a clear understanding of what is at stake here,” said Dias. “In addition to 240 Unifor members who work at the pulp mill, thousands of other workers in forestry and related sectors depend on the economic footprint generated by the mill.”

Later the same day, a union delegation met with PC Leader Tim Houston and Pictou area MLAs.

“We stressed the need for a common-sense solution that respects all stakeholder needs for this serious situation and we urged politicians to move forward in a way that brings people together,” said Scott Doherty.

At issue is the construction of a new effluent treatment plant and meeting a legislated deadline of January 31, 2020 around the use of Boat Harbour, which is where the mill effluent is currently treated. The mill is now in the middle of an environmental assessment with the Nova Scotia Department of Environment for the new treatment plant and must provide additional information and perform more studies as requested by the Department. The company must receive approval on their environmental assessment before construction can begin.

At both meetings, there was an understanding of the tensions in Pictou County and appreciation for the considerable impact the jobs at Northern Pulp have on the Nova Scotian economy.   

MacKenzie and Skinner, both long-time workers at the mill, detailed the worry and stress felt by workers and their families. They also expressed concern over the deep divisions in their community.

“This sector is critical to the economy of rural Nova Scotia and we expect the company to pull out all the stops to make sure it provides the additional studies and clarifications as quickly as possible,” said Payne.

The union noted in its meetings that a solution is possible: one that protects the environment and good jobs and respects First Nations.

General Dynamics workers obtain job commitment in new collective agreement

Members at General Dynamics Land Systems Canada have voted massively in favour of a new collective agreement, with 95 per cent in support.

The 420 workers, represented by Local 27, Unit 66, avoided strike action when the new three year deal was ratified on March 19, 2019.

“One of our major issues was job loss due to attrition and we were able to obtain a commitment from General Dynamics to replenish the workforce,” said Jeff Skinner, Unit 66 Chairperson. “Negotiations went down to the wire but in the end the bargaining committee achieved key gains and walked away with a good contract.”

The bargaining committee assured job growth with a commitment letter to increase employment levels.

Financial improvements were attained with a lump sum payment in each year of the agreement of 2.5 per cent on the job code rate, special payments of 1,200 a year, and a $1,000 signing bonus. Cost-of-living adjustment was maintained and some classifications were combined resulting in wage increases.

The new contract also contains pension gains, improved dental, paramedical, vision and laser eye surgery benefits, and increased call-in without a doctor’s note.

In addition to the hundreds of employees, it is estimated that more than 5,000 additional workers depend on spinoff jobs from General Dynamics in the London, Ontario area.

Unifor Social Justice Fund provides aid to Cyclone Idai victims

The Unifor Social Justice Fund (SJF) is helping to provide life-saving aid as the humanitarian crisis caused by Cyclone Idai worsens.

On March 14, Cyclone Idai made landfall in central Mozambique then continued to wreak havoc as a tropical storm across land into Malawi and Zimbabwe. The death toll is expected to be in the thousands, while thousands remain missing.

With more than 2.5 million people affected, emergency aid organizations are battling a growing humanitarian crisis. Floodwaters have contaminated drinking water sources and the race to stop the spread of cholera, a deadly waterborne disease, is now underway.  

The SJF has donated $40,000 to GlobalMedic to provide aid to victims of the cyclone in Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

GlobalMedic, a Canadian charity founded by paramedics, has mobilized a Rapid Response Team to provide clean drinking water and Family Emergency Kits on the ground in Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

The Rapid Response Team is able to deploy and operate point source water purification units capable of providing up to 40 liters of clean drinking water per minute using a sediment, carbon and UV light filtration system.

The Family Emergency Kits are designed to help families address the critical issues faced in the wake of disaster. Each kit contains a point of use water purification solution and essential hygiene items to provide entire families with safe, clean drinking water and keep them clean and healthy, preventing the outbreak of further illness.

The cyclone also wiped out infrastructure and left key roads impassable, slowing delivery of much-needed aid.

GlobalMedic is also using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) technology to obtain vital information that allows rescue workers to deliver aid where it is needed most. The aerial images are shared with local authorities and rescue teams in order to access damage and increase the effectiveness of the response to save more lives.

To donate to GlobalMedic visit globalmedic.ca.

For more information on the Unifor Social Justice Fund visit unifor.org/sjf.

Discussion Leaders ready to act, empower and educate members across the country

More than 100 Unifor Education Discussion Leaders from across the country attended the first ever Discussion Leader Conference, held on March 29-31 at the Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, Ontario.

Deb Tveit, Assistant to the National President, opened the conference and discussed the vital role Discussion Leaders play in providing members with the tools to succeed in the workplace and their locals.

“Our education program is often the gateway for members becoming life-long union activists,” said Deb Tveit. “Discussion Leaders are knowledgeable, passionate and determined activists strengthening our union through peer education.”

The conference featured a candid and informative discussion from writer and activist Desmond Cole who spoke about the need to challenge the rhetoric of hate in the media, in our workplaces and in our communities.

“Marginlized communities are under attack in Canada,” said Cole. “As Discussion Leaders, you have the  responsibility and privledge in ensuring Unifor members actively challenge all forms of hate.”

Director of Education Roland Kiehne spoke to Discussion Leaders about how the department is building our union through increasing member communications, developing an e-learning platform and the creation of the Discussion Leader Portal.

“The department’s goal has and will always be to make our members’ educational journey a memorable one,” said Kiehne. “The e-learning platform, new course curriculum and department rebrand will reach more members and increase participation in our education programs.”

To learn more about upcoming Education courses please visit www.unifor.org/education

Ford’s attacks on education spark walkouts across Ontario

On Wednesday, March 20, Unifor members joined students as they walked off campuses in protest against the PC government’s regressive approach to education.

“This solidarity action makes it clear that students are united in their opposition to the rollbacks the Ford government wants to implement, and we stand with them in this fight,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director. “We are offering our full support during this crucial time of relentless attacks on students and on our education system.”

The walkouts symbolize widespread support for increased funding for public education, better access to grants rather than loans, elimination of tuition fees, and stronger protection of students’ freedoms, including their right to organize.

“Accessible education is the bedrock upon which we develop a skilled workforce and a well-functioning economy,” said Jodi Nesbitt, Unifor Chairperson for Education, Technology, Office and Professional Industry Council. “We need political leaders to make education accessible and barrier-free, instead of making it even more difficult to get into and stay in school.”

Hundreds of students participated in walkouts at:

  • Carleton University
  • Fanshawe College
  • George Brown College St. James Campus
  • Laurier Brantford
  • OCAD University
  • Ottawa Campuses
  • Trent University
  • University of Guelph
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Toronto Mississauga
  • University of Toronto Scarborough
  • Western University
  • University of Windsor

For more information on how you can support the fight for public education, click here.

Unifor hosts province-wide conversation to fight Ontario government health care cuts

Unifor held a telephone town hall for members across Ontario to discuss Bill 74, The People’s Health Care Act, and its potential impact to patients, communities and health care workers across the province.

“Bill 74 does not improve patient services, reduce hospital wait times or increase frontline health care workers to respond to current and future needs,” said Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director. “The legislation would open the door to allow for-profit corporations to provide health care services to Ontarians. Moving health care services to the private sector has resulted, time and again, in unequal access based on what patients can afford to pay.”

The telephone town hall was hosted by Roxanne Dubois, Director of Strategic Planning and Development. In addition to Rizvi’s remarks on the union’s Ford Fightback campaign, Unifor Lawyer Farah Baloo provided an overview of Bill 74 and Katha Fortier, Assistant to National President, and Andy Savela, Health Care Director, discussed the potential impacts Bill 74 would have on health care workers.

“Doug Ford’s PC Government has made it clear that improving public, high-quality and accessible health care is not part of their government agenda and we need to fight back,” said Katha Fortier, Assistant to the National President. “Health care is an issue that affects every single one of us and without a system that protects equal access and fair working conditions, the profit motive will overtake the motive to provide quality care.”

As the Ontario Government prepares to host public consultations April 1 and 2, Unifor’s telephone town hall provided members with an opportunity to engage, understand and provide feedback on Bill 74 and the union’s Ford Fightback campaign. 

If passed, Bill 74 will create an overreaching Ontario Health ‘Super Agency’ that opens the door to the privatization of our health care system. This agency will be responsible for managing health care services and the widespread restructuring of the system that includes hospitals, long-term care, home care, community care, mental health, health clinics and more.

To make matters worse, an un-elected, government-appointed Board of Directors would have oversight and control of the Super Agency, deprived of the transparency and accountability measures typically required in the public service.

Urgent action is needed to prevent a profit-driven model of health care that decreases access to quality health care for patients and makes the working conditions of health care workers worse. Members are encouraged to email, call and tweet their local Members of Provincial Parliament letting them know they oppose Bill 74.

For more information on the campaign or if you have questions, please contact politicalaction@unifor.org.

Union wins overtime pay for non-union animators

Image from the animated movie Sausage Party

Unifor Local 2000 is celebrating a B.C. Employment Standards Branch decision that will see animators paid overtime, following the union’s complaint about working conditions at Vancouver’s Nitrogen Studios.

“We’re extremely pleased with the decision,” said Jennifer Moreau, secretary-treasurer at Local 2000. “It means people will be paid properly, and studios will have to think twice before claiming their employees are high-tech and ineligible for overtime.”

Unifor filed the complaint more the two years ago, following public allegations that non-union animators working on the film Sausage Party were not paid overtime. (The allegations surfaced in the comments section of an online article about the film.) The B.C. Employment Standards Branch ruling requires the studio to open its books and pay any outstanding overtime along with a $500 fine. The branch also determined that Nitrogen, now owned by Cinesite, was not eligible for the high technology exclusion, which allows companies to avoid paying overtime.

The high-tech exclusion is a rarely tested loophole that exempts workers classified as high-technology professionals from Employment Standards Act rules on hours of work, overtime and statutory holidays.

Vancouver’s animation, visual effects and gaming studios often cite the high-tech exclusion to keep staff working long hours while not paying overtime.

In response to the Sausage Party complaint, Cinesite claimed it didn’t have to pay overtime in accordance with the Employment Standards Act because its employees were high technology professionals developing information systems. The branch’s investigating officer ruled the exclusion did not apply to workers whose primary job was using commercially available software to create visual effects.

Not one studio in Vancouver is unionized, something Local 2000 is trying to change.

“If we can do this for non-union workers, imagine what animators could do if they unionized and negotiated their own contract,” Moreau said.

Unifor Local 2000 represents approximately 700 media and chocolate workers.

For further comment, contact Jennifer Moreau at 604-816-5204.

ILGA world conference connects Unifor to global struggle for LGBTQI rights

In 70 countries around the world, consensual same-sex acts between adults is criminalized. In 2017, that number was 72, and just five years ago 81 countries punished adults engaging in same-sex relationships with imprisonment or death.

The work to recognize, celebrate and legally protect LGBTQI people is done by activists in communities, advocacy groups, unions and grassroots organizers around the globe. At the ILGA World Conference in Wellington, New Zealand, more than 400 of those activists representing more than 100 countries gathered.

“The conference has been an eye-opening reminder of the work still to be done to ensure that people of all gender identity and sexual orientation are respected and kept safe,” said Dana Dunphy, Unifor National Executive Board member and Ontario Pride Committee member.

At the conference, delegates participated in workshops and sessions led by the leaders of human rights campaigns who are working to resist violence and oppression both by the state and in wider society. Unifor members attended sessions on intersex and asexual identities, sex worker and refugee advocacy, United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and much more.

“What is most striking is the resilience and the effectiveness of organizers around the globe,” said Martin Melanson, Unifor Atlantic Pride Committee Chairperson. “ILGA celebrated 40 years of existence at the conference, and to see the change that’s been accomplished in that time is amazing and inspiring.”

Unifor’s LGBTQ members are in solidarity with the work of queer and trans people around the world. The union’s delegation commits to making changes to Unifor’s organizing in Canada to better support the global struggle for human rights for LGBTQI people.

Local unions are encouraged to send a full delegation to the upcoming Pride Conference in May, where LGBTQI members can plan for future campaigns and action.

Agreement ratified at Toronto Terminals Railway

Unifor Local 101R members ratified a new collective agreement reached with the Toronto Terminals Railway (TTR) last week.

“This is an agreement our membership can be proud of, and with a 92% approval, we want to thank our members for showing so much solidarity to support the bargaining committee,” said Joel Kennedy, President of Local 101r.

Unifor Local 101R Lodge 60 represents more than 95 workers at TTR who provide a switching service at the Ports in the Vancouver Lower Mainland.

The new agreement includes wage increases that match the Unifor four year rail pattern.

Members will also receive a $1000.00 signing bonus plus retroactive pay to January 1, 2019. 

Some of the other improvements include increases to Weekly Indemnity Benefits, Dental Plan, Orthodontics, Bereavement and a 8-day Spare board guarantee, as well as calling and cancelling wage protections.

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