The 11th Quebec Council was held last week with more than 350 delegates in attendance. "I think two words can sum up our meeting – commitment and solidarity," said Quebec Director, Renaud Gagné, who was re-elected by acclamation during the meeting.
Locals had the opportunity to discuss the daily engagement of activists within our union as well as within our communities. Unifor National President, Jerry Dias, called on members to mobilize for the federal election. There is no doubt that we will be making our views known in the upcoming election campaign.
Members also showed their solidarity with representatives of Local 1044 of the Crustace de Gaspé plant. The owner of this plant announced the facility would not be reopening for the 2019 fishing season, while the negotiation process for the first collective agreement was underway. After applauding them all, a call for financial support for this group raised more than $42,300.
Brother Gagné also announced a $50,000 donation to the Red Cross to help the people who are dealing with flooding in the region. The aerospace and telecommunications industry councils have also pledged $1,000 each, and the Forestry Council will give $10,000 bringing the total to $62,000.
The Quebec Council will convene again next November in Quebec City.
The 11th Quebec Council was held last week with more than 350 delegates in attendance. "I think two words can sum up our meeting – commitment and solidarity," said Quebec Director, Renaud Gagné, who was re-elected by acclamation during the meeting.
Unifor members who work at CN (formerly CN Savage Alberta Railway) have voted 92 percent to ratify a new collective agreement. The agreement was reached on March 29th and covers 70 members who work as Conductors and Locomotive Engineers based in Grande Prairie and Grande Cache, Alberta.,
The new 5.14 agreement includes a $1000 signing bonus to active members upon ratification, wage increases of 2.5 per cent effective April 1, 2019; 2.5 per cent effective January 1, 2020; 3 per cent effective January 1, 2021, and 3 percent effective January 1, 2022. There are also several benefit improvements and increases to training allowances, to name some. The new contract expires December 31, 2022.
“These members operate trains on CN subdivisions in northwestern Alberta and haul several commodities, including lumber, grain and the increasing shipments of frack sand used for the growing demand for shale gas,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “The work and dedication of our members is what makes CN the highly successful company it is today and they are entitled to a share of the Company’s profits.”
“I wish to thank our members for their support throughout the bargaining process and at ratification,” said Dave Judge, President of Local 4001. Dave Kissack, President of National Council 4000 echoed Judge’s comments. “We are very proud of our Agreement 5.14 membership and the local leadership, who have done good work over the years in representing our members and bargaining strong agreements that address the needs of our membership,” said Kissack.
Ratification voting continues for the other Council 4000 members at CN (Agreement 5.1, 5.1 Supplemental and 5.4) and CNTL.
Unifor’s National President told leading U.S.business leaders that workers must not be left behind in the wave of industrial automation and that managing workplace technological change and just transition is critical.
“There’s no question automation puts jobs at risk but we have to confront that risk head on and exploit the opportunities new technology presents to allow us to work smarter and safer,” said Jerry Dias at the Industrial Exchange conference in Miami.
Dias was the only North American Labour leader invited to speak at the conference, which is exploring the impact of automation on workers and society.
“Workers must navigate new ground breaking technology and understand the importance of driving operational efficiency, but does it have to be at their expense?” asked Dias of 500 business owners and investors during a Future of Work Panel at the conference.
“In Canada we represent members in 20 of the key sectors of the country, all of which are impacted by automation. We are seeing the implementation of full automation of ore-hauling trucks in the Alberta oil-sands and we have public transit authorities testing autonomous buses. We have faced automation for decades in the major manufacturing plants, including auto, forestry and others. The transportation and aviation sectors are facing new technology and automation at an alarming rate. Our members are not naïve, or passive about what is at stake here,” said Dias.
Dias warned the business leaders not to use automation as a weapon for greed against workers and unions, who have a right to negotiate decent work and living wages and address income equality, because our society will be worse off. Dias went on to underscore that Unifor members will not be exploited.
“We know automation is going to have an impact on the Canadian job market and we should all be worried about the bigger impact on our social programs and our social safety net.”
Jobs are changing but workers should not live in fear that automation and robots are taking over explained Dias because people will always be the force behind successful businesses.
He said more support from governments and employers is needed to train workers for new tasks in what he described as a transformation of work. All levels of the education system need to respond with new programs and skills training to ensure society still has workers who will drive future business and economy.
Dias stressed that workers need to be informed in advance of technological changes in the workplace and must be involved in planning and bargaining transition plans that protect workers as businesses evolve and transform.
Unifor is not sitting idle. In 2018, the union hosted a national conference on the Future of Work in the face of technical change and automation. The conference brought together members from every sector to engage in discussion and work to develop strategies and solutions. The union continues to be engaged in this issue at bargaining tables and in conversations with legislators in Canada.
Unifor recognizes the outstanding contributions of nurses during National Nursing Week May 6 - 12, 2019.
"The Health Care system is an integral part of our social fabric we value the professional life-saving, and compassionate care nurses provide day in and day out," Jerry Dias Unifor National President. “RPNs and LPNs are instrumental in ensuring positive health outcomes of people in Canada."
Unifor represents 4000 Registered or Licensed Practical Nurses (RPNs/LPNs) who work in hospitals, private and municipal long-term care homes.
Nurses work together in high-functioning teams to provide patient care in hospitals, long-term care homes and communities. They receive specialized training and education, but both are a vital part of the health care system.
Through their unions across the country and around the world, nurses raise standards that benefit all workers, defend strong healthcare systems, and advocate for patients’ rights.
As governments in Canada and around the world embrace austerity measures and attack public services, nurses are continually asked to do more with less funding and see their jobs cut. The result of these short-sighted measure always leads to increases in injuries and violence and is unacceptable.
In Ontario, the Conservative government, led by Doug Ford, passed Bill 74 which will result in a major restructuring of the health care system and has the potential to open the door to further privatization of services.
Privatization hurts patients and undermines the health care system in Canada. The quality of care seniors receive in for-profit homes is consistently weaker than public, not for profit care. Privatization also hurts health care workers who are often overworked in homes that are understaffed. Workers are forced to cut corners so their employer can turn a profit.
"Unifor has been at the forefront of the fightback against the privatization of health care. As a union, our commitment is to increase staff-to-patient ratios, improve working conditions and demand governments invest in health care," said Dias.
Here are three actions you can take to show your appreciation and solidarity to nurses this week:
- Throughout this week post our Facebook shareable to highlight the work of RPNs and LPNs
- At your next general membership meeting play our Nursing Week 2019 video [insert hyperlink]
- Thank a nurse that you know in your life!
For more information please visit www.caretakestime.ca
Unifor workers from Saskatchewan’s seven crown corporations say the clock is ticking and they deserve a fair collective agreement.
“The Premier needs to get serious about negotiations to avoid a major disruption in Crown services,” said Unifor President Jerry Dias. “The province is trying to cut costs on the backs of workers who have helped the Crowns be successful and strengthen Saskatchewan’s economy.”
Hundreds of Unifor members and supporters gathered at Wascana Park to send a message to the Scott Moe government that Crown corporation workers reject austerity and have earned a fair contract.
“MLAs are reaping the benefits of our member’s hard work and a growing economy, while insisting workers should take less,” said Joie Warnock, Unifor Western Regional Director. “We won’t accept low-ball offers or mediated settlements.”
Following an increase in provincial revenues, MLAs received a pay hike. Their basic annual income rose to $111,000 in April, a 2.3% increase. The government is attempting to impose another wage freeze on Crown employees.
Five thousand Unifor members work at SaskTel, SaskEnergy, SaskPower, SaskWater, the Saskatchewan Water Authority, Directwest and SecurTek. All have expired collective agreements.
Unifor joined the Equal Pay Coalition’s intervention in a judicial review hearing regarding a pay equity dispute between ONA and SEIU against a group of Ontario nursing home employers.
The case stems from Ontario nursing homes which are mostly staffed with women, and pay equity is determined with no male counterparts present. In a win for gender equity, the judicial review ruled that not following the proxy method to maintain pay equity fails to uphold values of the constitution.
“Today’s unanimous judicial review decision by the courts is an important step in achieving economic justice for women working in the health care sector,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “This ruling serves as a reality check to nursing home employers who have been unwilling to adopt pay equity methods. Women must be paid the same as men and will use every resource they have to achieve pay equity.”
The case arises over a dispute between ONA, the SEIU and the participating Nursing Homes about what steps the nursing homes must take in order to maintain pay equity in their workplaces. Women who make up the majority of the staff in nursing homes do not have access to male comparator jobs within their workplaces with which to conduct the pay equity analysis.
The Pay Equity Act recommends in cases where male comparators are absent, employers should use the proxy method in determining pay equity. The Ontario Pay Equity Commission explains the proxy method, “allows organizations in the broader public sector, which have mostly female job classes, to obtain and apply pay equity information from another public sector organization.”
“Women know that feminized work is paid less than traditionally male-dominated job,” said Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director. “A ruling like this one is one more tool in our belt to change this system and challenge those deeply rooted injustice that asks women to accept less.”
After the Ontario Tribunal Courts ruled that the Pay Equity Act did not require nursing homes to use the proxy method, ONA and SEIU teamed up with the Pay Equity Coalition to file a judicial review.
The unions and the Pay Equity Coalition argued that the tribunal’s interpretation of the Pay Equity Act was unreasonable and was in contravention of Charter. The Court went on to find that the manner in which the Tribunal interpreted the Pay Equity Act failed to take into account Charter values and was therefore unreasonable and ought to be overturned. The court further found that employers use proxy comparators from the date that the pay equity gap alleged to have re-emerged.
From April 26-28, members gathered at the Unifor Family Education Centre to learn more about Employment Insurance (EI) and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).
The EI/CPP Conference included beginner and advanced-level courses on EI, sessions on CPP, presentations from the national union’s Pensions and Benefits Department staff, guest speakers, and Q&A sessions that encouraged members to share experiences from their Locals.
“We have members at this conference who are facing nearly half of their workplace retiring in the next five years. These leaders want to be prepared for the questions they will face from their fellow members about their post-retirement incomes,” said Lisa Contini, EI/CPP Committee Chairperson.
The conference has grown in popularity each year as a greater proportion of the workforce nears retirement age and leaders find themselves facing more complex scenarios for EI qualification, retraining or skill-building funding and increasing temporary employment.
“Presenting useful information to the members is our main goal as conference organizers, but it just so happens that some of the best learning they will do at this conference will come from their fellow members,” said Contini. “Having the chance to share experiences with workers from other sectors and workplaces is a tremendous way to prepare for the questions they will face back in their own Local.”
Recent changes to Canada’s EI program include extended and earlier option parental leave, 5-8 added weeks of shared parental leave, a new family caregiver program, reducing the wait time to receive benefits, and temporary special measures for work-sharing.
La semaine dernière, le comité de négociation d’Unifor, représentant 10 maisons de soins infirmiers d’Extendicare à Windsor, Sault Ste. Marie, Hamilton, Ottawa, London et Port Stanley, s’est réuni pour négocier. Extendicare était représenté par Bass Associates, une organisation de relations de travail qui propose ses services à plusieurs employeurs de maisons de soins infirmiers et à d’autres employeurs du secteur public.
Les conventions collectives viendront à échéance le 31 juillet 2019.
Toutes les questions locales ont été résolues et des progrès ont été faits sur plusieurs questions clés non monétaires, mais les négociations ont avorté en ce qui concerne les revendications monétaires.
La récente entente offrant des hausses salariales de 1,5 % pour chacune des deux années pour le personnel infirmier autorisé et de 1,4 % pour chacune des deux années pour le personnel auxiliaire autorisé et d’autres membres associés a influencé les négociations.
Le comité de négociation d’Unifor avait reçu des instructions claires des membres précisant que des hausses de cet ordre étaient totalement inacceptables.
De plus, l’employeur et ses représentants n’ont guère étudié notre demande sur les ratios sécuritaires en personnel et la grave pénurie de préposées et préposés aux services de soutien à la personne (PSSP).
Les négociations dans ce secteur sont compliquées par notre gouvernement provincial qui tient présentement des consultations sur les modérations salariales dans le secteur public. Unifor a participé à ces séances et fait valoir que les restrictions salariales, particulièrement dans ce secteur, sont inacceptables. Il n’y a pas suffisamment de PSSP pour doter les postes des établissements de soins de longue durée actuels dans la province, encore moins les nouveaux lits annoncés.
Dans tous les cas, nous refusons d’être contraints par intimidation de conclure une entente qui n’est pas à la hauteur de ce que nos membres méritent. Nous nous battrons sur tous les fronts contre le gouvernement Ford.
Les négociations centrales avec Extendicare sont les premières de ce type pour Unifor cette année. Environ 90 autres conventions collectives de maisons de soins infirmiers expireront cette année, certaines étant négociées centralement et d’autres individuellement.
Nous nous attendons à une position similaire de la vaste majorité de ces employeurs à la table de négociation. La plupart sont contrôlées par Bass Associates.
En février, nous avons rencontré 130 représentantes et représentants en milieu de travail, dirigeantes et dirigeants des sections locales, et membres du personnel de ce secteur pour établir notre programme de négociation. Nous demandons une hausse du salaire réel qui respecte les contributions exceptionnelles de nos membres, ce qui coïnciderait avec notre plan d’exiger du gouvernement qu’il améliore les normes de soins. Nous n’avons pas dérogé de ce plan.
Vous pouvez compter sur le soutien non seulement des autres maisons de soins infirmiers représentées par Unifor, mais aussi de chaque secteur de notre syndicat.
Au cours des prochaines semaines, Unifor lancera une campagne et une stratégie portant le mot-clic #Prendreletemps. Un site Web sera créé, une pétition pour l’Assemblée législative de l’Ontario circulera (en ligne et papier), du contenu partageable dans les médias sociaux sera disponible, et une vidéo sera réalisée. Nous demanderons également à nos membres de faire pression sur leurs députés et une trousse de lobbying pourra être téléchargée.
Nous avons déposé une demande de conciliation et un arbitre a déjà été désigné selon nos modalités de négociations conjointes. Nous tenterons de fixer une date le plus rapidement possible.
Pour en savoir plus sur la campagne, visitez le site www.caretakestime.ca.
Last week Unifor’s bargaining committee, representing ten Extendicare Nursing Homes in Windsor, Sault Ste. Marie, Hamilton, Ottawa, London and Port Stanley met for negotiations. Extendicare was represented by Bass and Associates, a labour relations organization that contracts their services to several nursing home employers and other public sector employers.
The collective agreements expire on July 31, 2019.
All local issues have been resolved and progress was made on several key non-monetary issues, but negotiations broke down over monetary proposals.
Affecting the negotiations was a recent settlement with wage increases of 1.5% in each of two years for RN’s and 1.4% in each of two years for RPN’s and other allied members.
Unifor’s bargaining committee had clear instructions from the membership that increases in this range were absolutely not acceptable.
In addition, the employer and their representative did little to address our proposal on safe staffing ratios and addressing the critical shortage of personal support workers.
Bargaining in this sector is complicated by our provincial government who is currently holding consultations on public sector wage restraints. Unifor has attended these sessions and has made the case, that particularly in this sector wage restraints are not acceptable. There are not enough PSW’s to staff the current long-term beds in the province, let alone the new promised beds.
In any case, we refuse to be intimidated into agreeing to a settlement that is less than our members deserve. We will fight the Ford Government on every front in this regard.
Extendicare is the first set of master negotiations for Unifor this year. We have approximately 90 other nursing homes that will expire this year, some that bargain at master tables and some individually.
We expect a similar position from the vast majority of these employers at the bargaining table. Most are controlled by Bass and Associates.
In February we met with 130 workplace representatives, local leadership and staff from this sector to set our bargaining agenda. Our demand is for a real wage increase that respects the incredible contributions of our members. This would coincide with a plan to take on the government to improve standards of care. We have not strayed from that agenda.
You can count on support from not only the other Unifor nursing homes but from every sector of our union.
In the coming weeks, Unifor will roll out our campaign and strategy with the hashtag #CareTakesTime. We will have a web site, petition to the legislative assembly of Ontario (online and paper), social media shareables and a video. We will also ask our members to lobby their MPP’s and have a lobby kit available for download.
We have applied for conciliation and an arbitrator has already been agreed upon in our terms and conditions for joint bargaining. We will attempt to secure a date as quickly as possible.
To learn more about the campaign please visit www.caretakestime.ca
Unifor members across the province united in hope with more 10,000 Ontarians at the April 30 Ontario Health Coalition’s Rally for Public Healthcare.
People from across the province filled the lawn of Queen’s Park to oppose Doug Ford’s privatization agenda and health care cuts.
“If there is one thing we know about Canadians, it’s that they love our public health care system and will staunchly defend the right to access quality, public care,” said Katha Fortier, Assistant to National President. “That’s why Unifor locals organized buses from every corner of this province to unite on April 30.”
The rally brought together Unifor members, labour unions, community partners, patients and concerned citizens to push back against the Ford government’s moves to destroy public services in Ontario. Participants carried handmade signs and posters with their vision of stronger public healthcare, and critiques of the Conservatives’ destruction.
“This incredible rally brought together Unifor activists from as far as Sault Saint Marie who boarded to buses at as 3:00 a.m. to unite for a better Ontario and fight back against Ford’s privatization agenda,” said Naureen Rizvi Ontario Regional Director. “The dedication by Unifor activists shows me that a better Ontario is possible. An Ontario that invests in health care, and education, and where workers’ rights are defended.”
Last week, the Ontario legislature passed Bill 74, titled “The Peoples Health Care Act” giving sweeping new powers to the Minister of Health and to fifteen appointed board members, opening the door to profit-driven companies.
“How does a politician who ran on the slogan for the people govern like he is only interested in serving corporations and his wealthy friends?” said Rizvi, at the rally on April 30.
“The people of Ontario are rising up against Doug Ford’s privatization agenda. We have seen high school students walk out of their classrooms protesting education cuts, families of children with autism protest inside Queen’s Park against funding cuts and today we have over 10,000 Ontarians on the lawn of Queen’s Park letting Doug Ford know public health care is not for sale,” continued Rizvi.
“The scale of the Conservatives’ destruction to healthcare is staggering,” said Rizvi. “Every government is answerable to the people, and the people of Ontario can win against this governments’ privatization and cuts.”
Unifor members will continue to organize community town halls, events and rallies across the province to stop Ford’s privatization agenda.
View a photo gallery of the Rally for Public Health Care here
Hundreds of Unifor members working for Saskatchewan’s Crown corporations are expected to gather at Wascana Park on Saturday, May 4 in a show of solidarity during difficult bargaining.
“Premier Moe has made a mess of public sector negotiations,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “He has failed to set a fair mandate for public sector contracts, and he is failing to do what is necessary to avoid a major disruption in Crown services.”
Dias is referring to the austerity mandate for wage freezes and other concessions that government and Crown negotiators have offered workers. Unifor has made it clear that concession bargaining is a non-starter.
SaskTel, SaskEnergy, SaskPower, SaskWater, the Saskatchewan Water Authority, Directwest, and Securetek all have expired collective agreements.
Unifor’s Western Regional Director, Joie Warnock, says that the gridlock in negotiations is the result of a right-wing government that is bent on privatization and disrespecting the work of the province’s Crown workers.
“Saskatchewan’s Crown corporations are the envy of every province. They are critical public services that save Saskatchewan residents money on everything from cell phone bills to gas bills,” said Warnock. “Crown workers make Crown corporations great. They deserve a fair contract and that’s exactly what we will fight for.”
More information about the rally is available online.
Unifor Local 27C members at IGI International Group in Toronto, Ontario have voted in favour of a new four-year contract. The 70 members, who work in the handling, manufacturing and refining of wax for food grade products, ratified the collective agreement on April 18, 2019.
“I am proud of the skill and determination of the bargaining committee," said John Collier, IGI Chief Steward of Unifor Local 27C. “Our members will greatly benefit from the gains made in this round of bargaining.”
The agreement includes annual wage increases, a boost to the Paid Education Leave (PEL) fund, women’s advocate language and improvements to overall health and dental benefits.
Local 2458 members who work at County of Bruce municipal homes, Gateway Haven in Wiarton and Brucelea Haven in Walkerton ratified a new collective agreement on April 11.
“Congratulations to the bargaining committee who remained determined to resist concessions and to achieve a fair settlement,” said Jerry Dias, National President. “We know that the working conditions of our long-term care home members directly impact the living conditions of the seniors who reside in the homes.”
Unifor Local 2458 represents more than 200 workers at all three homes.
The agreement strengthens work shortage language, an issue plaguing the long-term care sector. The agreement also includes improved scheduling language, benefits and a two per cent wage increase in each year of the three-year agreement.
Unifor Local 1136.43 members ratified a new collective agreement with Glazier Medical Centre in Oshawa.
“It was employers who lobbied the Ford government to remove two paid personal emergency leave days that were won under the previous Liberal government,” said Jerry Dias, National President. “I offer my congratulations to the bargaining committee who did not back down from the change in the law, but who were determined to negotiate two paid sick days as part of their collective agreement.”
Unifor Local 1136.43 represents 43 medical assistants at Glazier Medical Centre.
Members were not eligible to receive vacation pay and will now receive vacation paid on all gross earnings.
In addition to the two paid emergency sick days and vacation pay, the agreement includes improved language, benefits, wage increases in each year of the three-year agreement and new Paid Education Leave language of $1000 in each year of the agreement.
More than 300 Unifor Local 4270 members at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier could be on strike next month if the hotel’s owners don’t make a fair offer to workers.
“Unifor is a union for hospitality workers,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Right across Canada, Unifor has stood up for hotel workers and helped them fight for sector-leading contracts.”
On April 18, Local 4270 members voted 94 per cent in favour of strike action if necessary. Local 4270 represents the hotel front desk staff, maintenance, housekeeping, kitchen, servers, and all hospitality and customer service positions.
Unifor says that the employer has been inflexible on a number of key issues, including implementing a more reasonable workload for housekeepers and introducing more fairness to the gratuities system.
“Our members work hard to make the historic Chateau Laurier a prime destination in Ottawa,” said Ilijas Dzonlic, Unifor Local 4270 President. “Unifor members deserve a new contract that includes fair compensation and fair workloads.”
The previous collective agreement expired on December 31, 2017.
Unifor joins Sri Lankans in their grief as they mourn the 290 people who were killed in multiple explosions on Sunday. At least 500 others were wounded in the attacks, which Sri Lanka’s government has blamed on a local jihadist group called the National Thowheed Jamath, though that is not yet confirmed.
“We condemn these horrific attacks, that targeted churches and hotels in the country’s minority Christian communities as they celebrated a religious holiday,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.
Sri Lanka is a multicultural and multi-faith country, which has been relatively peaceful since a civil war ended a decade ago.
“Families who had gathered to celebrate, have now been torn apart by this violent attack on religious freedom,” said Christine Maclin, Director of Human Rights at Unifor. “In the face of this senseless tragedy we must stand united in the fight against religious intolerance by continuing to teach respect, compassion and acceptance.”
Unifor strongly believes that we must appreciate and celebrate a diversity of religious beliefs and cultures, but we do not condone the Sri Lankan government's imposition of martial law and the current social media ban, or its' history of crimes against humanity.
Our union is actively engaged in defending human rights and combating racism. We are also educating our leadership and our members about important issues such as xenophobia and Islamophobia. Unifor will continue its round table discussions and community town halls in the relentless pursuit to eradicate all forms of hate in our workplaces, our communities, our country and beyond. We encourage you to support actions in your communities to challenge hate.
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.
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.
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.
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.