Unifor

Unifor demands Personal Protective Equipment for all workers in Community Care

May 13, 2020

TORONTO – Unifor has written to Premier Ford demanding that all Community and Home Care as well as supportive housing facilities be included in provincial directives so that all workers will be provided proper Personal Protective Equipment to avoid further deaths. 

“The tragic death of Unifor member and PSW, Leonard Rodriques at Access Independent Living Services, along with COVID-19 outbreaks in several community care settings exposes the reality that there is an urgent need to protect those providing care,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.  “It was horrifying to learn from Leonard’s family that when he got sick, he was wearing a mask he had purchased at a dollar store. While we continue to demand an investigation into his preventable death, we are also sounding the alarm that that immediate steps must be taken. ”

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Unifor has been demanding better protection for all frontline workers, for the last 9 weeks. Rodriques as a worker in Community Care, he and his co-workers are not protected under current provincial PPE directives.

“Health and safety measures adopted across these various community settings have been piece meal and inadequate,” said Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director. “Leonard deserved better and so does every worker who devotes themselves to the care of others. There needs to be accountability failing to protect workers and residents.”

Access Independent Living Services is a Not-For-Profit Community Care agency in Toronto that receives more than five million dollars in public funding annually. Information on meetings, by-laws or the Board of Directors for the agency is not available on their website.

“The lack of transparency from Access is appalling and they should be ashamed of themselves,” said Katha Fortier, Assistant to Unifor’s National President. “Leonard worked for them for more than 30 years, and they have yet to issue any public statement to even express their grief or their condolences, let alone accept any responsibility or a commitment to improve access to PPE.”

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

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype or FaceTime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Hamid Osman at hamid.osman@unifor.org or 647-448-2823 (cell).

Unifor donates $30,000 to Fort McMurray flood relief

May 11, 2020

FORT MCMURRAY—Flood relief efforts in Fort McMurray will receive a boost after Unifor Local 707A and Unifor’s Social Justice Fund partnered to donate $30,000 to the Wood Buffalo Food Bank.

“Helping communities is at the core of Unifor’s social justice work,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Fort McMurray has had many challenges in recent years, but it is a community known for its resilience to bounce back stronger than before.”

It is estimated that 13,000 people were forced out of their homes after the nearby Athabasca River flooded neighbourhoods in Fort McMurray, Alberta. The food bank was also damaged in the flood.

“We’re proud to partner with Unifor local unions to amplify the impact of donations,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director. “Community solidarity is critical to rebuilding after disasters.”

Unifor Local 707A represents approximately 4,000 workers in the area working at the Suncor Oilsands site. Local 707A president Walter Ticas says that the flood comes at a difficult time for the community.

“Many families in Fort McMurray haven’t fully recovered from the wildfires. When combined with our struggling economy and this pandemic, these floods are the last thing we needed to deal with,” said Ticas.

Ticas says that Local 707A will be reaching out to community groups responding to the displacement of flood victims to see if there are other ways for Unifor to help.

Earlier this month the Social Justice Fund along with Unifor locals from across Western Canada marked May Day with cumulative donations nearly of $50,000 to food banks. On April 29, 2020 Unifor’s Canadian Community Fund donated commercial-grade refrigerators to the Bear Clan Patrol’s food security project in Winnipeg’s North End.

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype/Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell).

Unifor thanks nurses for quality care and support during pandemic

May 11, 2020

TORONTO - Unifor stands with workers across the country and around the globe in recognizing and celebrating the outstanding contributions of nurses through the release of a report highlighting the contribution of RPNs and LPNs during National Nursing Week May 11 - 17, 2020.

"Nurses across the country need our support and solidarity amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Nurses, along with all health care workers, are on the front line, battling the deadly virus each day. The work of RPNs and LPNs are invaluable in providing care for Canadians at all hours of the day.”

Unifor, SEIU and CUPE commissioned an independent, academic research study on the role RPNs within high functioning nurse teams in the acute care sector. “The Role of Nurses in High Functioning Teams in Acute Care Settings” report aims to provide a snapshot of the evolving and critical role of RPNs in hospitals.

“This report reveals the need for RPNs in our hospital settings. It shows that the integration of RPNs within a health care team is positive and is even more successful when there is organizational support for this structure,” said Dias.

The report further explains how the RPN role in Ontario has changed and expanded over time – both in their educational requirements and scope of practice.

RPNs and LPNs work with Registered Nurses in high-functioning teams to provide patient care in hospitals, long-term care homes and in communities. They receive specialized training and education and continue to show Canadians the vital role they play in our health care system.

“As a union, our commitment to improving the working conditions of health care workers has been a priority prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and will be after the pandemic has ended. We need provincial governments to immediately correct the wrongdoings of the past and invest in health care,” said Katha Fortier, who is also a nurse and is Assistant to National President, and responsible for health care at Unifor.

National Nurses Week was established to mark the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s contribution to the field of medicine. Nightingale is often credited as the founder of modern nursing, as she is responsible for many of the standards that are required of present-day nurses, including strict handwashing and hygiene practices.

This year the World Health Organization has designated 2020 as the year of the Nurse and of the Midwife.

Unifor represents more than 30,000 health care workers including, 5000 nurses.

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

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype or Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Hamid Osman at hamid.osman@unifor.org or 647-448-2823 (cell).

Unifor welcomes emergency funding for public transit

May 8, 2020

VANCOUVER—Widespread transit worker layoffs will be averted thanks to emergency funding announced today, says Unifor.​

“Passengers and transit workers across the country mobilized to defend public transit,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “We’re relieved that governments listened and answered with funding that will help avoid transit chaos during recovery from a pandemic.”

Unifor led the charge for emergency funding with an online campaign (unifor.org/peopleneedtransit) and a constant lobbying effort at all levels of government. On April 25, the union held an online virtual rally to give a voice to frustrated transit workers who knew that proposed layoffs would be devastating for the commutes of frontline COVID heroes.

Today’s announcement will result in the cancellation of 1,200 layoffs of Unifor members, and nearly 300 other union members in the Translink system.

“Transit operators and skilled trades maintenance staff are a lynchpin in the urban transportation network,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director. “They’re on the frontlines with other COVID heroes doing work that it is critical to the Canadian economy during this precarious time. Emergency funding announced today will help keep transit workers on the job so they can help other COVID heroes do theirs.”

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype/Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell).

Many front-line hospital workers left out from Ford pandemic pay

TORONTO – Unifor is calling on Doug Ford to immediately revise the Ontario's pandemic pay premium to include all health care workers.

"I applauded Doug Ford when he announced the pandemic pay premium for health care workers but the devil is always in the details," said, Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. "The premium leaves out many hospital workers, some of whom are doing the same job as those in long-term care and social services. This is disappointing at the very least and Doug Ford must correct this immediately."

Unifor welcomed the April 25 announcement by the government to offer $4 per hour "pandemic pay premium" to front-line health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"After the announcement we immediately called on the provincial government to expand the list of those eligible for the pandemic premium. Though the government listened and added some front-line workers, a slew of workers who play key roles in keeping our hospitals running and making sure patient needs are met are still left out," said Dias.

We are calling on the government to ensure that all support and auxiliary staff in hospitals are eligible for the pandemic pay. All hospital workers are subject to the government's emergency orders, including redeployment. This includes dietary aides, stores workers, clerks, pharmacy technicians, laboratory, x-ray technologists, and all the others that contribute to the care of patients.

"The government must fill the gaps and make sure that all of these important workers are eligible for pandemic pay, and take an inclusive approach as they did in the long-term care and retirement home sectors," said Dias.

Unifor calls on Ottawa to prioritize air transportation workers

May 7, 2020

TORONTO— Unifor is calling on the federal government to ensure any financial aid package for the air transportation sector emphasizes workers.

“People and business have made extraordinary efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the air transportation industry is no exception,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Since day one of the COVID-19 crisis, air transportation workers have put their health on the line to safely bring Canadians home and we are calling on the federal government to not leave air transportation workers behind.”

On March 23, 2020, Unifor sent a letter to the federal government to demand that any financial aid package delivered to any industry, including air travel must be accompanied by strong, enforceable conditions that ensure financial relief is tied to maintaining income for current employees, creating employment, and not enriching executives through bonuses.

“Government support for the air transportation industry is critical at this time to ensure our transportation sector remains strong, resilient and ready for takeoff when the time finally comes,” said Dias.

Unifor has requested a virtual meeting with Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau to discuss possible solutions in assisting the air transportation industry and its workers.

Unifor represents 16,000 members working in the air transportation sector including pilots, customer service representatives, aircraft groomers, catering staff, maintenance providers, air traffic specialists and air traffic controllers.

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.

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype or Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Hamid Osman at hamid.osman@unifor.org or 647-448-2823 (cell).

Unifor mourns the loss of PSW member due to COVID-19

TORONTO – Unifor mourns the loss of a Local 40 PSW member due to a preventable workplace exposure to COVID-19.

“I want to extend my deepest sympathies to his family, as well as his union sisters and brothers who are working for Access Independent Living Services,” said, Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Our member worked for more than thirty years providing care for those in need. He’ll be truly be missed by his Unifor family and all those who knew him.”

The member, who is not being named until all next of kin have been notified, worked at Access Apartments and was sent home on April 6th, 2020 due to a possible COVID-19 exposure. He was home self-isolating when his symptoms worsened and later tested positive for COVID-19.

“From the onslaught of the pandemic we have been demanding personal protective equipment from employers and governments. This tragedy could have been avoided if he only he had access to proper personal protective equipment. Our COVID Heroes deserve better,” said Dias.

Access Apartments has three locations which include supportive housing where Unifor provide care and support in their apartments. There is also an outreach program, where workers provide care in the community.

“I reached out to the family and have offered support during this difficult time,” said David Amow, President, Unifor Local 40. “The government failed health care workers in supportive housing, delaying access to personal protective equipment. It shouldn’t take a pandemic or the loss of our members life for governments to treat personal support workers with the respect they deserve.”

Unifor is gravely concerned for the five other Local 40 members who have tested positive along with three clients at the facility. Unifor is monitoring the outbreak and will be connecting with members in the upcoming days to offer support.

Unifor represents 80 members at Access Independent Living Services. This is the first confirmed death of a Unifor member related to this 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.

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype or Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Hamid Osman at hamid.osman@unifor.org or 647-448-2823 (cell).

Unifor frontline health care workers in Nova Scotia welcome federal top-up program

May 7, 2020

HALIFAX – Unifor is pleased to see government respond to Unifor’s demands for premium pay for health care workers and welcomes the latest announcement by Premier Stephen McNeil to provide a cash bonus for health care workers in Nova Scotia amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The tireless work and efforts of frontline health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic must be recognized,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Today’s announcement may be temporary, but the value of these workers to the public is everlasting. I have said this before and I will say it again these workers deserved this premium before the pandemic and they will be deserving of it after.”

This morning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reported that the federal government in partnership with provincial governments, agreed to initiate top up of wages of some essential front-line workers. The federal government will contribute $80.5 million and the Nova Scotia provincial government will contribute $13.4 million.

“I know from discussions with our members how stressful it is to care for patients and residents, while earning low wages in an under-funded system,” said Linda MacNeil, Unifor Atlantic Director. “It’s truly unfortunate that it took a pandemic and a federal wage announcement for Premier McNeil to start respecting these workers.”

The Nova Scotia government announced “The Essential Health Care Workers Program” which will provide a bonus of up to $2,000 after a four-month period, beginning March 13. The program includes eligible employees at the Nova Scotia Health Authority, IWK Health Centre and in long-term care, home care and in-home support and emergency health services. However it does not include the workers in Small Option/ Group Homes and Homeless Shelters, this must change. Their service should be recognized as well through this pandemic.

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

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype or FaceTime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Hamid Osman at hamid.osman@unifor.org or 647-448-2823 (cell).

B.C.’s re-opening unrealistic with transit layoffs looming

May 7, 2020

VICTORIA—The plan to relax COVID-19 restrictions on British Columbia’s economy is incomplete if it doesn’t include restoring public transit service, says Unifor.

“Reliable and safe public transit should be at the core of any plan to get the economy kick-started,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “TransLink has brought Metro Vancouver to the brink of transit chaos with layoff notices effective May 18. Those notices must be rescinded immediately to help transition the Lower Mainland economy back to health.”

On April 20 nearly 1,200 Coast Mountain Bus Company workers received notice of layoff effective May 18. Unifor has been fighting the layoffs, insisting the resulting cuts to transit service will hurt the fight against COVID-19, as thousands of essential services workers rely on public transit to commute to and from work.

“Instead of respecting their employees and communicating well, we’ve seen misinformation and dismissing standard labour code provisions,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor’s Western Regional Director. “TransLink should rescind the notices and sit down with the union to discuss how we can all work together to maintain the transit system. When the notices are rescinded, we will sit down with them immediately to begin work on a plan.”

Unifor Locals 111 and 2200 charge that the layoff notices have not met the minimum required notice for layoffs under the BC Labour Relations Code and have filed a complaint to the provincial labour relations board. Unifor says that senior management at Coast Mountain Bus Company has moved to punish workers for going to the labour board by withdrawing offers to cover the cost of benefit coverage for the laid off frontline workers.

“When presented with an opportunity to do the right thing, they played games, didn’t communicate well and tried to gut the labour code provisions instead of treating the COVID heroes who maintain the transit system with the respect they deserve,” added McGarrigle.

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype/Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell).

Unifor applauds collection of race-based data on COVID-19 in Ontario

May 7, 2020

TORONTO- As Ontario establishes collection of race-based data on COVID-19, Unifor requests responsible collection guidelines and asks other provinces to follow suit.

“The disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 disease on racialized communities has once again exposed how economic and structural inequality affects people’s health,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “We can observe this clearly, but without the data to guide us, governments will be ill-equipped to put in place lasting solutions. Ontario’s announcement to collect this data is a necessary first step.”

The sharp rise and concentration of cases including infections and fatalities amongst people of colour in several countries prompted workers across Canada to call for race-based data collection. 

Unifor supports the growing calls for the collection of race-based disaggregated data on the pandemic to follow the Data Standards for the Identification and Monitoring of Systemic Racism and be expanded to include COVID-19 testing, diagnosis, treatment and fatalities.

“Workers in Ontario have demanded this data collection in order to measure today’s inequalities, but also to bridge those gaps in the future,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director. “It’s wrong that racialized and Indigenous people in Canada face worse health outcomes, and with this data in hand, we will be able to advocate for systemic changes to our health and social services.”

These data collection tools should become permanent so that we can better track and understand health inequalities and outcomes. 

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

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype or Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Sarah McCue at sarah.mccue@unifor.org or 416-458-3307 (cell).

Western Unifor locals donate more than $50,000 to food banks

May 1, 2020

VANCOUVER—Unifor locals from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia have marked International Workers’ Day by making donations to local food banks across Western Canada.

“Layoffs resulting from the pandemic means workers everywhere are hurting. From lobbying to improve safety at work and government emergency programs to community donations, Unifor is working to help all workers, union and non-union,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director. “At the local level, Unifor members have taken action to help reduce hunger during this challenging time.”

A total of $50,000 was pledged from more than 20 locals across the prairies and B.C.

Unifor local unions representing workers in many sectors participated, including transportation, forestry, media, manufacturing, telecommunications, mining, rail, energy, and aerospace.

“When crisis strikes, workers come together to support other workers, whether they are unionized or not,” said Leanne Marsh, chairperson of Unifor’s B.C. Regional Council.

Unifor’s Social Justice Fund and Canadian Community Fund pledged the seed donations to start the May Day project. The B.C. Regional Council and Prairie Regional Council followed suit by pledging their own donations.

“Many Unifor local unions have suffered from layoffs during the pandemic, but they’re still digging deep to contribute to the community-wide effort to help struggling families,” said Guy Desforges, chairperson of Unifor’s Prairie Regional Council.

Earlier this month Unifor’s Canadian Community Fund donated commercial-grade refrigerators to the Bear Clan Patrol’s food security project in Winnipeg’s North End.

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype/Facetime with Gavin McGarrigle, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell).

Mr. Furnace serves lockout notice to workers during pandemic

May 1, 2020

ST. CATHARINES—Members of Unifor Local 1999 working at Mr. Furnace have been served notice that they could be locked out of their jobs on Monday, in the midst of a public health and economic crisis.

“It’s a new low for labour relations to see an employer issue this notice during a pandemic,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “COVID-19 is already responsible for hundreds of thousands of layoffs. Locking out workers that still have their jobs is an especially heartless move right now.”

Mr. Furnace, a subsidiary of Right Time Heating and Air Conditioning Canada, has been bullying workers since bargaining began says Unifor. The employer filed for conciliation before a single bargaining meeting had taken place. The bargaining offers from the company attempt to re-write virtually every clause of the collective agreement by erasing seniority and established wage structures.

“Mr. Furnace is using the pandemic to try to break the union,” said James Tauvette. “Before bargaining even started, the company was overturning seniority rights and contracting out. This company was spoiling for a fight and had no interest in good-faith bargaining.”

Unifor points to the 13 outstanding grievances for a company of 19 workers as an example of the company’s disrespectful behaviour.

“The way a company treats their workers tells you a lot about the values of the owners,” added Dias. “Mr. Furnace customers should consider other providers if this is going to be a pattern at Mr. Furnace and Right Time Heating and Air Conditioning.”

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype/Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell).

Regina City Council endorses binding arbitration for Co-op Refinery

April 30, 2020

REGINA—Pressure is growing for Premier Scott Moe to end the Co-op Refinery lockout with binding arbitration after the Regina City Council endorsed the idea today by a near unanimous vote of 9-1.

“City councillors out-flanked the mayor to show real leadership with this extraordinary endorsement of binding arbitration,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “After Co-op snubbed the province’s mediators, a legislated solution is the best path to ending the lockout.”

Moved by councillor Andrew Stevens, the motion calls on the provincial government to seek binding arbitration to end the 147-day lockout at the Co-op Refinery. The refinery attempted to impose a final offer on Unifor Local 594 but workers voted 89 per cent against the contract. The union has already ratified the compromise proposed by two independent mediators in March 2020.

“Premier Moe’s appointment of mediators was a welcome step, but now we need the premier to follow through and impose the compromises proposed by the mediators,” said Kevin Bittman, president of Unifor Local 594.

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 for interviews, in-person or via Skype/Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell).

Refinery workers reject Co-op’s so-called final offer

April 28, 2020

REGINA—After Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) snubbed the premier’s mediators and unilaterally forced a final contract vote on refinery workers, Unifor Local 594 members have voted 89 per cent against the contract.

“Co-op had every reason to be satisfied with the mediators’ recommendations, but they got greedy,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Regina’s refinery workers have sent a clear message to Premier Moe: impose the mediators’ recommendations and end this dispute.”

In March 2020, Premier Scott Moe appointed two independent mediators to review submissions from the union and the company and develop recommendations for a fair contract that should bring the lockout to a close. Members of Local 594 subsequently voted 98 per cent in favour of the mediated contract.

“The premier hired the most experienced mediators in the country. The premier should take the next logical step and implement the mediators’ recommendations,” said Kevin Bittman, President of Local 594.

More than 700 highly skilled refinery workers were locked out of the jobsite on December 5, 2019 for trying to bargain the same contract enjoyed by energy workers across Western Canada.

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 for interviews, in-person or via Skype/Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell).

Unifor welcomes expanded access to emergency child care in Ontario

April 29, 2020

TORONTO—Unifor welcomes the Ontario government’s announcement today that it will expand access to emergency child care for essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In this pandemic, we’ve seen how crucial access to child care truly is to make it possible for essential workers to get to work, and keep the rest of us safe," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “The Ford government is doing the right thing by listening to workers and health experts in this pandemic who have specifically called for these measures to be implemented as quickly as possible.”

In a letter sent to Premier Ford and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, Unifor called on the province to expand the list of workers eligible for emergency child care services including grocery workers, cleaners, public transit workers, taxi drivers, telecommunications workers, and other critical supply chain workers.

Today’s announcement includes truck drivers and workers in the food supply chain, retirement homes, interpreters and intervenors who support people who are deaf, deafened, hard of hearing and deafblind, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) emergency personnel, Provincial officers and onsite staff in Ontario courts, Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence staff working in Ontario, and additional workers supporting public safety and correctional services.

“We have been asking for this measure because our members have told us from day one of this pandemic that this support was needed and the best way to show respect for essential workers is to listen to them,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor’s Ontario Director.

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

Locked out Unifor members hold car rally at Saskatchewan legislature

April 28, 2020

REGINA—Locked out members of Unifor Local 594 will hold a car rally at the legislature grounds on Wednesday to pressure the provincial government for a legislated solution to the 145-day lockout at the Co-op Refinery.

“By snubbing the report from the premier’s mediators, Co-op has demonstrated that it cannot be trusted to bargain nor end the lockout in good faith,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “We’re encouraging Premier Moe to show leadership and bring an end to this dispute.”

What: Rally for refinery workers and media availability

Who: Kevin Bittman, Unifor Local 594 President; locked out refinery workers, their families, and supporters

When: Wednesday, April 29 at 10 a.m. 

Where: The car rally will begin outside the Conexus Arts Centre and proceed to the Legislature. Media availability to take place in front of legislature.

Please note that rally organizers will be practicing strict social distancing. Members of the media who join for the media availability at the legislature are encouraged to use boom microphones.

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

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype/Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell).

Sunwing joins other airlines applying for COVID-19 wage supplement

TORONTO-Sunwing becomes the third airline to apply for the Canada Emergency Wage Supplement (CEWS) in an effort to maintain as much of their workforce as possible.

"We're pleased to see more employers joining the effort to keep Canada's airlines working," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. "Economic recovery is impossible without taking care of workers first."

On April 8, 2020 Air Canada announced that it would use CEWS funding to top up the wages of more than 3,000 workers on lay-off due to COVID-19. Jazz Aviation made a similar announcement on April 9, 2020.

Sunwing Airlines is a Canadian-owned airline specializing in international vacation travel. On March 17, 2020 it announced it was laying off all 470 pilots because of the pandemic travel downturn. Since the passing of the government emergency legislation over the weekend, today's announcement will mean the recall of all employees on layoff. The company will allow employees to stay at home while receiving 75 per cent of their wages to a maximum of $847 weekly for up to 12 weeks.

"Today's announcement is a demonstration of the positive partnership between Sunwing and pilots," said Barret Armann, President of Unifor Local 7378, representing Sunwing pilots. "It shows the commitment to the employees that have helped build the company and their willingness to do the right thing for Canadian workers."

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 for financial support for industries, including air travel and insists economic stimulus must be accompanied by strong, enforceable conditions that ensure financial aid is tied to maintaining income for current employees and creating employment.

Unifor says close the scab loophole to federal wage subsidy

April 27, 2020

TORONTO—Unifor is calling on the federal government to close a loophole in Bill C-14 that will allow unethical employers using scab labour to qualify for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

“Companies that have chosen to use scabs to prolong labour disputes should not benefit from the scarce emergency funds designed to help legitimately struggling businesses and organizations,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “COVID-19 financial support should not be used to weaken workers’ bargaining power.”

Bill C-14 will enact the CEWS, a program designed to provide employers with a subsidy of up to 75 per cent of wages, capped at $847 per week for each employee. April 27, 2020 is the first day that the federal government will begin accepting applications for CEWS.

Unifor points to the example of Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) in Saskatchewan, where the company has locked out refinery workers for 144 days and has flown in scab labourers and housed them in cramped conditions. The local community has expressed concern that the scab camp is a health risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

FCL recently rejected recommendations to end the dispute from independent mediators appointed by the provincial government. Unifor says employers like these can’t be rewarded with federal CEWS funds.

“Co-op’s repeated refusal to compromise has been made possible by its use of scabs,” said Dias. “If those scabs are subsidized with federal CEWS cash, the government will further tip the balance in favour of a company that saw over $2 billion in profits between 2018 and 2019.”

While the CEWS appears to disqualify companies using independent contractors, FCL “management” ranks doubled leading up to the lockout, meaning Co-op may qualify for CEWS. There is also nothing in Bill C-14 to prevent the firm supplying Co-op with scabs (such as Sterling Crane, Stuart Olson, Brock Group, or Agilus Work Solutions) from applying for the CEWS.

Unifor is also calling on all employers to maintain workforces or recall laid off workers under CEWS.

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

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype/Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell).

Re-opening Ontario’s economy requires collaboration with workers

TORONTO—Unifor is cautioning the Ontario government that it must consult with workers before proceeding with plans unveiled today in its framework for reopening the province’s economy.

“The Ford government must listen to the concerns of our members on re-opening the economy in the same way it did with health care workers on premium pay," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “We have to get this restart of the economy right the first time and that means workers must have confidence in the government’s return-to-work plans and its ability to protect their health.”

Unifor has repeatedly urged the Premier to consult workers in its health and economic policies both before and during the pandemic.

The union also previously wrote to the Ford government urging the Premier to consult with Ontario workers on plans to lift COVID-19 restrictions on the economy. Specifically, Unifor cautioned the government that Ontario’s economy already suffered from a number of complex problems that were exacerbated by the pandemic, including long-standing issues of social and economic inequality, lack of manufacturing capacity and investment in critical infrastructure, and insufficient labour standards.

“The Premier cannot proceed with re-opening workplaces before consulting workers on creating the safest conditions possible and that means revisiting many of the policies made before the pandemic,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor’s Ontario Director. “Workers have made tremendous sacrifices to flatten the curve and continue to work under very difficult, risky and stressful circumstances. That alone has earned them a seat at the table.”

Approximately 91 Unifor members across Canada have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to date, including 47 in Ontario.

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

Relief as frontline workers in Ontario get $4 pandemic pay increase

TORONTO – After weeks of campaigning for a pandemic premium pay for frontline health care workers, Unifor leadership and members received today’s news from Premier Ford of a $4.00 per hour premium with tearful relief.

“For years, long before this pandemic, we have fought for the recognition and respect frontline workers deserve, particularly in the struggling long-term care and retirement home sector,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “The pandemic has brought much needed attention to sectors that were in crisis already. While this announcement is temporary, it is clear that the value of these workers is now being recognized for the essential role they have in our communities, and how as a society, we need to do better. They deserved this premium before the pandemic and they will be deserving of it after.”

Unifor has repeatedly asked the Ontario government to address staffing shortages in long-term care to ensure residents can be cared for with dignity. Increasing wages is seen as a key step in addressing recruitment and retention issues plaguing the sector, particularly for Personal Support Workers (PSWs) who often work multiple jobs to earn a living wage.

Today’s announcement will add $4.00 to hourly wages and a $250 bonus for those who work more than 100 hours per month. The premium will apply to workers in long-term care, retirement homes, community care, home care and some hospital workers.

“$4.00 an hour is a significant increase for many frontline workers and represents an increase larger than they have seen in the last decade,” said Katha Fortier, Assistant to the National President. “We hope this will attract workers back to the sector and help them feel the respect and recognition they deserve.”

Unifor’s most recent campaign demanded safer work, better care and fair pay for health care workers.

“Health care workers are finally being heard, after years of an increasing workload, working short-staffed and below inflation wage increases,” said Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director. “Their repeated demonstrations and calls to government for support have brought us here today and they should be proud of their activism, hard work, and persistence.”

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

For media inquiries, or to set up interviews via phone or Skype/Facetime, please contact Unifor National Communications representative Shelley Amyotte: shelley.amyotte@unifor.org or 902-717-7491 (cell).

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