May 27 2020
TORONTO– Unifor’s National President and local union leaders will be speaking out tomorrow to highlight an unfair gap in the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) that is hurting thousands of workers in the auto, rail, marine, steel, aerospace, health care and other sectors.
“The flaw is that laid off workers who are receiving the CERB are barred from also receiving the Supplement Unemployment Benefits (SUB) negotiated in collective agreements with their employer,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “The whole purpose of SUB is to provide laid off workers with additional income, over and above, benefits received through the government. By preventing SUB payments, the government is effectively reducing the amount of income workers otherwise would receive while laid off. In some cases this is upwards of $600 per week. The federal government’s position on SUB is ludicrous.”
Major employers including General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have all notified the government they are willing to pay the SUB to their employees but government red tape continues to withhold dollars from workers financially struggling during the pandemic.
Members of the media are invited to watch the livestream news conference tomorrow morning on Unifor’s Facebook page.
What: Virtual News Conference
Who: Jerry Dias, Unifor National President
Beth Couchman, President, Unifor Local 5555
John D'Agnolo, President, Unifor Local 200
Jennifer Murray, Chair Unifor Rail Council
When: 11 am ET, Thursday, May 28, 2020
Where: Live on Unifor’s Facebook page.
Journalists can submit questions during the live stream by email to Communications@Unifor.org and we will do our best to answer them live on Facebook.
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.
Toronto – May 26, 2020 – UFCW Canada's ground-breaking online education program, webCampus, has launched two new health and safety courses that can help you address hazards in your workplace and ensure that you have proper ventilation and good air quality at work.
May 26, 2020
TORONTO – The troubling reports from Canadian Armed Forces serving in long-term care homes in Ontario reinforces the systemic crisis in the provinces long-term care system.
“The report is shocking but sadly not surprising. The crisis in long-term care existed well before the pandemic and now we are feeling the impact of years of neglect,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “The living and working conditions in long-term care homes are not the fault of workers, but of governments and operators that for years ignored cries for help by workers, residents and their unions. When operators are focused on profit margins and governments lack the will to improve working and resident conditions the outcome is bound to be horrible.”
More than 1,675 troops have been deployed to five Ontario long-term care homes, but many others in crisis have not received the same attention.
“The lack of oversight and investment into long term care by the Ontario governments has failed all Ontarians,” said Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director. “Providing quality care starts with adequate staffing levels. Unfortunately, due to years of neglect and privatization of long-term care, workers are either leaving the sector entirely or burning out because working short staffed has become the norm. It’s time for governments and operators to stop the lip service and start treating workers and residents with the respect and dignity that they deserve.”
The union believes that the expansion of for-profit operators, lack of full-time jobs, fair wages and benefits for Personal Support Workers (PSW), who provide upwards of 80 per cent of hands-on resident care has created the crisis we are in today. Wage increases, generally set through a system of arbitration, have been below inflation for the last decade. Four out of five long-term care homes say they struggle to fill shifts, while nearly half of health care workers report working short-staffed every day.
“If there is one thing we can probably all agree on is that we must fix long term care immediately. We need full time work, decent benefits, including sick leave so these critical workers don’t have to come to work when they are sick. These workers were heroes before the pandemic and will continue after the pandemic,” said Dias.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 647-448-2823 (cell).
May 26, 2020
SOUTHEY— Premier Scott Moe’s endless dithering on whether or not to impose a settlement from the mediators in the Co-op Refinery lockout has prompted workers to establish information pickets at five rural Co-op properties.
“It boggles the mind why Scott Moe can’t finish the job he started,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Why did he appoint the nation’s best mediators if he was just going to sit on their recommendations? It doesn’t make any sense.”
Members of Unifor Local 594 will be handing out information to customers at Co-op properties at Meacham, Pontrilas, Porcupine Plain, Southey, and Stenen. The oil and gas workers are asking farmers to contact their MLA with demands to legislate an end to the lockout.
“The government has said, on the record, that it would get involved if bargaining had ‘utterly failed’. Well, it’s Day 173 of a lockout. The employer has snubbed the premier’s mediators. It’s safe to say that negotiating in good faith with the Co-op has utterly failed,” said Kevin Bittman, Unifor Local 594 president.
Local 594 members ratified the mediators’ deal by 98%. Co-op management later rejected it and tabled new concessions, which Local 594 members have refused. Since then, oil and gas workers have been calling on Premier Scott Moe to legislate the parties back to work with the terms recommended by the two mediators.
To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype/Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at email@example.com or 778-903-6549 (cell).
Mississauga, Ont. – May 25, 2020 – UFCW Local 1006A members working at the Residence Inn by Marriott Mississauga-Airport hotel have achieved a new union contract that provides better wages, increased sick days, and more.
86% of Canadians support bringing long-term care under the Canada Health Act; only 2% oppose this action.
May 25, 2020
TORONTO—Unifor is proud to partner with the Hospitality Workers Training Centre to support laid off workers in hospitality and food service across the Greater Toronto Area.
“Hotel and food service workers are among the hardest hit by the pandemic,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “That’s why our union acted immediately to ensure workers could access vital services from the Centre for job training, food and housing security, and mental health supports.”
Founded during the SARS pandemic in 2003, the Centre currently provides immediate one-on-one supports for all workers in the sector including job training. The centre’s training kitchen will also provide 18,000 meals to people across the Greater Toronto Area this month.
In addition to partnering with the centre, Unifor continues to pressure the federal and provincial governments and employers to adequately protect workers from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As hospitality and food services workers face job losses, Unifor continues to pursue greater enhancements to the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB), health benefits for those without coverage, and is pressuring governments and employers to increase participation in the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program. The union is also working to ensure that all workers have access to adequate personal protective equipment and safe workloads, public services, including transit and childcare, and sufficient health and safety measures are in place as workplaces reopen.
“Workers in hotels and restaurants are among some of the most vulnerable individuals in our community and will need significant help navigating the current crisis and what may be a lengthy recovery," said Lis Pimentel, Unifor organizer and Chair of the Board of the Hospitality Workers Training Centre. "The Centre is an integral part of a robust community COVID-19 response that provides fundamental services to workers facing the pandemic’s economic hardships.”
Hospitality and food service workers across the Greater Toronto Area can access the Hospitality Workers Training Centre’s Rapid Response here.
Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy, including more than 20,000 hospitality, gaming, and food service workers. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad and strives to create progressive change for a better future.
To arrange an interview via FaceTime or Skype, please contact Unifor Communications National Representative David Molenhuis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-575-7453 (cell).
Quebec City, Que. – May 23, 2020 – Jorane Lamontagne is one of eighteen winners of the UFCW Canada – BDM Scholarship.
As universities and colleges develop plans for the 2020-21 academic year, many are preparing for the continuation of remote instruction either fully or in part. The initial pivot to remote teaching in March, 2020 was a specific response to an immediate and urgent public health situation arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. As institutions now focus on longer-term planning, decisions about the 2020-21 academic year, including the mode of course delivery, should be made in consultation with academic staff associations, and respect collegial governance processes and collective agreements.
Many academic staff associations have existing collective agreement language or letters of understanding regarding on-line and remote teaching. Modifications to these agreements should be negotiated with the association. While some flexibility may be needed in order to comply with public health orders, academic staff associations should ensure that emergency teaching measures are temporary and solely in response to an extraordinary situation. Any agreement about modifications to the collective agreement and members’ rights should be limited to the 2020-21 academic year, be reviewed regularly, and renewed only if conditions warrant.Collegial Governance and Academic Freedom
Consistent with principles of collegial governance, the appropriate academic governance body should be responsible for all decisions about class cancellations, modifications, or the temporary continuation of remote teaching. In no case should the administration use the current situation to bypass collegial processes or assume final authority for academic decisions. The pandemic must not be used as a pretext to usher in a longer-term transformation of teaching.
The principle of academic freedom as well as specific language in many collective agreements grants academic staff the right to determine the mode of course delivery. Academic staff should have the right to determine the most pedagogically effective way to provide alternatives to in-class instruction and labs, subject to policies set by academic governance bodies and to the extent that alternatives might be necessary.
In the event that in-class instruction is not feasible, institutions and academic staff associations should ensure that academic freedom is not compromised in a remote teaching environment. Explicit protections should be in place to prevent data sharing, surveillance, and recording of on-line classes.
Special consideration should be given to students studying from abroad, as some course material may be blocked, monitored, or subject to censorship by local authorities, and potentially putting students and their families at risk.Intellectual Property
Ownership over course materials has important implications for academic freedom, reputation, custody and control, and copyright. Academic staff should therefore retain their intellectual property rights over the content of their remote and on-line courses. Under no circumstances should on-line courses developed for internal use be shared with other institutions or transferred to third parties without the express permission of the course creator. Academic staff have the right to control the dissemination of their works and to make those works available under licensing arrangements of their choice.
When developing on-line course material, academic staff should be made aware of open educational resources, and follow the principle of fair dealing with respect to the use of copyrighted material. Fair dealing is a right to reproduce works without permission or payment within limits. In addition, the Copyright Act contains a number of specific exceptions that allow works to be reproduced without permission or payment. Some of these exceptions are limited to the educational context, while others are open to all users of copyrighted material. For more information, please consult CAUT’s Guidelines for the Use of Copyrighted Material.Workload and Compensation
The development of on-line modes of instruction requires specialized technical support, training, and additional preparation time that will have an impact on workload. Administrations cannot simply expect staff to provide additional lectures, labs, and seminars to accommodate physical distancing protocols without additional staffing resources, credit, or compensation.
Some collective agreements have language that grants higher credit to on-line courses in the assignment of a member’s overall workload. Such language can be used to ensure a fair and reasonable distribution of remote teaching workload. Some academic staff associations have negotiated additional compensation, particularly for contract academic staff who cannot benefit from course load reductions.
Associations should be aware of other factors that may affect remote teaching workloads. Class sizes and the availability of teaching assistants and markers should be considered. The appropriate academic bodies should determine class sizes and teaching and grading support, subject to applicable collective agreement language.
Institutions must also provide appropriate technological support and personnel. Necessary equipment and software must be provided by the institution, or expenditures made by staff must be reimbursed. Failure to provide adequate resources and support may give rise to a policy or individual grievance. Where the administration requires a member to incur expenses while working from home, it must issue tax documents in compliance with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) guidelines.Outsourcing
Some institutions may be considering the outsourcing of remote or on-line courses for the 2020-21 academic year. This may involve contracting with third-party providers, or sharing of courses between institutions in which classes are made available to students from other institutions using shared on-line portals, credit transfer, recognition agreements, or collaboration among institutions to develop joint courses. These plans raise concerns around the outsourcing of the work of members. Academic staff associations must ensure that the work of developing, teaching, and revising courses remains in the bargaining unit.
Associations should resist the private provision of on-line courses, and should discourage course sharing if it leads to a loss of bargaining unit work. Course sharing may be used in some cases by members as a supplement, but never as a replacement, to existing courses.
Some collective agreements allow administrations to enter into contracts with individual members to license on-line courses and other commissioned work. The association is not a signatory to individual contracts, but should be copied on all correspondence between the member and the administration. Members should be advised of their right to seek association assistance prior to signing such contracts. The association’s role is to ensure that no contract undermines academic freedom. Custody and control, and copyright should remain with the creator. Contracts should grant the institution no more than a one-year license allowing the course to be shared with specified partners. Associations should be watchful for contracts that give ownership to the institution or external partner, and for contracts that do not preserve the moral rights of the creator. In the absence of any explicit contractual terms to the contrary, copyright belongs to the creator.
In all cases, the creator should have the right to teach the course and should have control over revisions. Where it may be appropriate for these functions to be performed by different individuals, all should be members of the bargaining unit, the rights and responsibilities of each should be clearly spelled out, and the creator must give permission.Equity and Inclusion
Remote teaching raises equity and accommodation issues for students and academic staff. Synchronous remote teaching will not be inclusive of students who may be in different time zones across the world. Some students and staff will have varying levels of access to a reliable Internet connection, devices, or required software. Academic staff may also need specialized support to ensure on-line materials are accessible to those with visual disabilities, hearing impairments, learning disorders, mental illness, and other accommodation needs. Institutions should provide support structures and programs for all students and staff who are experiencing increased hardship.Conclusion
Academic staff associations should ensure that decisions made around remote teaching fully respect collegial governance, academic freedom, and the collective agreement. While some flexibility in approach may be necessary, associations should seek to protect the following core principles:
- Academic decisions should be made through normal collegial processes. Academic staff, through their institution’s governance bodies, must make all academic decisions, including those involving changes to the mode of delivery of courses.
- Method of delivery is a pedagogical decision and an academic freedom right. Academic staff, subject to collegially developed policies and provisions of the collective agreement, should determine the method of delivery for courses. In the current context, such decisions may be constrained by public health directives and safety considerations. However, academic staff should determine how best a course or program might be delivered remotely.
- Copyright should remain with the course creator. Academic staff should maintain copyright over the course materials they produce. In the absence of any explicit contractual terms to the contrary, copyright belongs to the creator(s).
- Remote teaching arrangements should protect against contracting out and outsourcing. Academic staff associations should be vigilant in protecting the work of the bargaining unit from outsourcing.
- Staff should be compensated or credited for increased workloads. Extra time required for the preparation and delivery of remote courses should be recognized and compensated.
Toronto – May 22, 2020 – Two UFCW campaigns supporting workers in food processing, food retail, health care, security, and other front-line industries have garnered overwhelming support from people across the country, with thousands of Canadians signing on to the campaigns to show their solidarity with essential workers during COVID-19.
Just last week, a strong majority of the company’s couriers in Toronto voted to join OPSEU/NUPGE, but the company is holding up their union certification with stall tactics and baseless procedural wrangling. And now in the most hamfisted, anti-union move possible, directly linked to the successful union drive, the company is laying off up to 15 per cent of its workers in Toronto and sending them home immediately.
May 21, 2020
TORONTO—At a moment of public health crisis in Canada due to COVID-19, the Healthcare for All National Coalition is calling on the federal government to work closely with provincial and territorial governments to ensure access to healthcare for all people living in Canada. The coalition, comprised of health and migrant justice advocacy organizations across the country, identifies this as both an issue of justice and equity, and of public health. The response across provincial and territorial governments has been inconsistent and fragmented. As such, the coalition has come together with over 200 civil society organizations nationally and sent an open letter to the federal government calling for access to healthcare for all people living in Canada, including those currently living in detention, regardless of immigration and citizenship status.
Carole Benedicte Ze, a refugee claimant from Cameroon who was initially refused access to testing after contracting COVID-19 while volunteering at a Montreal care home, said “It was hard for me to access testing, so just imagine how much worse it is for people who have no status. Nobody should be refused health care when they are sick, no matter what their status. We all need care.”
The network is calling on the Federal Government, in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, to ensure that health coverage is available to all, regardless of immigration status and that this policy change has a clear implementation plan in all hospitals and health centres. In addition, the coalition asks that these facilities be reminded of their ongoing legal obligation to protect patient privacy and not share information with Canada Border Services Agency. They are asking for further clarification to the CBSA and general public that people should not be subjected to detention or deportation when or after accessing healthcare.
Access to healthcare is a major determinant of health, even outside of the context of a pandemic - as such, the coalition also calls on the Federal Government, acting in concert with provincial and territorial governments, to ensure all above measures are made permanent.
“An Injury to One is An Injury to All. We need to understand that health problems in any community affect the whole society. Denying proper access to migrant, Black, Indigenous or People of Colour communities is unacceptable, and weakens any Federal or Provincial health strategy.”
- Marcos Luciano, Director of Migrante Alberta (member organization of the Migrant Rights Network)
Dr. Sandy Buchman, President of the Canadian Medical Association also said, “A global pandemic has shown us, now more than ever, that we must ensure equitable access to health care for all. And we must always strive to provide access to care for all people living in Canada.”
The letter with over 200 organizational signatories has been sent to the Federal Government, with copies to provincial and territorial governments. The coalition awaits a response.
Dr. Nisha Kansal
Dr. Arnav Agarwal
Mélissa Cabana, Conseillère principale aux communications, Médecins du Monde Canada
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