Feed aggregator

Vancouver Island grocery workers go union and fight for hazard pay

Rank and File - latest news -

By Hanna Wallace and Billy May Similar to the community care movement that has sprung up during the COVID-19 pandemic, the workers at Lifestyle Markets decided to organize a union drive out of a sense of care and respect for our fellow workers.  Lifestyle Markets has three locations on Vancouver Island. The first and largest Continue readingVancouver Island grocery workers go union and fight for hazard pay

Unifor tells Federal Finance Committee to close gap in CERB

Unifor -

May 21, 2020

TORONTO–Unifor reiterated its call for the federal government to grant workers receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to receive the Supplemental Unemployment Benefits (SUB) they would be entitled to under normal layoff circumstances, during testimony today before the Federal Finance Committee.

“The CERB has flaws that need fixing. At the top of that list is for Ministers Morneau and Qualtrough to allow employer-paid, and Service Canada registered Supplemental Unemployment Benefits alongside CERB,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias told the Committee. “It is ludicrous that the Ministers are denying hundreds of thousands of workers additional income supports, some as much as $500-600 per week, that employers are ready, willing and able to pay,” added Dias.

Unifor alone has negotiated SUB plans for approximately 50,000 of its members in multiple sectors including auto, rail, steel, aerospace, public service and health care. In the health care industry, the SUB plans are designed to top up EI sick leave benefits for frontline workers in long-term care homes. Major companies, including General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, have also appealed to the government to allow SUB payments to their workers.

On April 15, Unifor sent a letter to Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough to ask the federal government to close the glaring gap in CERB and modify regulations to allow workers to collect both the CERB and SUB.

Subsequently, the union launched a national petition to close the loophole that unfairly denies workers SUB payments, won at the bargaining table, that they would normally receive when laid off.

“Fixing this will cost our public purse precisely nothing. Yet, the answer has consistently been no,” Dias testified. “It takes simple regulatory fix that Unifor proposed more than a month ago.”

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector and represents 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future. Information about the union’s response to the pandemic, as well as resources for members can be found at unifor.org/COVID19. For media inquiries or to arrange a Skype or FaceTime interview with Jerry Dias please contact Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe at kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org or 416-896-3303 (cell).

Wage rollbacks will harm the economy

NUPGE -

The reason cutting public sector wages hurts the economy so badly is that, like almost all low- and middle-income earners, public sector workers spend what they earn in their communities. The bulk of what public sector workers earn goes to businesses providing items like like groceries or housing. When you take that money out of the community, everyone feels the pain.

Even in a Global Pandemic, Workers in Ontario Still Don’t Have a Right to Paid Sick Leave

Rank and File - latest news -

By Rawan Abdelbaki It has been just over two months since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. It was only a few days after that when the Conservative government of Ontario passed Bill 186, Infectious Disease Emergencies amendment to the Employment Standards Act. Bill 186 was designed to offer job protections to those workers who Continue readingEven in a Global Pandemic, Workers in Ontario Still Don’t Have a Right to Paid Sick Leave

In National Coronavirus Press Conference, America’s Largest Food & Retail Calls on Top Supermarket Companies to Reinstate Hazard Pay

UFCW Press Releases -

As Hazards Facing Grocery Workers Continue, UFCW Announces At Least 68 Grocery Workers Have Died and Over 10,000 Exposed or Infected in COVID Pandemic – More Than Double the Number of Deaths and Infections 5 Weeks Ago Walmart, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Kroger Condemned for Failing to Release Numbers on Worker Deaths and Infections and for Ending Hazard Pay for Millions of Grocery Workers 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, America’s largest food and retail union with 1.3 million workers in grocery, meatpacking, food processing and other industries, hosted a national press call with leading reporters from across the country to address the fact that many of America’s largest supermarket and food retail companies – including Kroger, Walmart, and Amazon – have recently ended so-called “hazard or hero pay’ even as the pandemic continues across the country. Click here for the full video recording of the press conference.

During the call, UFCW International President Marc Perrone called on these companies to immediately reinstate this essential pay until the need to wear masks and other protective measures are no longer necessary.

As a measure of the real and growing risk of the public health crisis facing grocery workers, the UFCW also released new internal numbers that at least 68 grocery workers have died and more than 10,000 have been infected or exposed. During the call, UFCW called on every leading food retailer to ensure public health by releasing the number of their food retail and supermarket workers who have died or become sick and/or exposed to COVID-19.

Excerpts of prepared remarks by UFCW International President Marc Perrone are below:

“As this pandemic continues, the threat of this virus is real across every grocery store in America. Yet, most states and supermarket chains are still failing to enforce social distancing or mask wearing in stores to keep customers and workers safe. Even worse, Walmart, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Kroger have failed to release internal numbers on worker deaths, infections, and exposure. Amazon even fired workers brave enough to speak out.

“Amazon, Whole Foods, Kroger, and other companies have shamefully announced pay cuts for millions of these workers on the frontlines, even as each company experiences record sales. When workers face higher risks, they should be paid more. These workers are not facing fewer hazards and are still putting themselves in harm’s way, interacting with thousands of customers a day, to help ensure our families have the food we need.

“While we hope some of these companies do change, and follow the lead of other national companies like Albertsons and Ahold who acted responsibly to extend this hazard pay, we are preparing options to ensure that every American knows which supermarket companies stood by their workers and their families and which did not. American consumers and workers deserve better and we will continue to stand with them.”

Grocery Workers Speak Out

As part of the call, Kroger grocery workers from across the country spoke about the serious risks they face, and how Kroger eliminating its ‘Hero Pay’ has had a damaging effect on them and their co-workers. The following are statements from these grocery workers.

“Five people in my household work for Kroger and together, we put in about 250 hours per week. When Kroger gave us ‘Hero Pay,’ it felt like we mattered and they were recognizing the risks we are taking. Every day, you fear that you might catch the virus at work. You fear that you might take the virus home to your family. I’ve had customers swear at me when we ask them to wear a mask. One customer even told me I might be dead in a month. After work each day, I want to cry, but I don’t have the tears to cry because it’s not going to make things better. We are working longer hours under stressful conditions. At my store, they take daily temperature scans, but the thermometers the company provides us don’t work. Kroger and all grocery companies need to provide the protective equipment, testing, and essential pay that all of us need so that we can keep our stores operating safely. Our lives are on the line,” said a Ralphs grocery worker in San Diego, California.

“There is a lot of fear in my store because of the virus. Every day, we prepare like we’re going into battle with the virus. We are exposed to thousands of people every day for hours and the reality is it only takes one person to expose an entire store. Kroger ended our ‘hero pay,’ but the crisis is not over. I face each day with anxiety and it gets worse when I see customers refuse to wear masks. I am a mother and my children need me to stay healthy,” said a Kroger meat department worker in Lansing, Michigan.

“Since the coronavirus outbreak began, I’ve been working 60-70 hours a week. As a cashier, it’s hard to social distance from customers. We put our lives on the line every day and I worry about taking the virus back to my grandchildren or husband. When Kroger took away our ‘Hero Pay,’it felt like a slap in the face. Because Kroger is not requiring our customers to wear masks, it’s putting us in jeopardy. The spread of the virus hasn’t stopped, so neither should the protections or ‘Hero Pay’ that our families need ,” said a Kroger cashier in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

“Since Kroger ended ‘Hero Pay,’ I’ve seen the morale in my store go down. My co-workers and I are facing the same struggles and risks, but now the company suddenly doesn’t want to recognize that. What changed? Kroger – and every supermarket company – should pay every grocery worker in America for the risk we are all facing, until this pandemic is over,” said a front-end Kroger worker in Columbus, Ohio.

 Background:

UFCW has been a leading national voice calling for action to support and protect grocery workers who are on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, the UFCW sent a letter to the CEOs of top supermarket chains across the country condemning them for suggesting that the health risks of this pandemic have diminished, and failing to provide the pay and protections necessary given the risks that America’s grocery workers face.

###

 The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.

Ford’s long-term care inquiry long overdue

Unifor -

May 20, 2020

TORONTO – Unifor welcomes the Ontario government’s announcement to launch an independent commission to investigate Ontario's Long-Term Care (LTC) system, so long as a manageable patient to staff ratio is put in place and recent changes such as pay increases and worker protection are maintained.

“The devastating reality is that it took a pandemic for Doug Ford’s government to understand just how broken the system really is in Ontario,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.  “I welcome this announcement, but this inquiry must take on new urgency to protect LTC residents and workers. Unions, along with coalition partners and health officials have already seen consecutive governments ignore their calls to fix the crisis.”

Yesterday the Ontario government announced that it would launch an independent commission into Ontario's long-term care system, to begin in September. The details of the commission, terms of reference, reporting timelines and membership have yet to be announced.

The last Public Inquiry into the Safety and Security of Residents in the Long-Term Care Homes, following the Wettlaufer tragedy, concluded in July 31, 2019, and included recommendations that the Government of Ontario increase staffing levels in LTC homes.

“Ontarians are relieved to see their government take action during a crisis and start valuing long-term care workers,” said Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director. “There are deep-rooted issues in the sector that cannot be ignored after this crisis, and progressive measures such as premium pay cannot be revoked while workers wait for the findings of this commission.”

Unifor supports the call from the Ontario Health Coalition that the commission should not be controlled by any partisan group or by long-term care owners and operators. The union believes the commission must be transparent, open to the public, and include input from residents and their families, and health care workers. This inquiry must be an aggressive fact finding mission with the final report delivered and acted on with urgency. 

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 considers escalating complaint against Regina Police

Unifor -

May 20, 2020

REGINA—After revelations that the Regina Police Service kept secret a bomb threat against picketing members, Unifor will examine its options for expanding an existing complaint against the RPS.

“Regina police have been at the beckon call of the company from the beginning of the lockout,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Now there is clear evidence that their loyalty to the refinery has veered into a recklessness that could have cost lives.”

Documents obtained over the weekend by Unifor Local 594 through a freedom of information request showed that a letter outlining a bomb threat against the picket lines at the Co-op Refinery was dismissed by police and no warning was ever issued to union members. On May 19, 2020 Premier Scott Moe called the threats “very alarming.”

Dias added that the union will appeal the redaction of passages in other documents obtained under the FOI request.

“Regina Police Chief Evan Bray has made a mockery of the concept of ‘serve and protect’,” said Dias. “His masters at the Co-op Refinery will be pleased with his performance, but families in Regina should be very concerned about his fitness to lead.”

Dias said Premier Scott Moe’s handling of the file is equally disappointing: “The Chief of Police knew of the threats to me, picketers, and my family. The mayor knew. The Justice Minister knew. Are we supposed to believe that, during the largest labour dispute in modern Saskatchewan history, the cabinet was not informed of a bomb threat at a refinery? If Scott Moe knew, why didn’t he take action to protect refinery workers and their families?”

Unifor is also investigating the possibilities for a civil suit against RPS related to restricting union members’ rights to lawful picketing.

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).

New Trump Guestworker Policy Exploits Coronavirus Outbreak, Threatens Safety of Workers & American Jobs

UFCW Press Releases -

America’s Largest Meatpacking Union, with 250,000 Workers Across the Industry, Condemns New H-2B Visa Policy That Will Endanger Workers, American Jobs & U.S. Food Supply

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, America’s largest food and retail union with 1.3 million members, condemned a new U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy removing limitations on the H-2B program for workers who are deemed essential to the food supply chain during the coronavirus outbreak. The new policy will make it easier for companies to eliminate American jobs and replace current employees with guest workers.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“America’s brave meatpacking workers are not replaceable. They are putting their lives on the line every day, with dozens dying and over 10,000 infected, to make sure millions of Americans have the food they need during this deadly outbreak.

“When the Trump Administration forced meatpacking plants to reopen, but failed to enforce the strong safety standards needed, it put more American workers at risk. This new policy is a betrayal of America’s meatpacking workers, giving companies a free pass to ignore safety and push anyone who gets sick out of a job by replacing them with untrained guest workers.

“America’s food supply depends on our country’s meatpacking workers who have the skills and training needed to keep our food supply chain strong during this pandemic. An American president should be protecting American jobs and the food workers who are keeping our country running, not replacing them or exploiting this crisis to further enrich meatpacking companies.

“At a time when our economy is spiraling and our food supply is already under pressure, this decision is a direct threat to workers and represents a clear and present danger to public health and safety. Our country’s leaders – both Republicans and Democrats – must reject this move and stand up for the American workers helping to feed our families during this crisis.”

Background:

This past week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced a Temporary Final Rule that will remove limitations on the H-2B program for workers who are deemed “essential to the U.S. food supply chain” and make it easier for employers to obtain guest workers for food manufacturing and processing.

This follows an effort in March 2020 by the National Pork Producers Council to pressure members of Congress and other U.S. Government officials to allow pork producers to hire more guest workers who would displace the hardworking Americans keeping these plants running.

UFCW has been the leading national voice calling for action to increase safety in meatpacking plants to protect workers and keep the U.S. food supply chain secure. In a recent letter to Vice President Pence, UFCW urgently called for the White House Coronavirus Task Force to prioritize five safety actions targeted toward the meatpacking industry, including: (1) increased worker testing, (2) priority access to PPE, (3) halting line speed waivers, (4) mandating social distancing, and (5) isolating workers with symptoms or testing positive for COVID-19.

 

###

 The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.

Secondary picket line goes up at Foam Lake cardlock

Unifor -

May 19, 2020

FOAM LAKE—Federated Co-operatives Limited’s refusal to accept the recommendations of Premier Scott Moe’s mediators has again affected the fuel supply for farmers, says Unifor.

“It will not be business as usual for the refinery while they’ve locked out highly skilled workers,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “This lockout must end with the mediators’ terms.”

Members of Unifor Local 594 have erected a secondary picket line at the Co-op Foam Lake Cardlock in Central Saskatchewan. They are asking farmers to contact their MLA with demands to legislate an end to the lockout.

Local 594 members ratified the mediators’ deal by 98%. Co-op management later rejected it and tabled new concessions. Since then, oil & gas workers have been calling on Premier Scott Moe to legislate the parties back to work with the terms recommended by the two mediators.

“Scott Moe was right to appoint mediators, but now he has to finish the job,” said Kevin Bittman, Unifor Local 594 president.

A vehicle rally was also held this morning at the Co-op Refinery.

Over the weekend the local union made public details of a bomb threat made against the oil & gas workers in February. The threat was known to the Regina Police Service, but the picketers were not made aware of it nor is the RPS making public any details about whether or not it was investigated.

“Regina Police have sided with the company since day one, but it is especially disturbing that they have not fulfilled their role to protect workers against a terrorist threat,” said Dias.

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).

Support for research welcome but further expansion of the wage subsidy program needed

CAUT -

(Ottawa — May 19, 2020) The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) welcomes the recent announcement from the federal government of $450 million in further support to the research community, but remains concerned that public universities and colleges remain ineligible for the federal wage subsidy.

“The funds are good news for health researchers and institutions affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says CAUT Executive Director David Robinson. “The health research sector was faced with massive layoffs, and we are pleased to see that the federal government has worked to fix what was a very significant gap in their wage subsidy program.”

The new announcement included extending wage support to university and health research institutes that are funded through industry and philanthropic donations of up to 75 per cent per individual to a maximum of $847 a week. These institutes are also eligible for up to 75 per cent of costs to maintain and restart essential research-related activities such as safe storage of dangerous substances and restarting data sets.

The federal government also announced an expansion of the wage subsidy program to include non-public educational and training institutions. The wage subsidy program still does not apply to public universities and colleges. 

“It is troubling that private educational institutions are eligible for the wage subsidy, but public ones are not,” said Robinson. “Our public institutions across the country are also facing significant challenges. The federal government needs to do more to help the hundreds of thousands of workers that universities and colleges employ and the students they support”.

Pages