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Widespread VIA Rail layoffs reveal deep failure of CERB program rules

Unifor -

July 8, 2020

OTTAWA – More than 1000 VIA Rail workers received layoff notice today, along with news that Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s CERB rules still deny them employer-paid income top up.

“The CERB rules step all over longstanding income security practices that workers and employers have held for decades,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Many rail workers showed up throughout the early weeks of the pandemic, and continue to deliver service despite the risk to their own health. The least that workers deserve from the federal government is to honour their hard fought collective agreement benefits.”

VIA Rail, as a crown corporation, is unfairly barred from accessing the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy for its workers, despite a massive downturn in passenger rail service. The corporation paid its employees who did not have work due to the pandemic 70 per cent of wages until this point.

While on temporary layoff, the affected members will be able to apply for the CERB, but are denied the negotiated supplemental income plan (SUB plan) that is in their collective agreements.

 “Instead of allowing employers to hold up contractual obligations that are negotiated specifically for situations like this - the federal government prohibits it,” said Renaud Gagné, Unifor Quebec Director.

“More than 4000 Unifor members have already emailed Morneau and Minister Qualtrough demanding that this policy be revoked. How many thousands of workers need to lose their income and benefits before the government corrects this awful policy?” continued Gagné.

Unifor alone has negotiated SUB plans for about 50,000 members in many sectors. SUB plans are no cost to the public treasury, and are part of a contract that a worker, or their union, makes directly with an employer.

Unifor has a member-driven petition to ministers Morneau and Qualtrough, demanding that they stop denying SUB plans. Visit www.unifor.org/SUBplans for more information.

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 interviews via Skype, Facetime or Zoom contact Sarah McCue, Unifor National Communications Representative at 416-458-3307 (cell) or sarah.mccue@unifor.org.

For French interviews, please contact Unifor Quebec Communications Representative, Marie-Andrée L'Heureux at marie-andree.lheureux@unifor.org or 514-916-7373 (cell).

Severance payment for Northern Pulp workers must be priority

Unifor -

July 8, 2020

HALIFAX—Unifor is urging the Nova Scotia government to work with Northern Pulp to secure Debtor-In-Possession (DIP) financing amid the company’s restructuring.

“As one of the largest creditors to Northern Pulp, the Nova Scotia government is the one holding the purse strings and they will determine if the company can honour its obligations to the workers and maintain the facility during hibernation,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “There is no reason the government should object to DIP financing, especially considering the hundreds of families relying on severance to see them through job loss and a pandemic.”

Northern Pulp notified the union on Tuesday, July 7 that it would not be able to make the second planned severance payment to workers scheduled for the end of July if the company and province could not come to an agreement to allow for third party financing. The company advised members that government had requested more time to review financing terms prior to  the July 3 court date, pushing a decision back to a hearing on July 24.

“Unifor members at the mill received a paltry $650 from the government’s $63.5 million Forestry Transition Fund, so this promised severance is even more essential to them,” said Linda MacNeil, Atlantic Regional Director. “We expect the parties to come to a financial agreement that allows our members to be paid and all responsible maintenance and cleanup at the mill site to continue during shut down. Now is not the time to leave families in the lurch financially.”

Northern Pulp parent company Paper Excellence has reassured Unifor and its members that it is committed to supporting employees and maintaining the opportunity for long-term employment at the mill.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing more than 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy, including 24,000 in the forestry sector. 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.

For media inquiries contact National Communications Representative Shelley Amyotte at 902-717-7491 or shelley.amyotte@unifor.org.

Kenney’s attack on unions makes corporate bosses even more powerful

Unifor -

July 7, 2020

EDMONTON—Premier Jason Kenney’s Bill 32 attempts to undermine the voice of Alberta’s working people while ensuring corporations remain as powerful and unaccountable as ever, says Unifor.

“When unions use free speech rights to speak out against injustice, we’re standing up for all workers,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Combined with criminalizing protest under the new Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, Jason Kenney is using the power of big government to silence the voices of working people.”

Bill 32 proposes to limit unions’ public advocacy campaigns with a government-imposed “free-loader” union dues model that lets union members benefit from union advocacy without paying for it, says Unifor. The union also says that Bill 32 would hamstring Kenney’s most effective critics and consolidate his own power.

“In this new attack on working peoples’ rights, Jason Kenney is using government regulations to benefit his friends in big business,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director. “Fixing the rules to give even greater power to the rich and powerful will only hurt Alberta’s economic recovery. Working people must be heard if we’re going to build a more fair and sustainable society.”

Unifor says that, much like is expected with the undemocratic Critical Infrastructure Defense Act, Bill 32 will eventually be ruled unconstitutional by courts.

“Rather than admitting that his weak economic plan has made matters worse, Kenney would rather pick ideological fights using bad laws that will be thrown out by courts,” said McGarrigle.

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 and Gateway Casinos announce return to operations agreement

Unifor -

July 7, 2020

BURNABY— After weeks of discussions, Unifor and Gateway Casinos are pleased to announce a return to operations agreement was reached between both parties.

“The COVID-19 crisis has hit Canada’s gaming industry particularly hard, all but shutting down this vital sector affecting thousands of workers and their families,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “This agreement with Gateway Casinos is an important step in the right direction towards providing our members with certainty in these uncertain times.”

The scope of the agreement includes hundreds of Unifor members at Gateway Casinos properties in Ontario and British Columbia including:

Ontario:

  • Cascades Chatham
  • Starlight Point Edward
  • Gateway Casinos Sarnia
  • Gateway Casinos Sudbury
  • Gateway Casinos Innisfil Security
  • the Centralized Technical Operations

British Columbia:

  • Chances Kamloops
  • Chances Williams Lake
  • Grand Villa Burnaby Surveillance

The agreement provides an extension of benefits while also improving job security. As part of the agreement, Unifor members will also have an option to elect a retroactive paid leave partially funded by the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

“Gateway has taken an approach to leverage CEWS to offer employees paid leave during this crisis,” Tony Santo, CEO of Gateway Casinos. “We are very pleased that we have been able to work together to offer this significant opportunity to gaming employees working for these Gateway operations.”

Additionally, the agreement includes a number of items to assist Gateway’s business to more quickly and efficiently return to operations and to get as many Gateway employees and Unifor members back to work as soon as possible. Both parties look forward to working together on preparing the businesses to re-open as soon as provincial governments deem it safe to do so.

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 an interview via Skype or FaceTime, contact Unifor National Communications Representative David Molenhuis: David.Molenhuis@unifor.org or (416) 575-7453.

Media Contact for Gateway Casinos & Entertainment:

Tanya Gabara, Director, Public Relations at 604-296-5052 or tgabara@gatewaycasinos.com

Ontario’s fiscal policies have wrecked long-term care

Rank and File - latest news -

A one per cent budget increase could pay for appropriate staffing in long-term care homes By Zaid Noorsumar A new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives demonstrates how the fiscal policies of successive Ontario governments have led to immense pain and hardship for long-term care residents, their families and the workforce. For decades, Continue readingOntario’s fiscal policies have wrecked long-term care

Fired while pregnant: Former LaFarge worker blows whistle on sexism

Rank and File - latest news -

By Lisa Cameron A former employee of LaFarge Canada is accusing the company of gender discrimination after years of poor treatment she attributes to her sex. Cindy Lawrence was hired in December of 2011 at Lafarge Canada’s Brookfield plant just south of Truro, Nova Scotia. She worked until January of 2019. Just four weeks into Continue readingFired while pregnant: Former LaFarge worker blows whistle on sexism

Unifor welcomes Northwood COVID-19 government review

Unifor -

HALIFAX—Unifor welcomes the announcement by Nova Scotia’s Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey of a review of the COVID-19 outbreak at Northwood’s Halifax campus.

“For years front line health care workers have demanded the employer address the lack of adequate staffing levels at the home," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “This review gives health care workers and residents another opportunity to go on record, voice concerns, offer solutions to address poor staffing at the home. I expect Northwood to take the recommendations from Minister seriously and immediately act upon them.”

Minister Delorey appointed infectious disease consultant Dr. Chris Lata and former British Columbia associate deputy minister of health Lynn Stevenson to analyze the outbreak and the response to determine what factors contributed to the spread of COVID-19 at Northwood.

“The review allows the long-term care sector to be better prepared for a possible second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Linda MacNeil, Unifor Atlantic Regional Director. “I believe all health care workers and residents are looking forward to the seeing the recommendations and improvements to the home and generally to all LTC facilities.”

The Northwood review will consider if preparedness for and response to COVID-19 infections were appropriate and timely. It will also look at staff scheduling practices and best practices during each stage of the outbreak. Staff will be interviewed about how to effectively control and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care settings.

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 an interview via Skype or FaceTime, contact Unifor Director of Communications Natalie Clancy: Natalie.Clancy@unifor.org or (416) 707-5794.

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