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Members participate in largest child care lobby to date

Unifor -

Unifor members were on Parliament Hill on Monday, lobbying for universal, affordable, inclusive and high quality child care.

“Everyone relies on someone who relies on child care, and Canada’s child care system is in crisis,” said Lisa Kelly, Unifor Director of Women’s Department. “We know that investing in child care is an important economic driver and it strengthens our local communities.”

Advocates spoke with MPs and Senators and highlighted the ways in which accessible child care enables parents to work or get the education and training they need to secure good jobs. In particular, members focused on how accessible, high-quality child care opens up opportunities for families, improves women’s equality, helps reduce poverty and benefits everyone involved.

On the other side of the equation, child care workers also shed light on the low wages, and precarious, stressful working conditions that increase the likelihood of burn-out and high turnover in this female-dominated sector.

“As residents and citizens of Canada, we have a right to make our voices heard and it is critical that we use this voice to make a difference in our communities,” said Erin Howell Sharpe, Women’s Advocate, Local 506. “This is how we can ensure issues that greatly impact our lives are on decision-makers’ minds. It’s how we can set the agenda and call for action by elected officials.”

Activists called for the child care that is:

  • Universal, because every family in Canada deserves access to child care no matter where they live, regardless of a parent’s employment status or a child’s spoken language.
  • Affordable, as cost should not be a barrier for any family to access child care. 
  • Inclusive, in that it is flexible and has the resources to accommodate the needs of all children, including those with physical or mental disabilities.
  • High quality, where children are engaged in stimulating activities in a safe environment, with highly-skilled and appropriately compensated staff.

The lobby day was held in partnership with Child Care Now, a non-profit, membership based organization that advocates for a publicly funded, inclusive, quality, non-profit child care system.

Show your support for universal child care - send a message to your MPP and sign this petition to the Office of the Prime Minister

Widow of GE Worker Wins 24 Year-Old Claim

Unifor -

After multiple denials, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board concedes that toxic chemicals played a key role in the premature death of an Ontario employee at General Electric.

Ron Lebeau worked in one of the most toxic areas of the GE Peterborough plant for 20 years, and was constantly surrounded by carcinogens during his time there. By the time improved protective gear was introduced in 1990, he has speculated to his family that it may be too little too late. He was right.

“He would come home every day with small pieces of some type of glass in his hair, his clothes destroyed from dumping liquid into the tanks, dipping the armatures into the tanks and removing them and using asbestos gloves to put armatures into a hot oven to be baked,” said Sandy Lebeau, Lebeau’s widow. “They also used blankets of asbestos to cover the ovens and keep the heat in.”

Ron died of stomach cancer at just 39 years old, leaving behind his wife and two daughters. Sandy filed for compensation from WSIB, knowing in her heart that Ron’s death was caused by the toxic chemicals at work. “He would say, ‘I’ll never retire from GE, the chemicals there will kill me first.’ Working at GE took his life away.”

For more than two decades, WSIB denied any connection between his death and the chemicals at the plant. Then, in May 2017, a group of researchers reported that the chemicals at GE had in fact caused several cancer cases in the community, supporting numerous workers’ claims.

The details of the settlement are yet to be determined, but WSIB’s approval of the claim has left Lebeau’s widow and her daughters relieved that justice is finally being meted out.

Although Lebeau and her family and friends were at the heart of this, many people and organizations contributed, including Unifor, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers Inc, Office of the Worker Adviser and the GE Retirees Advisory Committee. This group put together the breakthrough report on the extraordinary range of toxic exposures suffered by workers in the GE plant and the many supporters and activists in the Peterborough area. 

"We are so pleased to see that after 24 years Sandy will finally see justice and compensation for her late husband Ron,” notes a spokesperson from the GE Retirees Advisory Committee.We will continue to fight this fight and be a voice for our brothers and sisters who have died and who are still suffering the affects of multiple carcinogens in the workplace.”

Over the last 14 years, 662 past and present employees of GE in Peterborough have filed claims. 255 claims were for cancer. 71 have been allowed, 61 were abandoned, and 119 have been denied.

Delegates mark B.C. Council with a push for progress

Unifor -

Unifor members in British Columbia are not slowing down.

At the British Columbia Regional Council meeting held in Vancouver during November 20 and 21, delegates discussed shared workplace challenges and adopted plans to escalate Unifor’s social justice work.

National President Jerry Dias and Western Regional Director Joie Warnock welcomed delegates on the opening day and laid out the challenges ahead for workers in B.C.

“We’re upping our activism,” said Dias. “It would be easy to sit back and criticise outcomes from the side-lines—but that’s not Unifor. We have the ability to shape social change and we do that at every turn.”

Warnock recognized the continuing activism of B.C. members. “It’s been such a great year. We’re exceeding expectations and it’s because of your hard work.”

She pledged to continue the push for justice for all members, including those whose livelihoods are under threat from Trump’s tariffs, “Our fight back mobilization is going to be strong and successful.”

Delegates were presented with honest and raw experiences from keynote speakers Max FineDay and Kevin Chief. They talked about the intergenerational trauma of colonialism in Canada, and challenged all delegates to directly engage in reconciliation in all aspects of their lives.

Throughout the course of the Council, delegates debated resolutions about lobbying the government for decent work and addressing workplace challenges ranging from pay equity to mental health supports. The Council is the first in the country to adopt a resolution pledging to pressure governments to end the practice of carding and racial profiling in policing.

A full list of adopted resolutions and recommendations will be posted on the B.C. Regional Council page.

The imminent deadline of the province’s Proportional Representation referendum was discussed throughout the meeting. Simka Marshall, an organizer with the Vote PR BC coalition, delivered a presentation and asked delegates to make a final push to encourage friends and family to vote for a more representative electoral system.

The two days before the Council were jam-packed with organizing and leadership development. A one-day Aboriginal and Workers of Colour conference welcomed nearly 50 delegates, many of them at their first union event. On the following day, young workers from across the province met to strategize on building power in their local unions.

In the weeks and months ahead, the plans made at the B.C. Regional council will be put into action by Unifor locals, committees and activists in every region the province.

Unifor B.C. Council starts with activist momentum

Unifor -

Unifor members from across British Columbia are gathering at the Hyatt Regency Hotel to discuss current issues in workers’ rights and make strategic plans for the year ahead.

“From fighting for a higher minimum wage to tireless work for electoral reform in British Columbia, our members are leaders on the front lines of change,” said Joie Warnock, Unifor Western Regional Director.

Unifor National President Jerry Dias opened the Council speaking about how strength and solidarity helped Unifor shape USMCA negotiations and ended deadlocked strikes and lockouts that threatened to normalize scab labour in Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Using the example of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s “false majority”, he told B.C. delegates that their efforts to win the first proportionally representative government in Canada is critical to expanding workers’ rights.

“Unifor activists are making incredible gains at the bargaining table and they’re also doing the hard work to shape politics in British Columbia,” said Dias, Unifor National President.

During the council, delegates will discuss several resolutions, ranging from federal election strategy to opposing racial profiling and “carding” in policing.

Pictures from council will be added to the union’s Facebook page.

Throne Speech Raises Questions about Plans for the Civil Service

Manitoba Government & General Employees Union -

Today the Pallister Government unveiled its Speech from the Throne. Often referred to as a provincial blueprint, it’s as chance for government to lay out their priorities and direction for the year ahead. Today’s speech contained concerning language around advancing transformation of public services with a new Public Service Act.

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