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Labour News Round-up, October 8 - October 21

AFL blasts Harper for stripping Canadians of work through Temporary Foreign Workers program

The Alberta Federation of Labour condemned Harper for helping a company in Fort McMurray lay off 300 Canadians and prepare to replace them with foreign temporary workers. The workers were employed at the Husky Sunrise tar sands project but were laid off in September and the contracts for their jobs have since been taken over by Toronto-based Saipen Canada Inc. The Temporary Foreign Workers program lowers employment standards, creates opportunities for exploitation and displaces well-trained Canadian workers. Despite Conservative government claims that no Canadians would lose their jobs, the AFL says even more Canadians will be displaced under a secretive new government program that allows employers to skip straight to hiring foreign workers without first advertising the jobs locally.

Government vows broad changes to public service in throne speech

The Conservative Government’s Speech from the Throne confirmed their intention to make broad changes to the public service, including freezing spending and firing workers. The Throne Speech highlighted nine points the federal government plans to implement in order to downsize the public sector, including selling federal assets, changing disability and sick leave benefits and reducing IT costs by laying off human resources and finance staff. Since 2011, 20,000 civil service jobs have been cut.

Canada Post Wasting Money: Union

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers accused the Canada Post Corporation of wasting money on a cross-country tour that CUPW likened to a dog and pony show. A CUPW representative in St. John’s, Craig Dyer, said that the Corporation’s tour is trying to make it look as if Canada Post is in financial trouble. The union argues that while regular mail has fallen slightly, parcel mail has increased ten-fold. Having limited door-to-door mail service, the company seems more interested in cutting back and reducing services than improving them, CUPW says.

Canadians should beware of the negative foreign impact of FIPA agreements

Canada’s drive to sign bilateral trade agreements, or Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection (FIPA) agreements, has had a negative impact abroad, argues Unifor researcher and writer Yves Engler. In the past year alone, Canada has signed FIPAs– which lets corporate profits trump governments' attempts to create local jobs, improve environmental regulations or raise royalty rates – in Côte d'Ivoire, Tanzania, Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon and Zambia, where Canadian mining has boomed. Companies have found especially valuable the right to sue a country when their projects are opposed. In early October, a Canadian company sued Costa Rica under a bilateral trade agreement for $1 billion dollars, after the government rejected a controversial mine opposed by three-quarters of the country.

Ontario pitches idea of provincial pension plan as national negotiations loom

Ontario’s government says it might offer mandatory public pension plan, if federal and other provincial governments don’t agree to enhancements when they meet in December. More than 11 million Canadian workers don’t have workplace pension plans. The Canadian Labour Congress has been campaigning to double Canada Pension Plan (CPP) benefits, pushing maximum payments to $24,000 per year and average payments to $12,600 per year. The Ontario Liberal government says it would prefer the federal government agree to enhance the CPP, but Harper has been obstructing the provisions of CPP legislation, which state that amendment can be approved by two-thirds of the provinces representing two-thirds of the Canadian population. A CIBC report warned that, upon retirement, people born in the 1980s could face a 30-per-cent drop in their standard of living.

Contract talks with CN Rail stall as union cites rail-safety concerns

Debates over rail safety have stalled negotiations between the Canadian National Railway Company and workers represented by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference. The union, representing 3,3000 workers, argued that a strike may be called by Oct. 28. The union argues that the concessions being proposed by management would make employees work longer hours with less rest time between trips. Talks will resume Monday, Oct. 21.

Homelessness funding falling as Government prepares new report

Yearly federal funding for homelessness programming has fallen to 36 percent of its original value in 1999. With Canada’s aging population, homelessness amongst seniors is rising. In Toronto, it has doubled between 2006 and 2013 among those over 65. In the next six months, the federal government is due to release a $100 million study on the effectiveness of providing supportive housing, which combines subsidized housing with social work support.

Harper approach to economy is example of “circuses, not bread”

Harper’s claims to be a sound economic manager don’t stand up to the evidence, argues Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom. After briefly engaging in stimulus spending, Harper has shifted back to austerity, pulling money out of the economy. It has also attacked anything that keeps wages up, undermining employment insurance and unionization. And it continues to say that Canadians don’t have the right skills to get existing jobs, a claim dismissed by former bank economist Don Drummond. Walkom says it is no surprise that Harper is trying to take focus off his actual economic record. “When bread is lacking, circuses always come in handy,” he writes.

University of Manitoba faculty set to strike Oct. 22

Faculty at the University of Manitoba have set their strike date for Oct. 22 if an agreement isn’t reached between their union, the University of Manitoba Faculty Association, and university management. To help with negotiations, a conciliator has been appointed. The strike mandate was approved by 68 per cent of voting UMFA members. Faculty argue that academic freedom is at the heart of the bargaining impasse and warn that the university’s plans to cut its number of faculties by one-third by 2017 will cause harm to the quality of education delivered at the university.

Union: Skilled jobs on line at Nova Scotia Power

Nova Scotia Power  said that nearly a third of its workforce will be affected by plans from the company to contract out work. The Nova Scotia Federation of Labour warns that contracting out will result in a loss of $14 million annually as a result of lower salaries. The positions being considered are high-skilled and often located in rural parts of the province. The initiative, while still not confirmed, would be part of a promise to cut $25.7 million from the budget of Nova Scotia Power. Labour lawyer Ray Larkin argued that such a decision would need regulatory approval and is an example of a company placing profits over the people who work for the company.


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