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Labour news this week: public service workers call out killer cuts; feds' budget lukewarm on jobs; pension plans overhauled

More public-sector workers ringing alarm on killer cuts to services

This week has seen another round of warnings from health and social service workers who say cuts to public services are endangering peoples' lives and safety.

In Ontario, CUPE is pointing to inadequate staffing in the province's nursing homes as a factor behind recent incidents in which residents of long-term care homes were beaten, and one killed, by fellow residents. The union is calling for a legislated minimum care standard that all long-term care homes would be required to meet, to prevent future tragedies.

Nurses in an Oshawa hospital emergency department have called for a review of staffing levels that they say are compromising their ability to safely care for patients.

In Belleville, social service workers have decried cutbacks to mental health services for children, while Children's Aid Society workers across the province continue to call attention to the crisis created by $67 million in funding shortfalls for children's aid services.

Meanwhile, the union representing prison guards at the St-Jérôme, Quebec jail that saw a dramatic escape by two prisoners on Sunday say serious overcrowding has created dangerous conditions there.

Federal budget lukewarm on job creation

Aside from some very modest investments in job training, industrial stimulus and infrastructure, the federal government's budget for 2014-15, released Thursday, provides few measures to improve employment in Canada.

Though the government trumpeted its plans to increase infrastructure spending by $70 billion over the next decade, they're putting off most of that spending for later rather than sooner. According to economist David MacDonald of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, infrastructure transfers to cities will actually see a $1 billion cut in 2014-15 -- from $1.25 billion to only $210 million.

Overall, austerity measures in this and the previous two federal budgets will translate to roughly 90,000 fewer jobs in the public and private sector, estimates MacDonald.

After tentative deal with teachers, Alberta government sets it sights on doctors

Last week, after threatening public school teachers with legislated contracts, the Alberta government reached a tentative province-wide deal with their union on new four-year contracts. Now it faces resistance to the deal from local school boards – the two largest of which have rejected it.

Meanwhile the bitter dispute between the government and doctors continues. The Alberta Medical Association is threatening to sue the government over stalled talks on contracts for its members. The government recently demanded $275-million in cuts -- cuts the association has flat-out rejected. The cuts being pushed by the government would result in an average reduction in take-home pay for physicians of over 23%, says the association.

Big pension changes on the way for Ontario teachers, Fredericton city employees

Several large public-sector pension plans made headlines this week.

In Ontario, the provincial government and the Ontario Teachers Federation have reached an agreement to deal with chronic pension fund shortfalls by putting a five-year freeze on any increase in contribution levels for both teachers and the government.

In New Brunswick, city employees in Fredericton will have to work longer to qualify for pensions and will have fewer retirement income guarantees, after city council voted to move to a shared-risk pension plan.

In Alberta, employees of local authorities were relieved to learn that, following a review which some feared would lead to higher retirement ages and an end to automatic indexing of pensions, the board governing the Local Authorities Pension Plan has recommended no changes to the plan.

Other headlines of note

Nearly 6 jobless Canadians for every vacancy, report shows

Building a more inclusive and representative labour movement in Canada 

Ending the Dues Check-Off: Forcing Union Renewal?

No free ride: An educational video about unions for Tim Hudak

Alberta government continues to deny SAFETY NOW for Alberta Farm workers

Opinion: Attack on Ontario's teachers a test case 

Rank-and-file solidarity wins strike at Homes First

Ontario: Anti-poverty groups call for $14 an hour minimum wage

Second Stabbing Angers Taxi Drivers

In Wisconsin, When Bargaining Is Illegal, We Bargain 'Informally' 

Wage Increases Continue in Low Cost Sourcing Countries

$45+ billion for Apple shareholders, nothing yet for Apple workers 

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