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Labour news this week: Tar sands company fined $1.5M for deaths, global unemployment on the rise, Robin Hood tax for Europe

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Tar sands company fined $1.5 million for worker deaths of 2007; two more workplace fatalities in Canada this week

An Alberta court has handed down the largest penalty for workplace safety violations in the province's history -- totalling $1.5 million -- to Sinopec Shanghai Engineering Company Canada. The company's use of a rushed, unsafe process for building a storage tank killed two workers and injured five others -- all foreign temporary labourers from China -- at its operations near Fort McMurray in 2007.

Meanwhile, two workers were killed on the job this week in accidents near Granby, Quebec and North Battleford, Saskatchewan.

Global unemployment to continue rise through 2013, says ILO

Global unemployment will continue to rise in 2013, and young workers will be the hardest hit, according to the International Labor Organization's latest annual report on employment.

The report, released on Tuesday, predicts that unemployed workers will number a record 202 million this year, up from 197 million in 2012. Long-term unemployment among youth is of particular concern. Nearly 13% of workers under 24 years of age could not find work in 2012. That's nearly double the overall unemployment rate of 5.9 per cent.

"The situation is expected to improve slightly in developed economies over the next five years," says the ILO, "but youth unemployment is expected to rise in emerging economies in Eastern Europe, East and South-East Asia and the Middle East."

Statistics Canada also released new job figures this week. It found that, across the county, there were 5 unemployed people for every job vacancy in October. 

Eleven European countries to create Robin Hood tax

Eleven European Union countries, including major economic players Germany and France, have agreed to join together to create a new tax on financial transactions. The tax, known popularly as a Robin Hood tax, will apply to derivatives trades and trades of stocks and bonds. The tax could come into force as early as January 2014.

The point of a Robin Hood tax is, on the one hand, to assign the financial industry a fair share of the tax burden while discouraging the sort of excessive speculative trading that destabilizes economies. (That's the "take from the rich" part of the equation.)

The European states, however, have strayed from the "give to the poor" side of the equation as it was originally conceived -- that the revenue raised from the new tax would pay for humanitarian and environmental projects. "Governments are now keener to use the revenue to help prop up shaky banks and finance the European Union's budget," reports the New York Times.

Harper has rejected the idea of such a tax for Canada, while members of all three opposition parties have shown support for it, says social justice organization Make Poverty History.

Canada and European labour groups slam CETA neogtiations

Canada appears ready to trade away labour protections and local public procurement policies at the ongoing negotiations over a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Europe. That's unnacceptable, said the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and the European Trade Union Confederation in a joint statement this week.

"Labour rights must not be corroded by investor-rights provisions," says the statement. "Dispute resolution must be based upon an independent and transparent complaints process. The parties should commit to the ratification and the full and effective implementation of the core labour standards of the ILO."

Thousands to rally for workers' rights at Ontario Liberal leadership convention 

Thousands of Ontarians and more than 100 community and labour groups are expected to protest tomorrow outside the governing Liberals' leadership convention. The rally comes on the heels of the government's after-the-fact repeal of its controversial Putting Students First Act.

The Ontario Federation of Labour says it will be rallying to protest the Liberal government's cuts to public services and suspension of democratic rights.

For a grassroots take on tomorrow's rally, see this analysis by labour blogger Dave Bush.

Ontario and feds give Toyota cash injection, while GM eyes new contract for Ingersoll plant

Auto workers in Ontario are optimistic for prospects of job growth in their sector following two big announcements this week.

General Motors Co. has asked the Canadian Auto Workers union to reopen their contract at an auto plant in Ingersoll, Ontario. The move is seen as confirmation that GM is now leaning towards keeping production of its Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain at the Ingersoll plant, following its earlier consideration of moving the work to Texas and Mexico. Keeping the work in Ingersoll would maintain the jobs of about 3,000 people.

On Wednesday, the federal and provincial governments announced they will make repayable contributions (loans to be at least partly replayed) of up to $34 million to Toyota Motor Manufacturing to finance a new assembly line in Ontario that will build Lexus luxury cars and hybrid SUVs.

Other headlines of note

Nearly 100 federal workers from region get notice of staff cuts

The Real Culture of Dependency: In Defense of Atlantic Canada

Nortel Mediation Ends in Failure, Pensioners Pay the Price of Bondholder Greed, says CAW

Supporting strikers at Porter Airlines

B.C. teachers' union opposes Premier's 10-year plan

Simon Fraser University negotiated in bad faith, rules BC Labour Board

The Real Reason for the Decline of American Unions

Egypt's Constitution seen to curtail labor rights and workers freedoms

Riot police storm train depot, break up Athens subway strike

Chinese workers take managers hostage over toilet breaks

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