Ford government erodes workers' safety; labour unites against racism; immigrant employment reaches new Canadian high

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Photo: Doug Ford/Twitter

#UniteAgainstRacism on Labour Day

The 2019 Labour Day will be premised on anti-racism as 13 Canadian labour council presidents signed onto an open letter at the urging of Migrants Rights Network (MRN). The alliance of migrant rights groups across the country has called for a national day of action on June 16, as the campaign fights back against increasing xenophobia and racism.

"Right now, what's happening in Canada is we're seeing a slate of right-wing governments being elected across the country," says Preethy Sivakumar of MRN.

"And what are all these right wing governments doing? They're using racism as a weapon to win votes. Once they gain power, what they're doing is pushing austerity budgets, deepening poverty, and attacking workers' rights. Unions have an active interest in ensuring that racism doesn't get used as such a weapon by the right wing to attack workers' rights."

Immigrant employment reaches new high

A federal government analysis reveals that 71 per cent of new immigrants aged 25-54 were employed last year. New immigrants were defined as those who have been in Canada less than five years. Although recent immigrants tend to have better formal education credentials than other Canadian residents, their struggle to establish themselves in the labour market is notoriously difficult.

Meanwhile, last month's Labour Force Survey reveals that unemployment in Canada is at a 43-year low of 5.4 per cent. British Columbia leads the provinces at a low of 4.3 per cent.

Change in Steelworkers' leadership

Writing in the Toronto Star, Ed Broadbent pays tribute to the outgoing United Steelworkers union's international president Leo Gerard, one of the most prominent Canadian labour leaders.

The end to Gerard's career comes to an end amidst a slew of leadership changes at USW.

In a conversation with rabble.ca, Ken Neumann, national director for USW in Canada, said Gerard and his fellow executives forged important global alliances.

He spoke of the Steelworkers networking with labour organizations in Brazil, South Africa, and the UK and Ireland as well as other countries to challenge the dominance of multinational corporations that attack workers' rights.

"And sometimes, as we know," he said. "Loyalties of corporations necessarily don't belong to where workers are, they try to sometimes go to the lowest common denominator [in pursuit of cheaper labour]."

Work now, get paid next year

Call-centre workers in Nova Scotia have finally begun receiving three weeks of back-pay equalling $1,000,000 after their employer declared bankruptcy in December. The call-centre re-opened in January under a new owner.

The workers received their dues under the federal Wage Earner Protection Program but only after the Nova Scotia government took ServiCom to court.

Ford government reducing workplace inspections

The Toronto Star reports that Ontario's ministry of labour is seeking to reduce the number of workplace inspectors hired by the province. Inspections are crucial in minimizing workplace safety violations, and are essential in Ontario as past probes have revealed more than 75 per cent of inspected employers have violated workers' rights.

All-night filibuster in Alberta legislature against labour bill

The NDP staged an all-night filibuster in the legislature against a labour bill that rolls back workers rights. The proposed legislation by the UCP government will affect union certification votes, banked overtime pay and holiday pay. The ruling party has already reduced minimum wage for youth to $13 an hour from $15, which is likely to encourage discriminatory hiring.

Ford government to cap public sector wages

Ontario's Ford government has introduced legislation to cap public sector wage increments to one per cent per year, in what it says is a move to reduce the deficit. Several unions have decried the move, including ETFO, NUPGE, ONA, SIEU and OPSEU.

OPSEU president Smokey Thomas has raised the possibility of a charter challenge, while warning the government of a "long hot summer" of protests.

In a press release, the Ontario Nurses Association vehemently criticized the move, saying Ontario had a "revenue problem" and not a spending one.

"In the last 10 years, real wages for Ontario hospital nurses and health-care professionals have decreased by more than five per cent," said ONA president Vicky McKenna.

Manitoba union fights liquor store privatization

The Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union is fighting to maintain public ownership of liquor stores in the face of a privatization threat, arguing that the "current system does an excellent job of balancing great selection, competitive pricing, and social responsibilities."

"It's important that Manitobans understand that our Liquor Marts belong to us all, and the revenue they create stays here in Manitoba to pay for things like health care, schools, and roads," said Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU president.

Saskatchewan's minimum wage won't prevent it from being the lowest in Canada

Saskatchewan's government is raising the minimum wage by 26 cents to $11.32. While $15 and Fairness has been advocating for a $15 wage, the ruling Saskatchewan Party is sticking to indexation based on the Consumer Price Index and the average hourly wage that it instituted in 2011.

Improved deal for Steelworkers nursing and retirement home workers

The United Steelworkers' union signed two collective agreements with Caressant Care's nursing and retirement homes in Cobden, Ontario. Both agreements include improved benefits such as vision care and weekend premiums. However, mediocre wage raises have been attributed to inadequate government funding for the homes.

USW's press release stated that the settlement recognizes "growing issues with staffing and increased level of care." Ontario's nursing homes are notoriously understaffed, leading to a vicious cycle of violence and abuse.

Zaid Noorsumar is rabble's labour beat reporter for 2019, and is a journalist who has previously contributed to CBC, The Canadian Press, the Toronto Star and Rankandfile.ca. To contact Zaid with story leads, email zaid[at]rabble.ca.

Photo: Doug Ford/Twitter

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