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October 25, 2018

Postal Workers Begin Rotating Strikes

All Out to Support Postal Workers'
Just Demands


Picket line at Gateway sorting plant Mississauga, Ontario, October 23, 2018.

Postal Workers Begin Rotating Strikes

All Out to Support Postal Workers' Just Demands

Pensions Are a Right!
Make Defeat of Bill C-27 the First Step to Real Pension Security
for All - Ottawa Committee for Pension Security

Quebec Workers Defend Rights and Public Services
Demonstration Outside National Assembly in Defence of Public Sector Workers and Public Services
Outaouais Nurses Continue to Organize in Defence of Their Rights
Montreal Transit Maintenance Workers Fight for Working Conditions and Quality of Life - Gleason Frenette, President, Montreal Transit Union (STM-CSN)

New Brunswick Workers Fight for Their Rights and the Rights of All
Need for Wage Increases to Improve Workers' Living Conditions and Defend the People's Right to Public Services - Interview, Daniel Légère, President, CUPE New Brunswick
WorkSafe NB Task Force's Anti-Worker Recommendations on Workers' Compensation System - Interview, Patrick Colford, President, New Brunswick Federation of Labour

Letter to the Editor
Re: Workers' Forum Article on Pilot Fatigue

Postal Workers Begin Rotating Strikes

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Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMCs) picket in Nova Scotia, October 22, 2018.

On Sunday, October 21, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers National Executive Board informed postal workers that last minute discussions with Canada Post failed to address the demands of the union. A bulletin to union members stated that Canada Post negotiators refused to address the workers' demands and consequently the union would begin rotating strikes at 12:01 am on October 22, in Victoria, British Columbia; Edmonton, Alberta; Windsor, Ontario; and Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Thousands of postal workers established picket lines at each location at 12:01 am local time. The first round of work stoppages lasted 24 hours.

In the evening of October 22, the union announced that workers in Toronto would begin strike action at 12:01 am local time. Close to 9,000 postal workers in the Toronto area walked off the job and picketed all work locations in most of the Greater Toronto Area (excluding Scarborough) for two days. The union press release stated, "We need to address health and safety concerns and precarious work, as well as gender equality. We will stay at the bargaining table and on the picket line for as long as it takes to get a fair deal for our members."[คา สิ โน ออนไลน์ poker1] On October 24 at 6:00 pm local time, workers in Calgary, Alberta and Kelowna, BC went on strike. They were joined by workers in Sherbrooke, Quebec on October 25 at 4:00 am local time.

On Wednesday, October 24, Minister of Labour Patty Hajdu appointed Morton Mitchnick as a special mediator to assist the parties in reaching negotiated collective agreements. The union's negotiating committees announced that they were ready to work with the special mediator and Peter Simpson, Director General of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services to achieve the needs of postal workers in this round of negotiations. They also made it clear that strike activities will continue until further notice.

Workers' Forum calls on everyone to go all out to support the postal workers' demand for a collective agreement commensurate with their needs and the people's need for a vital public post office.


Nova Scotia, RSMCs

Sherbrooke, Quebec

Magog, Quebec

Solidarity action, Sudbury, Ontario

South Central Sorting plant, Toronto; Carrier Super Depot, Etobicoke

Mississauga, Ontario

Windsor, Ontario

Tecumseh, Ontario

Edmonton, Alberta

Lower Mainland, BC

Victoria, BC

Sooke, BC; Duncan, BC


1. See "Key Issues Remain Unresolved at Post Office: Canadian Union of Postal Workers Issues 72-Hour Strike Notice," Louis Lang, Workers' Forum, October 18, 2018.

(Photos: WF, CUPW, CUPW Pacific, R. Barron, M. Keefe)

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Pensions Are a Right!

Make Defeat of Bill C-27 the First Step
to Real Pension Security for All

Picket against Bill C-27 outside Finance Minister Morneau's office in Toronto, November 28, 2017.

Prime Minister Trudeau and Finance Minister Morneau almost got away with it.

When the Liberal Government introduced Bill C-27 into the House of Commons on October 19, 2016, they claimed that the Bill was needed in order to "expand" the range of design options for workplace pension plans in the federal jurisdiction. Having campaigned during the 2015 election in support of strengthening pensions and retirement income security, they wanted to convince their supporters and Canadians in general that Bill C-27 would advance that positive agenda.

Fortunately, the vast majority of trade unions, retiree organizations, and committed retirement activists have spent the past two years exposing the real agenda behind Bill C-27, which is an employer-inspired attack on existing defined benefit pension plans.

Those analysing the Bill showed that its proposed amendments to the federal jurisdiction's Pension Benefits Standards Act (PBSA) would permit employers sponsoring secure "defined-benefit" type pension plans to convert them to insecure and non-guaranteed "target-benefit" type plans -- something pension legislation in all jurisdictions (except New Brunswick, in certain circumstances) makes illegal if its application includes the already-earned benefits of retirees and long-service active workers. Rather than strengthening protection and expanding decent pension coverage, Bill C-27 was precisely intended to allow federal jurisdiction employers -- including employers like Air Canada, Canada Post, and NavCan -- to escape their legal pension obligations with respect to their current and former (retired) workforce. Ultimately, the framework of Bill C-27 represents a grave threat to all defined-benefit pension plans and their members. Put simply, while it has been "paused," and delayed, it still must be definitively defeated.

The good news is that a strong momentum against Bill C-27 was built. Virtually all groups representing workers affected by the proposed changes have taken active steps to oppose it. From the street demonstrations in Ottawa and Toronto, to mass petitions and postcard campaigns attracting thousands of signatures, to active lobbying and meeting with MPs, the movement forward for this bill was stopped at First Reading. Minister Morneau and Prime Minister Trudeau have not moved the bill to Second Reading. The fact that Minister Morneau faced a full investigation by the Federal Ethics Commissioner into his conflict of interest in relation to this legislation also helped stall the government. The fact that the Commissioner ultimately (June 2018) rejected that conflict of interest complaint does not, of course, mean that he did not have a conflict -- only that the inadequate and narrow parameters set under the Ethics Commissioner's mandate were not breached. Today, Bill C-27 has neither been withdrawn nor pursued. The Liberals could still move Bill C-27 forward at any time, including immediately following the next federal elections, set for October 2019.

Picket in Ottawa against Bill C-27, May 5, 2017.

Further, the central idea behind Bill C-27 -- which is to remove the legal security embedded in already-promised pensions -- continues to represent a serious threat to the retirement security of thousands of workers in Canada. At least two provincial governments (Manitoba and Nova Scotia) have announced that they are considering similar legislation. Even worse, within months of C-27's introduction, the right-wing C.D. Howe Institute published a paper (April 2017) proposing to transform the Canada Pension Plan -- our public defined-benefit plan covering nearly all workers in the country -- into an insecure "target-benefit" plan. In this sense, the substance inside Bill C-27 is a threat to nearly all workers in Canada.

But the threat represented by Bill C-27 is not the only threat to retirement security -- it is not even the biggest. Ultimately, Canada's retirement income fails on the simple measure that the great majority of Canadian workers -- over 70 per cent now -- have no secure (defined-benefit) pension plan through their job (apart from CPP). This leaves most of us to fend for ourselves, scraping together savings through tax system-supported schemes like RRSPs or TFSAs -- plans that are designed to generate profits for the financial industry, and not to deliver income security. The Ottawa Committee for Pension Security is convinced that we can do much better than this. We need a transition to a comprehensive and universal pension system that builds on the success of our vital but inadequate public pensions -- CPP and OAS.

Canada is a wealthy country, but one that is becoming increasingly unequal. Seniors' poverty, and economic insecurity, is increasing again. The increasingly precarious job picture faced by young workers now entering the labour force is even less likely to offer a defined-benefit pension than the job market their parents faced. The small expansion of the CPP that was agreed to in 2016 was a positive step -- but seriously inadequate to meet this growing need. We have the resources and income to establish a universal pension system that would truly meet the income needs of the retired population. But building such a system is only going to be possible if a movement -- or movements -- are built to demand it.

If you agree, get in touch with us! Connect with us on Facebook, send us an email, and let's discuss how to build the kind of movement we would need to win real pension security for everyone!

Facebook Group: Ottawa Committee for Pension Security Twitter: @pensionsforall Email: nancy.parker59@gmail.com

(October 19, 2018. Photos: WF)

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Quebec Workers Defend Rights and Public Services

Demonstration Outside National Assembly
in Defence of Public Sector Workers
and Public Services

On October 17, some 500 public sector workers, members of the CSN, demonstrated in front of the National Assembly to challenge the new government on the state of public services, following years of budget cuts. The event was staged as the CSN held a consultation forum in Quebec City on the next round of public sector bargaining.

The protesters testified to the significant deterioration of their working conditions and the serious impact of the neo-liberal austerity agenda on public services. They demanded major investments in public services.

Speaking about the health care and social services network, Ginette Langlois, President of the Federation of Professionals (FP-CSN) said, "The creation of mega-facilities resulting from institutional mergers has led to a real and unfortunate dehumanization of services. Work is no longer the same. Professional autonomy has been eroded. We ask the prospective Minister of Health to take into consideration the expertise of professionals and technicians, so that their work takes on its full meaning." Among the problems that were raised regarding these networks is the major shortage of personnel, created by the deterioration of working conditions; the overload on the people still working in the system; and a general climate of the devaluing of work, which greatly affects morale.

With regard to the education sector, serious concerns were raised about the increasingly precarious working conditions for teaching and support staff and the increased tailoring of education and training to "market needs." The protestors also strongly opposed the Legault government's promise to abolish school boards, seeing this as a step towards an anti-social restructuring of the entire education sector similar to that of the health care sector under the Liberals. "We do not want a Barette-style reform in education," asserted Nathalie Arguin, President of the Federation of Public Services Employees (FEESP-CSN).

Before leaving the National Assembly, the demonstrators reminded the new government that the public sector has made a significant contribution and continues to contribute to the development of Quebec and that workers in the education, health care and social services networks and government agencies will be there to defend public services in the coming months and years.

(Chantier politique. Photos: CSN)

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Outaouais Nurses Continue to Organize in
Defence of Their Rights

Nurses in the Outaouais are stepping up their actions against demands for concessions by their employer, the Integrated Health and Social Services Centre of the Outaouais (CISSSO). This is taking place within the framework of negotiations for the renewal of their collective agreement. Negotiations are taking place under the umbrella of the anti-social restructuring of the health care system that was intensified under the Couillard majority government.

On October 15, members of the Union of Care Professionals of the Outaouais (SPSO) organized a sit-in in a hallway on the seventh floor of the Gatineau Hospital, near the Human Resources offices, to express their dissatisfaction over local negotiations.

The following day, a wall of lemon boxes appeared outside the entrance of the CISSSO's administrative offices. Nurses had placed 2,800 lemons there to award the organization's CEO the "lemon prize as the worst employer in the health care network." Through that gesture, they underscored the fact that CISSSO is the only organization not to have negotiated an agreement with its health care professionals affiliated with the Inter-Professional Health Care Federation (FIQ). A giant puppet with a photo of the CISSSO's Chief Operating Officer as its head, reigned over the lemon crates. "He's squeezing the juice out of 2,800 health care professionals in the Outaouais," decried SPSO President Lyne Plante.

As a result of their mobilization of public opinion in support of their cause, nurses have obtained new negotiation sessions, as those formerly planned were cancelled by the employer. One of the concessions being demanded is that nurses travel many kilometres to work in various facilities, at the discretion of the employer. Nurses reject that demand as they see it as an erosion of their working conditions and as running counter to the quality of care. They declared that this aggravation in conditions could lead to an exodus of nurses to Ontario.

That employer demand is a direct result of the reform of the health care network implemented by the Couillard government, which established mega-facilities over vast regions and centralized power in the hands of the minister of health, who has the power to nominate and revoke the executive boards of these mega-establishments.

Rather than defending health care personnel, the CEO of CISSSO maintains that moving nurses throughout the Outaouais is necessary because of the region's "geographic reality" and a "labour shortage." As nurses have pointed out, the shortage was entirely created through the worsening of conditions in the health care network and is being used as the pretext to further aggravate them.

The SPSO is inviting its members and the population at large to complete an online form to send an email message to the CISSSO CEO demanding that it facilitate negotiations in order to arrive at a negotiated agreement acceptable to nurses.

(Chantier politique. Photos: SPSO)

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Montreal Transit Maintenance Workers Fight for Working Conditions and Quality of Life

Montreal transit workers' rally, May 5, 2018.

The Montreal Transit Union (STM-CSN) has 2,450 members, who perform all the trades, including electricians, mechanics, plumbers, welders, etc. We have about 2,000 trades people in the union and the other members are maintenance workers.

In early 2017, the employer, the Montreal Transit Corporation (STM), came to us with a demand for hundreds of concessions, particularly for schedule changes that affect the working conditions and quality of life of our workers. However, that is precisely what we want to improve, which is called work-family balance. We have already had over 100 meetings with our employer and we have not even begun discussing the issue of wages.

The STM wants more employees to work weekends, and more evening and night shifts in general. Some employees would be moved to these new schedules, however most of them would be new employees. They would also work non-standard schedules, such as three days of work, then three days off, followed by four days of work. Not only would these atypical schedules be applied to new hires, the employer is focusing on them to try to develop a mentality that "it does not affect you, only the new hires." We are not the sort to accept orphan clauses.

The employer calls this flexibility, but in fact it is a rollback of our working conditions and the quality of life of our members. Our employees do a lot of overtime, over 500,000 hours per year. I believe that the employer already has flexibility. Many of our employees are already working weekend shifts, night shifts -- shifts that overlap each other to such an extent that it results in overtime. The STM wants this so-called flexibility while avoiding overtime.

The mentality is changing amongst the workers, and in particular we see this with the new generation. A lot more attention is being paid to quality of life, the opportunity to spend time with our families. There are ways to reduce overtime, which would also benefit our exhausted members who face the increased danger of accidents. This can be done by hiring workers, but this should not be done by upsetting our working conditions and making it impossible to have a good quality of life.

The current negotiation is regulated by Bill 24, which was adopted by the Liberal government in 2016. This law is the framework for all negotiations in the municipal sector and the government has included us in this. The law requires that we sign contracts for a minimum of five years. The duration of the negotiation is controlled.

We are now negotiating with the assistance of a mediator for a period of 60 days. A 60-day extension period is provided by law if the mediator or the parties propose it. If at the end of the mediation period the mediator declares that the negotiations did not produce any results, a trustee appointed by the government takes over. The trustee looks at the issues that were not settled at the bargaining table, and can report to the government requesting a decree of our working conditions that have not been agreed upon. The mediator has assured us that if the talks continue, he will extend the mediation another 60 days.

We are confident that with an extension, we will be able to settle negotiations. Our working conditions must be negotiated, not decreed.

(Chantier politique. Photo: CSN )

New Brunswick Workers Fight for Their Rights and the Rights of All

Need for Wage Increases to Improve Workers'
Living Conditions and Defend the People's
Right to Public Services

Mass CUPE membership meeting in Moncton, New Brunswick, September 15, 2018.

Public sector workers in New Brunswick are stepping up the fight in defence of their rights in the context of the September 24 provincial election. In this election, the ruling elite was not able to establish a majority government that could be said to be "stable" and with which a "mandate" to pursue the anti-social offensive against the workers and people could be claimed. At this time, one of the major issues for the public sector workers is for wages commensurate with the jobs they perform. Their working conditions are vital to providing the public services that realize the people's rights in a practical way.

Workers' Forum recently spoke with Daniel Légère, President of the New Brunswick Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) about their campaign to demand significant wage increases for all their workers.


Workers' Forum: Your campaign "Breaking the Mandate: Bargaining Forward" puts first priority on wage increases for all 30,000 of your members. Can you elaborate?

Daniel Légère: In the last 10 years or so, we have had two rounds of bargaining, two four-year cycles, where the province came in with wage mandates. One round was zero per cent, zero per cent, two per cent, two per cent, and the other one was one per cent, one per cent, one per cent and one per cent. Our members' wages have not kept up with the rate of inflation. Inflation was higher than our members' wage increases. The government came to the public sector unions and said that we are in tough economic times so the public sector has got to do their part, tighten their belts and help. We have been tightening our belts for 10 years.

We asked our economist to look into the fiscal reality in New Brunswick and the relation between the cost of living and our wage increases. We suspected that we were falling way behind in our buying power. We investigated the facts and found out what happened to the real buying power of our members over these years. In some cases, our members actually lost disposable income over the last 10 years.

One of the questions that is often asked is how come Canadians are incurring so much debt. We know why our members are going into debt, because when your income is shrinking in relation to the cost of living, and you have to pay the same bills, you have to borrow. Our members said that we can't keep going on this way, we are fed up, we are working short-staffed, we have a couple of sectors that are in crisis. I am sure you have heard about the ambulance services and in nursing homes where there is a significant problem to fill positions because of problems with recruitment and retention. Part of that is how you compensate people.

In March, we had a bargaining conference, open to all CUPE members. It was almost as big as a convention. Almost 300 CUPE members came together. We rolled out a plan for them, lots of opportunities for input, we had lots of floor mics, we had a suggestion box, we had a wall where they could post stuff. We got feedback all the way through this process from our members to make sure that we are on the right track.

After that bargaining conference, we started rolling this out, we adopted the clenched fist as our symbol, the universal symbol of solidarity, defiance and resistance. This past September, the Regional Director and I went around the province talking to CUPE members in every corner of the province. We had thousands and thousands of CUPE members come out to these meetings. Again we discussed with them whether we are on the right track, that this is the plan, this is what we have done over the last eight months, etc.

WF: What is the next step in the campaign?

DL: Now we are telling all the political parties that CUPE members are fed up. We have about 15,000 of our 30,000 members at the bargaining table right now. By Christmas, we will have 25,000 of our 30,000 members at the table.

While the political landscape is pretty uncertain in New Brunswick, we want all political parties to know why our members have taken the stand they have and to put them on notice that this will be our priority. To have 25,000 of our 30,000 members at the bargaining table at one time is unprecedented. Our members are clear that the priority is wages. They want real wage increases above the cost of living. Leading up to the election and during the election period, bargaining has been kind of put on hold because government negotiators did not really have a clear direction on where to go. The employers were coming to negotiations with nothing to put on the table -- they did not have a mandate to bargain. That was wasting our members' resources and time. We want to be upfront with all the political parties. When we have a real government in place, we want to be able to achieve real wage increases for our members.

At the moment, as you may know, there are four parties in the mix in the Legislature. The Conservatives have 22 seats, the Liberals have 21 seats, the People's Alliance has three seats and the Green Party has three seats. [The Liberals are now down to 20 seats because one of their MLAs has become the Speaker of the House since the interview was done -- WF Ed. Note.] The two smaller parties are the ones who kind of hold the balance of power right now. Everything is up in the air.

But our members are quite clear. They are willing to take any action necessary, including job actions, to achieve real wage increases.

(Photos: CUPE New Brunswick)

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WorkSafe NB Task Force's Anti-Worker Recommendations on Workers'
Compensation System

At the end of May 2017, the New Brunswick government announced that a WorkSafeNB Task Force was being set up to review the workers' compensation system, with the mandate of focusing on short-term solutions and long-term sustainability. WorkSafeNB is a Crown corporation mandated to prevent workplace injuries and occupational disease, as well as to provide rehabilitation services and compensation benefits to workers who are injured or made ill on the job. It is charged with overseeing the implementation and application of the health and safety legislation of the province. The task force submitted its report to the government of New Brunswick on July 17, 2018.

Workers' Forum asked Patrick Colford, the President of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour, his views about the recommendations of the Task Force and the Federation's plans since it has serious issues with some of the main recommendations in the report.


Workers' Forum: What are the views of the Federation of Labour on the recommendations of the WorkSafeNB Task Force?

Patrick Colford: First, one has to recall  that in the early 1990s, workers gave up a lot of benefits and a lot of concessions were introduced into the province's workers' compensation system. That is when New Brunswick introduced the three-day waiting period, when we went from 90 per cent wage recovery down to 80 per cent, as well as a whole host of other claw-backs. At that time, the reasoning presented for doing this was that the system was under-funded, well below 100 per cent. Over the years, that funding got back to 110-125 per cent but instead of reversing the concessions that were made, they gave rebates to the employers. We have been asking for a long time now for balance to be restored in the system and that is what we were advocating for this task force to do.

The main recommendation of the task force that we really have an issue with is doing away with the Appeals Tribunal. WorkSafeNB is trying to create policies that supersede the legislation. Through this task force they want to give more power to the New Brunswick Board itself over the Appeals Tribunal. If workers have a WorkSafeNB claim and it is being denied, they can go to appeal. What happens is that in these appeals, I think in around 90 per cent of them, the decisions are being overturned in favour of the worker. WorkSafeNB is saying that it has a problem with the Appeals Tribunal overturning these decisions. They are basically asking the government to introduce legislation that will allow them to make their own policies that will supersede the legislation. One of the recommendations of the task force is that "WorkSafeNB be the final authority on benefit entitlement." Basically, if the Appeals Tribunal makes a recommendation which favours the worker, that they are entitled to those benefits, at the end of the day WorkSafeNB wants to be able to come back and say no. We have a huge problem with that. Essentially it is doing away with the Appeals Tribunal. Why bother to have an Appeals Tribunal if WorkSafeNB is the final authority on benefits?

The other recommendation we have a major issue with is mandating WorkSafeNB to "review annually the Grand Bay Rehabilitation Centre, comparing service delivery options and results to those in other jurisdictions, and publicizing these comparisons." Right now, in New Brunswick, if you are injured and need to go to a rehabilitation centre, there is one run by WorkSafeNB. It is a publicly-funded institution, and they want to compare the service delivery options and be able to privatize those. Instead of saying, "Okay, you are going to Grand Bay," they will be able to send you to a private physiotherapist, somewhere else. It undermines a precious asset that New Brunswick has. We are one of the only jurisdictions, if not the only one in Canada, that actually has a publicly-funded public rehabilitation centre. You are able to get your rehabilitation in a one-stop shop. Definitely this is a privatization measure that is being introduced and it is huge.

WF: What is the Federation of Labour's plan of action regarding this issue?

PC: We are going to launch a campaign around the task force and WorkSafeNB to lobby whatever government is set up in New Brunswick to make sure that such recommendations never see the light of the day. We are going to lobby hard because they are not good for workers and they are not good for anybody. They continue to tilt the scale in favour of employers and not employees who are injured, maimed or killed on the job. Nobody gets up in the morning and kisses the family goodbye expecting to never see them again. The campaign is going to be both a major lobby effort by the Federation and a massive public awareness campaign to get the public on side. Basically everybody either has been directly affected or knows somebody who has been affected by WorkSafeNB. We believe that this is something that has a place in the hearts of the people of New Brunswick.

We are calling on everybody to do anything that they can to help and advocate for better compensation across Canada. If is it going to happen in New Brunswick, I guarantee that other right-wing political parties will see the opportunity to put in their own legislation similar to this one.

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Letter to the Editor

Re: Workers' Forum Article on Pilot Fatigue

On reading the October 18 Workers' Forum article, "Canadian Airline Pilots Step Up Campaign for Fatigue Reduction Measures" I found it interesting that Transport Minister Marc Garneau, who worked with NASA in the U.S., has not acted to ensure its science-based findings and recommendations are followed for health and safety of pilots, passengers, crew and anyone else affected when fatigue comes into play. Instead he seems content for Canada to have some of the lowest standards in the world because airline companies' commercial considerations supersede health and safety. Pretty egregious and dangerous example of Liberal hypocrisy.

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