United Steelworkers Canada News Feed http://www.uswca.org/news/media-centre/articles/rss United Steelworkers Canada News Feed Wed, 23 Dec 2015 12:00:00 -0500 AMPS en hourly 1 Canadian Aluminum, Steel Must Be Excluded from U.S. Tariffs and Quotas: Steelworkers http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/canadian-aluminum-steel-must-be-excluded-from-u-s-tariffs-and-quotas-steelworkers Fri, 16 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/canadian-aluminum-steel-must-be-excluded-from-u-s-tariffs-and-quotas-steelworkers TORONTO, MONTREAL, 16 February 2018 – Canada is not among the “bad actors” engaged in unfair trade and dumping of aluminum and steel into the United States and must be excluded from potential U.S. tariffs and quotas, the United Steelworkers (USW) says.

“There is no justification to include Canada with countries that systematically violate trade laws and engage in the dumping of illegally subsidized aluminum and steel,” USW National Director Ken Neumann said following today’s release of a U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) report on the impact of imported steel and aluminum on U.S. national security.

The DOC’s Section 232 report has recommended three separate options for American President Donald Trump to consider regarding steel and aluminum exports to the U.S., ranging from across-the-board tariffs, to tariffs for “bad actor” countries and exclusions for “good actor” countries. The president also can implement modified versions of any of the recommendations, or take no action at all.

“The intent of the DOC’s report is to respond to countries whose trade practices represent a threat to U.S. national security,” Neumann said.

“The report, as well as testimony provided by expert witnesses during the investigation stage, demonstrate that Canada is not one of the ‘bad actor’ countries that threaten U.S. interests,” added Marty Warren, USW District 6 Director (Ontario and Atlantic Canada).

The DOC report includes several positive references to Canada, characterizing it as a partner and supplier to the American aluminum industry, rather than a threat.

During the DOC’s Section 232 investigation, retired U.S. army brigadier general John Adams urged that Canada’s steel sector not be hit with tariffs.

“The one supplier in whom I have complete confidence is Canada. Not only do we currently have a steel surplus with Canada, but we share a border and have synergistic strategic, economic and national security interests,” Adams testified.

USW International President Leo W. Gerard also said Canada should be excluded from punitive actions that should be focused on bad actor countries including China, Egypt, India, Malaysia, Korea, Russia, Turkey and Vietnam.

“Our economies are very closely intertwined and we hope the U.S. government won’t threaten the steel and aluminum industries by taking punitive action,” said Steve Hunt, USW District 3 Director (Western Canada).

U.S. trade action against Canadian aluminum and steel would not serve the interests of the American economy, Steelworkers' Quebec Director Alain Croteau said.

“Imposing tariffs or quotas on Canadian exports will result in job losses in the U.S. manufacturing sector and will increase prices for many goods and products. Workers on both sides of the border will lose,” Croteau said.

“Compared to other producers, Quebec’s aluminum sector is more environmentally friendly and produces much lower greenhouse gas emissions,” he added.

The USW also is calling for a strong response from the Canadian government to defend the Canadian aluminum and steel industries from unjustified tariffs and quotas.

"The government of Canada must act decisively to defend fair trade and the tens of thousands of Canadian families whose livelihoods depend on the aluminum and steel sectors," Neumann said.

"The Canadian government should work with the U.S. in fighting the predatory and destructive trade practices of China and other bad actor countries.”

]]>
Goderich Security Workers Win First Contract http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/goderich-security-workers-win-first-contract Tue, 13 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/goderich-security-workers-win-first-contract GODERICH, Ont. – Unionized security guards at ASAP Secured Inc. in Goderich have achieved their first collective agreement, overcoming significant challenges that included a lockout imposed by their employer.

The security guards, who are members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9597, voted Monday to ratify a two-year contract that includes wage increases and other improvements to the terms and conditions of their jobs.

“After joining the union, these workers stood together for many months to defend their right to collective bargaining and to have union representation in their workplace,” said USW Ontario Director Marty Warren.

“Their solidarity allowed them to overcome an unnecessary lockout and achieve a fair collective agreement,” Warren said.

The USW Local 9597 members at ASAP Secured provide security services at the Compass Minerals operations in Goderich.

After being unexpectedly locked out of their jobs last Dec. 10 by ASAP Secured, the workers filed an application with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) for first contract mediation.

The OLRB also agreed with the workers’ contention that ASAP Secured should have ended its lockout after the mediation process began in early January. The OLRB ordered the company to end the lockout and the workers returned to their jobs on Jan. 19 as the mediation process continued.

The OLRB also awarded damages to the workers and the company paid employees all lost wages and premiums they would have earned during a 2½-week period in January when they were locked out.

The new collective agreement runs from Jan. 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2019. It includes pay increases above minimum wage hikes in 2018 and 2019, with the top rate to rise to $15.40 per hour as of Jan. 1 next year.

The contract also entrenches seniority rights and monetary payments including a $250 annual boot allowance and reimbursement for the costs of security licences and regular CPR and first aid training.

]]>
Union, Government Await ABI’s Return to Bargaining Table http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/union-government-await-abis-return-to-bargaining-table Fri, 09 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/union-government-await-abis-return-to-bargaining-table QUEBEC CITY – Representatives of 1,030 locked-out employees of the ABI aluminum smelter today praised the efforts of Quebec Labour Minister Dominique Viens in advocating for a negotiated settlement to the month-long lockout.

The labour minister encouraged a resumption of bargaining during separate meetings today with representatives of the United Steelworkers and ABI management. The union reiterated its willingness to resume bargaining as well as its hope that the company will agree to seek a negotiated settlement.

“The tone was cordial and there was a sense that we’re working towards the same goal – to reach a satisfactory resolution,” Quebec Steelworkers Director Alain Croteau said of the meeting with the minister.

“We’ve been offering to resume negotiations all along, even before our members were locked out. We’re hoping that Alcoa and Rio Tinto will accept the call to get back to the table and that they will give their representatives the mandate they need to reach an agreement,” Croteau said.

The ABI aluminum smelter in Bécancour is co-owned by Alcoa (75%) and Rio Tinto (25%).

During today’s meeting with the labour minister, union representatives called out the company’s tactics last month to abruptly end negotiations, table a second ‘final offer,’ then lock out employees despite making progress on key issues.

“We explained to the minister how the union had made significant movement, particularly on the pension issue. Shortly afterwards, the employer opted to end the negotiations, rather than continuing the talks and achieving an agreement,” said Steelworkers Local 9700 President Clément Masse, representing the ABI smelter workers.

“Twice the employer tabled a comprehensive offer that derailed the negotiations. The only way to settle this dispute is to get back to the bargaining table,” Masse said.

Steelworkers officials were awaiting news of the outcome of the labour minister’s meeting today with ABI management. The union has already advised a provincial government conciliator that it is ready to resume negotiations at any time.

“The way to find solutions to the outstanding issues is to speak to each other around the table, not by throwing around ill-thought out, unilateral demands,” Croteau and Masse said.

]]>
Quebec Government Calls for Negotiated Settlement to ABI Smelter Lockout http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/quebec-government-calls-for-negotiated-settlement-to-abi-smelter-lockout Wed, 07 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/quebec-government-calls-for-negotiated-settlement-to-abi-smelter-lockout QUEBEC CITY – The United Steelworkers welcomes today’s unanimous vote in the Quebec National Assembly calling for a resumption of collective bargaining to end a lockout of workers at the ABI aluminum smelter.

Hundreds of locked-out workers from the ABI smelter in Bécancour travelled to Quebec City to demonstrate outside the National Assembly this morning as legislators debated a motion that acknowledged the damaging impact of the lockout and called for a return to the bargaining table.

The workers were supported by Quebec labour leaders who noted how multinational aluminum producers have been abusing a “social contract” in which they enjoy beneficial electricity rates from publicly owned Quebec Hydro.

“There is a social contract between aluminum smelters and the people of Quebec. The smelters enjoy favourable electricity rates from Quebec in return for creating good jobs in our communities. This lockout has broken the social contract,” said Daniel Boyer, President of the Quebec Federation of Labour.

“This is not just about the families of 1,030 workers forced onto the street – it’s about all Quebecers. The government cannot simply sit back and watch while companies hold an entire region hostage,” Boyer said.

Management at the ABI smelter, which is co-owned by multinational aluminum giants Alcoa and Rio Tinto, locked out 1,030 employees without warning on Jan. 11, rejecting union appeals to continue bargaining. Over the last four weeks, the locked-out employees, members of United Steelworkers Local 9700, have repeatedly offered to resume negotiations.

“Some have said this is a private dispute, but electricity rebates are a very public issue – we pay for them collectively. I looked at my electricity bill this morning and I’m pretty sure I’m paying more per kilowatt-hour than these foreign corporations are paying. We believe the government has a moral obligation to intervene,” said Quebec Steelworkers Director Alain Croteau.

Following a noisy demonstration this morning outside the National Assembly, the locked-out workers welcomed the unanimous vote by legislators calling for a resumption of negotiations.

“It shows that this situation transcends party lines and political allegiances. A resolution is crucial not only for the 1,030 working families who are directly affected, but for the economy of an entire region and for all of Quebec,” said Steelworkers Local 9700 President Clément Masse.

“It means a lot to us that this dispute has prompted a debate and a vote at the National Assembly,” Croteau said.

“This sends a clear message to Alcoa’s corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh and to Rio Tinto’s headquarters in London. We hope they will now give a real mandate to their negotiators to reach a negotiated settlement,” he said.

The union has questioned the motives behind ABI’s lockout of its employees, noting that significant costs associated with the decision – including shutting down two of the smelter’s three potlines – far exceed the costs of resolving the outstanding issues in negotiations.

“Right before Rio Tinto and Alcoa made the decision to withdraw from the bargaining table, we had already made major progress,” Masse said.

“There had been discussions on the possibility of a resolution on the pension issue and we were beginning to look at the issue of seniority rights in employees transfers and turnover. We’ve made our position clear from the start: we want to resume negotiations with the individuals who have the mandate to reach a settlement.”

The motion passed today in the National Assembly was introduced by the Québec Solidaire party and states, in part:

“The National Assembly of Quebec recognizes that the lockout at the ABI smelter is having a negative impact on workers, on the economy of the Centre-du-Québec and Mauricie region and on the Quebec economy ... The National Assembly of Quebec requests that the parties resume negotiations.”

]]>
Canadian Embassy's Role Questioned in Mexican Delegation's Complaint to Integrity Commissioner http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/canadian-embassys-role-questioned-in-mexican-delegations-complaint-to-integrity-commissioner Tue, 06 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/canadian-embassys-role-questioned-in-mexican-delegations-complaint-to-integrity-commissioner OTTAWA, MONTREAL and TORONTO - Mexican community leader Mariano Abarca was killed in 2009 for fighting to defend human rights and the environment in the small town of Chicomuselo, Chiapas, where Calgary-based mining company Blackfire operated with close communication and support from the Canadian Embassy in Mexico. No one has been held accountable in his death.

On Monday, Mr. Abarca's son, José Luis, along with supporting organizations from Mexico and Canada, filed a complaint with Canada's Public Sector Integrity Commissioner (PSIC) formally requesting an investigation into the embassy's acts and omissions, which they believe heightened the danger faced by Mr. Abarca and others.

"My father appealed directly to the Canadian Embassy for support when he and others were being threatened by Blackfire employees," says José Luis Abarca. "Shortly after, he was detained on false accusations made by the company. The embassy knew all this, but it supported the company, pressuring Chiapas state authorities to protect Blackfire's interests."

Information released through an Access to Information request shows that, despite the Canadian Embassy's considerable knowledge about the conflict over Blackfire's operations, including threats faced by Mr. Abarca, it lobbied the Chiapas state government to quell protests against the mine. In so doing, the complaint argues that the embassy violated policies aimed at protecting human rights and its own stated role to "facilitate an open and informed dialogue between all the parties."

"The Canadian Embassy could have used its influence to protect the life and wellbeing of Mr. Abarca and other residents of Chicomuselo, but it did the opposite," says lawyer Miguel Angel De Los Santos from the Human Rights Centre at the Autonomous University of Chiapas.

"The PSIC must investigate the embassy, which we believe contributed to putting Mr. Abarca's life in danger, and issue corresponding recommendations so this will not happen again."

Days after Mr. Abarca's murder, Blackfire's barite mine was closed on environmental grounds, lending credence to the struggle that Mr. Abarca and others had been fighting. Still, the embassy continued its support for the company, advising it to sue Mexico under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

"Persecution, threats and violence against land and environment defenders has only intensified in Mexico since the time of Mr. Abarca's murder," says Libertad Díaz from Otros Mundos Chiapas. "Given the importance of Canadian investment in the Mexican mining sector, we are deeply concerned about the role of Canadian authorities in cases where communities are struggling to protect their land and water from the negative impacts of Canadian mining operations."

Miguel Mijangos of the Mexican Network of Mining Affected People (REMA in Spanish) adds that Canadian mining has been booming in some of the most violence-ridden parts of Mexico, with public support from the Canadian Embassy.

"It is urgent that Mariano Abarca's case be thoroughly investigated and measures be taken to prevent the lives and wellbeing of communities in Mexico from being sacrificed for Canadian profits," said Mr. Mijangos.

The complaint to the PSIC was prepared by the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, a volunteer initiative based at Osgoode Hall Law School and Thompson Rivers University.

While in Canada, the Mexican delegation will participate in public events in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto:

- Tues., Feb. 6, 7-9 p.m., Carleton University, Senate Room, 608 Robertson Hall, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa;
- Wed., Feb. 7, 5-9:30 p.m., Chaufferie de l'Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), 175, avenue du Président-Kennedy, Montréal;
- Thurs., Feb. 8, 7-9:30 p.m., OCAD University, Room 330, 113 McCaul Street, Toronto.

The Mexican delegation is supported by MiningWatch Canada, the Steelworkers Humanity Fund, Common Frontiers, the Public Service Alliance of Canada Social Justice Fund, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Council of Canadians, the Committee for Human Rights in Latin America (CDHAL), Inter Pares, KAIROS, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) and others.

See justice4mariano.net for up-to-date information about events.

]]>
District’s Incident Reporting System Tackles Chronic Problems http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/districts-incident-reporting-system-tackles-chronic-problems Fri, 02 Feb 2018 22:14:40 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/districts-incident-reporting-system-tackles-chronic-problems Like too many health care workers in Canada and the United States, health care members in District 6 struggle with short staffing, a problem that can quickly escalate into higher rates of workplace violence and patient injuries.

Last year, the District 6 Health Care Council decided to put some hard data behind their concerns, creating an online incident reporting system so that they could track the volume and nature of the problems in their workplaces.

“When we first started the council about four years ago, it was a way for people to get to know each other and share their stories,” said Audra Nixon, president of the District 6 Health Care Council. “And we kept coming back to the same thing, shortage of staff.”

Yet, it’s difficult to get employers to take these sorts of concerns seriously without statistics, said Nixon. As more workers report their experiences, the union becomes better armed with real numbers going into bargaining and arbitration.

The online form asks members questions about the nature of the incident he or she is reporting, including whether it resulted in physical or verbal abuse of a worker. It also allows members to report what they believe to be the root cause of the problem, be it chronic understaffing, understaffing due to sick leave, lack of training, excessive overtime or another cause.

So far there have been around 60 incidents reported, and the council, which meets twice a year, is working to spread the word so more people know how to report their concerns.

Because so many of the health care locals in the district are facing the same challenges, Nixon said it is important that they all work together to hold employers accountable for short staffing and violence in the workplace.

“We want to try to incorporate more and more of the locals to be a part of this,” said Nixon. “We need to be able to say to employers, ‘Here are the issues, and here’s what we need.’” 

Health care workers in District 6 can access the reporting form here.

For more information about the form or the council meetings, you can also email the District 6 Health Care Council at healthcare@usw.ca

]]>
Toronto Event – Update on the Political Situation in the Philippines http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/philippine-event-toronto Fri, 02 Feb 2018 12:58:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/philippine-event-toronto Machris Cabreros speaking in TorontoJoin Steelworkers and labour activists at a free event in Toronto to hear from Ms. Machris Cabreros, a leading Philippine activist and progressive politician.

Ms. Machris Cabreros, Philippine Leader of Akbayan (Citizen's Action Party)

Building Philippine Social Democracy in the Age of Trump, Authoritarianism and The War on Drugs

Thurs. Feb. 15
7:00 p.m.
Steelworkers Hall (25 Cecil St.)

Free admission. Refreshments will be served.

Machris Cabreros is a leading Philippine activist fighting for participatory democracy and social democracy. Ms. Cabreros will give our Canadian audience an update on the political situation in the Philippines: the ‘war on drugs,’ media freedom, human rights issues and Canadian-Philippine relations. Machris Cabreros is Leader of Akbayan (The Citizens’ Action Party) and Coordinator of the Network of Social Democracy in Asia.

Please join us to help show a warm USW welcome to Machris Cabreros at this special event in Toronto.

Event Poster (PDF)

]]>
Union Raiding Is a Blow to Solidarity Among Workers http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/union-raiding-is-a-blow-to-solidarity-among-workers Fri, 02 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/union-raiding-is-a-blow-to-solidarity-among-workers When internal disputes arise within one union, other unions do not normally pounce to take selfish advantage.

Raiding — attempting to lure members from another union (rather than helping non-union workers join) — can be like a wildfire. It can spread, unpredictably. Raided unions try, sooner or later, to counter-raid or respond in other divisive ways. Other unions may join the fray. Raiding's inherent divisiveness ends up serving the interests of employers much more than it does employees.

Responsible unions long ago decided to give up raiding. Indeed, ending inter-union discord and raiding was among the many goals in creating national and provincial labour federations.

All unions have governance processes to address internal rifts. If those don't work, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) has constitutional processes to help union members get satisfaction. These processes, in Article 4 of the CLC Constitution, were agreed upon by all CLC-affiliated unions, including Unifor.

We need a strong central labour body like the CLC more than ever.

But Unifor's Jerry Dias is not content to let other unions sort out their issues. Twice he has plotted predatory raids on other unions while reaching for the nearest Canadian flag to provide a semblance of principle.

Last year, while still a CLC member, Unifor was found to have concealed its attempt to raid Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113 in Toronto. Shamed by the revelation, Unifor had to pull back. The ATU leader who conspired with Unifor quit his position.

Now, Unifor has launched a raid of UNITE HERE Local 75 in Toronto's hotel sector, attempting to lure members away from another union struggling to address internal difficulties. This time, Unifor has disaffiliated from the CLC so it does not have to follow rules intended to prevent raiding.

We need a strong central labour body like the CLC more than ever. But Mr. Dias, along with Lis Pimentel, the ex-president of UNITE HERE Local 75 who has been hired by Unifor, are leading a raiding campaign that is damaging our movement.

In a letter to CLC President Hassan Yussuff, Ms. Pimentel admits her faction in Local 75 never even attempted to use the CLC constitutional mechanisms to address internal problems.

Let's set the record straight on this raiding campaign:

  • The assertion that UNITE HERE's parent union swooped in to take over Local 75 is false. In fact, Local 75 leaders and activists, elected by rank-and-file members, asked their international union to establish the trusteeship, and a Canadian UNITE HERE official, Ian Robb, was appointed trustee to work with the local to get it functioning properly again.
  • UNITE HERE Local 75 had been divided for many months. Allegations of harassment and racism made their way through the local. Many executive members wanted President Lis Pimentel to depart. Faced with this dysfunction, UNITE HERE agreed with the request of rank-and-file and executive members to appoint a trustee.
  • Jerry Dias's claim of a CLC failure in the UNITE HERE situation is ridiculous, considering that, at no time did either Mr. Dias or Ms. Pimentel ask the CLC to assist in the dispute. Indeed, Article 4 of the CLC Constitution has worked well in the overwhelming majority of cases it has been used, allowing union members to sort out concerns with their unions.

'This is about opportunism and empire-building, not solidarity.'

This controversy is filled with bitter irony. Ms. Pimentel, a long-time U.S.-based UNITE HERE staffer, had been feuding for some time with her now-former union. Neither her feud, nor Unifor's raid, stems from any battle between national and international unions. This is about opportunism and empire-building, not solidarity.

Our union, the United Steelworkers, is proud to represent working people in Canada and the United States. We are building alliances with unions in other nations because a global labour movement is vital for representing workers confronting multinational corporations — including hotel companies.

Ms. Pimentel knows this, too. In a media interview, speaking about dealing with global hotel chains, she asserted: "If the border doesn't matter to them, it doesn't matter to us." A colleague of Ms. Pimentel stressed that national identity was not an issue for Local 75 members, noting: "Nobody has told me that they wish we had a maple leaf on our flag."

We believe the labour movement has great opportunities for solidarity building today. Working people are looking for a real voice on many fronts — from greater rights in precarious jobs, to fair trade deals, to climate justice solutions that address the needs of workers.

We won't let Unifor's actions undermine these opportunities. We will do everything in our power to build our labour movement and restore its unity and purpose.

View Ken Neumann's blog as published in the Huffington Post

]]>
Rejection of Metron Appeal Welcomed, but Fight for Justice Continues: Steelworkers http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/rejection-of-metron-appeal-welcomed-but-fight-for-justice-continues Thu, 01 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/rejection-of-metron-appeal-welcomed-but-fight-for-justice-continues TORONTO – Leaders of the United Steelworkers (USW) welcome the Ontario Court of Appeal decision to reject an appeal by lawyers for a Metron Construction Inc. supervisor sentenced in the 2009 deaths of four workers in a Toronto scaffolding collapse.

However, USW National Director Ken Neumann and Ontario Director Marty Warren call on the Ontario government to do more to enforce the law that should be applied in every workplace fatality.

For Warren, this is particularly important after the as-yet-unexplained death of USW member Tom Gowling (USW Local 16506) this week at North American Tillage and another worker’s death only days before, both in Hamilton.

“This rejection of the appeal should send a strong message to all employers, who must be held more accountable for conditions that lead to fatalities and serious injuries in too many workplaces,” said Warren. “We want this precedent to mean something to the thousands of families who have lost loved ones at work.”

Neumann said the appeal rejection validates the USW’s campaign for better enforcement of the ‘Westray Law,’ Criminal Code amendments proclaimed into law in 2004, aimed at holding corporations criminally accountable for workplace death.

“This is a victory for the campaign to enforce the law, which the USW has been fighting to make a reality across Canada for many years in every province and territory,” Neumann said.

“It is important to recognize Toronto Police Service Detective Kevin Sedore, who did what all police officers across this country should be directed to do by provincial and territorial justice ministers,” he added.

“As we have been calling for, Detective Sedore did the right thing on Christmas Eve 2009 – he saw the Metron scaffolding collapse as a crime scene. He investigated it thoroughly as such, instead of turning it over to regulators under the Ministry of Labour and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.”

Neumann said this kind of police work is key to the USW’s national campaign, Stop the Killing, Enforce the Law.

“Metron is not a unique case of negligence,” added Warren. “We call on the Ontario attorney general to put resources into training and directing police and prosecutors to investigate, charge and prosecute employers who we know are gambling with workers’ lives in the name of profit. Until that happens, workers remain vulnerable and disposable.”

Warren said that the jail sentence for Metron supervisor Vadim Kazenelson is fair, but noted that Metron owner Joel Swartz remains free.

“There is still a need for owners like Swartz to be held accountable,” he said. “This decision is not the end of issues raised by the Metron case. It is just the beginning.”

More details on the Stop the Killing campaign, including video testimony from families who have lost loved ones, can be found at www.stopthekilling.ca.

]]>
The Facts on Unifor’s Decision to Leave the CLC http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/the-facts-on-unifors-decision-to-leave-the-clc Wed, 31 Jan 2018 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/the-facts-on-unifors-decision-to-leave-the-clc On January 17, 2018, Unifor announced it was leaving the Canadian Labour Congress. Within hours of that decision, Unifor had started a concerted campaign to raid the members of UNITE HERE Local 75 in Toronto. It subsequently emerged that Unifor hired the former president of Local 75, Lis Pimentel, and a number of staff from that union. Sister Pimentel and her staff presumably arrived at Unifor with membership lists and other information necessary for Unifor to steal hundreds if not thousands of members from Local 75.

Unifor claims that this decision was a “principled one.” Since that decision was made, Unifor has issued a range of articles, letters and blogs in a desperate attempt to mislead the Canadian labour movement and its allies into thinking that this decision is something other than what it is: a blatant attempt to boost Unifor's membership by attacking and raiding the members of another union.

None of Unifor’s justifications for this conduct withstand even the most cursory examination. Unifor’s public statements on this issue have been rife with misleading and dishonest assertions. It is time to state the real facts surrounding this decision.

This decision is not about protecting workers from attacks from U.S. unions

First, Unifor and its president have repeatedly claimed that this dispute is about “attacks on workers from U.S.-based unions.” This is a complete fabrication. Unite Here local 75 has been divided and dysfunctional for many months. The executive of the local was badly split. Allegations of harassment and racism were making their way through the local. Many of the executive members wanted President Lis Pimentel to depart.

Faced with this division and dysfunction, UNITE HERE decided to place the local into trusteeship and they appointed a trustee to try and get the local functioning properly again. The trustee is a Canadian UNITE HERE official from Alberta, Ian Robb.

All unions have provisions in their constitution that permit the parent union to place locals into trusteeship when they are not functioning properly. Unifor has such a provision, and Unifor has used it. This issue has nothing to do with the rights of Canadian workers or American unions; it has to do with a divided local union that was not capable of governing its affairs.

This decision is not about workers’ choosing their union

Second, Unifor claims that it is standing up for workers’ right to choose their union. Again, this empty assertion ignores the facts.

If, in fact, the members of Local 75 had wanted to change unions there are a range of ways that can happen. The members of Local 75 can apply under Article 4 of the CLC Constitution to change unions. No such application has been filed. Another option is for the Canadian locals to try and break away their parent union. Again, there is no suggestion that there is membership support for this course of action.

What happened here, as with the ATU Local 113 one year ago, is that an embattled Local Union president (Lis Pimentel) who had lost control of her local, was hired by Unifor in the hope that she could bring information and members with her. Then Unifor began to raid UNITE HERE Local 75. This has nothing to do with members choosing their union.

This decision is not about Canadian workers wanting to break away from international unions

Third, Unifor cloaks its raiding ambitions as an issue of an American union attacking Canadian workers. Ironically, Lis Pimentel, who Unifor hired to raid Local 75 members, is an American. There is no evidence that the Canadian branch of UNITE HERE was seeking to leave the international union based in the U.S. From time to time unions (such as the CAW many decades ago) do split away from their parent union. But there is no evidence that there was any desire to do that here. And, moreover, that is not what has happened. What has happened is that Unifor hired a number of disaffected staff to raid another union.

Unifor and Jerry Dias have repeatedly claimed that Canada is the only country to allow unions based in other countries to organize its workers. Again, this is patently false. U.K.-based unions have members in the Republic of Ireland, to name one example.

The truth is that since the very beginning of the Canadian labour movement, international unions have had a strong presence in Canada. This is based on the history that U.S.-based unions came north to organize Canadian workers in the period just before and after the Second World War.

There was a period in the ’70s and ’80s when nationalism was in vogue on the Canadian left and a number of unions (including the CAW) left their international unions. However, over the last 25 years we have largely seen an end to this trend.

Unifor claims that more and more unionized workers in Canada belong to Canadian-based unions. Again, this is extremely misleading. This trend is almost entirely explained by the growth in public-sector unionization, where all unions are Canadian. It is also explained by the drop in private-sector union membership.

This decision is not about alleged failures of the CLC constitution

Unifor claims that it had to leave the CLC and raid UNITE HERE because the CLC’s constitution was not functioning to allow workers to democratically change unions. This also is completely false.

Article 4 of the CLC constitution allows “members” of unions to apply to the CLC if they feel they are not being adequately represented by their current union. The current provision was placed in the constitution in 2011 (with Unifor's support) and it has worked well. The CLC reports that since 2011 it has received 46 complaints from union members, and that 45 of those complaints have been resolved to the satisfaction of the parties.

What Unifor really wants, apparently, is a provision in the CLC constitution which would allow local union presidents to take their members with them whenever they are having a political dispute with their parent union.

In February 2017, ATU Local 113 president Bob Kinnear was also having a dispute with his parent union. He applied under the CLC constitution (without any evidence of membership support) to take his members to Unifor. Unifor welcomed him with open arms. However, his attempt failed, in part because the CLC constitution was never intended to be a mechanism to allow local union leaders to shop for a new union.

And so here we are with Lis Pimentel and UNITE HERE Local 75 – she has a dispute with her parent union and she gets hired by Unifor. Again, this has nothing to do with the CLC constitution, which is working just fine.

One other point on the CLC – Unifor has told its members, locals and activists that they should be able to remain in provincial labour federations and labour councils, despite the clear constitutional provisions to the contrary. Unifor claims there is a precedent for this position. Again this is false.

As CLC president Hassan Yussuff notes in his letter to Unifor, there has never been a situation where an affiliate chose to abandon its membership in the CLC, but was still able to remain an active participant in federations or labour councils.

This decision is about one thing only: raiding another union for its members

At a time when union density in the private sector in Canada is dropping, unions cannot afford to spend valuable resources raiding already unionized workers. Indeed, dropping union density was one of the stated rationales for Unifor’s very formation in 2013.

And despite all of the bluster coming from Jerry Dias and Unifor – it is clear that they have decided to spend their resources and efforts on raiding the members of other unions. Unifor’s decision to pit union against union is a breach of the central commitment that each union makes in solidarity with the rest of the labour movement.

True solidarity means standing with workers and the labour movement to organize the unorganized and negotiate better contracts. This decision by Unifor strikes at the heart of both of these objectives.

The conduct of Unifor and Jerry Dias serves only to weaken and undermine solidarity in the Canadian labour movement. And that’s the whole truth.

]]>
In It to Win It – Ontario Election 2018 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/in-it-to-win-it Tue, 30 Jan 2018 14:11:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/in-it-to-win-it There’s a lot at stake in the 2018 Ontario election. The scandal-plagued Liberals are hugely unpopular. In power for more than 14 years, it’s time for a change. But Kathleen Wynne is banking on progressive Ontarians voting for her again, and she’s stealing NDP promises to do it.

Until recently, many people thought the only other choice was the Conservatives. The party was leading in the polls despite its leader being relatively unknown. That’s all changed with Patrick Brown’s resignation over sexual harassment allegations.

Brown’s abrupt departure with only months to go until the election brings uncertainty and upheaval to the political landscape.

But let’s remember that the coming election isn’t about choosing between Liberals and Conservatives. There is another option, and it’s a great choice for a better Ontario: Andrea Horwath and the NDP.

Andrea Horwath and the NDP team are in it to win it! And with the help of the Steelworkers – talking to our members and volunteering in NDP campaigns – we can help make this happen.

In the U.S. and in Alberta and B.C., elections are effectively two-way races. Voters have an either-or choice. But in Ontario, that’s not the case. So don’t fall for that trap.

Andrea is a trusted leader who offers hope for the future. She is by far the most popular leader in Ontario. She’s an experienced campaigner. And the Andrea Horwath NDP team is on our side as working people.

Putting People First

The NDP platform is focused on putting people first.

A higher minimum wage lifts families above the poverty line. Andrea Horwath and the NDP deserve credit for advocating for a $15 minimum wage long before the Liberals. The NDP will also introduce a schedule of future increases so the minimum wage won’t fall behind.

The NDP will tackle health care and reduce wait times. Quality, universal, public health care will be there when you and your family need it.

The NDP will create good jobs and improve working conditions. With more people working in good jobs, our lives and our economy will benefit.

The NDP will make childcare more affordable. So our kids can have a good start and more families can afford to return to the workforce.

The NDP will introduce universal pharmacare. For everyone. Not just for some of us.

The NDP will match municipal investment in public transit. You won’t get a headache just trying to get to work – plus there’s environmental, health and economic benefits.

The NDP will end the privatization of Ontario Hydro so we can have the utility back in public hands. No more price hikes by profit-hungry corporations. The NDP also has a plan to reduce hydro rates to make public power affordable again.

The NDP will support unions and workers and will bring back card-check certification that was scrapped by the Conservatives.

Andrea Horwath: A Premier We Can Trust

But most importantly, Andrea Horwath will be a premier we can trust. No more scandals, no more corruption charges. Andrea is the real deal – the Steeltown Scrapper and a straight shooter.

Andrea brings hope to our province.

So when you are out talking politics with your friends, neighbours and co-workers, say a good word about Andrea and the NDP.

Ramping Up Political Action

In District 6, we have a shiny, new Political Action Committee co-chaired by Briana Broderick (USW Local 2010) and Chad Machum (USW 2020). The committee will be asking USW members to get involved in the election. We will be reaching out to Steelworkers across Ontario to talk about the issues and encouraging our members to get involved and support the NDP.

This work is important to our union – because we have progressive roots and have always been strong NDP supporters. But we also know the power of our members when we vote. We can bring positive change to Ontario when Steelworkers work together.

Anything can happen in an election. And with Steelworkers on the ground talking to our members and volunteering in campaigns across the province, we can make a difference.

This June, the election is about change. But let’s choose better change. Let’s vote for Andrea Horwath and the NDP!

In solidarity,

Marty Warren
USW Ontario Director

]]>
Steelworkers Arbitration Victory Ends Random Drug and Alcohol Testing At Teck’s Elk Valley Unionized Mines http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/arbitration-victory-ends-random-drug-alcohol-testing-at-teck-elk-valley Mon, 29 Jan 2018 12:34:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/arbitration-victory-ends-random-drug-alcohol-testing-at-teck-elk-valley SPARWOOD, B.C. – The United Steelworkers have won an arbitration that puts an end to random drug testing by Teck Resources at its unionized coal mines in the Elk Valley.

In December 2012, Teck began randomly testing employees for drug and alcohol use. The union opposed this infringement of employee privacy and took action to oppose its implementation. This view is supported by the significant arbitration decision that recognizes the importance of employee privacy rights and imposes a high bar on employers to justify random testing.

USW District 3 Director Stephen Hunt lauded the decision as a significant victory for not only Steelworkers, but all workers.

“The arbitrator completely rejected the idea that some theoretical, but non-existent safety risk justifies the intrusion of random testing when there is no evidence of workplace problems due to drug and alcohol use,” says Hunt.

Hunt says the use of random drug and alcohol testing by employers is very limited and Teck’s pursuance of it was contrary to the consensus that random testing is ineffective, does not deter use or reduce workplace accidents or injuries.

“The safety of workers is paramount and we fight for it every day,” says Hunt. “Random testing is a distraction that invades privacy and does nothing to keep workers and communities safe.”

The victory by USW Locals 7884 and 9346 means the testing is to cease at Fording River and Elkview mines with immediate effect, and pursuant to agreements between Teck, USW Local 7284, and IUOE Local 115, it is also struck down at Coal Mountain and Line Creek mines.

]]>
Canadians Betrayed by Liberals’ Desperation to Sign Corporate-Friendly TPP http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/canadians-betrayed-by-liberals-desperation-to-sign-corporate-friendly-tpp Sat, 27 Jan 2018 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/canadians-betrayed-by-liberals-desperation-to-sign-corporate-friendly-tpp OTTAWA – The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal negotiated secretly by the Liberal government will further erode Canada’s manufacturing and industrial base, eliminate more middle-class jobs and drive down wages, working conditions and environmental standards.

“While in opposition, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals strongly criticized the Conservative government for secretive negotiations on the TPP and its profound implications,” said United Steelworkers (USW) National Director Ken Neumann.

“Trudeau has now shown himself to be no better. His government has been equally secretive in pushing through the TPP, keeping Canadians in the dark about the impact of this corporate-friendly trade deal,” Neumann said.

“The TPP was a bad deal when it was negotiated by the Conservatives in 2015 and it’s still a bad deal now. Other than a cynical change to the agreement’s official title, there is little that is ‘progressive’ about it,” Neumann added. He was referring to the Trudeau government’s insistence that the TPP be renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

“In its desperation to sign the TPP, the Trudeau government was severely outplayed in these negotiations by other countries including Japan, Australia and Vietnam. Facing a choice to accept a bad deal or no deal, Trudeau blinked,” Neumann said.

“The results reflect this government’s apparent obsession with pursuing trade agreements that enhance the rights and powers of global corporations, at the expense of Canadian jobs and better labour, human rights and environmental standards.”

The TPP weakens protections for Canadian automakers and suppliers, including the steel sector, which will now face tougher competition from cheap labour in Asia, the USW says.

“There are broad concerns for auto, dairy, transportation and construction workers, who face a ‘race to the bottom’ as they try to compete with cheap labour and lower working, safety and environmental standards in Asia,” Neumann said.

The TPP also entrenches so-called Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanisms that allow multinational corporations to sue our government – in secret tribunals – if they believe our laws infringe on their potential profits. Canada has been one of the most-sued countries in the world under this system.

“Aside from a few tweaks and side letters, the Trudeau government failed to achieve the meaningful improvements that were needed to the old TPP deal reached by the former Conservative government,” Neumann said.

“On fundamental issues, particularly labour rights, the TPP is actually much weaker than what this government is proposing in the NAFTA renegotiations, or what was achieved in the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

“The CPTPP is a ‘progressive’ trade agreement in name only.”

]]>
Mining Ombudsperson Offers Hope To Vulnerable In Developing Countries http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/mining-ombudsperson-offers-hope-to-vulnerable-in-developing-countries Fri, 26 Jan 2018 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/mining-ombudsperson-offers-hope-to-vulnerable-in-developing-countries

Op-ed column by Ken Neumann

For more than a decade, against a backdrop of targeted killings, sexual violence, ecological damage and exploited workers, a coalition of civil society groups pressed the federal government to take meaningful action to oversee and investigate the behaviour of Canadian mining companies operating abroad.

The unrelenting campaign by the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability (CNCA) has now led the federal government to announce the creation of a Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise.

The new ombudsperson's office offers hope to vulnerable people and communities in developing countries who have had nowhere to turn when their rights were violated by Canadian companies. The ombudsperson's office promises to improve respect for human rights and to enhance the international reputation of Canadian companies.

My union, the United Steelworkers, is a proud member of the CNCA, along with more than 30 other human rights, development, faith and labour groups. More than 100,000 Canadians signed the CNCA petition demanding respect for human rights and the environment by the 1,500 Canadian mining companies operating in more than 100 countries.

It is a gross understatement to assert there are urgent and compelling reasons to create a strong, independent and effective ombudsperson for Canada's extractive sector. Or that such an office is long overdue — given the well-documented abuses linked to Canadian companies.

Recent examples include the operations of Canada's Torex Gold in Mexico, where the company continues to frustrate workers' demand to exercise their right to join the union of their choice. During a workers' protest near Torex operations last Nov. 18, two workers were killed.

Likewise, allegations of rights violations by Canada's Excellon Resources at the La Platosa mine in Mexico have never been resolved and the harm to local landholders and terminated workers continues.

In Latin America alone, hundreds of deeply troubling incidents associated with Canadian mining companies were revealed in a meticulously documented 2016 report by researchers from Toronto's Osgoode Hall Law School.

The report listed 44 deaths — 30 of which were classified as "targeted" — associated with Canadian companies over a 15-year period, as well as more than 400 injuries from confrontations and demonstrations and more than 700 cases of arrests, detentions, charges and other forms of "criminalization" of people opposing the actions of Canadian companies.

Equally alarming was the researchers' conviction that these cases represented only "the tip of the iceberg." Canadian companies were linked to hundreds of other credible incidents of violence, assassination attempts, forced displacement, illness from environmental contamination, deliberate destruction of crops and property, etc. These incidents were not included in the final report due to the researchers' onerous criteria that cases had to be corroborated by two separate and independent sources.

As the report emphasized, neither the mining industry nor the Canadian government have monitored or reported on the vast majority of such incidents, including hundreds of other cases elsewhere around the world, particularly in Asia and Africa.

Domestic and international human rights groups, including the United Nations, have long urged the Canadian government to take meaningful action to improve corporate accountability and stop human rights abuses.

These groups rightly point out that Canada's current process is weak and almost totally ineffective. It consists of an Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor who is virtually powerless to investigate companies for improper activities.

Therefore, the Jan. 17 announcement of a new Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise is welcome news. While many details of the ombudsperson's office have yet to be finalized, it is incumbent on the government to act quickly to establish the office and ensure it has all the resources and powers needed to do its job effectively.

Crucially, the ombudsperson's office must:

  • Operate independently from government;
  • Have strong investigatory powers, including the power to compel evidence;
  • Make recommendations to government on remedies and sanctions;
  • Operate transparently and make public its findings, recommendations and reports.

Labour and civil society organizations — and particularly vulnerable workers and communities abroad who will bear the consequences, will be watching closely to ensure the ombudsperson's office fulfills its promise.

- Ken Neumann is the United Steelworkers' National Director for Canada

View the op-ed on the Huffington Post website

]]>
Canadian and Mexican Union Leaders Support Locked-Out ABI Workers http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/canadian-and-mexican-union-leaders-support-locked-out-abi-workers Fri, 26 Jan 2018 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/canadian-and-mexican-union-leaders-support-locked-out-abi-workers BÉCANCOUR, Que. – United Steelworkers (USW) members across Canada and the U.S. will mobilize to support workers locked out of their jobs at the ABI aluminum smelter, USW Canadian Director Ken Neumann says.

Neumann and Steelworkers Quebec Director Alain Croteau were joined on the picket line today by leaders of Mexico’s national miners’ union Los Mineros, who also pledged their solidarity with ABI workers who have been targeted by multinationals Alcoa and Rio Tinto – co-owners of the Bécancour smelter.

“It’s unacceptable that these two multinationals have decided to play with the lives of more than 1,000 families just to serve their corporate interests,” Neumann said.

“Steelworkers have a well-established tradition of international solidarity when working people are under attack by global corporate giants. Our local unions everywhere will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you,” Neumann told the locked-out ABI employees.

In coming days the USW will be informing its local unions across the country about the lockout and will be mobilizing support for the workers.

“Multinational corporations often seek to divide workers, but our strength lies in our solidarity,” Los Mineros representatives Oscar Alzaga and Jesús Armando Velásquez said in a joint statement to the locked-out workers. “Be assured that you have the support of our members, the miners of Mexico.”

The Bécancour workers also have received the backing of the global trade union federation IndustriALL, which represents more than 50 million workers in 140 countries. The international federation has called on ABI management to return to the bargaining table to seek a negotiated resolution to the lockout.

Steelworkers Quebec Director Alain Croteau called on the Quebec government to get off the sidelines and fulfill its duty to the working families and the community affected by an unnecessary lockout orchestrated by foreign corporations.

“We are confronted by two multinationals that receive massive benefits in the form of low-cost hydro rates and in return they are holding an entire community hostage,” Croteau said.

“This lockout has little to do with labour-management negotiations. Workers and their families are paying the price for corporate scheming intended to boost aluminum prices and get lower hydro rates. The Quebec government can no longer stand by and condone this unacceptable situation.”

ABI management, with the blessing of Alcoa and Rio Tinto, locked out 1,030 employees at the smelter in the middle of the night on Jan. 11, in the process rejecting the union’s offer to continue negotiations.

The lockout and accompanying shutdown of two potlines at the smelter are creating significant costs for the company that far exceed the cost of resolving the issues separating the parties at the bargaining table, the USW says. The outstanding issues involve the workers’ pension plan and seniority rights.

Donations to the locked-out workers can be sent to:

MÉTALLOS SL 9700 F.D.P.
ATTN: Éric Moore, financial secretary
Syndicat des Métallos, section locale 9700
8310, rue Desormeaux
Bécancour, Québec
G9H 2X2

]]>
Unions Play ‘Important and Useful Role’ in Anti-Dumping Case http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/unions-play-important-and-useful-role-in-anti-dumping-case Thu, 25 Jan 2018 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/unions-play-important-and-useful-role-in-anti-dumping-case OTTAWA – Compelling evidence from Canadian union members is being cited as a key factor in a federal government ruling that defends domestic manufacturing jobs and imposes anti-dumping duties on foreign steel.

Following a months-long investigation, the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) has imposed anti-dumping duties on various types of carbon and alloy steel pipe imported from South Korea.

The CITT cited evidence from members of the United Steelworkers (USW) who testified about the impact of illegal dumping on Canadian jobs, communities and the future of domestic steel manufacturing.

The tribunal also suggested Canadian unions have an important role to play in government investigations into harmful trade practices such as steel dumping.

“Four witnesses from the USW testified at the hearing to the significant reductions in employment and wages that severely impacted members of the USW,” states the CITT ruling on South Korean dumping of steel pipe.

“Their testimonies expanded on the evidence of the domestic industry as to the impact of the subject goods on employment and put a human face on many of the harms identified by the domestic industry. The intervention of the USW in this proceeding illustrates the important and useful role that unions can play in injury inquiries.”

The CITT heard evidence from Mike Day, president of USW Local 5890 representing employees at the Evraz pipe-making operations in Regina; Cody Alexander, president of USW Local 9548 representing employees at Tenaris Algoma Tubes in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.; and Robert Gosse, president of USW Local 7226 representing workers at the Tenaris Prudential facilities in Calgary.

Union members testified about plant shutdowns, significant job cuts, adverse effects on families from the loss of benefits and pension security, as well as productivity issues arising from the permanent loss of skilled workers.

The evidence provided by union members helped to prove that dumping of South Korean steel pipe “negatively impacted employment levels, wages and productivity,” the CITT ruling states.

The anti-dumping duties imposed by the CITT will be in place for five years and will be subject to possible adjustment on an annual basis.

“We commend the CITT for its ruling and for welcoming key evidence from the workers who experience first-hand the impact of unfair trade practices,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann.

“It is crucial for our government to reform our trade remedy system to ensure that unions and their members can participate fully in the process, including filing trade complaints to defend the interests of Canadian working families,” Neumann said.

“Canadian Steelworkers have always maintained that, with a level playing field, we can compete with anyone in the world. Our government’s top trade priority must be to defend Canadian jobs and to reject unfair trade and the race to the bottom on wages, working conditions, workers’ health and safety and the environment.”

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Anti-Dumping Ruling (pdf)

]]>
USW Calls for Labour Unity in Face of Unifor's Unilateral Actions http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/usw-calls-for-labour-unity-re-unifor Tue, 23 Jan 2018 13:44:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/usw-calls-for-labour-unity-re-unifor An Open Letter to All USW Local Unions, Activists and Members:

As many of you know by now, Unifor’s leadership made the decision to unilaterally leave the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) last Wednesday, Jan. 17. This is, of course, a very disappointing decision.

What's more disappointing is that Unifor attempts to justify this decision by attacking international unions. But Unifor’s excuse for quitting Canada’s national labour organization must be understood for what it is – a deeply cynical attempt to justify its intent to raid at least one CLC affiliate, and possibly more.

Within hours of its sudden departure announcement, Unifor began its planned raid against Unite Here Local 75, a union representing hotel and hospitality workers in Toronto.

This blatant interference in the affairs of a CLC-affiliated union follows upon Unifor’s attempt last year to raid the members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 in Toronto who work for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).

This decision by some in Unifor’s leadership to quit the CLC means that Unifor has voluntarily given up all rights under the CLC constitution. The CLC’s constitution, a governing document to which Unifor previously pledged full support, makes it crystal clear: Unifor members no longer have the right to participate in the CLC, provincial federations of labour or labour councils. Despite this, Unifor is arguing that it should be permitted to remain active in labour councils and federations.

As USW directors, we want to be very clear. The Unifor leaders who made this unilateral decision cannot now evade the results of that decision. Therefore, while Unifor is raiding our brothers and sisters in other unions, there is no place for Unifor in the house of labour. The USW will stand with and support CLC-affiliated unions that are under attack, just as we would expect them to support us if Unifor turned on USW members, anywhere in this country.

Unifor’s decision to pit union against union in an attempt to increase its membership is a breach of the central commitment that each CLC affiliate makes in solidarity with the rest of the labour movement. A union cannot in good faith be a committed member of the labour movement if it ignores that movement’s central rules when it suits its purposes – and that is what Unifor is doing.

As leaders of our union in English Canada, we also recognize that the FTQ in Quebec has its own constitution and the autonomy to address this challenge in its own way.

Unifor’s decision has the potential to do fundamental damage to our movement. We know that we are stronger as a movement when we are united, when we work together to protect and defend the rights of our members and the rights of all workers in Canada. Unifor’s decision to raid another affiliate and attack international unions serves only to undermine this solidarity in the labour movement.

How this plays out will become clearer in the coming days and weeks. As directors of our union we will do everything in our power to try and build the movement and restore its unity and purpose.

In solidarity,

Ken Neumann
National Director

Stephen Hunt
District 3 Director (Western Canada)

Marty Warren
District 6 Director (Ontario & Atlantic Canada)

USW Open Letter to USW Local Unions, Activists and Members (pdf)

]]>
Lac-Mégantic Verdicts a Tremendous Relief for Accused and All Workers http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/lac-megantic-verdicts-a-tremendous-relief-for-accused-and-all-workers Fri, 19 Jan 2018 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/lac-megantic-verdicts-a-tremendous-relief-for-accused-and-all-workers LAC-MÉGANTIC, Que. – The United Steelworkers (USW) welcomes today’s jury’s acquittal of three workers charged in the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) train derailment in the heart of this community that left 47 people dead in 2013.

“Nearly five years later, this verdict is a tremendous relief for these workers and their families,” said Steelworkers’ regional co-ordinator Pierre Arseneau.

“It is unfortunate that the Crown did not hesitate to come down hard on workers, but it’s an entirely different story when it comes to corporate executives,” said Alain Croteau, the Steelworkers’ Quebec Director.

“We saw it with the MMA railway bosses, as we’ve seen in cases where workers are killed on the job,” Croteau said. “The Westray Law that came into effect in 2004 called for criminal penalties for corporations and their leaders for criminal negligence in workplace deaths. But to date there have been only four convictions, despite thousands of workplace deaths across the country since the law was passed.”

Following the Lac-Mégantic disaster, United Steelworkers members led two major fundraising campaigns, in 2013 and 2014. The first campaign provided a $125,000 donation to the Red Cross to assist the victims and their families. The second campaign raised $212,000 to assist with the costs faced by the two union members charged in the court case, locomotive engineer Tom Harding and rail traffic controller Richard Labrie, with the latter also assisted by the non-profit organization Juripop.

To this day, neither Edward Burkhardt, MMA’s CEO and Chairman, nor the company, have had to face the courts.

In its report on the Lac-Mégantic disaster, the federal Transportation Safety Board pointed to negligence and a deficient organizational and safety culture at MMA.

For its part, the federal government had authorized a regulatory change that allowed MMA to operate its trains with only one engineer on board, without investigation. Following the disaster, the government reversed course and prohibited single-engineer trains transporting dangerous goods.

]]>
The Straitjacket of Inflation Targeting: How the Bank of Canada Undermines Workers’ Bargaining Power http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/how-the-bank-of-canada-undermines-workers-bargaining-power Fri, 19 Jan 2018 09:00:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/how-the-bank-of-canada-undermines-workers-bargaining-power On Wednesday, Jan. 17, the Bank of Canada announced that it was raising the target for the overnight rate by .25 basis points, from 1.00% to 1.25%. With this adjustment to the overnight rate, the third rate increase in the previous six months, the Bank of Canada seeks to put the brakes on what has been seen by many as better than expected economic growth. Although, in late December, Stephen Poloz, Governor of the Bank of Canada, had committed to running the economy “hotter, so it uses up excess capacity that still is in the labour market,” it appears the recent data indicated the economy was getting a little “too hot.” While interest rates remain accommodating (serving to expand the economy), the intention of the hike is to nonetheless slow down the pace of economic activity. Although the bank pointed to increasing household debt-ratios and uncertainty regarding the future of NAFTA as causes for concern, it nonetheless justified this increase on the basis that intervention was needed in order to ward off future inflationary pressures arising from the economy reaching its “capacity limits.” The Steelworkers, however, are disappointed with the BoC decision to increase the overnight rate at this crucial moment; just as wages are beginning to (very moderately) increase and the benefits of economic growth beginning to “trickle down” to workers, after being flat for much of the “boom” in early 2017, this rate increase risks slowing or even halting that growth.

While economic growth in 2017, particularly through the first two quarters, was impressive, placing Canada at the top of the OECD, growing at a 4% annualized rate, it eventually settled down to a more modest, but impressive 3% for the year. Yet, despite this robust economic growth, wage growth was flat for much of the year. Although wages began to rebound in Q3, it was not until the next quarter that it accelerated, growing 2.9% until the end of the year and reaching a 2.7% increase year over year.

graph 

In late 2017, workers finally began to feel the benefits of economic growth as unemployment declined, labour markets tightened and wages were (finally) bid up. However, the generally associated increases in inflation – that sometimes, not always, results from higher wages – have been relatively mild. The monthly average inflation increase was just .02%. Until November, the yearly inflation rate average was only 1.4%. Only in November did the year-over-year inflation rate increase to 2.1%. Inflation then was well within the BoC’s inflation target rate of +/- 2%.

Given that both wage growth and inflationary pressures have been mild, a strong argument could be made to let the economy continue to run a little “hotter” so workers could benefit and see their wages progressively bid up. As the bank of Canada’s quarterly Business Outlook Survey found, 29% of employer respondents were planning to increase investments in productive capacity given the current “favorable demand conditions and capacity pressures.” This was the highest percentage since the Bank’s Q2 survey and it is an indication that employers are willing to continue to invest in their firms and expand capacity – buying machines, hiring workers – to meet the growing demand coming from consumers. This is good news for workers, as it maintains strong demand for their labour and increases their bargaining power, enabling their wages to be bid up. While interest rates remain accommodative, the bank’s decision, has the effect of dampening this growing consumer demand and potential business investment, as well as slowing down or even halting wage growth.

The rate increase brings to light the main issue: the BoC’s +/- 2% inflation target. For workers, this inflation target effectively functions as a straitjacket on their bargaining power and on their ability to increase their wages. The bank’s commitment to low inflation targeting, as opposed to pursuing full employment (a priority of the bank from 1945 to the mid-'70s, an era characterized by slightly higher rates of inflation, but full employment and rising real wages, the so-called “Golden Age”), means that the positive effects from the increase in workers’ bargaining power that derives from tightening labour markets – as a result of accelerating economic activity which gives workers some leverage and economic power and generally translates into sustained wage increases – is never fully realized. Just as workers begin to make wage gains, in comes the central bank under the guise of preemptive inflation-fighting to slow down the economy. In this way, by hiking interest rates and slowing economic activity, the BoC ensures that workers’ bargaining power is undercut, through attenuating the demand for labour, resulting in stagnating wage growth. At the same time, an increase in interest rates, while halting workers’ wage growth, functions as a pay raise to the banks, as they can now charge more for loans. This leads to further negative economic outcomes: as workers now see their interest payments increase, they reduce their consumption and divert their funds to servicing their debts. This diversion reduces economic activity and the demand for output, causing firms to scale back production, freezing hiring and productive investment and eventually laying off workers if demand slows down enough. This ultimately increases the pool of the unemployed, increasing the supply of labour in the market, and crucially, placing downward pressure on workers’ wages. 

In effect, the decision by the BoC reflects a tendency among central banks around the world to use monetary policy as a surrogate income policy. Through its excessively low inflation target, the bank ensures workers’ wages never increase too much, that they are just in line with inflation, making it very difficult for workers’ real wages and their living standards to increase. Not only is the commitment to inflation targeting bad social policy, as the economy never reaches a point of full employment, leaving a permanent oversupply of workers in the market who cannot find employment, it is also bad economic policy, as it serves to put a de facto ceiling on wages, therefore contributing to the increasing debt loads workers take on in order to finance their consumption.

]]>
Alcoa's Lockout of Quebec Employees Is a Poor Business Decision http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/alcoas-lockout-of-quebec-employees-is-a-poor-business-decision Wed, 17 Jan 2018 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2018/alcoas-lockout-of-quebec-employees-is-a-poor-business-decision BÉCANCOUR, Que. - With aluminum giant Alcoa set to report its 2017 fourth-quarter and year-end results, the United Steelworkers is appealing to shareholders to question the ramifications of the company's lockout of more than 1,000 Quebec employees.

"Shareholders must question the company's decisions to unilaterally pull the plug on collective bargaining that was in full swing, to impose a final offer and then to lock out employees," said Clément Masse, President of Steelworkers Local 9700, which represents 1,030 workers at the ABI smelter in Bécancour.

"Why provoke a labour dispute that in the end will have a pricetag that exceeds the costs of all union proposals made at the bargaining table? There is something fishy here. Investors should demand answers from Alcoa," Masse said.

Management at the ABI smelter, co-owned by Alcoa (74.9%) and Rio Tinto (25.1%), locked out employees without warning on Jan. 11, rejecting the union's offer to continue negotiations on a new collective agreement.

The Steelworkers union questions Alcoa's decisions given that rival Rio Tinto stands to benefit from the lockout through increases in aluminum prices and the Midwest Premium.

"Rio Tinto was part of the decision to lock out employees while at the same time it could see higher profits in its other aluminum plants. Will Alcoa actually emerge as a winner in this scenario? These kinds of questions must be asked," Masse said.

The lockout, combined with the shutdown of two potlines at the ABI smelter, will create costs for the company well in excess of the price of resolving contentious issues in the collective bargaining process, the union says. The key issues are related to pensions and seniority recognition for employee transfers and turnover.

]]>