United Steelworkers Canada News Feed http://www.uswca.org/news/media-centre/releases/rss United Steelworkers Canada Releases Feed Fri, 10 Sep 2021 12:00:00 -0400 AMPS en hourly 1 Doug Ford government must change course on National Truth and Reconciliation Day: United Steelworkers union https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/doug-ford-government-must-change-course-on-national-truth-and-reconciliation-day-united-steelworkers-union Fri, 10 Sep 2021 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/doug-ford-government-must-change-course-on-national-truth-and-reconciliation-day-united-steelworkers-union TORONTO – The Ontario Conservative government’s denial of a provincial holiday for National Truth and Reconciliation Day is a disgraceful rejection of the need to advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and communities, the United Steelworkers union (USW) says.

“Public awareness and support for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples has been growing stronger virtually everywhere in our country, but not within Doug Ford’s Conservative government, it seems,” said USW Ontario Director Marty Warren.

“It is despicable to see the largest provincial government in Canada reject one of the important calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” Warren said. “It further demonstrates its lack of leadership and commitment to fostering reconciliation.”

The federal government has passed legislation confirming National Truth and Reconciliation Day, on Sept. 30, as a statutory holiday for federal government workers and employees in federally regulated industries such as banks; railways; telecommunications; radio and television broadcasting; the postal service; air transportation; and inter-provincial road transportation.

“Several provincial and territorial governments and municipalities are also taking steps to recognize National Truth and Reconciliation Day as a holiday,” Warren noted.

“Doug Ford’s Conservative government is clearly demonstrating it has no interest in taking meaningful action to commemorate and reflect on the terrible legacy of residential schools, nor to actively promote and foster true reconciliation and social and economic justice for Indigenous peoples and communities,” he said.

“We call on the Ontario government to fulfill its role of national leadership and to pass legislation declaring National Truth and Reconciliation Day a provincial statutory holiday. Such legislation would receive opposition party support and would easily be passed into law.”

USW Statement: Stay of Proceedings in Case of Workplace Death of Sam Fitzpatrick https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/usw-statement-stay-of-proceedings-in-case-of-workplace-death-of-sam-fitzpatrick Wed, 01 Sep 2021 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/usw-statement-stay-of-proceedings-in-case-of-workplace-death-of-sam-fitzpatrick BURNABY, B.C. – The United Steelworkers union (USW) District 3 is extremely disappointed with the announcement from the BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) that a stay of proceedings has been entered in the case against Peter Kiewit Sons and two of the construction company’s managers in the 2009 death of 24-year-old worker Sam Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick was crushed by a falling boulder on a hydroelectric project near Toba Inlet, north of Powell River, B.C. At the time, a WorkSafeBC investigation found a “reckless disregard” for safety on the project. Just one day before the fatal rockfall, another boulder had tumbled down the same slope, causing serious damage to a piece of heavy equipment.

After the conclusion of the WorkSafeBC proceedings in 2013, police initiated a criminal investigation in 2014. Charges were approved on May 31, 2019, and the matter was set for trial commencing on Sept. 7, 2021. BCPS now says it has determined that the available evidence no longer satisfies the charge assessment and the charges have been stayed. The trial will not proceed.

“We are extremely disappointed in the decision from the BC Prosecution Service not to prosecute the case,” said Stephen Hunt, USW District Director for Western Canada and the Territories. “Sam Fitzpatrick died more than a decade ago and criminal charges were only laid in 2019 after a long campaign for accountability led by Fitzpatrick's friends, family and our union.”

Hunt heralded the work of Sam’s late father Brian Fitzpatrick in seeking justice for his son and family.

“Brian came to us looking for help. He was totally committed and had the best reason in the world to fight for justice, not only for Sam but for all workers. He came to our union although neither he nor his son were USW members. We agreed with Brian that Sam was killed by corporate negligence and the deliberate actions and reckless decisions put workers at risk, and no one was being held accountable,” Hunt said.

“Sam and the Fitzpatrick family deserved justice. Every worker deserves the right to go to work, be safe and come home to their families at the end of the day. Sam did not have that chance and he was taken away from the world far too early,” he added.

“We will not give up our fight for Sam or the thousands of workers who die on the job due to employer negligence. We will continue pushing forward with our Stop the Killing, Enforce the Law campaign until every worker can come home safe,” said Hunt.

“We know we are making a difference and look forward to the day workers like Sam and his family no longer pay the price for corporations that pay lip service to safety and behave in a deliberately negligent and criminal way.”

The USW national campaign is focused on enforcing the Westray Law, passed unanimously by Parliament in 2003, amending the Criminal Code and aimed at holding corporations criminally accountable for workplace death and injury. Despite the apparent political commitment, enforcement has been minimal. 

The law was named after the 1992 Westray Mine explosion in Nova Scotia that killed 26 miners. This year marked the 29th anniversary of the tragedy. Meanwhile, up to 1,000 workers are killed every year across Canada.

Steelworkers, Gerdau – Manitoba Metallics Raw Materials Reach Deal https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-gerdau-manitoba-metallics-raw-materials-reach-deal Tue, 31 Aug 2021 17:34:11 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-gerdau-manitoba-metallics-raw-materials-reach-deal The members of United Steelworkers union (USW) Local 8740 have ratified a tentative agreement reached with Gerdau – Manitoba Metallics Raw Materials in Selkirk, Man., on Aug. 24, 2021.

The union members had been working without a contract since the previous collective agreement expired on June 30, 2021.

The new five-year agreement was accepted by 77% of the members voting at a meeting on Aug. 24.

The agreement gives the membership their best increases in wages, benefits and pensions in decades.

“We managed to get a fair and balanced final offer from the employer that represented needed increases that worked for our membership,” said Andrew Hendricks, President of USW Local 8740.

The union’s bargaining committee achieved much-needed changes in preventing contracting out, maintaining shift schedules, bereavement leave, job postings, benefit increases in vision care, insurance and prescription drugs, along with adding orthodontic coverage for the first time.

Gerdau – Manitoba Metallics Raw Materials in Selkirk has consistently lowered its operating costs year over year and has continued to have positive sales and volume throughout the months leading into and during the pandemic. The union’s bargaining committee worked extremely hard to emphasize this point to management which resulted in a positive outcome for both parties.

“We are pleased with the support that the membership gave our bargaining committee and wish to express our thanks to the members,” said Hendricks.

Steelworkers, AltaSteel Reach Deal https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-altasteel-reach-deal Wed, 18 Aug 2021 17:18:36 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-altasteel-reach-deal The members of the United Steelworkers union (USW) Local 5220 have ratified their new tentative agreement reached with AltaSteel Inc. in Edmonton, Alta., on Aug. 16, 2021.

The union members had been working without a contract since the previous collective agreement expired on July 31, 2021.

The new four-year agreement was accepted by 89% of the members voting at three meetings yesterday.

The agreement gives the membership increases in wages, benefits and a defined-benefit pension. It also extends increases to retirees. The term of the agreement allows AltaSteel’s new ownership group some much-needed certainty to explore expansion opportunities.

“AltaSteel has navigated the downturn without resorting to layoffs and this agreement sets a positive future for our members,” said Paul Perreault, USW Local 5220 President. “The new ownership is looking to make serious capital investments over the next four years and the term of the agreement provides job certainty and stability for the membership and the company.”

“We are pleased with the support that the membership gave our bargaining committee and wish to express our thanks to the members for their support,” added Perreault.

AltaSteel Inc. is owned by Kyoei Steel Ltd., which specializes in mini-mill steel manufacturing based in Japan. Kyoei Steel currently owns and operates mini-mills in Canada, the U.S., Japan and Vietnam.

The USW represents approximately 11,600 members working in the Canadian steel industry, including workers at AltaSteel Inc.

USW Local 6500 to Host Press Conference Update on Contract Vote: August 4 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/usw-local-6500-to-host-press-conference-update-on-contract-vote-august-4 Tue, 03 Aug 2021 16:06:50 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/usw-local-6500-to-host-press-conference-update-on-contract-vote-august-4 SUDBURY, August 3, 2021 – The Executive of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 6500 will host a press conference about the most recent contract vote at Vale, on Wednesday, August 4 at 9 a.m. at the local union hall. 

The 2,500 members of USW Local 6500 are voting electronically on the tentative agreement today between 4 – 11 p.m.

Members have been out on strike since June 1, when they voted down a contract offer that would have dramatically cut post-retirement benefits. A later deal from Vale, rejected by the bargaining committee, was also voted down by 87 per cent on June 14.  

The Vale mine, mill and smelter workers work in 10 different locations across the greater Sudbury area. 

Press conference details:

August 4 at 9 a.m. 

66 Brady Street 
Sudbury, ON P3E 1C8

Speakers will include: 

Nick Larochelle, USW Local 6500 President
Myles Sullivan, Assistant to USW District 6 Director

Steelworkers Humanity Fund Provides $45,000 to Support Bangladeshi Garment Workers Affected by Corporate Wage Theft https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-humanity-fund-provides-45000-to-support-bangladeshi-garment-workers-affected-by-corporate-wage-theft Thu, 22 Jul 2021 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-humanity-fund-provides-45000-to-support-bangladeshi-garment-workers-affected-by-corporate-wage-theft TORONTO – The Steelworkers Humanity Fund (SHF) is contributing $45,000 in emergency relief to Bangladeshi garment workers reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency funding is being provided to long-time SHF partner the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity (BCWS) to assist workers in dire need of support.

At the onset of the pandemic, garment retailers and fashion brands cancelled clothing orders and refused to pay for orders already produced or in production. Subsequent government loans to supplier factories did little to mitigate the situation, resulting in over 300,000 Bangladeshi workers losing their jobs and millions suffering undue wage cuts.

Having no choice between abject working conditions or going hungry, garment workers – the majority of them women – and their families are living under extreme financial precariousness. With Bangladesh currently under renewed lockdown following a significant rise in COVID-19 infection and death rates, the situation is rapidly deteriorating.

In this context, the BCWS is moving mountains to attend to those emergency needs while advocating for workers’ rights with Bangladeshi authorities, international brands and local manufacturers. The SHF support will provide 685 workers and their families with food hampers, which will benefit close to 2,800 people. The most vulnerable among them will also receive emergency financial assistance to help cover rent costs.

“Canadian garment companies with suppliers in Bangladesh have made significant profits during the pandemic, while garment workers are even worse off than before,” says Ken Neumann, United Steelworkers National Director and President of the SHF.

“The Steelworkers Humanity Fund contribution will make a big difference in the lives of many, but it is not nearly enough. Canadian brands have the power and the means to address the COVID wage gap and wage theft,” Neumann says.

“Steelworkers’ support at this time of crisis will be deeply appreciated by thousands of garment workers who were earning poverty wages before COVID. With no savings, job loss and wage theft during the pandemic has left many of these workers destitute,” says Kalpona Akter, Director of the BCWS.

“Canadian garment brands and retailers have a responsibility to protect the incomes of the women working in their global supply chains, but they have not yet done what they can, and should, be doing,” adds Akter.

The Steelworkers Humanity Fund is a registered charitable organization that promotes respect for human rights and contributes to development projects and emergency aid in developing countries, as well as supporting Canadian communities in crisis. United Steelworkers union members contribute to the fund through clauses negotiated into their collective agreements. In some cases employers make matching contributions.

The Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity has been at the forefront of the struggle for workers’ safety, workers’ rights and gender-based violence in Bangladesh. Since the beginning of the pandemic, BCWS staff have been working flat out to ensure garment workers' safety and incomes are protected.

Steelworkers Ratify Contract Extension at Ciment Québec https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-ratify-contract-extension-at-ciment-quebec Fri, 16 Jul 2021 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-ratify-contract-extension-at-ciment-quebec SAINT-BASILE, Que. – Members of the United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos at Ciment Québec in Saint-Basile, in the Portneuf area, have voted 90% in favour of a three-year extension of their collective agreement, to 2029. The current contract was set to expire in December 2026.

“The strong demand for cement, the shortage of skilled labour and an investment project are the factors that led to this extension,” said Gaétan Paquet, President of Steelworkers Local 9232.

The contract extension provides for wage increases of 3.3% in 2027, 3.4% in 2028 and 3.5% in 2029. In addition, union members also receive significant and more immediate increases as a result of revised monetary clauses in the current contract.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, union members in pay grades 7 and 8 will receive wage adjustments ranging from $3 per hour to $5 per hour, respectively. The contract provides for a $1 per hour bonus for employees with a college diploma relevant to their job functions, effective Jan. 1, 2022.

All 123 union members also receive a $1,500 signing bonus.

The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos, affiliated with the Quebec Federation of Labour, is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing more than 60,000 workers in all economic sectors.

Major Job Improvements Needed to Address Quebec’s Child-Care Worker Shortage: Steelworkers https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/major-job-improvements-needed-to-address-quebecs-child-care-worker-shortage-steelworkers Fri, 16 Jul 2021 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/major-job-improvements-needed-to-address-quebecs-child-care-worker-shortage-steelworkers MONTREAL – The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos union is calling for significant improvements to the Quebec government’s contract proposal in province-wide bargaining to address the critical shortage of child-care workers.

“The shortage of child-care workers is alarming. We need good-faith negotiations based on the recognition that wages and working conditions must be significantly improved if we want to attract people to this sector,” said Manon Leclerc, an early childhood educator in Rouyn-Noranda who represents the Steelworkers in negotiations with the government.

“It’s all well and good for the government to offer 2% or 3% per year, but that's not going to attract people to study early childhood education or to continue working in the system,” Leclerc said.

The Steelworkers’ union represents staff at the CPE Au jardin de Pierrot child-care centre in Rouyn-Noranda and the CPE Touchatouille centre in Port-Cartier. The collective agreements of all unionized employees in Quebec’s child-care system expired on April 1, 2020. Unions are planning to take collective action to pressure the government to negotiate fair agreements.

“We are denouncing the government’s offer and demanding wages and working conditions for child-care workers that fully recognize their importance and the urgent need to recruit and retain more staff in this critical sector,” said Dany Maltais, a Steelworkers union staff representative for the North Shore region.

“The labour shortage is a problem throughout Quebec, but it has become more acute in more remote regions,” said Sonia Charette, a Steelworkers staff representative in Rouyn-Noranda and a former child-care worker.

“In Rouyn-Noranda, we have educators this summer who have had to cancel their vacation because there is no one to replace them. We have two students in early childhood education who had to think twice before deciding to take summer jobs at our child-care centre, they coud have earned more money selling coffee,” Charette added.

“Child care is the lowest-paid profession of all the technical disciplines taught in our CEGEP college system. One in three educators is thinking of quitting and there is no one to replace them. So as long as we don't improve wages, we won't be able to recruit and retain educators. The government may say that it will create new spaces, but who will work there?”

The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos, affiliated with the Quebec Federation of Labour, is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing more than 60,000 workers in all economic sectors.

Steelworkers Humanity Fund Contributes $50,000 to Support Victims of Wildfires in B.C. https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-humanity-fund-contributes-50000-to-support-victims-of-wildfires-in-b-c Fri, 16 Jul 2021 09:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-humanity-fund-contributes-50000-to-support-victims-of-wildfires-in-b-c TORONTO – The Steelworkers Humanity Fund is contributing $50,000 to the United Way’s BC Wildfire Recovery Fund, to provide immediate and longer-term support to victims of the wildfires in British Columbia.

Following record-breaking heat, more than 300 wildfires have been reported in the B.C. interior, triggering the mass evacuation of residents of surrounding communities. In Lytton and its surroundings, many have lost their homes to the flames. For them, there is a critical need for support and recovery efforts in the aftermath of this disaster.

Set up by United Way British Columbia and its local partners, the United for BC Wildfire Recovery Fund will provide grants to support those who are displaced or have lost housing, belongings and/or employment, suffered physical or mental health trauma, as well as for health and safety education as the result of the blaze affecting the region.

“Families, including some of our own Steelworkers members, have lost everything to the flames,” said Ken Neumann, President of the Steelworkers Humanity Fund. “As the wildfires continue to rage, we recognize that the needs are important and will unfortunately keep growing through the summer and we encourage others to donate to the recovery fund.”

“We are grateful to the Steelworkers Humanity Fund for this rapid and generous contribution of $50,000 towards our United for BC Wildfire Recovery Fund," said Michael McKnight, President and CEO of United Way British Columbia – working with communities in B.C.'s Interior, Lower Mainland, Central & Northern Vancouver Island.

"Labour unions have a long history of strengthening vital connections in communities and this is one example of how unions support their neighbours. Thanks to this donation, we will be able to provide more wildfire recovery initiatives across the province,” added McKnight.

Founded in 1985, the Steelworkers Humanity Fund is a registered charitable organization that focuses primarily on development projects and emergency aid in developing countries, but also supports Canadian communities. USW members contribute to the fund through clauses negotiated into collective agreements. In some cases, employers make matching contributions to the fund.

ADVISORY: July 19 Solidarity Event to Support Toronto Steelworkers Locked out by NRT https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/solidarity-event-to-support-toronto-steelworkers-locked-out-by-nrt Fri, 16 Jul 2021 08:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/solidarity-event-to-support-toronto-steelworkers-locked-out-by-nrt TORONTO – Labour union leaders will be joining the picket line at National Rubber Technologies (NRT) on Monday, July 19, to show support for the workers who were unfairly locked out by the employer on July 2.

WHO: Labour leaders and supporters

WHAT: Solidarity Event Supporting United Steelworkers union Local 3950 members locked out by NRT

WHEN: Monday, July 19, 2021, 12:00 p.m.

WHERE: National Rubber Technologies (NRT), 35 Cawthra Ave., Toronto, ON M6N 5B3 (north of Dundas St. W., east of Keele St. off Junction Rd.)

Their employer, National Rubber Technologies (NRT), has demanded 63 concessions, including include forced overtime, leaves of absence instead of vacation and other attacks on hard-won working conditions.

Speakers at the solidarity event include:

  • Andria Babbington, President, Toronto and York Region Labour Council
  • Ken Neumann, USW National Director
  • Faisal Hassan, NDP MPP, York South–Weston

The 47 workers recycle scrap rubber (tires) into numerous accessories for the auto industry (mud flaps, helmet parts, auto interiors).

Terry Tomlinson, President of NRT, forces workers to work overtime and discriminates against workers with disabilities by paying above regular wage increases if workers have perfect attendance.

“It’s a sham. Instead of bargaining, the company put up barricades and moved equipment to its U.S. operations,” said Lightbourne Hunter, USW Local 3950 President. “Is NRT using the lockout as a coverup to avoid paying its longstanding workers the severance pay it owes them?”

Please wear a mask and observe safe physical distancing.

Watch a video from the picket line

Quebec Ferry Workers Denounce Employer’s Refusal to Negotiate https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/quebec-ferry-workers-denounce-employers-refusal-to-negotiate Thu, 15 Jul 2021 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/quebec-ferry-workers-denounce-employers-refusal-to-negotiate QUEBEC CITY – Unionized ferry workers employed by the Société des traversiers du Québec are considering collective action to pressure their employer to renegotiate a fair contract, more than 15 months after their last collective agreement expired.

The 150 mechanical and navigation officers, members of the United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos, operate ferry services at several crossings along the St. Lawrence River – Sorel/Saint-Ignace-de-Loyola, Quebec City/Lévis, Isle-aux-Coudres/Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive, Matane/Baie-Comeau/Godbout and Tadoussac/Baie-Sainte-Catherine. The workers’ collective agreement expired April 1, 2020.

“The employer has categorically refused to negotiate since Dec. 15, 2020,” said Steelworkers staff representative Luc Laberge.

“On April 30, the union first asked for conciliation, which led to an exploratory meeting on July 12. At this meeting, however, the employer told us that it did not have a mandate to negotiate monetary issues from the Quebec Treasury Board, and it did not indicate when it will have the mandate to negotiate,” Laberge said.

“Faced with the employer's refusal to resume negotiations, the union will be visiting our members’ workplaces to discuss our next steps. In the meantime, we hope to return to the bargaining table as soon as possible, and that the employer will show a willingness to negotiate,” he added.

The employer’s refusal to negotiate reflects a trend in public-sector bargaining in Quebec, Laberge said.

“If you look at the public-sector negotiations since all collective agreements expire on April 1, 2020, there is no sector that has managed to negotiate an agreement without exercising pressure tactics. In fact, they all took at least a year to settle their contracts. In effect, there is deliberate inaction by the government in negotiations with public-sector workers.”

In the case of the ferry workers, “the Steelworkers union finds the Treasury Board to be totally disrespectful of its workers by ignoring negotiations,” said Bruno Gagnon, president of Steelworkers Local 9599. “The last wage increase they had was on April 1, 2018. Their wages are not competitive in the maritime sector in Quebec and they’re also the poor cousins in the sector in terms of benefits.”

The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos, affiliated with the Quebec Federation of Labour, is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing more than 60,000 workers in all economic sectors.

Ontario University Staff Achieve Ground-Breaking Pension Plan https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/ontario-university-staff-achieve-ground-breaking-pension-plan Thu, 01 Jul 2021 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/ontario-university-staff-achieve-ground-breaking-pension-plan TORONTO – After a decade of efforts to find a long-term solution to concerns over their retirement security, employees at three Ontario universities have a new pension plan covering 35,000 members and managing more than $10 billion in assets.

“This is truly a ground-breaking achievement that has been years in the making,” said Marty Warren, Ontario Director of the United Steelworkers, representing more than 6,000 workers who are members of the new University Pension Plan (UPP), which officially comes into effect today.

“This milestone reflects an unprecedented level of commitment and perseverance by so many people and groups, over so many years, to protect workers’ pensions,” Warren said.

The UPP is a defined-benefit, jointly sponsored pension plan (JSPP), that covers 35,000 employees and retirees from the University of Toronto, Queen’s University and the University of Guelph, including more than 6,000 workers represented by the USW.

The UPP, which has been registered with the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA), replaces five separate pension plans that previously existed at the three universities.

Representatives of the USW and other unions and faculty associations at the universities hold joint governance with the employers over the plan – a key aspect that was missing in the previous pension plans.

“After many years of planning, consultation and negotiations to address this issue, our members now officially have the assurance that they can rely on a secure, defined-benefit pension for themselves and for future staff,” said Kelly J. Orser, President of USW Local 2010, representing staff at Queen’s University.

“I’m proud of the commitment of so many who worked together for so long and in such a constructive fashion, to achieve this objective on behalf of our members, our retirees and our future members,” said John Tartt, President of USW Local 4120 representing staff at the University of Guelph.

“We are excited to finally reach this day,” said Colleen Burke, President of USW Local 1998 representing staff at the University of Toronto. “The jointly sponsored pension plan model provides the stable and secure pension that our members need, in an era when too many workers see their retirement security under threat.”

“Single-employer, defined-benefit pension plans have been under constant attack by governments and employers,” said Alex McKinnon, a pension and benefits expert who heads the USW’s research department.

“Our union and our representatives in the university sector realized we needed to find a way forward to ensure retirement security for our members. The multi-employer University Pension Plan achieves this goal,” said McKinnon, who was involved in the project from the early stages a decade ago.

“There are many stakeholders, representing employees and management alike, whose commitment made this happen and who deserve recognition,” said Warren. “Our USW staff and local union activists helped lead the way. Chief among them are the leaders of our USW Locals 1998, 4120 and 2010, as well as their predecessors, including former presidents of Local 4120 Liz Cherry and Wendy Morley, who helped shepherd this initiative over several years,” he said.

The UPP Board of Trustees, which includes several labour representatives, has hired top pension experts and administrators to manage the plan’s assets. Staff at other universities will be able to join the UPP in the future.

Victoria Starbucks Workers Brew Up First Contract https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/victoria-starbucks-workers-brew-up-first-contract Tue, 29 Jun 2021 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/victoria-starbucks-workers-brew-up-first-contract VICTORIA, B.C. – The United Steelworkers union (USW) has brewed up a first collective agreement for the workers at the Douglas Street Starbucks drive-thru location in Victoria, B.C. The workers have unanimously ratified their new three-year collective agreement.

The union was able to bargain health and safety provisions, including contract language aimed at preventing workplace violence and aggressive behaviour, to help keep workers safe. The union was successful in securing language for up to 10 paid days leave for any member facing situations of domestic violence. The workers will also receive a wage increase of up to $2.47 per hour based on years of service and each worker will receive a lump-sum payment upon ratification.

“We are excited now that the contract is done and to see the workplace changes that will come along with it,” said Sarah Broad, USW bargaining committee member. “It felt like a really big battle to bargain with a company like Starbucks, but I am very happy that we did and I cannot wait to see the impact that the changes will bring not only for us but for other baristas too.”

“We are all so excited to have this contract finalized and the strength of a union behind us,” said Isaiah Adachi, USW bargaining committee member. “Because of the Steelworkers, we can now hold Starbucks accountable for the environment it creates for both its workers and customers. I am glad that we can focus on building a better customer service industry where baristas are treated with the respect and dignity that we deserve.”

In August 2020, the Victoria Starbucks workers voted to unionize after reaching out to the USW to achieve better protections from harassment and unsafe work situations that they were facing.

“This was a tough round of bargaining – you could say a real grind – and I am sure Starbucks was pretty steamed when they saw what we were serving them,” said Tara Cavanagh, USW Staff Representative. “I am very proud of the bargaining committee and all of our members for their patience and support while we obtained this new contract. Workers in the service industry often get forgotten and do not get recognized for the difficult industry they work in and this contract now reflects it.”

“With this new contract, Starbucks members are helping to set a new standard for baristas and coffee shop workers, bringing them above the minimum wage and closer to a living wage,” said Stephen Hunt, USW District Director for Western Canada. “Workers need unions more than ever. This contract shows that when workers are engaged, better working conditions and wages can be achieved. Every worker deserves better, and as Steelworkers, we do not discriminate on who we welcome to our union or how much they make or what their job is.”

“I am so grateful for the Steelworkers and for all of the opportunities they have already brought to us,” added Broad.

USW District 3 represents over 50,000 workers in Western Canada and the Territories.

If you are interested in joining a union or speaking to a union organizer, please contact us at betterworknow.ca or usw.ca/join. You deserve better work now.

Steelworkers Ratify Renewed Contract with Chances Casino in Abbotsford https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-ratify-renewed-contract-with-chances-casino-in-abbotsford Fri, 25 Jun 2021 13:50:43 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-ratify-renewed-contract-with-chances-casino-in-abbotsford Members of United Steelworkers union (USW) Local 2009 have ratified a renewed collective agreement with Playtime Gaming at the Chances Casino in Abbotsford, B.C. The ratification follows two days on the picket line after the employer locked out the workers.

“The bargaining committee worked hard to thwart the employer's concessionary wage and benefit proposals,” said Al Bieksa, President of USW Local 2009. “After two days on the picket line and massive support from the membership, the bargaining committee settled on a renewed collective agreement that sees average wage increases of 8% over the next three years of the contract.”

On June 14, 2021, Playtime Gaming issued a lockout notice to its employees after the members would not agree to an inferior collective agreement that slashed benefits and offered mostly minimum wages. 

“The employer received substantial assistance from the federal government under the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF), which was aimed at providing loans to companies with revenues of $300 million or more. On the other hand, our members were financially challenged for the past 16 months,” said Ginette Talbot-Hoogeveen, USW Staff Representative. 

“I am very proud that our members did not concede to the employer’s bullying tactics and stood together when they were locked out,” Talbot-Hoogeveen said.

Casinos in British Columbia are scheduled to re-open during the first week of July after the easing of provincial health orders.

The USW congratulates the members on ratifying a renewed collective agreement. 

Steelworkers Make Big Gains at Minerai de fer Québec https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-make-big-gains-at-minerai-de-fer-quebec Fri, 25 Jun 2021 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-make-big-gains-at-minerai-de-fer-quebec SEPT-ÎLES – The 465 members of the United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos who work at the Bloom Lake Mine, owned by Minerai de fer Québec, have made several gains in a new, three-year contract ratified this week. Union members voted by a 79% majority to approve the contract, which is retroactive to late last year.

“We're very happy! During the last negotiations in 2017, the company had just announced a restart of operations and the circumstances were not so good,” said Yves Lapierre, president of Steelworkers Local 9996, which represents the workers at the mine near Fermont, Que.

“Conditions for negotiations were much better this time, with good prices for iron ore, and this was reflected in the results. We succeeded in obtaining several gains in terms of working conditions and in other areas of the collective agreement,” Lapierre said.

Wages will rise by 10.15% over three years, with annual increases of 3.9%, 3.25% and 3%, while the employer’s contributions to the defined contribution pension plan also will be increased. Vacation pay has been increased and the process for allocating vacation time has been improved, allowing for a fairer and more equitable system based on seniority.

The contract also increases the allowance for northern work and travel, and introduces a recognition payment for workers’ contributions to the company’s development.

A letter of agreement calls for a joint study to be carried out by 2022 to review wage grades, in addition to improvements in the wage grades structure already provided in the new contract. The agreement also introduces a new premium for apprenticeship coaches, in addition to an existing premium for trainers.

Language improvements in the contract address issues including seniority provisions related to job postings and changes to procedures related to job transfers.

The contract also provides more employer-paid time for local union representatives to address issues affecting rand-and-file members. In addition to existing, employer-paid time for the local union’s president’s duties, additional paid time will be provided for the work of the local union vice-president and for two health and safety prevention representatives.

“The bargaining committee worked very hard over the last seven months, holding 62 meetings, and it paid off. This contract allows us to achieve our goals on several issues, and will allow the parties to proceed with a better, more harmonious expansion,” said USW staff representative Dany Maltais.

Steelworkers Ratify Contract with Moose Creek Tire Recycling https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-ratify-contract-with-moose-creek-tire-recycling Wed, 23 Jun 2021 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-ratify-contract-with-moose-creek-tire-recycling MOOSE CREEK, Ont. – Unionized workers at Moose Creek Tire Recycling in the eastern Ontario community of Moose Creek have negotiated a new collective agreement with the company that will see their wages increase by up to 11.3% over the next three years.

Members of Local 13292-17 of the United Steelworkers union (USW) voted to ratify the new three-year contract on June 21. The agreement was negotiated well in advance of the expiry of the existing contract in September of this year.

The agreement calls for wage increases ranging from 8.8% to 9.1% in the contract’s first year, followed by a 1% increase in the second year and a 1.25% increase in the third year. Over the term of the contract, hourly wage rates will increase from $21.08 to $23.52 for operators, and from $30.33 to $33.75 for mechanics.

The agreement also provides increases in shift premiums and boot allowances, improvements to contract language and co-pay amounts for extended health and dental coverage, as well as the creation of a new senior mechanic job classification.

“The union decided to begin the bargaining process early to try to reach a new agreement before the existing contract expired to get the best possible deal, and we were able to achieve that goal,” noted Eric Fournier, USW Staff Representative.

“The negotiations were conducted in a spirit of collaboration and respect by both parties at the table,” said Matt Spinella, a worker at the tire recycling plant and the new chairman of the USW Local 13292-17 bargaining unit.

“The positive atmosphere allowed us to address key issues and to reach an agreement that our members supported,” Spinella said.

“I congratulate the members of Local 13292-17 and their bargaining committee for their solidarity in securing a collective agreement that recognizes their hard work and vital contributions to the company’s success,” said USW Ontario Director Marty Warren.

USW Calls on Federal Government to Crack Down on Anti-Worker Practices by Canadian Mining Companies https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/usw-calls-on-federal-government-to-crack-down-on-anti-worker-practices-by-canadian-mining-companies Wed, 23 Jun 2021 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/usw-calls-on-federal-government-to-crack-down-on-anti-worker-practices-by-canadian-mining-companies TORONTO – The United Steelworkers (USW) union is gravely concerned about reports of union-busting by Americas Gold and Silver, a Canadian mining company, at the San Rafael mine in Cosalá, Mexico.

Workers at the mine went on strike on Jan. 26, 2020, demanding recognition of their union, the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Related Workers of the Mexican Republic (SNTMMSSRM), also known as Los Mineros, and led by Napoleón Gómez Urrutia.

Mexico’s Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board conducted a representation vote on Sept. 17, 2020, and certified Los Mineros as the union to represent the workers. However, the company refused to accept the results and has instead adopted a confrontational position, accusing the union of criminal activity and threatening to shut down the project. These efforts continue even after Mexico’s president publicly called on the company to work with Los Mineros.

“Trade agreements protecting workers’ rights are useless if they are not followed,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann. “The federal government must demand accountability by bad actors like Americas Gold and Silver and crack down on anti-worker practices.”

In addition to the labour dispute, there are allegations of environmental damage and unfair dealing with local landholders.

The USW calls on the Canadian government to engage impartially with the union, the company and the Mexican authorities to resolve the dispute by accepting the results of the representation election and respecting freedom of association (as required by the CUSMA), the community, and the environment.

USW further calls on the federal government to take up the model legislation proposed by the Canadian Network for Corporate Accountability, which is needed to address abuses of labour and human rights by Canadian mining companies in the extractive sector. USW is a member of the CNCA.

The USW represents 225,000 workers across Canada in nearly every economic sector, including tens of thousands of members in the mining industry. The union represents 850,000 workers in Canada, the United States and the Caribbean.

Quebec Court of Appeal Confirms Equal Pay Principle for Student Workers https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/quebec-court-of-appeal-confirms-equal-pay-principle-for-student-workers Thu, 17 Jun 2021 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/quebec-court-of-appeal-confirms-equal-pay-principle-for-student-workers TROIS-RIVIÈRES – The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos welcomes yesterday’s ruling by the Quebec Court of Appeal that students hired at the ABI aluminum smelter in Bécancour, Que., should be paid the same as other employees, since they are doing equivalent work.

“We are satisfied with the ruling, which confirms all previous decisions. We are now reaching out to the employer to take note and turn the page, rather than pursuing an appeal to the Supreme Court,” said Steelworkers staff representative Alexandre Fréchette.

The Court of Appeal upheld the Human Rights Tribunal’s decision, noting that it had been “reached with remarkable thoroughness.” Thus, the Court of Appeal, the Human Rights Tribunal and the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission) recognized that the student employees at the ABI smelter were discriminated against within the meaning of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

The student workers are paid 85% of the wages of casual employees who have also just been hired to perform equivalent tasks.

“They are paid lower wages for the sole reason that they are pursuing studies, thus depriving them of the fundamental right guaranteed by the Quebec Charter to receive equal treatment for equivalent work,” the ruling states.

The three judges who signed the ruling also pointed out that, “The idea that students who work for the appellant can be ‘discriminated against’ because the wage paid is attractive compared to the minimum wage is reminiscent of other old-fashioned ideas. One can think of the proposition, now outdated, that women can be paid a lower wage because they do not need it, as it provides a supplementary income for the family. One can also think of the idea, which is also no longer valid, that immigrants can be paid a lower wage because it is more advantageous than the one they received in their country of origin. Such ideas must be rejected.”

After defending, tooth and nail, the principle of equal pay for work of equal value by calling for a ban on disparate treatment clauses that disadvantage newly hired workers, the Steelworkers union is prepared to defend this principle in support of student employees, should the Court of Appeal decision be challenged in the Supreme Court.

“This promises to be a precedent-setting decision, not only for unionized workplaces, but for all workplaces. Discrimination is not acceptable, whether it is against youth, women, immigrants or any other group. The Steelworkers will always be there to fight discrimination. It doesn’t stop us from hiring students, and it doesn’t stop us from paying interns or students differently if they are actually doing less work. But in this case, it was demonstrated in court that the tasks were equivalent. For example, the students are there for summer replacements and do not have different tasks than those of casuals,” said Fréchette.

The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos, affiliated with the Quebec Federation of Labour, is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing more than 60,000 workers in all economic sectors.

Steelworkers Welcome Workers from The Wellington Retirement Residence https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-welcome-workers-from-the-wellington-retirement-residence Tue, 15 Jun 2021 13:38:45 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-welcome-workers-from-the-wellington-retirement-residence The United Steelworkers (USW) is excited to welcome 80 workers from The Wellington Retirement Residence in Medicine Hat, Alta., who have voted overwhelmingly to join the union in a ballot overseen by the Alberta Labour Relations Board. 

“We are excited to move forward as a team with the United Steelworkers having our backs. We will now be able to work in a safe, organized and positive environment to improve conditions for us and for the residents we care for daily,” said a worker from The Wellington Retirement Residence.  

“I am thrilled these workers chose the USW to represent them. The pandemic has certainly put a focus on the difficult working conditions that health-care workers face every day on the job. These workers know their work does not stop being essential when the pandemic ends and we will fight hard for them because we believe they are essential every day. Our priority has always been the health and safety of all workers and I have maintained that essential doesn’t mean sacrificial,” said Stephen Hunt, USW Director for Western Canada. 

Over the next few months, the union and workers will begin negotiating workplace improvements with the employer. Once a tentative collective agreement is in place, the workers will be able to vote to accept the contract.

“We’re honoured to welcome these workers to our union. This has been a long road, but we persevered together because these workers need a united voice for better and safer working conditions and fair treatment from their employer. We look forward to working with our new members to negotiate their first contract,” said Pablo Guerra, USW District 3 Organizing Co-ordinator.

The Wellington provides 100 independent and 93 supportive living options for seniors seeking to maintain independence while enjoying access and services to amenities. 

The USW represents over 50,000 health-care workers including members in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. 

Health-care workers who are interested in joining the union can learn more about the benefits at www.betterworknow.ca.

Steelworkers Reject Vale’s Concessionary Offer, Call for Good-Faith Negotiations as Strike Continues https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-reject-vales-concessionary-offer-call-for-good-faith-negotiations-as-strike-continues Mon, 14 Jun 2021 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2021/steelworkers-reject-vales-concessionary-offer-call-for-good-faith-negotiations-as-strike-continues * NOTE: USW Local 6500 representatives will hold a media availability tomorrow, Tuesday, June 15, at 9:00 a.m. EDT, in the parking lot of the Steelworkers Hall, 66 Brady Street, Sudbury.

SUDBURY, Ont., 14 June 2021 – For a second time in two weeks, United Steelworkers (USW) members in Sudbury have soundly rejected contract concessions demanded by mining giant Vale, prompting the union to call on the company to commit to good-faith negotiations to settle a strike by 2,500 workers.

USW Local 6500 members voted by an 87% majority today to reject Vale’s second offer, which maintained similar concessions to the company’s initial offer that provoked the strike on June 1, the union said.

“Vale’s employees have said emphatically that they want this employer to stop attacking their benefits, to stop eroding the standard of living for the next generation, to stop taking more and more away from our families and our community, especially during good times,” said USW Local 6500 President Nick Larochelle.

“The message from our members is clear: ‘Back off the concessions, get back to the table and negotiate a deal that puts people before profits – then the profits will flow.”

The contract offer rejected by the strikers today had maintained Vale’s demands to weaken health benefits for existing workers and to eliminate the retiree health and medical benefit plan for all future hires. The company had proposed a post-retirement $1,000 “health-care savings account” for future hires which would take away nearly 80% of the coverage currently provided under the existing plan. Coverage for some medications and medical supplies would be entirely eliminated.

Vale’s offer provided little to nothing in terms of pension improvements and annual wage increases of 1% after accounting for cost-of-living adjustments. A menial increase was proposed for workers in the defined-benefit pension plan, while Vale offered no increase in its contributions to members in the defined-contribution pension plan.

“The terms of Vale’s concessionary offer were unacceptable given the wealth our members are generating for the company and the bright prospects for the future,” Larochelle said.

Vale paid its shareholders a whopping US $3.88 billion (CAN $4.7 billion) in dividends in the first three months of 2021 alone, and total dividends of US $13.55 billion (approximately CAN $16.4 billion) since 2015. The company also has stockpiled US $12.9 billion (CAN $15.6 billion) in cash, as of the end of March this year.

Union members also were angered to learn that Vale took $67.7 million from Canadian taxpayers last year – in the form of pandemic-related subsidies from the federal government – yet the company has revoked a pandemic bonus previously offered to its Sudbury employees.

The $2,500 pandemic bonus was offered by Vale in its first contract proposal two weeks ago.

“Withdrawing the pandemic bonus, after stating explicitly that our members deserved it for their efforts over the past year, feels like retribution,” Larochelle said. “It’s a slap in the face to workers who accepted an unprecedented one-year contract with zero increases last year, who endured COVID-19 outbreaks in their workplaces and who stayed on the job throughout the pandemic.”

Union members also called out “empty words” expressed publicly during earlier stages of negotiations by a top Vale executive, North American chief operating officer Dino Otranto.

“Many of our members have told us they feel betrayed by Mr. Otranto,” Larochelle said.

“Mr. Otranto told our entire community that the future was very bright for Sudbury and that his corporation needed to embrace different ways of thinking, to shed the know-it-all attitude and start engaging, listening, and caring for its employees in order to build a future that all Sudburians want,” he said.

“Instead, our members are once again on the picket lines, resisting more demands for concessions from Vale. Our members and the community are still waiting to see a new approach from this corporation.

“Negotiating a contract that shows Vale is listening, that it truly cares for its employees, would be a good start.”