United Steelworkers Canada News Feed http://www.uswca.org/news/media-centre/releases/rss United Steelworkers Canada Releases Feed Fri, 26 Jun 2020 12:00:00 -0400 AMPS en hourly 1 Aluminum Tariffs Would Make Mockery of NAFTA 2 and Ignore the Real Problem https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/aluminum-tariffs-would-make-mockery-of-nafta-2-and-ignore-the-real-problem Fri, 26 Jun 2020 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/aluminum-tariffs-would-make-mockery-of-nafta-2-and-ignore-the-real-problem TORONTO, MONTREAL – Reports that new U.S. tariffs will be imposed on Canadian aluminum exports – in the very week that a new North American trade deal takes effect – make a mockery of the agreement, threaten thousands of Canadian jobs and ignore the real problem facing the industry, the United Steelworkers (USW) union says.

“The re-imposition of unjustified tariffs would be a failure and would not address the real problem – overcapacity of production of illegally subsidized Chinese aluminum,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann. “That’s why we are working with the Canadian government to find solutions to this situation.”

The Canada-US-Mexico Agreement was ratified without ensuring that the deal would preclude future U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum. The Trump administration had imposed tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel in 2018, citing baseless “national security” concerns. The tariffs were lifted in May 2019, following an aggressive lobbying campaign led by the USW.

“Our union fought for more than a year, on both sides of the border, to oppose those bogus tariffs. We do not want to find ourselves in the same situation, where we have to fight this same battle again,” said United Steelworkers Quebec Director Dominic Lemieux.

“Virtually everyone agrees, including unions and major aluminum producers in the U.S., that there is no justification for new tariffs on Canadian aluminum,” Lemieux said.

“Our two countries benefit from an integrated aluminum market. Canadian aluminum producers engage in fair trade and do not pose any national security threat to the United States. The problem lies elsewhere,” he said.

According to the Aluminum Association of the U.S., representing major producers Alcoa and Rio Tinto as well as many manufacturers of aluminum products, the real problem facing the industry is China’s overcapacity of production of illegally subsidized aluminum.

“The Canadian and U.S. economies have been battered by an uncontrolled virus and its impact on production and jobs. We continue to urge that our two countries work together to make sure that, as our economies slowly recover, we have policies that allow for shared growth and opportunity,” said USW International President Thomas M. Conway.

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Grant Exemption to Bill 124 or Risk Seniors in Long-Term Care: Steelworkers https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/grant-exemption-to-bill-124-or-risk-seniors-in-long-term-care-steelworkers Fri, 26 Jun 2020 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/grant-exemption-to-bill-124-or-risk-seniors-in-long-term-care-steelworkers BARRY’S BAY, Ont. – The United Steelworkers union (USW) is calling on the provincial government to exempt the non-profit Valley Manor Nursing Home from Bill 124, the Act that holds wage increases in the provincial public sector to 1%.

“The Act applies to Valley Manor but not to other long-term-care facilities in Renfrew County,” said USW Ontario Director Marty Warren. “This creates inequality, both in terms of working conditions, but also in terms of staff retention – all things the government has said it wants to correct in light of the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the long-term-care sector.”

The history of collective bargaining with Valley Manor has been one of either negotiating, or receiving through interest arbitration, adjustments for the 140 workers at Valley Manor, Warren said.

“That process has historically brought wages at the facility closer to provincial standards as well as local labour market conditions. However, if forced to adhere to Bill 124, there will not be parity and care at the home is bound to suffer,” he said.

Valley Manor is the largest employer in the region. Both USW and the Ontario Nurses’ Association represent workers at the home, with the largest number of workers represented by USW. A request for exemption from Bill 124 was sent recently to Ontario Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy.

“The premier is fond of praising essential workers – like those working in long-term care – for their ‘courage’ and for stepping up ‘to ensure individuals, families and seniors have what they need to stay safe and healthy’,” said Warren. “But actions speak louder than words, and a good start would be to grant the exemption to workers at Valley Manor.”

The union has yet to receive a response to the exemption request.

USW represents 225,000 men and women working in every sector of Canada’s economy.

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Ford Government Allowing Undue Risk to Workers Amid Province-Wide Reopening: Steelworkers https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/ford-government-allowing-undue-risk-to-workers-amid-province-wide-reopening-steelworkers Thu, 25 Jun 2020 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/ford-government-allowing-undue-risk-to-workers-amid-province-wide-reopening-steelworkers TORONTO – By failing to enforce health and safety protections amid a pandemic while allowing businesses and services to reopen across the province, the Ontario government is placing untold numbers of workers at risk, the United Steelworkers (USW) union says.

“We cannot be opening up the Ontario economy without ensuring workers will be protected, and when they are not, that there are consequences,” USW Ontario Director Marty Warren states in a letter sent today to Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton.

“If we don’t get this reopening right, workers, their families, friends and communities will be the ones who pay dearly for the cost of denial and inaction,” Warren says in the letter.

Warren’s letter calls out the labour ministry for dismissing virtually all coronavirus-related unsafe work refusals during the pandemic – directly contradicting public statements by McNaughton and Premier Doug Ford that workers who believe their job is unsafe can refuse to do that work and walk off the job.

Approximately 300 workers across Ontario have exercised their right to refuse work, citing safety issues related to COVID-19, but it appears only one such case was upheld by the labour ministry. The ministry will not accept such work refusals unless it is demonstrated that the virus is present in the workplace, according to media reports.

“Is this your official position?” Warren asks in his letter to McNaughton. “If so, you have abdicated your role and responsibility, and have clearly undermined the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

“If the ministry waits for a confirmed case, the damage has already been done, others will in all likelihood be infected and some will die. We need only look to the meat packing plants, long-term care facilities and farms dependent on migrant workers to know this much,” Warren states.

Warren notes that, following the SARS outbreak in 2003, the Ontario government appointed an independent commission to hold public hearings, consult with experts and make recommendations to improve public health responses, including better workplace health and safety measures.

The Campbell Commission’s report called for the Ministry of Labour to provide “clear direction and information regarding guidelines for work refusals, pregnant workers and immunocompromised workers.”

The Ford government has failed to heed such recommendations, Warren says.

“We are now three months into the COVID-19 pandemic and as a result of media investigations, we finally have some answers. When it comes to work refusals, the ministry’s criteria as reported are unacceptable, given the criteria are not protective of worker health and safety. I might add, we have heard nothing on how you propose to protect pregnant and immunocompromised workers,” the letter to McNaughton states.

Warren is calling on McNaughton to ensure labour ministry officials recognize workers’ right to refuse unsafe work, vigorously enforce the Occupational Health and Safety Act and hold employers accountable for not taking every precaution reasonable to protect employees.

“Let’s not repeat the wrongs of the past,” he states in the letter.

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Steelworkers Union Welcomes WSIB Decision Recognizing McIntyre Powder-Related Parkinson’s as Occupational Disease https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/steelworkers-union-welcomes-wsib-decision-recognizing-mcintyre-powder-related-parkinsons-as-occupational-disease Wed, 24 Jun 2020 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/steelworkers-union-welcomes-wsib-decision-recognizing-mcintyre-powder-related-parkinsons-as-occupational-disease TORONTO – United Steelworkers (USW) Ontario Director Marty Warren welcomes the announcement that Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has finally recognized that Parkinson’s Disease is a direct result of exposure to McIntyre Powder.

McIntyre Powder was an aluminum-based inhalant used between 1943 and 1979 in mines and other industries where workers might be exposed to silica dust. The theory, eventually proved false, was that inhaling the powder would protect workers’ lungs.

“This a victory we have been fighting to win for many years,” Warren said of the WSIB decision.

“This means workers’ claims for compensation may finally be met. We consider this a significant step forward toward justice for elderly and sick retirees and their families, although for some families this news comes too late as many who should have been compensated while they were alive have passed away. In the case of those victims’ families, the Estate can file claims on behalf of their loved one.”

The USW has played a key role in the McIntyre Powder Project, which includes Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) led by Janice Hobbs Martell. The project has spent years gathering evidence on the health of exposed miners. Martell’s father, Jim Hobbs, was one such miner, who died with Parkinson’s in 2017.

“Every worker is somebody’s Jim Hobbs,” says Martell. “Every worker has a family who loves them. Every time the WSIB makes a decision on another worker’s claim, I want them to remember my dad’s name. I am incredibly grateful to everyone who stood up for this fight, and my deepest thanks go to the USW for their consummate support and solidarity.”

Health and safety for the USW is more than one of the union’s activities, Warren said.

“It is what we stand for at every level of the union,” he said. “Justice for workers never comes naturally. We have to defend our right to healthy and safe workplaces every day and fight hard for compensation as a result of workplaces that fail to meet our standards. Workers’ lives are worth more than a paycheque. And in a time of COVID-19, this is more important than ever.”

Warren added that the union has called for the recognition of the link between Parkinson’s and McIntyre Powder to be adopted by workers’ compensation boards across Canada.

He said the unfinished business in the fight for justice is the need to investigate the association between McIntyre Powder and lung diseases, cancers and cardiovascular conditions. We must also ensure that OHCOW is fully funded to enable them to continue their critically important work with occupational disease clusters, he said. 

Besides Ontario, McIntyre Powder was used across Canada – in Quebec, British Columbia and in some mines in Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and the Yukon. It was also used worldwide, in mining and non-mining industries. Workers were exposed to the powder at dozens of factories in the U.S. and in mines in Mexico and Western Australia.

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After Serving as Essential Workers During COVID-19, Black Cat Wear Parts Cruelly Locks Out Canadian Workers https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/after-serving-as-essential-workers-during-covid-19-black-cat-wear-parts-cruelly-locks-out-canadian-workers Tue, 23 Jun 2020 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/after-serving-as-essential-workers-during-covid-19-black-cat-wear-parts-cruelly-locks-out-canadian-workers Selkirk, Man. – Following months of praising its workers as “essential” during the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Cat Wear Parts has locked out its Selkirk workers.

Over 60 Canadian workers, members of United Steelworkers Local 9074-12, have been locked out of the Selkirk plant by their employer as of midnight June 19, completely upending the lives of these essential workers and their families.

Recognizing the economic uncertainty presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the union went so far as to offer a two-year contract with a complete wage freeze. However, that was dismissed by the company. Owned by the Alberta-based Buxton family, Black Cat sent a lawyer to the bargaining table to deliver its mean-spirited offer and, ultimately, threw the workers on the street.

“This employer seems more interested in bringing in cheap product from its operations in China than treating its Canadian workforce with fairness and respect,” said USW Area Co-ordinator and lead negotiator, Tony Sproule. “These members worked hard through COVID-19, were praised for their efforts, only to be locked out at the first opportunity. It is a real slap in the face.”

Manitoba law allows either party to apply to end a strike or lockout after 60 days and have an arbitrator impose a one-year contract. Given that reality, the union wonders why Black Cat opted for a lockout.

“The feeling from the members is that the employer is being callous and spiteful,” emphasized Sproule.

United Steelworkers District 3 represents approximately 45,000 members across Western and Northern Canada, including 7,000 workers in Manitoba. USW is the largest, most diverse industrial union in North America.

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Workers’ Compensation System a ‘National Disgrace’: United Steelworkers https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/workers-compensation-system-a-national-disgrace-united-steelworkers Fri, 19 Jun 2020 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/workers-compensation-system-a-national-disgrace-united-steelworkers TORONTO – Canada’s provincial governments must rectify deeply entrenched, fatal flaws in the workers’ compensation system that continue to ruin lives and exacerbate the opioid crisis, the United Steelworkers (USW) says.

“A national media exposé this week has documented the disastrous human toll wrought by the failings of Canada’s workers’ compensation boards,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann.

“Sadly, these tragic revelations are not surprising to unions and others who advocate for injured workers, nor to workers and families who have been devastated by the system’s failings,” Neumann said.

“For years, unions have demanded reforms to a broken system that fuels addiction and leads to ruined lives, fatal overdoses and suicides,” he added. “Those demands have largely been ignored. It’s time for provincial governments to take meaningful action to tackle this national disgrace.”

A report in the Globe and Mail newspaper has linked systemic flaws in the workers’ compensation system to countless addictions that have exacerbated the opioid crisis, which has become a public health emergency in Canada.

The report documented systemic issues that have long been decried by unions and other workers’ advocates:

  • Injured workers are often forced back to work – within days of getting hurt, in many cases – before they have healed or received medical treatment and procedures they need, often contradicting the opinions of attending medical professionals.
  • Injured workers are often prescribed opioids – covered by the compensation board – to cope with their pain and many have become addicted. Workers who have been forced back to work, then had their benefits cut, have resorted to cheap street drugs, with deadly consequences.
  • Recommended treatments and surgeries for many injured workers are denied, limited, or delayed, sometimes for years.

“These are not new issues. Compensation boards use what they call ‘early and safe return to work’ to get injured workers back to work and cut off their benefits. In practice, the ‘early’ part of the equation takes precedence over the ‘safe’ aspect,” Neumann said.

“Often the only way an injured worker can cope after being forced back to work is by being heavily medicated on opioids. These drugs mask the pain and can lead to further injury, addiction and worse.”

The USW is calling on provincial governments across Canada to mandate immediate reforms to their workers’ compensation boards, including:

  • Greater acceptance of the opinions of workers’ attending medical practitioners, particularly regarding suitability to return to work and treatment regimes.
  • End the practice of sending injured workers back to work while they are still being treated with drugs such as opioids.
  • Compensation boards must consider alternative methods of pain management aside from drugs, including extended physiotherapy and psychological care such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Compensation boards must ensure better contact with workers who have been placed on drug treatment programs, as well as with their attending medical practitioners. Greater supports must be put in place for injured workers experiencing addiction and mental health issues.
  • Prioritize and expedite the claims process and the approval process for treatments and surgeries.
  • Compensation boards must be required to track and publish data on addiction cases as well as fatalities resulting from workplace injuries and related addictions.

“Immediate reforms are needed, otherwise the workers’ compensation system will continue to devalue workers’ health and workers’ lives,” Neumann said. “This national disgrace must end.”

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Even Richer Than You Think – Time for Liberals to Act on Growing Inequality, Says Steelworkers Union https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/even-richer-than-you-think-time-for-liberals-to-act-on-growing-inequality Fri, 19 Jun 2020 09:30:25 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/even-richer-than-you-think-time-for-liberals-to-act-on-growing-inequality TORONTO – The United Steelworkers (USW) union is calling on the Trudeau government to take action on Canada’s growing inequality, following a report that shows the rich hold a larger share of wealth than previously thought.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer’s (PBO’s) report, Estimating the Top Tail of the Family Wealth Distribution in Canada, exposes the disparity between the rich and the rest of us is even more extreme than previously known.

The report reveals that the top 1% in Canada hold a quarter – 25.6% – of all of our country’s wealth. That is a 12% higher concentration of wealth in the hands of the few from previous estimates, due to a new PBO method of estimating family wealth in Canada.

“Growing inequality is holding Canada back. The PBO report shows it’s even worse than we thought. It’s not a done deal that the rich get richer and the rest of us get left behind. There are things the government can do to tackle growing inequality. This report is a call to action,” said Ken Neumann USW National Director.

“This is an outrageous imbalance,” said Neumann. “The richest, wealthiest families in Canada are holding more than $3 trillion, which is a quarter of the worth of the whole country. This is out of whack. Let’s heed this warning.”

“The government can act and make things more fair. For starters, tax the rich and make it easier for workers to join or form a union,” said Neumann.

In the last federal election, the NDP proposed a wealth tax of 1% on wealth over $20 million. It was the exercise of costing this proposal that prompted the PBO to find a new way of estimating wealth in Canada.

The PBO estimated that the NDP’s ‘super wealth’ tax would generate over $70 billion in tax revenues over 10 years, funds that could be invested in important public services like health care for all Canadians.

Another NDP proposal that would reduce inequality is to make it easier for workers to join or form a union in their workplaces.

“We know that workers that are members of a union have higher wages, better benefits and more pay transparency than non-union workers,” said Neumann. “If more workers had the benefit of union membership, we would be on the road to reducing inequality in this country.”

The federal Liberals have broken multiple promises on closing the gap on inequality. The Liberals profess to care about the middle class, but once in government, they watered down tax reform, delayed changes to taxing stock options, and their very first act upon re-election was an income tax cut that actually gave a bigger break to those at the top.

“In our current moment, when we are resolving to address systemic anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in our society, and when the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed gaping holes in public health and our social safety net, there is momentum and public support for bold action to reduce inequality in Canada,” said Neumann.

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Pandemic Pay for Security Guards: We’re Waiting! https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/pandemic-pay-for-security-guards-were-waiting Wed, 17 Jun 2020 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/pandemic-pay-for-security-guards-were-waiting MONTREAL – As the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be drawing to a close, Quebec Steelworkers are asking the province’s Labour minister to respond to widespread demands for pandemic pay for security guards.

“Security guards have had the delicate task of enforcing changing health directives, sometimes risking their health and the health of their families,” said Steelworkers’ Quebec Director Dominic Lemieux.

“Calls for a pandemic premium for security guards have gone unanswered for more than 10 weeks now. The government, which has the power to order security companies to implement such a premium, must make its decision,” Lemieux said.

The decree system for collective agreements in some sectors of the Quebec economy, including the security sector, allows the government to mandate industry-wide conditions – such as pandemic pay – for all workers.

The Steelworkers union initially requested that security companies, which have enjoyed increased business and revenues during the pandemic, voluntarily provide a wage premium to their front-line employees.

In early June, a petition advocating for pandemic pay for security guards, signed by more than 5,200 Quebecers, was submitted to the National Assembly.

“We know that the security companies have been able to obtain more lucrative contracts because of the pandemic,” noted Patrick Pellerin, President of Steelworkers Local 8922, which represents security guards across Quebec.

“The Quebec government has the power to demand that these increased revenues be shared with security guards who are on the front line, providing essential services in difficult  circumstances. The least the government can do is act on our request,” Pellerin said.

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Federal Prison Chaplains Apply for Conciliation in First-Contract Negotiations https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/federal-prison-chaplains-apply-for-conciliation-in-first-contract-negotiations Thu, 11 Jun 2020 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/federal-prison-chaplains-apply-for-conciliation-in-first-contract-negotiations TORONTO – Chaplains providing spiritual care in Canadian federal prisons have taken the unusual step of applying for conciliation in their attempt to negotiate a first collective agreement with their employer.

The United Steelworkers union (USW) represents approximately 180 chaplains, from a variety of faiths and spiritual practices, who provide spiritual care to inmates in Correctional Services Canada (CSC) prisons. Since 2012, the federal government has outsourced the management of chaplaincy services to the private sector. Bridges of Canada, a subsidiary of Florida-based Bridges International, obtained the CSC contract in 2016. 

Prison chaplains in B.C. and Ontario voted to join the USW in 2019. A national USW bargaining unit for chaplains was established soon after. Negotiations for a first collective agreement with Bridges of Canada began in February 2020.  

In March, Bridges laid off all federal chaplains in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, at the direction of CSC. Chaplains have been forced to turn to government assistance programs for income support as a result.

Chaplains assert that the actions of CSC and Bridges have led to undue suffering and rising tensions within federal prisons. The right of prisoners to practise their religion is guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

“I can’t imagine a more stressful time for the incarcerated than right now,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann.

“If Canadians are feeling ‘imprisoned’ at home during the pandemic, imagine the mental and spiritual state of prisoners in conditions that don’t allow for physical distancing or visits from loved ones,” Neumann said.

“The current situation reflects a chaplaincy model that has been broken for some time,” said USW Representative Troy Lundblad. “It denies the important contributions chaplains make to the process of rehabilitation. This amounts to abandoning a stated goal of modern incarceration.”

Federal chaplains are employed on a contract basis and have not seen improvements to wages and working conditions since at least 2016, when Bridges obtained the CSC contract. 

Chaplains are concerned about the future of chaplaincy in Canada’s prisons and the correctional system’s ability to attract and retain qualified and engaged chaplains.

“The precarious employment status of chaplains severely impacts the ability to build trust with prisoners and to be effective in bringing comfort to men and women with otherwise little spiritual resources,” said Lundblad.

“Chaplains are simply asking to be recognized for their role in the correctional system and for improved working conditions in line with other federal employees.”

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Steelworkers Locals at Teck Committed to Building Solidarity and Delivering for our Members https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/steelworkers-locals-at-teck-committed-to-building-solidarity-and-delivering-for-our-members Wed, 10 Jun 2020 17:59:42 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/steelworkers-locals-at-teck-committed-to-building-solidarity-and-delivering-for-our-members Today United Steelworker (USW) Local Unions that represent workers at five separate Teck Resources smelter and mining operations in BC met together virtually with USW District 3 Director Stephen Hunt to discuss how we build solidarity to support each other and deliver for our members.  Together Locals 480 and 9705 at the Trail smelter, Local 7619 at Highland Valley Copper, Local 7884 at Fording River and Local 9346 at Coal Mountain and Elkview, represent approximately 5,000 workers in BC’s mining and industrial sectors.

The union leadership discussed the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, our response-to-date and how we share best practices across our Locals.  They also recognized the important and invaluable work of our Health and Safety Committees to ensure appropriate measures are continued to be taken to protect our members’ health. While the Local Unions, all in BC’s Interior, recognized the province’s success at reducing cases in the region, they stressed the importance of employers and workers remaining vigilant about physical distancing as we all learn more about this virus impact and spread.

Local union leaders also discussed the provincial government’s ongoing Health and Safety, Code Review, the risks of self-regulation in autonomous hauling, and how we identify, investigate and limit dangerous occurrences at all of our operations.

Steelworkers also discussed the next bargaining cycle, which begins this fall for members at Local 9346 at Elkview.   While the near future of commodity prices is uncertain, Steelworkers know the long-term importance of the resources they mine and refine to BC’s export economy and the value of maintaining good-paying jobs.  In the last bargaining cycle, Steelworkers secured gains at each site without a labour disruption.

Locals as well talked about the importance of mining and resource jobs to the province of BC and their members’ families.  They committed to working together to support the extension of current mine life and ensure safe, sustainable jobs for the future of their region.

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Steelworkers Humanity Fund Provides $37,690 to Support Workers Affected by COVID-19 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/steelworkers-humanity-fund-provides-37690-to-support-workers-affected-by-covid-19 Fri, 05 Jun 2020 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/steelworkers-humanity-fund-provides-37690-to-support-workers-affected-by-covid-19 TORONTO – The Steelworkers Humanity Fund (SHF) has contributed close to $38,000 to five organizations to address the emergency needs of workers and communities affected by COVID-19 in Guatemala, Peru, Liberia and Zimbabwe.

The funding, allocated in May, comes from the contributions of United Steelworkers (USW) members to the Steelworkers Humanity Fund. It will help overcome some of the most-pressing challenges of the pandemic, especially for informal workers, in regions where the SHF maintains regular partnerships.

In Guatemala, ASDENA will help poor peasant families in the Chimaltenango area survive the isolation period by distributing food baskets. It will also organize information sessions about the impact of COVID-19 and coordinate awareness-raising activities around the governmental lockdown measures.

In the country’s capital, CAFNIMA has been supporting the families of informal recycling workers in the municipal landfill for many years. The lockdown having reduced their access to their livelihood, CAFNIMA will support 400 families with food rations for the duration of the crisis, as well as a safe daycare option for children of parents who have no choice but to go to work.

In Peru, the SHF has partnered with Asociación Quisca to provide resources to a community radio station to broadcast public health information on COVID-19 in the Amazon, as well as to human rights groups that are documenting the dire situation of the Kukama Indigenous people.

Camp for Peace Liberia, also a long-time SHF partner, received additional funds to support unexpected expenses for its farmers’ school, as many of its students could not travel home during the lockdown. Funds will also support marginalized groups living on the fringes of the country’s capital that have been made even more vulnerable in the current context.

Finally, in a country with already dismal labour standards, SHF will support the work of the Zimbabwe Labour Centre as it develops digital educational materials on workers’ health, employment rights and fair wages in the context of the pandemic, as well as online workshops expected to reach 1,000 workers across the country.

“Not only will this support reach some of the most-vulnerable pockets of populations around the world, it will also help these local organizations show their value and relevance for working people,” said Ken Neumann, USW National Director and President of the Steelworkers Humanity Fund.

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 members contribute to the fund through clauses negotiated into collective agreements. In some cases employers make matching contributions.

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Steelworkers Call for Health and Safety Reforms Following Report into Worker’s Death https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/steelworkers-call-for-health-and-safety-reforms-following-report-into-workers-death Thu, 28 May 2020 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/steelworkers-call-for-health-and-safety-reforms-following-report-into-workers-death TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Que. – The United Steelworkers union (Syndicat des Métallos) is reiterating its call for legislative reforms to implement prevention mechanisms in all  workplaces, following a government report into a worker’s death at a manufacturing plant in Trois-Rivières.

Quebec’s workplace health and safety agency, the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST), this week released a report following its investigation into the death of Daniel Moreau, who was killed at the Margarine Thibault plant on Oct. 5, 2019.

Among the causes of the fatality, the CNESST report cites poor management of inspection and maintenance procedures regarding the power supply of a motorized pumping system, which compromised worker safety.

The CNESST investigation reinforces the longstanding need for legislative reforms to implement mandatory prevention mechanisms  in all workplaces, the Steelworkers union says.

“One fatality is one too many. It’s important to learn from this to improve health and safety in the plant for the future. The CNESST recommendations are important and we will work internally with the employer to ensure they are implemented,” said union representative Luc Laberge.

The Steelworkers union is renewing its call for stronger prevention mechanisms in all workplaces, particularly by enforcing joint workplace health and safety committees and worker-designated  safety representatives.

“In a workplace that has such prevention programs and measures in place, there is a constant review of ways to improve the health and safety of workers. We know that prevention is much more effective when workers are involved and when that involvement is required by law. A workplace like Margarine Thibault would benefit from being subject to prevention mechanisms under the Act Respecting Occupational Health and Safety,” Laberge said.

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

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Steel Dumping Investigations Must Proceed Without Delay: Steelworkers https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/steel-dumping-investigations-must-proceed-without-delay-steelworkers Thu, 28 May 2020 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/steel-dumping-investigations-must-proceed-without-delay-steelworkers OTTAWA – The United Steelworkers union (USW) will take an active role in investigations being launched by Canadian authorities into illegal dumping of foreign steel into Canada by several countries.

“Our union will continue to aggressively defend the jobs of steelworkers across Canada who for too long have been harmed by steel imports dumped into our country and sold at unprofitable, below-market prices,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann.

“Over the last two years, after our union won the right to participate in such trade cases, the majority of rulings have gone in our favour, helping to push back against illegal dumping of foreign steel and aluminum products,” Neumann added.

The Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) is launching a preliminary inquiry into the potential damage to Canadian workers and producers of alleged dumping of hot-rolled heavy steel plate and high-strength low-alloy steel plate from Taiwan, Germany, South Korea, Malaysia and Turkey. If the CITT’s inquiry confirms steel dumping by the identified foreign producers, it can impose duties for an initial period of five years.

The CITT decided to launch an inquiry as the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) simultaneously investigates the alleged dumping by the five countries. The investigation followed a dumping complaint by Algoma Steel of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., where workers are represented by the USW.

“Our members know better than anyone the damage that unfair and predatory trade practices have caused for working families and communities in our country,” said Marty Warren, Ontario Director of the USW, which represents workers at Algoma.

“Too many jobs have been lost due to foreign steel dumping. As we struggle to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, we will fight back against further threats to our domestic steel industry,” Warren said.

Local union leaders representing Algoma Steel employees are expected to present evidence during the CITT inquiry. Algoma already has announced layoffs due to the market impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Workers and their families are already suffering during this crisis. We can’t allow illegal dumping to threaten more jobs in our community,” said Mike Da Prat, President of USW Local 2251, representing production and maintenance workers at Algoma.

“It will be a disaster for Steelworkers in Sault St. Marie and for workers across Canada if, in addition to the pandemic, our steel industry also is hit with a surge of dumped foreign imports,” said Rebecca McCracken, President of USW Local 2724, representing office, technical and professional staff at Algoma.

Given that Canada may be increasingly targeted by foreign dumping due to contracting global demand, it is critical that the CBSA investigation and the CITT inquiry proceed without delay, Neumann said.

“We know that foreign producers and importers are looking at the Canadian steel market as a destination for dumped steel products like heavy plate,” Neumann said.

“The Government of Canada must ensure that the CBSA continues to do prompt investigations during the pandemic and the CITT must continue to meet its statutory deadlines so that that the Canadian market is protected from unfairly traded goods.”

USW International President Thomas M. Conway said Steelworkers in Canada and the U.S. are leading the battle for fair trade and to preserve manufacturing and middle-class jobs in both countries.

“This fight is fundamental to our economies and to our way of life. Canadian and American Steelworkers can compete with anyone in the world if we’re on a fair playing field. So we are demanding that our governments sanction the bad actors and defend our workers and our domestic industries to ensure they remain on a long-term, sustainable course,” Conway said.

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Steelworkers Union Praises NDP Victory in Securing Paid Sick Leave Commitment https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/steelworkers-union-praises-ndp-victory-in-securing-paid-sick-leave-commitment Mon, 25 May 2020 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/steelworkers-union-praises-ndp-victory-in-securing-paid-sick-leave-commitment TORONTO – The United Steelworkers (USW) union is praising the New Democratic Party for securing a commitment from the federal government to ensure two weeks of paid sick leave for workers across Canada.

“For months our union and other groups have been urging the federal government to provide guaranteed, paid sick leave, as well as other support and protections to workers in these challenging times,” said Ken Neumann, USW National Director.

“The commitment secured today by the federal NDP, to ensure two weeks of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, is overdue and welcomed,” Neumann said.

“It is now incumbent on the federal government to do everything in its power to make good on this commitment and quickly bring all provinces and territories on board to ensure paid sick leave for all workers in our country,” he added.

“With so many workers putting their health and safety on the line very day, greater support from government is essential to limit the spread of the virus,” Neumann said.

“For too long, far too many workers have had little or no access to paid sick leave. All workers must be assured that they will not have to worry about economic hardship if they need to take time away from work to stop the spread of the virus.”

The USW continues to advocate for further government measures and for long-term reforms to government programs to support workers and to strengthen Canada’s economy post-pandemic.

The union is calling for reforms to Employment Insurance and other income supports; regulations on banks, credit card companies and financial institutions; long-term care for the elderly; universal public pharmacare and child-care programs; and a national industrial strategy.

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Quebec Steelworkers Join with Employer to Support Local Food Bank https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/quebec-steelworkers-join-with-employer-to-support-local-food-bank Fri, 22 May 2020 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/quebec-steelworkers-join-with-employer-to-support-local-food-bank REPENTIGNY, Que. – USW members working at the General Dynamics manufacturing plant in Repentigny joined forces with their employer to make a sizeable donation to help families in need in their community.

Members of Steelworkers Locals 9238 and 9421, along with the company, contributed $10,000 to the Fin à la faim (End Hunger) food bank. The USW locals and the company each contributed $3,000, with another $1,000 raised through online donations and cash from workers through “passing the hat” on the shop floor.

“We’re fortunate to be able to continue working and earn a paycheque. But we know the situation is very difficult economically for many of our fellow citizens,” said Eric Blais, President of USW Local 9238, representing some 550 production, security and operations workers at General Dynamics.

“It’s important for us to support the community when so many are going through very tough times,” Blais said.

“In times like these, we all have to stick together,” said Daniel Meilleur, President of USW Local 9421, which represents office staff at the General Dynamics facilities.

“In addition to the funds we raised each month within our respective locals, we passed the hat among our members and many stepped up again to contribute in cash and through online donations,” Meilleur added.

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Feds Must Rescind Punitive Income Restrictions for Thousands of Canadians: Steelworkers https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/feds-must-rescind-punitive-income-restrictions-for-thousands-of-canadians-steelworkers Thu, 21 May 2020 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/feds-must-rescind-punitive-income-restrictions-for-thousands-of-canadians-steelworkers OTTAWA – The United Steelworkers (USW) and unions across Canada are demanding that the federal government rescind its punitive ban on unemployed workers receiving supplemental payments from employers during the pandemic.

For decades, tens of thousands of Canadian workers have negotiated, as part of their collective agreements with employers, so-called supplementary unemployment benefits (SUB). Employers pay supplementary benefits as a partial top-up to Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, to help minimize a drastic income reduction for laid-off workers. In some cases, SUB plans also preserve workers’ health and other benefits.

However, the federal government has decided that, during the pandemic, it will restrict these longstanding supplements to EI benefits, and further, that workers must apply for the new CERB benefit, rather than EI. The decision adds insult to injury for many laid-off workers, given that the CERB pays $500 a week while EI would provide up to $573 weekly – meaning a further income loss of nearly $300 a month.

“The government’s new, misguided position serves no purpose, other than denying workers much-needed income that they have negotiated with their employers and that they have previously received during periods of temporary layoff,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann.

“These supplementary benefits are vital to working families who are struggling to pay the bills. They are not handouts. They are benefits negotiated by workers and paid by employers – there is no cost to government. In fact, these benefits are taxable, so they actually generate additional revenue for governments,” Neumann said.

The federal government’s position is perplexing and frustrating for workers, said USW Ontario Director Marty Warren. Some workers actually saw their SUB payments authorized by the government last month, only to see the approval rescinded, Warren noted.

“At the University of Guelph, a SUB plan negotiated by the university and 850 employees, members of the USW, was approved by Service Canada in April,” he said.

“Unfortunately, what has transpired since can only be described as puzzling. Human Resources and Development Canada stepped in and mandated that any claim for unemployment – for whatever reason – would be channeled through the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit. The net result was that a plan duly and properly negotiated with one arm of the federal government was effectively neutered by another,” he added.

“As a result, the University of Guelph employees, like thousands of others across Canada, are being denied a negotiated and badly needed income top-up during these extraordinary times,” Warren said.

USW and unions across the country, as well as the federal New Democratic Party, are calling on the Liberal government to do the right thing and fully restore authorization for SUB plans negotiated by workers and their employers.

Neumann appealed directly to MPs during an appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance on May 5.

“Many Steelworkers members have bargained supplementary unemployment benefits. Indeed, the government has encouraged us to negotiate such benefits and it is unacceptable that the CERB does not have specific regulations to permit the payment of SUB benefits during this crisis,” Neumann told the committee.

“We strongly recommend a clarification of the rules to allow SUB payments without penalty under CERB. During this crisis, workers must be able to maintain their income. SUB benefits are important for this part of the equation.”

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Simple ‘Review’ of Long-Term Care an Injustice to Victims of Deadly Crisis: Steelworkers https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/simple-review-of-long-term-care-an-injustice-to-victims-of-deadly-crisis-steelworkers Tue, 19 May 2020 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/simple-review-of-long-term-care-an-injustice-to-victims-of-deadly-crisis-steelworkers TORONTO – The Ontario government’s rejection of a public inquiry into the unprecedented, deadly crisis in the province’s long-term care system is an injustice to the victims and their families, the United Steelworkers (USW) union says.

The USW, which represents employees at several long-term care facilities in Ontario, today called on Premier Doug Ford and his government to reconsider their decision and establish a public inquiry.

“Appointing a commission to simply ‘review the long-term care system' is an injustice to the grieving families and to all residents and workers who continue to be affected by this crisis and the failings of a system that has harmed so many, for so long,” USW Ontario Director Marty Warren said in a letter to Ford, delivered today.

“Unlike a public inquiry, the proposed review of the system will remain under the control of the government. Ultimately, the government will be able to exercise control over the facts, information and evidence that will be explored, scrutinized and released to the public,” Warren said.

The magnitude of the tragedy in the long-term care system warrants nothing less than a public inquiry, Warren said in his letter to Ford.

“As you well know Premier, public inquiries have been held into many crises in our province and our country that pale in comparison to the devastating human toll that Ontario’s long-term care crisis has wreaked.

“Premier, how is a public inquiry not justified in light of the unprecedented tragedies that have struck our long-term care system? How is a public inquiry not justified when more than 1,400 residents have died and thousands more residents and workers have been infected with COVID-19?”

In contrast to the government’s proposed review of the long-term care system, “a public inquiry is truly independent of government and protected from any interference or influence of any party,” Warren said.

“Only a public inquiry has the power to compel testimony and the production of documents and other evidence. Critically, a public inquiry allows for the broadest-possible public participation, through a transparent, public process.”

Warren also debunked the government’s assertion that a public inquiry would take too long to find solutions to problems in the long-term care system.

“It is important to dismiss the false narrative that a public inquiry will be too time-consuming in identifying and addressing the failings in the long-term care system. As the Official Opposition has pointed out, a public inquiry can be empowered to recommend immediate action, at any time during the process, to address such issues,” he said in his letter.

“Only a public inquiry will bring meaningful, lasting improvements to the level of care and safety, indeed the very quality of life, that are deserved by all residents in Ontario’s long-term care system,” he added.

“Only a public inquiry will restore the confidence of the people of Ontario in our long-term care system.”

Read District 6 Director Marty Warren’s May 19, 2020, letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford
Read Marty Warren’s May 15, 2020, letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford
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Planned EI Changes Must Extend to Tourism, Hotel and Restaurant Workers, USW Says https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/planned-ei-changes-must-extend-to-tourism-hotel-and-restaurant-workers-usw-says Fri, 15 May 2020 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/planned-ei-changes-must-extend-to-tourism-hotel-and-restaurant-workers-usw-says MONTREAL – New federal support for fisheries workers, including greater access to Employment Insurance benefits, must also be available to tourism, hotel and restaurant workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Steelworkers (USW) says.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new supports that include changing Employment Insurance rules so that fish harvesters, whose seasonal incomes will be affected by the pandemic, can apply for EI benefits based on their earnings from previous years.

The USW, which represents thousands of workers in the tourism, hotel and restaurant sector, is calling for such supports to be extended to these workers, whose livelihoods also are at risk due to the pandemic.

Guy Gendron, President of USW/Syndicat des Métallos Local 9400, representing 4,000 workers in the tourism and hospitality sector in Quebec, said 90% of his members have been laid off, with the sector at a virtual standstill since the crisis began.

"This is a crisis that could affect tourism, hotels and restaurants for some time,” Gendron said. “The summer season is when many of our members accumulate the necessary hours needed for EI eligibility, allowing them to receive benefits when temporary layoffs occur during off-peak periods. This will be very difficult for many of these workers this summer.”

There is an urgent need for the federal government to address the issue of EI eligibility for workers in other sectors, in addition to the fishing industry, the USW says.

"At the moment, many of our members are receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which is scheduled to end in October. As a first step, we are asking that the program be extended,” Gendron said.

“We are also asking for a review of the eligibility criteria for workers who could not qualify for Employment Insurance this year due to the crisis. This is particularly the case for those who work in part-time or casual jobs. The government must recognize that seasonal work also is a reality in the tourism, hotel and restaurant sector," he added.

The USW/Syndicat des Métallos, affiliated with the FTQ (Quebec Federation of Labour), is the largest private-sector union in Quebec. It represents more than 60,000 workers in all economic sectors.

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Long-Term Care Workers to Protest Cuts at Maxville Manor https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/long-term-care-workers-to-protest-cuts-at-maxville-manor Thu, 14 May 2020 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/long-term-care-workers-to-protest-cuts-at-maxville-manor MEDIA ADVISORY

WHAT: Information picket about cuts to care hours

WHEN: Friday, May 15, 2020, 12:30 p.m.

WHO: Personal support workers at Maxville Manor

WHERE: 80 Mechanic Street West, Maxville, Ont.

MAXVILLE, Ont. – Representatives of 138 long-term care workers will hold an information picket on Friday, May 15, to let citizens know about the serious cuts to care hours at Maxville Manor in the village of Maxville, about 80 kilometres east of Ottawa.

Personal support workers (PSWs), members of the United Steelworkers union (USW), are concerned that cuts in hours are coming at a time when long-term care is in a crisis and vulnerable residents are at risk as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While turnover and an apparent inability to hire qualified staff are contributing to the crisis, the cuts amount to eliminating the equivalent of four full-time workers at the facility and are a violation of the workers’ collective agreement, cutting PSW hours while retaining lower-paid, less-qualified resident support assistants.

Workers participating in the information picket will wear masks and practice physical distancing, with no more than five workers on the information line at any one time.

USW represents 225,000 men and women working in every sector of Canada’s economy.

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Basic Training Would Have Saved a Life https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/simple-training-would-have-saved-a-life Mon, 11 May 2020 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2020/simple-training-would-have-saved-a-life FERMONT, Que. – The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos is raising serious concerns following a report on the investigation by Quebec’s workplace health and safety agency into a 2019 incident that killed one worker and injured another at ArcelorMittal’s Mont-Wright mine in Fermont.

On Sept. 22, 2019, welder Vincent Bigonnesse was killed and a co-worker, a mechanic, was injured in a tunnel that flooded after a power failure at the mine.

“The dangers of tunnel flooding during a general power outage have been known to the employer since 1972,” union representative Yves-Aimé Boulay said in response to the report released May 7 by the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST).

“In the last 10 years, five of these outages have flooded the concentrator tunnel, the last one being fatal,” Boulay said.

“The CNESST report indicates that the employer failed in its duty to train workers. Despite the risk that has been known for nearly 50 years, the recurrence of accidents and the employer’s lack of rigour in taking corrective measures over all these years, 25% of the workers were still not trained by the employer at the time of these events. This is unacceptable!”

According to the CNESST report, the reaction of the two workers would have been different if they had been trained by the employer on the risk of flooding.

“Training would have shown them what to do, to take refuge or to use the proper emergency exits ... one of which was locked from the outside!” said Boulay. “They would not have turned back as they did and run into the slurry that swept them away.”

Since the Westray mine explosion in Nova Scotia that killed 26 workers in 1992, the United Steelworkers has been calling for strict enforcement of the Westray Act, passed in 2004 to hold corporations, their directors and executives criminally accountable for the health and safety of workers.

In the case of Vincent Bigonnesse’s death at Fermont, the Sûreté du Québec, Quebec’s provincial police service, investigated the incident on-site before the CNESST could initiate its own investigation.

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

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