United Steelworkers Canada News Feed http://www.uswca.org/news/media-centre/releases/rss United Steelworkers Canada Releases Feed Thu, 18 Jul 2019 12:00:00 -0400 AMPS en hourly 1 Residents, Employees Benefit from United Steelworkers Settlement at Maxville Manor https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/residents-employees-benefit-from-united-steelworkers-settlement-at-maxville-manor Thu, 18 Jul 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/residents-employees-benefit-from-united-steelworkers-settlement-at-maxville-manor MAXVILLE, Ont. – United Steelworkers (USW) Ontario Director Marty Warren says long-term-care facilities are better when workers are treated with respect.

Warren said the recent collective agreement ratified by 119 unionized workers at Maxville Manor means improvements in working conditions, increased weekend premiums, pay adjustment for some job classifications and more vacation entitlement for long-service employees.

“Our members’ working conditions are also living conditions for residents in long-term care,” said Warren. “A decent contract means better employee retention and a generally healthier environment for everyone.”

Wages will increase by 4.3% over three years for the non-profit facility’s registered practical nurses (RPNs), personal support workers (PSWs), nurses’ aides, activity aides and laundry, housekeeping and food service staff.

“Our union supports a national seniors’ strategy that includes the well-being of workers in this growing sector of our society. As a society, we must address growing issues of staffing and increased levels of care,” Warren said.

“In Ontario, health care is being paid lip service by the Ford government. But the reality is a shortage of skilled long-term-care workers and a tendency toward government austerity and restraint,” he added.

“This has to stop because the future for all of us demands secure public services for older Canadians and better working conditions for care providers.”

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Trump's 'Buy America' Rules Are Harmful to Canada, But Could Have Been Avoided https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/trumps-buy-america-rules-are-harmful-to-canada-but-could-have-been-avoided Tue, 16 Jul 2019 21:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/trumps-buy-america-rules-are-harmful-to-canada-but-could-have-been-avoided TORONTO – Yesterday the Trump administration announced new 'Buy America' provisions that will restrict access by Canadian producers to the U.S. procurement market.

Donald Trump signed the executive order requiring that 75% of the value of components must be sourced in the U.S., an increase from 50%.

"Worse than that, the order demanded that 95% of all steel and iron used in U.S. public procurement must exclude Canada and be sourced from the U.S.," pointed out Ken Neumann, United Steelworkers National Director.

"This is a significant blow for the Canadian steel industry and the whole Canadian economy, and a betrayal of the close alliance and integration of our two economies," added Neumann.

This action is harmful and cannot be alleviated by a simple 'Buy Canada' response. The U.S. procurement market is more than 10 times the size of Canada's procurement market. Key Canadian industries, including steel producers, have relied on this market for years and will be greatly harmed when shut out.

It did not have to be this way.  

During NAFTA2 negotiations, Canada explicitly sought access to the U.S. government procurement market. It was a very important protection and a key part of the original Canadian positions and proposals.

However, when the U.S. resisted, Canada simply withdrew its demand. Prime Minister Trudeau agreed to NAFTA2 without any procurement agreement, just as he agreed without withdrawal of steel and aluminum tariffs.

"This was a sell-out. Such access needed to be insisted on by the Canadian government. At minimum, the previous Canadian exemption to 'Buy America' provisions should have been included," Neumann said.

Under the currently tabled NAFTA2, Chapter 13 covers procurement but it applies only to the U.S. and Mexico. Under that chapter, Mexico and the U.S. continue to have procurement opportunities consistent with original NAFTA obligations, with some modifications.

In short, the tabled NAFTA2 does not protect Canadian workers or industries against 'Buy America' rules restricting Canada from U.S. public contracts.

"This is a major failure on the part of our federal government. It is yet another reason why Canada should not ratify NAFTA2," Neumann said.

Contrary to what some may argue, the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) provides no real protection to Canadian industries and workers as many U.S. states do not participate.

Here at home, the Trudeau government also needs to do much more to ensure that Canadian procurement provides jobs to Canadian workers.

We have many examples of large federal procurement contracts that have harmed Canadian industry by using foreign steel. The recently completed Champlain Bridge in Montreal was built primarily using offshore steel. The Johnson Street Bridge in British Columbia, which opened last year, used steel and components that were sourced and manufactured in China.

"The federal government has let down Canadian workers in failing to negotiate protections to public markets. Trudeau should have built on the integrated markets and negotiated a 'Buy North America' provision. This is another reason the Steelworkers are calling on the Canadian government not to ratify NAFTA2," said Neuman

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Government of Canada turns back on communities harmed by Canadian mining overseas, loses trust of Canadian civil society https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/government-of-canada-turns-back-on-communities-harmed-by-canadian-mining-overseas-loses-trust-of-canadian-civil-society Fri, 12 Jul 2019 11:09:21 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/government-of-canada-turns-back-on-communities-harmed-by-canadian-mining-overseas-loses-trust-of-canadian-civil-society Today all fourteen civil society and labour union representatives of the government’s Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Body on Responsible Business Conduct Abroad (Advisory Body) tendered their resignations. The unanimous decision to resign is due to the erosion of trust and confidence between the organizations and the federal government in the area of international corporate accountability. 

The resigning Advisory Body members and alternate members represent: Above Ground; Amnesty International Canada; L'Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale; Canadian Council for International Cooperation; Canadian Labour Congress; Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability; Development and Peace-Caritas Canada; Inter Pares; Mining Watch Canada; United Steelworkers Union and World Vision Canada. 

In January 2018, the government publicly announced the creation of a Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) and committed to entrusting the office with the necessary tools to conduct credible independent investigations, including the power to compel documents and summon witnesses. This announcement was endorsed by civil society and labour groups, who promoted the CORE to their national and international partners. The government’s decision to backtrack on its promise in April 2019, and instead simply appoint a special advisor to the Minister of International Trade Diversification without needed investigatory powers, has amounted to a betrayal of trust, erosion of confidence and a belief the government has not acted in good faith during consultations on this topic. 

The creation of the promised independent ombudsperson office has been marred by repeated delays, over multiple years. Organizations have continued to wait for further developments over the past three months, since the April 8, 2019 announcement of an independent legal review on the CORE’s investigatory powers. Minister Carr indicated on that day that the review would be completed within 4 to 5 weeks, and made public shortly thereafter. Three months later, the study has not been made public, the CORE remains without meaningful powers to serve impacted communities and workers, and it has become clear that the government does not intend to provide the promised investigatory powers before the upcoming federal election. 

The government may commit to passing legislation to provide investigatory powers in the future. Civil society instead calls on government to make use of the credible and well-substantiated proposal to grant investigatory powers now, via the Inquiries Act, as a bridge towards legislation in the next government. This has reportedly been determined to be a feasible option by the independent legal review. The refusal to take that step now is quite simply indicative of a lack of political will to fulfill a promise and take bold action to uphold human rights. 

In this context, the organizations have lost faith in the ability of the Advisory Body to function as originally envisioned and according to its agreed upon terms of reference. 

“It was because of assurances that the CORE would have independence and real investigatory powers that we stood alongside the government in January 2018 and we promoted the announcement both nationally and internationally. Because of these commitments, I was pleased to take up the role of vice chair to the Advisory Body,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada. “The government of Canada’s decision to backtrack on those promises, despite ongoing assurances to do so over the past year, has led me to lose confidence. I will no longer be able to continue in this role.”

“Our partners around the world have suffered human rights abuses linked to Canadian companies for far too long,” said Emily Norgang, Senior Researcher, Canadian Labour Congress. “They rejoiced at the government’s 2018 promises, which had been hard-fought and long-awaited. Now they are being told that they need to wait again; that maybe an effective office might be put in place in a few years’ time. This is an unacceptable way to respond to serious human rights abuses.”

 “Without independence and investigatory powers, the CORE amounts to nothing more than a broken promise. A powerless CORE won’t serve impacted communities. In fact, it has all the hallmarks of the failed offices it is supposed to be replacing. It is like giving someone a car, but telling them that the gas tank won’t be installed for two years,” said Emily Dwyer, Coordinator, Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability. “How can civil society have any faith that law and policy reform discussions at the Advisory Body will be fruitful when the government continually bows to industry pressure and reneges on concrete commitments regarding the ombudsperson?” 

Civil society and labour members of the Advisory Body note that the only way that the government can restore trust is by replacing the CORE’s mandate by an order pursuant to the Inquiries Act, as a bridge towards legislation in the next government. 

Making use of the Inquiries Act at this time would signal to civil society and impacted communities around the world that this office can be seen as credible and that this government is taking concrete action to advance human rights, not merely talking about doing so in the future. The government’s own study will reportedly confirm that the federal government has the legal authority to do so.

 

Background

Members of the MSAB announcing plans to issue their resignations today include:

  • Michèle Asselin, L'Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale (AQOCI)
  • Emily Dwyer, Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability
  • Harry Kits, World Vision Canada
  • Alex Neve, Amnesty International Canada
  • Emily Norgang, Canadian Labour Congress
  • Doug Olthuis, United Steelworkers Union
  • Elana Wright, Development and Peace - Caritas Canada

Alternate Members of the MSAB announcing plans to issue their resignations today include:

  • Denis Coté, L'Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale
  • Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada
  • Jocelyne Dubois, Canadian Labour Congress
  • Karyn Keenan, Above Ground
  • Mark Rowlinson, United Steelworkers Union
  • Julia Sanchez, Former President CEO, Canadian Council for International Cooperation
  • Jean Symes, Inter Pares
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United Steelworkers Welcomes ‘Hot Edict’ of Western Forest Products https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/united-steelworkers-welcomes-hot-edict-of-western-forest-products Wed, 10 Jul 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/united-steelworkers-welcomes-hot-edict-of-western-forest-products BURNABY – The United Steelworkers (USW) is welcoming the announcement of a “hot edict” of Western Forest Products by the BC Federation of Labour.

Over 2,600 Steelworkers employed by Western Forest Products (WFP) on Vancouver Island are on strike to save their pensions, seniority rights and long-term disability from being cut by the company.

According to WFP’s 2017 and 2018 financial reports, the company made over $1 billion in sales and made a net profit of $74.4 million and $69.2 million respectively. In addition, the salaries of the CEO and Vice-President have steadily increased from $1.5 million in 2015 to $2 million in 2017 for the CEO, and from $500,000 in 2015 to $1.2 million in 2017 for the Vice-President. 

Despite this reality, WFP has decided to attack its own employees with attempts to introduce a two-tier pay system for new employees, elimination of the current pension plan and demands to roll back a number of other clauses of the collective agreement that were bargained and agreed to over decades.

The United Steelworkers is seeking to achieve a new agreement that ensures workers are treated with respect, share in the success of WFP and that benefits that have been successfully achieved in previous bargaining are protected.

The announcement of a “hot edict” of Western Forest Products is a significant escalation in this employer-initiated dispute. It means that all of the affiliated unions of the BC Federation of Labour will no longer handle any of WFP’s wood products. Most significantly, the refusal of maritime union workers from touching WFP’s raw log supply and finished products means that millions of the company’s products will lay dormant.

United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 will continue to fight for a fair collective agreement that respects the people who do the work that allows WFP to exist as a profitable company.

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Phase Two Unlocked: University Staff Achieve Milestone Towards New Pension Plan https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/university-staff-achieve-milestone-towards-new-pension-plan Thu, 04 Jul 2019 11:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/university-staff-achieve-milestone-towards-new-pension-plan TORONTO – University staff at three Ontario universities have reached another significant milestone towards the creation of a new defined-benefit pension, the University Pension Plan (UPP).

Members of United Steelworkers (USW) locals at the University of Toronto, the University of Guelph and Queen’s University are one step closer to improved retirement security. Voting by all participating employee groups was completed as of June 28, with consent achieved at the required threshold to begin the next phase of creating the new pension plan.

The proposed UPP is a jointly sponsored pension plan (JSPP) that includes labour groups at the three universities, including the founding USW locals and faculty associations.

The USW is the largest union at each of the universities, accounting for approximately one-third of the 18,000 people covered by the proposed UPP.

USW Locals 1998 (University of Toronto), 4120 (University of Guelph) and 2010 (Queen’s University) worked collaboratively with their respective faculty groups to initiate the new plan, which is the product of many years of collaboration, consultation and vigorous negotiations with the university administrations and other stakeholder groups.

“University staff are excited to be joining this innovative plan that will offer a secure, defined-benefit pension for current and future staff,” said Kelly J. Orser, President of USW Local 2010 representing staff at Queen’s University.

Employee groups represented by multiple unions and faculty associations gain joint governance over the new plan, a key aspect that was missing in the previous arrangement of separate pension plans at each university.

“We worked together constructively to reach this goal. Gaining consent means we can now move forward with confidence into the next phase of this groundbreaking project,” said Liz Cherry, President of USW Local 4120 representing staff at the University of Guelph.

“We are excited to reach this milestone. Now we can call it official and move forward to the stage of building this new pension plan,” said Colleen Burke, President of USW Local 1998 representing staff at the University of Toronto.

The next phase of transferring five existing pension plans into the JSPP involves technical steps, obtaining additional approvals from university governing boards and applying to register the UPP with the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA). 

The goal is to have the new UPP operational by July 1, 2021.

Staff at other universities will be able to join the UPP once it is established. As it grows, the UPP will create a larger pool for investing. Pension costs and risks will be spread out over a larger number of members.

“We remain committed to the creation of a defined benefit pension plan that will provide dependable retirement income for workers in the university sector,” said Alex McKinnon, USW Research Department Leader.

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ABI Lockout Ends https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/abi-lockout-ends Tue, 02 Jul 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/abi-lockout-ends TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Que. – At a general membership meeting today in Trois-Rivières, workers at Aluminerie de Bécancour Inc. (ABI) voted by a 79.8% majority to ratify the employer’s latest contract offer, bringing an end to one of the longest private-sector labour disputes in Quebec history.

“I am proud of each and every one of the workers, of the struggle they have waged – with the support of more than 500 union organizations across Quebec – to preserve jobs and to defend basic principles such as seniority and their working conditions,” said Clément Masse, President of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9700.

“The resistance and the resilience of our members and the solidarity of union members across Quebec made it possible to regain ground compared to the company’s last offer in March and compared to the proposed settlement put forward by Labour Minister Jean Boulet which in some respects was worse than the company offer,” Masse noted.

“Seniority rights are respected in this agreement and the employer will no longer be able to offer positions to people outside the plant without first offering them to union members,” he said.

Improvements also were made to a return-to-work protocol, allowing all union members to return to their jobs within an eight-month period, compared to the company’s previous proposal which could have extended the return period to several years, during which union rights would have been suspended. An employer grievance demanding a $19-million settlement from the union also has been dropped.

The 1,030 workers at the ABI aluminum smelter were locked out of their jobs in January 2018. ABI is co-owned by multinational giants Alcoa, which holds a 75% stake and Rio Tinto, which holds the remaining 25%.

Union leaders condemned the company's resistance to engage in meaningful, constructive negotiations throughout the 18-month lockout.

“Certainly, we would have preferred a negotiated settlement, which would have created a better working environment as workers return to their jobs. One thing is certain, if Alcoa was trying to break the union and its members, it failed. The employer will see workers returning to the plant with their rights, dignity and solidarity intact,” Masse said.

Low aluminum prices, which made the smelter’s restart less attractive, were among several factors linked to ABI’s willingness to prolong the lockout, the union says.

Above all, however, was the hydroelectricity contract between ABI and the Quebec government’s public utility, Hydro-Québec, that allowed ABI to classify its lockout of employees as a ‘force majeure,’ or Act of God. The force majeure clause absolved ABI of its electricity-purchasing commitments with Hydro-Québec while also depriving Quebecers of huge hydro revenues.

“If Alcoa and Rio Tinto had to pay for the entire block of electricity in the contract, there might not even have been a lockout. Certainly, the dispute would not have lasted this long,” said USW Quebec Director Alain Croteau, who noted there were only two key unresolved issues between the parties when ABI opted to lock out its employees in 2018

Croteau also denounced Quebec Premier François Legault’s blatant bias and interference in the negotiations, which emboldened the company in its agenda of refusing to engage in meaningful negotiations.

“The role played by the Premier is disappointing. While he pledged support for workers during the last election campaign, his statements in recent months reinforced the company’s refusal to negotiate and contributed to prolonging this dispute. He is aware of the loss of good jobs in the region,” Croteau said.

“We will have to review these infamous electricity contracts – which the Premier once derided as ‘junior stuff’ – to ensure that Quebecers receive better economic benefits in exchange for the favourable hydro rates that are given to aluminum smelters. Quebecers must never again have to pay the bill when multinationals decide to lock out their workers.”

Dominic Lemieux, Assistant to the Steelworkers’ Quebec Director, praised the extraordinary solidarity shown by workers and unions of all stripes across Quebec.

“The union members at ABI will be moving forward from this long and difficult dispute with their heads held high. You can’t win every battle you fight, but you certainly will lose the battles that you don’t fight. In this case, the workers stood shoulder to shoulder and fought long and hard. The result is not what they would have liked, but it is better than what the employer tried to force down their throats. Employers will think twice in the future about imposing lockouts and depriving themselves of income,” Lemieux said.

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

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Westray Lessons Still Not Learned in Nova Scotia: Steelworkers’ Director Marty Warren https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/westray-lessons-still-not-learned-in-nova-scotia-steelworkers-director-marty-warren Wed, 26 Jun 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/westray-lessons-still-not-learned-in-nova-scotia-steelworkers-director-marty-warren TORONTO – United Steelworkers (USW) Ontario/Atlantic Director Marty Warren said Wednesday’s CBC story on the non-reporting of workplace fatalities in Nova Scotia brings back memories of May 1992 and the Westray Mine disaster. 

“In the subsequent inquiry, the Department of Labour and its incompetent inspections were part of the reason Justice Peter Richard called for changes to the Criminal Code of Canada,” said Warren.

“The lessons of Westray are lost when the province’s executive director of occupational health and safety can say with a straight fact that there is little value in informing the public of workplace fatalities. This is a shocking attitude and does nothing toward preventing the potential of dying on the job,” Warren added.

“No one, especially family members, should have to resort to filing a freedom-of-information request to find out the details of a loved one’s death.”

Warren said enforcing the 2004 Criminal Code amendments, known as the Westray Law, has been a preoccupation of the union over the last several years, including developing protocols for making sure that the scene of a workplace fatality is fully investigated by police for possible criminality. The union also calls for greater co-ordination among regulators, police and Crown attorneys.

“This cannot happen in an information vacuum,” he said, adding that Nova Scotia has made some progress in terms of training and appointing a special prosecutor dedicated to workplace fatalities and safety investigation.

“This recent report is a disturbing indication that we have a long way to go to create a culture of workplace safety in Nova Scotia.”

Warren added that the CBC story brought to mind the words of Westray Inquiry Commissioner Peter Richard: “The Westray story is a complex mosaic of actions, omissions, mistakes, incompetence, apathy, cynicism, stupidity and neglect.”

For more information on the USW campaign to “Stop the Killing, Enforce the Law,” go to www.stopthekilling.ca.

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Steelworkers’ Settlement at Long-Term Care Facility Improves Conditions, Wages and Benefits https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/steelworkers-settlement-at-long-term-care-facility-improves-conditions-wages-and-benefits Mon, 10 Jun 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/steelworkers-settlement-at-long-term-care-facility-improves-conditions-wages-and-benefits COBDEN, Ont. – A United Steelworkers union (USW) settlement with a long-term-care facility in Eastern Ontario recognizes the growing issues of staffing and increased levels of care, says USW Ontario Director Marty Warren.

“Our members are experiencing more and more stress as they deal with changing workloads, increased patient acuity and government austerity, all at a time when long-term care is becoming more important to an aging and ailing population,” Warren said.

The settlement at Caressant Care Nursing and Retirement Homes in Cobden involves two collective agreements for members of USW Local 6946. The three-year agreements will see wages increase by a total of 4.5% in the nursing home and by 6% in the retirement home. The agreements cover service workers, personal support workers (PSWs), registered practical nurses (RPNs) and registered nurses (RNs).

In both contracts, there are increases in uniform allowances, vision care, weekend premiums and benefits covering such services as chiropractors, psychologists and others. Employees will also be able to be paid for 50% of unused sick leave. For the first time, there is a provision for time off for employees to deal with domestic violence. There also are improvements in contract language.

“In short, this settlement is a step forward for these 138 members of our union,” said Warren. “At the same time, however, due to government austerity and the consequent restraint practised by boards of arbitration, wage increases tend to be below the rate of inflation.

“That needs to change as long-term care generally faces a shortage of skilled workers. The future demands secure public services for older Canadians and better working conditions for care providers.”

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United Steelworkers Files Complaint with International Labour Organization Against Quebec Government https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/united-steelworkers-files-complaint-with-international-labour-organization-against-quebec-government Mon, 10 Jun 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/united-steelworkers-files-complaint-with-international-labour-organization-against-quebec-government MONTREAL, 10 June 2019 – The Syndicat des Métallos/United Steelworkers (USW) announced today that it has filed a complaint with the International Labour Organization (ILO) against the Government of Quebec.

The USW complaint cites violations of the ILO’s Convention on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work as well as the Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy.

The USW complaint stems from Quebec Premier François Legault’s interference in negotiations in the 17-month lockout at the ABI aluminum smelter in Bécancour, Que. More than 1,000 workers, members of USW Local 9700, were locked out of their jobs in January 2018 by ABI, co-owned by aluminum giants Alcoa and Rio Tinto.

“By his statements aimed at discrediting the trade union position by repeatedly describing it as ‘unreasonable,’ the Premier came to put all his weight behind the company in a negotiation in the private sector. He took up the cause of the management party. This is contrary to international law and we are asking the International Labour Organization to take charge of the case,” said Alain Croteau, the Steelworkers’ Quebec Director.

The complaint was sent to the Committee on Freedom of Association of the ILO, the United Nations agency responsible at the global level for the development and supervision of international labour standards. The complaint refers to the many public statements made by Legault in April, May and June regarding the labour dispute that has been raging at ABI since Jan. 11, 2018.

“The Government of Quebec, through the statements of its Premier François Legault, has failed to fulfil its obligations under the ILO declarations and conventions by disseminating inaccurate information on the issues at stake in the negotiations and by officially taking a position in favour of ABI, thereby publicly discrediting the union,” explained Katherine-Sarah Larouche, of the law firm Philion, Leblanc, Beaudry.

“The Government of Quebec has thus obstructed the union's right to the free exercise of the right to organize and its right to claim freely and on the basis of equality for the working conditions for ABI's unionized employees,” Larouche said.

The complaint lists at least nine public statements by the Premier between April 1 and June 3. In his interventions, the Premier misled the public on the issues in the negotiations, decrying the “union demands,” even though the union is not making any such demands in the current negotiations and is only reacting to the employer’s demands for concessions, many of which were added only recently, several months into the lockout.

“In these negotiations, it is the employer who is making the demands, it is the employer who even added new demands several months after triggering the lockout. The union has none. From the beginning, the union has only responded to the employer’s requests for concessions, opening the door to accommodations that Alcoa still considers insufficient. The Premier knows this, but he systematically repeats that union demands are unreasonable. He is misinforming,” said Dominic Lemieux, Assistant to the Steelworkers’ Quebec Director.

Lemieux recalled that during the negotiations, the union agreed to consider a member-funded pension plan where the risk is assumed by the workers, in order to replace the current defined benefit pension plan and meet the demands of Alcoa’s shareholders.

“By agreeing with the employer and putting undue pressure on workers through public opinion, the Premier has undermined the negotiation and mediation processes. Rather than considering the union’s counter-proposal, the employer has stuck to its positions and the lockout is dragging on. Worse still, the Premier’s interference casts doubt on the government’s objectivity on the file, at the very time when the Minister of Labour was filing a proposed settlement and the union is asking for the co-operation of the authorities to enforce anti-scab legislation,” said USW Local 9700 President Clément Masse.

The lockout at ABI was triggered by Alcoa and Rio Tinto on Jan. 11, 2018, even though the union had indicated it did not intend to exercise its right to strike and that only a few issues remained outstanding at the bargaining table. The employer has since added several new demands, further reducing the prospect of a settlement. On March 11, 82% of union members rejected an employer offer which was inferior to the one made before the lockout was imposed. 

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

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USW Looks to Consult, Contribute to Solutions https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/usw-looks-to-consult-contribute-to-solutions Fri, 07 Jun 2019 10:51:13 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/usw-looks-to-consult-contribute-to-solutions Ken Neumann Statement on the MMIWG National Inquiry Final Report

On June 3, 2019, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its final report. The report draws a direct link between Canada’s historic and ongoing violation and abuse of Indigenous Peoples’ rights and the disappearances, murders and violence experienced by Indigenous women, girls and members of the Two-Spirit/LGBTQ+ community. The report includes 231 Calls for Justice designed to protect Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ+ people, put an end to the violence against them and promote their substantive equality.  

The United Steelworkers (USW) is committed to pressing for swift and effective government action, and to ensuring that its programs and practices help counter gender-based violence, in light of the final report.

“The final report honours the heart-breaking stories of grieving family members, as well as the effective responses taken by Indigenous organizations and communities to protect, heal and grow,” said Ken Neumann, USW National Director. The USW represents 225,000 members in Canada, from all nations and cultural backgrounds.

In no uncertain terms, the report states that systemic racism, colonialism and gender bias in Canada are the cause of the extreme levels of violence experienced by Indigenous women, girls and members of the Two-Spirit, LGBTQ+ community. Actions and inactions by governments have devalued Indigenous women and displaced them from key roles in community governance and leadership.

“Governments at all levels in Canada are failing to live up to their obligations under Canadian law and international agreements,” Neumann said. “The final report is blunt in saying that the problem is about the denial of rights, not unfulfilled needs.”

With a federal election looming, the inquiry’s report comes at an important time to shape the political discussion. “Steelworkers are active in the political process,” Neumann noted. “We want to consult with Indigenous women’s organizations and other allies to hear how our voice could be employed most usefully in the coming months.”

“In the meantime, we can contribute by answering the ‘Calls for Justice for All Canadians.’ And there are several Calls for Justice that touch on areas where our union is active, such as the resource and extractive industries, transportation and hospitality industries and member education,” said Neumann.

“It’s our responsibility to think carefully about how the USW can contribute to the solutions set out by the National Inquiry, including hearing from our National Women’s and Indigenous Committees.”

Read the Report

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New Training Brings Awareness on How to Address Mental Health Challenges https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/new-training-brings-awareness-on-how-to-address-mental-health-challenges Thu, 06 Jun 2019 07:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/new-training-brings-awareness-on-how-to-address-mental-health-challenges Members at Scapa Tapes in Renfrew, Ontario recently participated in a mental health training session offered and negotiated by the union. Approximately 130 members of Local 6946 took part in the half-day session, along with 20 managers and non-bargaining unit staff, on company time. 

“It’s something that all locals should try to negotiate into their contract. If we can save one person, it’s well worth it,” said Ray Caillier, USW Local 6946 president. Caillier said that already one member has come forward to get mental health support, a direct result of the training. 

The aim of the training was to raise awareness about just how common mental health issues are, signs that someone is suffering, how to address it in a workplace context, as well as support systems that are available. District 6 Health and Safety Coordinator Sylvia Boyce delivered the training. 

This is part of the broader mandate of the union to advance the cause of better mental health in workplaces and remove the stigma that affects sufferers," said staff representative Dave Lipton.  

The course was negotiated as part of the most recent collective agreement. For example collective agreement language on mental health, local unions can contact their USW staff representative.

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Steelworkers Humanity Fund Contributes $58,950 to Support Disaster Recovery Here and Abroad https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/steelworkers-humanity-fund-contributes-58950-to-support-disaster-recovery Wed, 05 Jun 2019 16:58:12 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/steelworkers-humanity-fund-contributes-58950-to-support-disaster-recovery TORONTO – The Steelworkers Humanity Fund (SHF) has contributed $58,950 to support victims of natural and human-made disasters that have deeply impacted communities across the globe in 2019.

In Canada, $10,000 was channelled through Team Rubicon to support victims of the spring floods that have affected hundreds of residents of the Ottawa River Valley in Eastern Ontario, barely two years after the 2017 historic floods.

In Northern Alberta, where forest fires led to the evacuation of the town of High Level and its surroundings, the SHF sent $10,000 to the food bank of the High Level Native Friendship Centre to support affected communities in the area.

On the international level, disaster struck heavily last March in Mozambique, where Cyclone Idai tore through the country, leaving behind 750 victims and 146,000 displaced as well as a trail of destruction. The magnitude of the damage prompted the SHF to support reconstruction efforts with a contribution of $20,450 through partner organizations on the ground: AAJC (a local human rights organization), the Mozambique-Canada Maternal Health Project and OXFAM Québec.

In Brazil, human negligence led to the collapse of a tailings dam operated by mining giant Vale in the State of Minas Gerais. This led to hundreds of deaths and the near obliteration of the community of Brumadinho. The SHF committed $18,500 to Associação Comunitaria da Jangada, a local community association to help with the basic needs of survivors.

“Whether it’s here in Canada or in other parts of the world, solidarity has no borders. This is why as Steelworkers we must do our part to give a hand in the face of disaster but also support the building of a fairer society. I’m proud that thousands of individual Steelworkers members see that and thank them again for their contributions,” said Ken Neumann, President of the Steelworkers Humanity Fund and National Director of the United Steelworkers (USW).

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.

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Ken Neumann’s statement on the occasion of June 21, National Indigenous Day https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/ken-neumann-june-21-national-indigenous-day Tue, 04 Jun 2019 13:38:38 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/ken-neumann-june-21-national-indigenous-day Our eyes are focused on Ottawa, as we prepare to celebrate National Indigenous Day on June 21.

We’re watching the Senate and the federal government to see if they will pass Bill C-262 into law, so that Canada can adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Conservative Senators have been trying to derail the bill, knowing that time is short before the next federal election.

And the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its final report in Ottawa on June 3. We are reading the detailed document, while watching for responses from the Native Women’s Association of Canada and other Indigenous organizations.

It took years of organizing by Indigenous women’s groups and by the families of the missing and murdered to get a national inquiry. These are the people whose opinions matter most, when it comes to deciding if the recommendations in “Reclaiming Power and Place” will protect Indigenous women’s rights to culture, health, security, and justice.

USW will issue a more detailed response to the national inquiry’s final report, once there has been time to read and to listen to the voices of the women and their families. But without a doubt, our union will continue to demand that political leaders make significant, fundamental changes to Canada’s laws, institutions, and culture.

Canada must live up to Article 22.2 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and “in conjunction with Indigenous peoples, ensure that Indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.”

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Community Rally to Support Brunswick Smelter Workers https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/community-rally-to-support-brunswick-smelter-workers Mon, 03 Jun 2019 14:33:44 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/community-rally-to-support-brunswick-smelter-workers BELLEDUNE, N.B. – Friends, neighbours, municipal leaders and other supporters will join locked-out Brunswick Smelter workers for a community solidarity rally in Belledune, N.B., on Tuesday, June 4.

WHO: Locked-out Brunswick Smelter workers and community supporters.

WHAT: Community solidarity rally.

WHEN: Tuesday, June 4, 2019, 2:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

WHERE: Belledune Ball Field and Recreation Centre, 2404 Main Street, Belledune. (In the event of rain, activities will be moved into the arena).

The 280 smelter workers, members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 7085, have been locked out their jobs since April 24 by multinational giant Glencore, which owns the Belledune plant.

“Our members and our families have been receiving great community support since we’ve been locked out,” said USW Local 7085 President Bart Dempsey.

“People recognize what’s at stake and that this is a fight that has been provoked by Glencore management. This rally is a way to send a message to Glencore that they should return to the bargaining table and negotiate a settlement that is fair to our families and our communities,” Dempsey said.

Tuesday’s rally will include a barbecue, music and kids’ activities, beginning at 2 p.m. at the Belledune Ball Field and Recreation Centre. Buses will bring supporters to the smelter picket line at 3 p.m. for a brief demonstration before returning to the recreation centre.

“Glencore’s lockout is bad for local families, for the community and for the company,” said Marty Warren, USW Director for Atlantic Canada and Ontario, who will be at Tuesday’s rally.

“It’s time for Glencore’s corporate leadership to demonstrate some goodwill to the community by ending the lockout and negotiating a resolution,” Warren said.

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Steelworkers Welcome New Legislation, Urge Renewed Safeguards https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/steelworkers-welcome-new-legislation-urge-renewed-safeguards Mon, 03 Jun 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/steelworkers-welcome-new-legislation-urge-renewed-safeguards OTTAWA – The United Steelworkers (USW) welcomes new legislation introduced by the federal government, with a crucial proviso that it must be accompanied by immediate measures to stabilize Canada’s steel industry from surges of foreign imports.

“Strong action to defend Canadian workers and producers from unfair trade is needed immediately as part of the government’s plan,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann.

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau today introduced legislation to temporarily remove a two-year moratorium on the imposition of safeguard measures on imports that were previously subject to safeguards.

The Liberal government decided in April to allow safeguards to expire on imports of five types of steel products, with the result that such safeguards could not be restored for two years, regardless of potential threats to Canada’s steel sector.

“We hope the legislation announced today will be passed swiftly in parliament, before the summer recess. In the meantime, Canadian workers and producers need an unequivocal commitment from the federal government that it will implement safeguards or other strong measures to defend our industry,” Neumann said.

“The government must signal that it is prepared to retroactively apply safeguards or other measures to protect Canada’s steel sector from potential surges in imports,” Neumann said.

“It must be emphasized that Canadian workers and producers are being placed at risk due to the federal government’s decision to allow safeguards to expire on several types of steel products earlier this spring,” Neumann noted.

“These safeguards or other measures must be reintroduced to stabilize Canada’s steel sector and defend Canadian workers and producers from surges in foreign imports.”

“Even with safeguards, Canada’s steel sector will face daunting challenges. Canada cannot continue as one of the few countries in the world that allows foreign steel to flood into its markets. The federal government must protect our producers and our workers.”

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Marty Warren Statement for Pride Month https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/marty-warren-statement-pride-2019 Mon, 03 Jun 2019 10:21:04 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/marty-warren-statement-pride-2019 As we embark on another Pride month, we look forward to the celebration of the LGBTQ2S+ community and the gains made toward true equality.  This year we have seen gay marriage recognized in Taiwan, and the World Health Organization remove “gender identity disorders” from its global manual of diagnosis. Here in Canada we are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality. 

District 6 continues to take steps towards equality for our LGBTQ2S+ members.  This year we have appointed the first-ever Trans Liaison to assist members through their transitions at work using the new USW Guide to transitioning at work.

June is the month to celebrate these milestones and recognize the victories of the past.  It is also a month to contemplate the struggles that are still ahead.  We need to continue to fight the stigma that often affects members of the LGBTQ2S+ community.

The United Steelworkers stands one hundred percent behind our LGBTQ2S+ members.  We continue to fight for transition leave, parental leave and strict anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies.

 

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Ken Neumann Statement for Pride Month https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/ken-neumann-statement-pride-2019 Mon, 03 Jun 2019 09:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/ken-neumann-statement-pride-2019 In June this year, Steelworkers from all across Canada join with LGBT communities to celebrate Pride Month.

As a union dedicated to social justice, we have always supported equality seeking groups in our union, our workplaces, and, in society. With specific regards to equality for LGBT communities, we applaud Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and, Newfoundland and Labrador. Since 2015, these provinces have extended their human rights laws to explicitly include “gender expression” and “gender identity” as protected grounds.

In 2017 at the federal level, Bill C-16 adds provisions for “gender expression” and “gender identity” as protected grounds. As a result, federally regulated industries, federal departments, agencies and crown corporations as well as multiple federal employers will be compelled to safeguard the rights of trans and gender-non-conforming people. 

Improvement in protections for LGBT members is also reflected within our union itself. The USW Constitution now recognizes “gender identity” as a ground of equality. This is a significant step that strengthens human rights protection to our membership.

I urge you to:

  • Take part Pride Month activities in your community
  • Elect or support a Human Rights Committee to ensure the employer’s compliance with updated human rights legislation
  • Support the NDP in continuing our fight for equality at the federal and provincial levels of government
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Sudbury Home Care Workers Locked Out by CarePartners https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/sudbury-home-care-workers-locked-out-by-carepartners Sun, 02 Jun 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/sudbury-home-care-workers-locked-out-by-carepartners SUDBURY – Home care workers in Sudbury will hold a picket line rally Monday after being locked out of their jobs by for-profit service provider CarePartners.

WHO:       Home care workers, members of United Steelworkers Local 2020, locked out
                 of their jobs by CarePartners.

WHAT:      Picket line rally and solidarity march.

WHEN:     Monday, June 3
                 Picketing, 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.
                 Solidarity march, 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m.

WHERE:  Rainbow Centre, 40 Elm Street, Sudbury

“Rather than negotiate a fair collective agreement, CarePartners is trying to bully its employees into accepting a contract that doesn’t address serious workplace concerns,” said Mike Scott, Staff Representative with the United Steelworkers, representing the locked-out employees.

USW Local 2020 represents about 30 employees at the CarePartners Sudbury office who work as home care co-ordinators and administration staff. All but one of the employees are women and their top wage, regardless of seniority, is $16.15 an hour.

The employees voted by a margin of more than 90% to reject a contract offer from CarePartners. The union was prepared to continue bargaining to reach a negotiated settlement, but the company opted to lock out its employees on Friday, going so far as changing the locks on the office doors.

“These employees co-ordinate and schedule home-care visits and services provided to clients in communities throughout northeastern Ontario. It is demanding and stressful work. Wages, sick leave and staff turnover are significant issues that need to be addressed,” said Scott.

“CarePartners is a large, for-profit company that is funded by our tax dollars. It is unacceptable that this company wants to extract more profit from public funds by putting the squeeze on a small group of women. We’re talking about single moms, students, grandmothers, women who simply want decent wages and working conditions,” Scott said.

“This is an example of the dark side of privatization in our health-care system, of large companies putting profits over people,” said Marty Warren, the USW’s Ontario Director. “Instead of bullying its employees, CarePartners should get back to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair deal.”

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United Steelworkers Welcomes Criminal Charges Against Kiewit Construction in Death of Sam Fitzpatrick https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/united-steelworkers-welcomes-criminal-charges-against-kiewit-construction-in-death-of-sam-fitzpatrick Fri, 31 May 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/united-steelworkers-welcomes-criminal-charges-against-kiewit-construction-in-death-of-sam-fitzpatrick VANCOUVER – The United Steelworkers (USW) welcomes criminal charges against Peter Kiewit Sons (Kiewit Construction) in the death of 24-year old Sam Fitzpatrick, who was killed on a Kiewit Construction site at Toba Inlet, B.C., in 2009.

Kiewit and two supervisors, Gerald Karjala and Timothy Rule, each face one count under Section 220(b) of the Criminal Code, for criminal negligence causing Sam’s death.

“Sam Fitzpatrick’s death is a textbook example of why the USW campaign is necessary,” said Stephen Hunt, USW Western Canada Director. “Sam and his 20-year-old brother Arlen were rock scalers at Kiewit Construction’s hydro project where they complained about work practices and the danger from rockfalls. Those warnings were disregarded.”

Despite a finding from the B.C. Workers’ Compensation Board that the actions of Kiewit were 'reckless’ and ‘grossly negligent,’ upon appeal the corporation only paid a $100,000 penalty.

Hunt heralded the work of Sam’s late father Brian Fitzpatrick.

“Brian was relentless in his quest for justice for Sam. He came to our union although neither he nor his son were USW members,” Hunt said. “He talked to everyone who would listen, to try and make them understand that Sam was killed by corporate negligence and deliberate actions and reckless decisions that put workers at risk, with no one held accountable. Today’s announcement of charges brings justice one step closer.”

“I didn’t feel alone anymore with the force of the USW fighting, not just for families who have lost their loved ones, but for the future of all workers who face unnecessary danger by negligent bosses,” Brian Fitzpatrick said in 2015.

“Charges such as this one point to the need for our Stop the Killing, Enforce the Law campaign to continue,” says Hunt. “As long as workers are vulnerable to the negligence of employers, this struggle goes on. 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 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 marks 27 years since that tragedy. Meanwhile, up to 1,000 workers are killed every year across Canada.

The USW campaign, along with a video featuring Brian Fitzpatrick can be found at www.stopthekilling.ca. The video also can be found on YouTube here.

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NDP Climate Plan Protects our Planet and our Jobs – Steelworkers https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/ndp-climate-plan-protects-our-planet-and-our-jobs Fri, 31 May 2019 10:27:10 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/ndp-climate-plan-protects-our-planet-and-our-jobs TORONTO – The New Democratic Party’s climate plan released today shows it’s possible to put workers at the heart of action for our climate, says the United Steelworkers (USW).

“The NDP has always been a leader with its environmental policy. Jagmeet Singh’s bold climate action and jobs plan goes even further. This plan takes real action right away for our planet, respects Indigenous rights and invests in creating good, family-supporting jobs,” said Ken Neumann, USW National Director.

The USW represents 225,000 members working in all sectors across Canada including steel and aluminum, telecommunications, post-secondary education, mining, paper and forestry, plus office, technical and service workers in health care, security, hotels and more.

Members of the USW work in energy-intensive industries and are the workers whose livelihoods are directly affected by the phase-out of coal-fired electrical generation, by the increased number and intensity of wildfires and by decisions about how to create the jobs of the future.

Our members are also involved in environmental advocacy and climate change action.

The United Steelworkers is a founder of Blue Green Canada, a coalition of labour, environmental and public policy groups that are working together on research, public awareness and lobbying efforts for sustainable jobs and environmental protection.

“This is the most comprehensive environmental platform of any of the parties,” said Neumann. “This climate plan is worker-oriented and jobs-centred. Our members want to be involved in the decision-making, and this plan specifically mentions working with labour and refers to the recommendations of the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities, that our members and our union took an active role in,” said Neumann.

Steelworkers and all workers in carbon-intensive industries know that workers can’t adjust to transformations on an individual basis. “Just transition” must take into account good jobs – union jobs – in viable communities and regions.

“The USW likes what we see in the NDP climate plan: 300,000 jobs building a clean energy future in the next four years; implementing UNDRIP, which our union has been calling for; affordable housing, significant training and employment support, beyond just Employment Insurance,” said Neumann.

“The NDP is the party that shares our union values of fighting for workers’ rights, good jobs and social justice. This climate plan is further proof that the NDP is the party for workers,” said Neumann.

Read the NDP climate plan – Power to Change: A new deal for climate action and good jobs

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