By Evan Johnston
This week: Steelworkers united in Labrador City strike, CUPE 3903 soundly defeats York University administration in forced ratification vote, Locked-out aerospace workers reject offer from D-J Composites, surveys reveal damage inflicted by Phoenix, and Casino workers in Windsor remain on strike.
Approximately 1,400 members of USW 5795 at the Rio-Tinto-owned Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) in Labrador City are in the third week of their strike.
USW 5795 members voted on Monday, March 26 to reject the employer’s final offer, which included a new two-tiered pension system and concessions on sick days. The proposed pension system would have new employees receive one-third the value of the current pension plan. And changes to sick leave, explained UFW 5795 President Ron Thomas, would have workers make up for time lost to illness by not receiving extra pay for overtime.
The union is also taking a strong stand against the unfair treatment of temporary foreign workers, the use of which the employer is proposing to reduce from 12.5% to 6%.
“When you’ve got someone coming in doing the exact same job you’re doing, working side by side, they should be able to get the exact same benefits our members fought for over the years,” said USW 5795 President Ron Thomas.
The strike has received strong support from the membership. The bargaining team previously received a strike mandate of 99.6%, and last week, members voted 92% in favour of rejecting the employer’s final offer. The bargaining team returned to the bargaining table on Friday.
You can show your support and follow their strike updates on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Usw5795
CUPE 3903 soundly defeats York University administration in forced ratification vote
Over 3,000 striking teaching assistants, graduate assistants, research assistants, and contract faculty at York University voted overwhelmingly to reject the administration’s forced ratification vote last week.
Both Unit 1 (Teaching Assistants) and Unit 2 (Contract Faculty) rejected the offer with 86% opposed, while Unit 3 (Graduate Assistants) rejected the offer with 98% opposed.
“These results send a clear message: Teaching Assistants, Contract Faculty, and Graduate Assistants at York University will not accept the same concessionary deal that they had rejected on March 2,” CUPE 3903 said in a statement posted on their website. “The employer has wasted not only weeks of our time, but also — and most importantly – weeks of students’ semester in order to avoid bargaining.
“A deal must be reached at the bargaining table, not in the media or by underhanded tactics such as waiting five weeks for a forced vote in the hopes that the cold and loss of a paycheque weakens our resolve.”
In an unusual move, the Ministry of Labour has responded by appointing an “industrial inquiry commission” to investigate the strike and produce a report for the Minister. This report is expected to take two to three weeks to produce.
The strike at York University is now entering its 6th week. Click here to send a letter to York President Rhonda Lenton, demanding that her administration return to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair deal.
Locked-out aerospace workers reject offer from D-J Composites
One of RankandFile.ca’s 2017 Scumbag of the Year nominees, Rezaul Chowdhury, is back in the news! Locked-out Aerospace workers in Gander, Newfoundland, have voted 97 per cent against the latest offer from Chowdhury’s company, D-J Composites. The 32 workers, members of Unifor 597, have now been locked out by Chowdhury for over 16 months.
“As workers we have made it clear from the beginning that we are not prepared to turn over control of our wages to the employer through a proposed pay system that creates wage uncertainty, and opens the door to potential wage cuts on an annual basis,” said Iggy Oram, Unifor Local 597 unit chair.
“In addition, the company had made clear, they intend to lay off up to a third of the workforce, but has refused to identify who would be laid off. It is ridiculous to expect a worker to cast a ballot not knowing if you will have employment under the company’s offer.”
Negotiations between Unifor 597 with D-J Composites have been difficult. The employer has been found guilty of bad faith bargaining twice — first in May 2017, and for a second time in February. However, the US-based parent company, D-J Engineering, appears to have little regard for provincial labour law. Unifor has requested the assistance of Newfoundland and Labrador premier, Dwight Ball, but he has thus far declined to respond.
Want to show your support for Unifor 597? Visit Unifor’s D-J Composites lock-out page for more details.
Surveys reveal damage inflicted by Phoenix
And finally, survey figures released this week from both the federal government and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) have revealed the extent of the Phoenix pay system’s impact on federal employees — particularly when it comes to their mental health.
The government’s Public Service Employee Survey found that 93% of those impacted by Phoenix had to spend hours of their own time trying to resolve their pay problems. Almost 50% spent days trying to get paid correctly and 14% said it has taken them 40 hours or more.
PSAC’s survey found that over 82% of PSAC members have been personally affected by a Phoenix problem, with 18% experiencing great hardship. Furthermore, 76% of PSAC members affected have experienced negative impacts to their mental health because of Phoenix issues, and 60% experienced negative impacts to their personal lives or ability to work.
“Phoenix has clearly had a devastating effect on the mental health and well-being of federal public service workers,” said PSAC National President Robyn Benson. “Employees deserve compensation for the stress and anguish Phoenix has caused for more than two years, as well as the time they have spent dealing with their pay problems.”
PSAC hopes that these results put added pressure on the government to reach a settlement with the union and all of those workers affected by Phoenix.
According to Kathryn May at IPolitics, “Unions are also waging a battle for damages on the legal front at the Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board, which is sorting through complaints and piles of grievances.”
For an expanded breakdown of PSAC’s survey results, click here.
Casino workers in Windsor remain on strike
Approximately 2,300 casino workers at Caesars Windsor remain on strike this week after rejecting the employer’s final offer last Thursday night.
Unifor 444, which represents the casino workers, says that the primary issues in dispute are wages, scheduling, and the system for handling grievances.
“A lot of what we heard was respect issues,” said Unifor 444 President James Steward. “But on top of that there was a real sense that they wanted more in terms of the financial gains. Wages were important. They were very clear that they want some of that back in this agreement.”
While support for the bargaining team has been high — members voted 98.3% in favour of a strike mandate in late March — the vote on the offer itself was much closer, with 59% voting against the three-year deal.
“There’s a lot the members liked in the tentative agreement,” said Steward, “but ultimately, there’s a lot of anger, and a feeling of a lack of respect in the workplace.”
Bargaining will resume between Unifor 444 and Caesars Windsor next week on April 18.