CP Rail workers ready to strike
The Teamsters and the IBEW have postponed their strike action at CP Railway, initially scheduled to begin today, after the Minister of Labour agreed to CP Railway’s request to order a forced vote on the employer’s latest offer.
On Tuesday, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) and the International Brotherhood of of Electrical Workers (IBEW), System Council No. 11, served 72 hours’ notice of intent to strike against the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP).
Teamsters represent approximately 3,000 conductors and locomotive engineers, who earlier this month voted 94.2% in favour of taking strike action against CP if the employer continued to push concessions at the bargaining table. IBEW members, which include 1,400 signals and communications employees throughout Canada, also voted 98.3% in favour of strike action.
CP Railway have responded by claiming that the workers are holding them “hostage,” and have said signalled their unwillingness to negotiate a fair deal. CP Railway CEO Keith Creel said that they are “prepared to live with the ‘choppiness’ of a looming strike of train conductors rather than consent to a labour deal that cripples its long-term earnings power.”
“The fact that CP feels they are being taken hostage by working-class Canadians is a reflection of their failed labour relations strategy,” said TCRC President Doug Finnson. “Rather than engaging in a public debate about CP’s failures, the Teamsters remain focused on collective bargaining and obtaining a fair contract for workers.”
The forced vote by the Ministry of Labour will take place electronically and will be conducted by the Canada Industrial Relations Boards. Both Teamsters and the IBEW strongly recommend rejecting the offer, at which point “both unions will be free to exercise their rights to strike.”
Steelworkers vs the Iron Ore Company of Canada
Workers at the Rio-Tinto-owned Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) in Labrador City voted this week to reject the company’s latest offer and return to the picket line. The union announced on Tuesday that the members of USW 5795 voted 76.5% to reject the offer.
The strike by USW 5795 (and the smaller warehouse local, USW 6731), have received a boost from the 305 member sister local in Sept Îles, Quebec — USW 9344 — who voted 94.4% in favor of rejecting the IOC’s latest offer in solidarity with their fellow workers in Labrador City. They may soon be heading to the picket line.
“The rejection votes from three of the locals proved that the offers are not good enough and it’s time to actually give all the workers what we have been asking for from the beginning which is a fair contract,” said USW 5795 President Ron Thomas. “At some point Rio Tinto needs to realize this and reward their number one resource, the workers.”
The strike is now entering its fourth week. Workers in Labrador City voted on 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.
Strike continues at York University
The strike by over 3,000 striking teaching assistants, graduate assistants, research assistants, and contract faculty at York University is entering its 7th week.
After workers voted last week to reject the employer’s latest offer in a forced ratification vote, the Ontario government appointed an “industrial inquiry commission” to investigate the strike and produce a report for the Minister of Labour. CUPE 3903 bargaining team members met with the appointed Commissioner on Sunday, where they managed to pass some reduced proposals related to Unit 2 (Contract Faculty) to the employer through the Commissioner.
However, on Friday, the union reported that “the employer has refused to participate in good faith in the Industrial Inquiry Commission’s mediation attempts,” despite the efforts made by CUPE 3903.
“This is a crisis that York has created for students, for members of CUPE 3903 on strike, and for members of the York community. We need a principled response — across the campus, the sector, and the labour movement — to say that public institutions cannot be allowed to act in this way,” said the union in a statement.
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.
Childcare workers strike in Montreal and Laval
Over 1,500 workers at 61 childcare centres (centres de la petite enfance, or CPE) in the Montreal and Laval area went on two-day strike on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, shutting down two-thirds of the early childhood centers unionized with the Syndicat des travailleuses des CPE de Montréal et Laval-CSN.
The union says that they have been without a collective agreement since March 31, 2015, and are taking strike action to express their anger and their impatience at the their employer, the Association Patronale des CPE.
“It’s going slowly,” said union president Carole Leroux. “We want things to go faster. We want to show them we are serious.”
The CBC reports that additional bargaining dates have been added from now until June. The Association Patronale des CPE have reached (or are in the process of finalizing) agreements with 46 other CPEs under their control, and the union hopes that their job action will help them to reach a deal for the remaining 61 represented by the CSN.
BC government phasing out minimum wage exemptions
And on Thursday, the BC NDP government announced that it will be phasing out minimum wage exemptions for liquor servers and resident caregivers, and raising the wages for piece-rate farm workers and live-in camp leaders.
Based on recommendations from the Fair Wages Commission, the BC government is eliminating the liquor server wage by 2021, and gradually increasing the wages for specific groups of workers who do not earn the general hourly rate. Liquor servers, resident caretakers and live-in camp leaders will all see wage increases, as of June 1, 2018, while farm workers paid by piece rate will see an increase, as of Jan. 1, 2019.
“We have long fought to have all exemptions from minimum wage laws removed. Our position is that the minimum wage is the minimum any worker can be paid for any work,” said BC Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger. “Today we see important progress for workers in two areas – liquor servers and live-in caregivers. But we will continue to push for all exemptions to be removed.”
The BC Federation of Labour notes that farm workers are “particularly marginalized and vulnerable to exploitation,” and calls on the government to do more to ensure they they receive fair wags and decent working.