News Briefs

Doctors fight for pensions; N.B. Casual workers can unionize; Western premiers agree on EI reform; Wal-mart union certification overturned; N.L. doctors demand pay increases; Alta. needs 30,000 construction workers by 2017; Employers hoard anti-flu drugs
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 07/13/2009

Doctors fight for pensions

Ottawa — Canadian doctors are calling on the government to make changes to tax laws so they can join a registered pension plan. Federal and provincial tax laws prohibit self-employed doctors from contributing to registered pension plans because they are already eligible for several tax-relief options, said Canadian Medical Association president Robert Ouellet. In April, pension advocate Dr. Mary Fernando addressed the need for pension plan access before a federal standing committee on health. She cited doctor shortages as an example of why a pension plan is necessary and said Canada is the only country that does not allow its publicly funded physician force to contribute to pensions.

N.B. Casual workers can unionize

Fredericton — A New Brunswick court has given casual government workers in the province the right to unionize. Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Paulette Garnett ruled the New Brunswick Public Service Labour Relation Act violates casual workers’ right to freedom of association under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “For many years the province has subjected ‘casuals’ to practices which can only be described as unfair,” said the ruling. The judge has given the province one year to remedy the situation. The decision could affect thousands of temporary or seasonal workers employed by the provincial government.

Western premiers agree on EI reform

Dawson City, Yukon — While at the annual Western Premiers’ Conference, Canada’s Western premiers agreed on a plan for employment insurance reform. Premiers from the four Western provinces and three northern territories will make a joint submission to the new federal working group on EI with their recommendations for reform. The submission will include a call for EI support to be equal for all Canadians, with nationwide benefits instead of regional eligibility criteria.

Wal-mart union certification overturned

Weyburn, Sask. — A Saskatchewan judge has overturned the union certification of a Wal-Mart in Weyburn. In 2004, the United Food and Commercial Workers union applied for certification when a majority of workers at the store, located near Regina, signed union cards. Under labour laws at the time, a secret ballot vote was not required. Last December, after years of challenges from the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer, the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board approved the certification of the Weyburn store. But Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Peter Foley voided the union certification because, as of May 2008, a secret ballot vote is required to certify a union in the province. Justice Foley sent the application for certification back to the board, leaving the door open for union certification if the majority of store workers support it in a secret ballot.

N.L. doctors demand pay increases

St. John’s, N.L. — Doctors in Newfoundland and Labrador are demanding pay increases in their new contract with the government to ensure the province will be able to attract and retain physicians. The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association wants compensation that will put them in the top 25 per cent of what doctors are paid in Atlantic Canada. In their last contract, doctors accepted a two-year wage freeze followed by two years of three-per-cent increases. The association says that can’t happen again as doctors in the province are among the lowest paid in Canada.

Alta. needs 30,000 construction workers by 2017

Edmonton — When the economy turns around, Alberta will need 30,000 construction workers to meet demand in the province, according to the Construction Sector Council’s annual report. While employment losses in the sector will continue into 2011, the report predicts employment in residential and non-residential trades will exceed 2008 employment levels by 2015. The report also projects as many as 22,000 construction workers are expected to retire between 2009 and 2017 and another 8,000 new workers will be needed to meet construction demand as the economy strengthens and major oil sand projects come online in 2014.

Employers hoard anti-flu drugs

TORONTO — Many employers are quietly stockpiling emergency supplies of anti-viral drugs to protect employees from the swine flu, according to the Toronto Star. “It’s a sort of insurance,” Paula Allen, a vice-president at Shepell-fgi, told the paper. “There is an obligation to protect employees.” The majority of H1N1 ­cases in Canada are working-age people under the age of 50, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the ­median age is 22 years old.

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