News briefs

No cameras, please • Increase in dads taking paternity leave • Some like it hot • New Brunswick tests foreign student plan • Older worker centre • You thought Canada was too unionized • Pension changes could cause early retirements

No cameras, please

Bathurst, N.B.
— The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada says the installation of cameras in the Smurfit-Stone Paper Mill in Bathurst, New Brunswick “violates workers’ basic human rights and promotes sweatshop working conditions.” The union originally agreed to some cameras for security and fire watch reasons, but claims the company went beyond that. “Cameras are directly on employees as they work throughout the day or night,” said Max Michaud, Atlantic vice-president of CEP. “Knowing their every move is being recorded has increased our members’ stress level significantly.” (For an in-depth look at video surveillance, see our April 21 issue.)

Increase in dads taking paternity leave

— More men are taking paternity leave following the federal government’s 2001 increase of parental benefits from10 to 35 weeks, Statistics Canada reports. The monthly average number of fathers taking leave reached 7,900 in 2002, five times the average two years earlier. The percentage of working dads taking leave rose from three per cent to 10 per cent.

Some like it hot

— In spite of about 20,000 layoffs after the dotcom bubble burst in early in 2000, Ottawa’s high-tech sector employs nearly as many people as it did at the peak of the technology boom, according to a new study from Industry Canada. While many manufacturing jobs were sent overseas, and telecommunications firms remain pessimistic, the need for technology services employees remains robust.

New Brunswick tests foreign student plan

— Foreign students graduating from New Brunswick colleges and universities will be eligible to work in the province for two years in an attempt to encourage skilled immigrants to locate in places other than Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Currently foreign students may stay for a year after graduation, but a deal between Ottawa and New Brunswick will allow a second year of work, during which it is hoped their ties to the provinces will be strengthened.

Older worker centre

Argyle, N.S.
— Ottawa is providing $68,000 to help set up a Nova Scotia pilot project to assist older workers in finding and maintaining employment. Located in Argyle, the Older Worker Centre will identify needs of both workers and local employers, create a job bank, and help 100 workers upgrade skills and conduct job searches.

You thought Canada was too unionized

— Quebec workers are the most unionized in North America, according to the latest figures from Statistics Canada. Quebec’s unionization rate stood at 40.4 per cent in 2002, higher than the national level of 32.2 per cent. In the U.S., less than 15 per cent of the workforce is covered by a union contract. Even though Canada’s unionization rate is more than twice that of the U.S., it still pales in comparison to some European nations. Countries at the high-end include: Iceland, 83.3 per cent; Sweden, 81.9 per cent; and Denmark, 81.8 per cent.

Pension changes could cause early retirements

— Vancouver could lose one-quarter of its firefighters and 20 per cent of its police officers by the end of year due to new pension rules changes. Currently members of both forces contribute two per cent of their pay to a supplemental pension fund that is matched with a 2.5 per-cent contribution from the government. But after a decision by the Municipal Pension Board last month, the supplemental pension benefits are being scaled back. Those who take their pensions after Jan. 1, 2004 will likely see $200 to $500 less per month on their pension cheques than if they retire before the end of the year, Tom Stamatakis, president of the Vancouver Police Union told the Vancouver Sun.

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