Labour briefs

CAW, CEP leaders turn down top job at Unifor / Feds should privatize Canada Post, think tank advises / Almost 40,000 jobs lost in July: StatsCan / Employers to fork out more cash for TFWs

Privatization would revive a beleaguered Canada Post: Report

TORONTO — After its failure to deliver profits, Canada Post should privatize, urged the latest report from the C.D. Howe Institute.

On Aug. 8, the Toronto-based think tank released How Ottawa Can Deliver a Reformed Canada Post and said privatization would breathe new life into the white elephant.

In his report, author Benjamin Dachis noted the Crown corporation is facing a future of large financial losses because of declining mail delivery volumes, mounting pension obligations and costly international mail services.

That includes the universal service obligation program, which sees the same rates charged for lettermail delivery no matter where the destination is in the country.

Contracting out some of those services would ease those pressures, according to Dachis, who estimates Canada Post will have an annual operating deficit of $1 billion by 2020 if changes aren’t made.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) slammed the report, saying it only offered dated solutions that will lead to service cutbacks and government subsidization.

"The C.D. Howe Institute was making the same case for deregulation and privatization in 2007 while Canada Post was making profits," said Gayle Bossenberry, national vice-president at CUPW. "These are tired old ideas, not viable solutions for a valuable public service."

CUPW pointed to other countries, such as France, Brazil and New Zealand, where postal services have reportedly expanded into banking and financial services to address some of those same challenges.

The union suggested the answer to Canada Post’s problems lie on the international stage.

"Why doesn’t it occur to this prominent private sector think tank that Canada Post should raise new revenue?" questioned CUPW president, Denis Lemelin. "Other postal administrations are bringing in expanded services, and staying viable by doing so."

But even the Crown corporation itself recognized it stands at a crucial crossroads.

"With the relentless decline in lettermail resulting in ongoing financial losses at the corporation, fundamental changes are needed to transform the business," said a statement from Canada Post, adding the report provides further reflection on the matter.

Thus far, Canada Post has hosted 36 roundtable discussions on the company’s future, with the next round set for the end of August and through the beginning of September.

Public sector layoffs weigh on Canada job market in July

A record number of public sector job losses in July caused Canadian employment to fall by 39,400 from the previous month and the unemployment rate to tick up to 7.2 per cent from 7.1 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

Almost all the jobs lost were in services, particularly health care and social assistance, with overall public sector employment down by 74,000 positions.

Employment among youth also fell by a sharp 46,000 and summer employment for high school-aged students hit its lowest level since 1977, the federal agency said.

Market players surveyed by Reuters had forecast the creation of 10,000 net new jobs in July, and an unemployment rate of 7.1 per cent, unchanged from June.

On average over the past six months, some 11,000 net new jobs have been created per month compared with 27,000 in the previous six-month period from August 2012 to January 2013.

Both full-time and part-time jobs disappeared in July, declining by 18,300 and 21,200, respectively.

On the bright side, 31,400 obtained private-sector jobs and 13,500 joined the hard-hit manufacturing industry.

Top dogs at CAW, CEP will not seek leadership of new super union

TORONTO — Ken Lewenza and Dave Coles, presidents of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union and the Communications Energy & Paperworkers (CEP) union of Canada, announced that they will pass the torch on to a new leader of the forthcoming joint union, Unifor.

During a press conference on Aug. 8, Lewenza and Coles said they would retire and take the role of ambassador for the historic union merger between CAW and CEP to form Unifor.

Lewenza explained that Unifor’s leader is not a one or two year job, but at least a six to seven-year commitment, and he couldn’t start something he knew he wouldn’t be able to finish.

Both endorsed Jerry Dias, Lewenza’s assistant for the top job of Unifor.

Coles said after 14 months of deliberation, they have put together their "dream team," and are pushing members to accept its leadership.

"Unifor is a unique experiment that has never been tried in the labour movement before, and I am absolutely thrilled to be participating and handing off to the new leadership team headed by Jerry Dias," Coles said.

Lewenza added that there are challenging times ahead for the labour movement, and that merging the two unions into Unifor will build the confidence needed to tackle those issues.

After the merger, Unifor will become the largest private sector union in the country, representing more than 300,000 workers in approximately 20 sectors across the country. Its founding convention is slated for Labour Day weekend in Toronto.

Ottawa charging employers $275 for temporary foreign worker applications

Ottawa is now charging employers a $275 fee for each temporary foreign worker application.

Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment and Social Development, highlighted the changes in a press release on Aug. 7, but the reforms, which were announced in the budget, are in effect as of July 31.

"These additional reforms help ensure that Canadians are first in line for available jobs," said Kenney. "They also ensure that taxpayers no longer pay the cost of processing employer applications for temporary foreign workers."

The government pointed out that, in 2012, 60 per cent of positive labour market opinions (LMOs) did not lead to a work permit being issued to a temporary foreign worker — a waste of government resources.

With the fee, Ottawa says employers will be less likely to apply for positions they may not fill.

Other changes

• English and French are the only languages that can be identified as a job requirement in advertisements and LMO applications by employers intending to hire temporary foreign workers. Exceptions will be made in rare and specialized circumstances only when the employer can demonstrate that another language is essential for the job, such as a tour guide or translator.

• New advertising requirements essentially double the length and reach of employers’ advertising efforts, the government said, which will increase Canadians’ awareness of available jobs. For instance, for higher-skilled occupations, an advertising method must be national in scope, whereas for a lower-skilled occupation, the employer must demonstrate they made efforts to recruit under-represented groups in the labour force. Employers are also required to actively seek qualified Canadians to fill those positions at the same time, until an LMO has been issued.

• Additional questions have been added to all LMO applications to ensure the temporary foreign worker program (TFWP) is not used to facilitate the outsourcing of Canadian jobs.

The government said the reforms do not apply to on-farm primary agriculture occupations, such as those under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and the Agriculture Stream.

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