News briefs

Mounties want to get their union; Prison guards sue government over second-hand smoke; Aboriginal employment improving in the West; Grocery workers’ pension plan faces class-action suit; Ottawa appoints expert panel on older workers; Finning bans cellphones while driving

Mounties want to get their union

Ottawa — Liberal MP Dan McTeague has tabled a private member’s bill to give members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police the right to form a union but not strike. A group of officers have also gone to court to challenge the union ban, in effect since 1919. In an application to the Ontario Superior Court, the officers fighting for the right to unionize say officers are subject to harassment, intimidation and poisoned work environments without independent representation. The RCMP is the only major police force in Canada not allowed to unionize.

Prison guards sue government over second-hand smoke

Montreal — The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has sought leave from the labour minister to sue its employer, the Correctional Service of Canada, over prison guards’ exposure to second-hand smoke. Union president Sylvain Martel said the union has won judgments ordering the employer to stop smoking by inmates but to no avail. Martel rejected suggestions that guards use respirators, calling instead for a complete ban on smoking as is the case in several provincial jail systems. “We are among the last workers in Canada who cannot avoid breathing second-hand smoke on the job,” he said. “The federal government must stop treating us as second-class citizens.”

Aboriginal employment improving in the West

Ottawa — Aboriginal people in Western Canada are starting to benefit from increasingly tighter labour markets in Alberta and British Columbia, according to a Statistics Canada study conducted between 2001 and 2005. During that period, Aboriginal employment increased by 23 per cent, twice the growth of 11 per cent for non-Aboriginals. However, significant disparities remain between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations. Although Aboriginal unemployment fell from 15.5 per cent in 2001 to 12.1 per cent in 2005, that’s still 2.5 times that of non-Aboriginal population.

Grocery workers’ pension plan faces class-action suit

Toronto — Three grocery workers, two retired and one still working, have filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 300,000 members of the Canadian Commercial Workers Industry Pension Plan. The suit, which alleges the plan has lost more than $1 billion due to negligence by trustees, names representatives of Loblaw Cos. Ltd., George Weston Ltd., the Great Atlantic & Pacific Co. of Canada, Sobeys Inc., Metro-Richelieu and Kraft Canada Inc, as well as current and past leaders of the United Food and Commercial Workers. An investigation last year by the Toronto Star alleged the pension board committee poured $280 million of pension funds into questionable ventures.

Ottawa appoints expert panel on older workers

Ottawa — Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Monte Solberg has appointed an expert panel to study labour market conditions for older workers. The panel will look at the impact of aging on the economy, the impact of older worker participation in the labour force, barriers and disincentives and supports and services currently available to older workers. The panel will report back to the minister in the summer.

Finning bans cellphones while driving

Vancouver — Finning International’s Canadian division has issued a ban on its workers using cellphones, pagers and BlackBerrys while driving on company business. The company cited studies showing driver distraction while talking on a cellphone increases the risk of a collision by four to six times. The company announced the policy in the presence of Louis Francescutti, founder of Alberta-based Coalition for Cellphone-Free Driving. Other companies that have joined the coalition include Halliburton, Hole’s Greenhouses and Gardens Ltd., Schlumberger, Shippers Supply Inc., Sterling Crane and Tucker Wirelines Services Canada.

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