News briefs

Border guards getting guns; Transit absences more common on Fridays; Worker says she was forced to do X-ray work while pregnant; Ontarians lose $3,700 per person in fewer work weeks; Ontario’s new curriculum adds five career paths; Alberta’s minimum wage may go up again; Imposed contract prompts medical specialists to look for work elsewhere; Crash investigation focuses on staffing levels

Border guards getting guns

Surrey, B.C. — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced that 4,400 border guards will be armed starting next September, but it will take 10 years to fully implement the plan. Canada Border Services Agency officers have long been demanding to be armed and, citing dangerous work, have often abandoned their posts amid reports of armed suspects heading across the border. Harper also repeated a pledge to spend $101 million to hire 400 additional officers for border crossings currently staffed by single officers.

Transit absences more common on Fridays

Toronto — If commuters in the Greater Toronto Area ever noticed that the regional GO Transit trains tend to be delayed or cancelled on Fridays, now they know why. GO train crews, who are CN employees, are allowed by their contract to call in to say they’re too tired to operate the train. “It seems very interesting this only happens on a Friday,” said GO Transit managing director Gary McNeil. An internal report has shown that crew shortages caused cancellations or delays on June 23, July 7, Aug. 4 and Aug. 18 — all Fridays. GO is considering severing its contract with CN.

Worker says she was forced to do X-ray work while pregnant

Ottawa — A security scanner working on Parliament Hill said her employer refused to reassign her to other duties when she was pregnant. Rachel Dupere of Curran, Ont., who ended up taking time off without pay for the last six months of her pregnancy, has filed a sex discrimination suit against the House of Commons at the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The Canada Labour Code states that pregnant employees don’t need to work in jobs they believe may pose a health risk to themselves or their unborn babies. However, parliamentary employees are not covered by the Canada Labour Code.

Ontarians lose $3,700 per person in fewer work weeks

Toronto — Ontarians are working three and a half weeks less than their counterparts in the United States every year, costing the province $3,700 per capita in reduced prosperity. That’s according to the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity, a Toronto-based not-for-profit research organization supported by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Trade. Much of this intensity gap is due to Ontarians’ penchant for more vacation, but also to part-time workers’ inability to find full-time work.

Ontario’s new curriculum adds five career paths

Toronto — Ontario has unveiled five new high school programs, called “specialist high skills majors,” to help students match their studies with their interests and aptitudes. These majors, launched as pilots in 27 school boards, are construction, hospitality and tourism, manufacturing, primary industries (agriculture, mining, forestry and landscaping) and arts and culture. The move is part of an overall goal to bring high school graduation rates to 85 per cent by 2010-2011, up from 68 per cent in 2003-2004.

Alberta’s minimum wage may go up again

Calgary — Just one year after the minimum wage was raised to $7 from $5.90 an hour, Alberta’s labour minister is mulling raising it again to $8. Mike Cardinal said most Albertans now make more than $10 an hour, but “it’s good to establish a base” given that costs of living have gone up. Department staff said less than three per cent of Albertans actually earn minimum wage, more than half of whom are 19 or younger.

Imposed contract prompts medical specialists to look for work elsewhere

Montreal — Citing discontent with a controversial law imposing a work contract, four in 10 medical specialists in Quebec plan to look for work in other provinces in the next five years. That’s according to a poll of 500 doctors, 380 of whom are medical specialists, conducted by Léger Marketing and commissioned by the Quebec Medical Association. Under Bill 37, a Quebec specialist earns an average of $233,000, below the national average of $343,000.

Crash investigation focuses on staffing levels

Lexington, Ky. — Investigators into last month’s Comair crash that took the lives of 49 of the 50 people on board are zeroing in on staffing issues at the control tower. Just after giving the jet clearance for takeoff, the controller turned his back to do other duties and failed to see it turn onto the wrong runway. The controller, who reportedly had only two hours of sleep prior to that shift, was also performing radar work, contrary to a long-standing Federal Aviation Administration policy that controllers should not do both radar work and ground duties.

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