Labour briefs

Whiskey and wine distillery reaches deal with workers / Small town mayor forgoes bargaining / Manitoba telecom service avoids strike / Striking diplomats take case to labour board

Union ratifies collective agreement with Manitoba telecom service

WINNIPEG — Telecommunications workers in Winnipeg will be getting a wage increase after ratifying their collective agreement with the company.

Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS) and more than 1,200 of their professional and managerial staff, represented by the Telecommunications Employees Association of Manitoba (TEAM), agreed to the deal on July 29.

The union reported that the three-year deal comes with a two per cent wage increase in 2013 and 2014, as well as a 1.75 per cent increase in 2015. MTS negotiators also won a compressed work week, remote working call-out pay minimums and more coverage for vision care. Vacation and overtime allowances are to remain unchanged.

In mid-July, MTS employees voted to authorize strike action — something never before done in the union’s 40-year history. The earliest that strike could have taken place was July 16.

Mayor imposes his own employment terms on city staff, prompts strike

BONFIELD, Ont. — A rural northern Ontario community’s city staff went on strike today after their mayor bypassed the bargaining process and instead imposed his own terms of employment, according to the union representing those workers.

Just after midnight on Aug. 1, municipal employees in the Township of Bonfield, located just southeast of North Bay, walked off the job after the mayor and town council members attempted to impose the conditions of their latest contract offer, according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

"After threatening to lock out our members and cancelling all future bargaining dates, the mayor and council have informed workers the township would impose its last contract offer, disregarding the collective bargaining process," explained Steve Boyle, CUPE’s national representative. "Our members are left with little choice but to go on strike to defend public services and working conditions in the Township of Bonfield."

Concerns left on the bargaining table include seniority, training, employment security, scheduling, vacation, sick leave and benefits. The union also alleged that the mayor threatened to contract out their positions.

The strike means municipally-run services (think recycling services, by-law enforcement and road maintenance) will be suspended until bargaining resumes.

Wine and spirits company ratifies collective agreement with workers

WINDSOR, Ont.Workers at a distillery in Windsor, Ont. ratified a collective agreement last week, which includes an early signing bonus and lump sum payments instead of wage increases.

On Aug. 1, Hiram Walker & Sons (which bottles and distills vodkas, whiskies, and wines) announced a new three-year collective agreement with its 132 production and skilled trades workers, represented by the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union, local 2027.

As part of this latest deal, instead of a wage increase, employees will receive lump sum payments totalling $4,450 for production workers, and $5,200 for traders workers. As well, they received an early signing bonus of $1,250, improvements to the vacation schedule and health care benefits, as well as new hire wage scale and pension contributions. Thirty voluntary retirement incentive packages will also be introduced over the course of the collective agreement.

The deal was reached five months before its expiration date and was approved by approximately 75 per cent of union members.

President and CEO of the company, Patrick O’Driscoll, applauded the agreement, saying it addresses key issues for Canadian operation.

"We are very pleased to have reached this important agreement with the CAW," O’Driscoll said in a statement. "It provides a good platform on which we can build a healthy and competitive manufacturing business in Windsor."

Construction union wage rate rises

OTTAWA — The country’s construction union wage rate index rose in June, according to Statistics Canada.

The composite index rose by 0.1 per cent compared with May. Compared to June of last year, the composite index increased by 0.7 per cent for June 2013.

In April 2012, the month for which the most up-to-date information is available, a construction worker’s average hourly wage rate sat at $28.23. For the month prior, the average hourly wage rate was $28.52 (revised from original Statistics Canada publication).

The construction union wage rate index tracks monthly changes in the collective agreement hourly wage rates for 16 trades in the building construction industry in 22 metropolitan areas.

Technical services staff reach agreement with Treasury Board

OTTAWA — More than 10,000 national technical services workers — who have been without a contract for more than 2 years — have signed a tentative agreement with the Treasury Board of Canada.

On Aug. 1, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the federal government came to an agreement after an 18-hour marathon bargaining session, according to PSAC.

As part of the new deal, technical services staff will receive retroactive wage adjustments of 1.75 per cent, 1.5 per cent and 2 per cent, as well as improvements to bereavement and family-related leave. Severance pay for retirement and resignation was eliminated.

Another general improvement PSAC noted was that, for the first time in a federal public service collective agreement, transgendered employees will be explicitly protected from discrimination and harassment.

According to the Treasury Board, the agreement was based on previous tentative agreements with federal correctional officers and aviation inspectors.

"Through fair and reasonable negotiations we have been able to reach a tentative settlement with the Technical Services group on a new collective agreement," said Minister Tony Clement, president of the board. "This is the same balanced and consistent approach which has allowed the government to settle 24 of 27 collectively bargained agreements in the core public service."

But the union added that they will continue to push for equal pay for work of equal value. In particular, PSAC voiced concerns over retention and recruitment issues for technical inspectors at the labour program at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and increases in pay and allowances for technical inspectors at Transport Canada.

The tentative agreement — which primarily covers workers at the defence department and ministries of transport, environment, agriculture, and fisheries — is retroactive from June 22, 2011 up until June 21, 2014.

Foreign service officers and feds remain at odds

OTTAWA — Canada’s foreign service workers, who walked off the job at the end of July, have filed a complaint with the labour board against the federal government.

On July 31, the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) union — which represents foreign service workers such as diplomats serving at Canadian embassies across the world — filed a bad-faith bargaining complaint at the Public Service Labour Relations Board (PSLRB). The union argued in its complaint that the Treasury Board of Canada refused to enter into binding arbitration to resolve the labour dispute.

"Our 1,350 members are profoundly disappointed with the government’s refusal to take the responsible way out of this dispute," said president of PAFSO, Tim Edwards. "By rejecting our offer of arbitration, they seem intent on prolonging this strike — at enormous cost to Canadian tourism companies, educational institutions, airlines, and agricultural producers. Their course of action defies reason and common sense."

Edwards added that PAFSO accepted three of the six conditions the board sought to impose on free arbitration. One of their key concerns has been equal pay for equal work, especially in comparison to other federal employees.

But Minister Tony Clement, who heads the Treasury Board, released a statement saying that PAFSO’s demands are unreasonable.

"We are disappointed that PAFSO was so quick to reject our willingness to enter into a binding arbitration process that the union itself requested," he said. "In the past month, the government has reached tentative agreements with two unions representing aviation inspectors and correctional officers. These deals were reached because the bargaining agents’ approaches were fair and reasonable. In contrast, PAFSO continues to insist on making unreasonable comparisons between substantively different jobs in the public service."

Of particular concern has been any disruption for tourists and visa-seekers abroad, where Clement insisted it’s business as usual. Edwards said foreign service workers are prepared to strike through the summer and well into the fall, if necessary.

Police training overhaul needed after shooting: OFL

TORONTO — The controversial death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim — who was shot nine times by police on a Toronto streetcar after wielding a knife — has focused the spotlight on police training and their response to mental illness.

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) called for a complete overhaul of police training and an independent investigation into Yatim’s death.

"The dangerous consequences of police over-reactions to mental illness has been thoroughly examined and a road map for reform has already been written, yet none of this made any difference on the streets of Toronto last Saturday. One more life has been senselessly lost," OFL president Sid Ryan said on July 31. He argued that the use of tasers as an alternative to guns is one way to de-escalate such situations.

But the Toronto Police Association (TPA) retaliated, saying the OFL is not in a position to pass judgment. On Aug. 1, TPA president Mike McCormack said there is currently no evidence that Yatim suffered a mental illness.

"[Ryan] is in no position to pass judgment on whether there has been a total failure of the policing system," McCormack said. "Ryan has never been a police officer and has no expertise in policing on anything related to policing. His comments are not helpful and do nothing more than inflame a tragic situation for both the Yatim family and the officer involved."

He added the Special Investigations Unit launched an investigation immediately after the incident, which is currently ongoing.

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