Labour briefs

Unifor signs its first contract / B.C. teachers head to supreme court / Toronto Plaza Hotel strike ends

13-week strike ends at Toronto Plaza Hotel

TORONTO — Thirteen weeks after they walked off the job, Toronto Plaza Hotel workers have ratified a new collective agreement.

The United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9466 and downtown hotel managers signed an agreement on Sept. 1, which the union said was approved by 80 per cent of employees. Workers will get a wage increase over the next two years. As well, the USW said the agreement removes language that would have "gutted basic protections and rights of union workers."

"This victory is an important message for other employers. It is a reminder that steelworkers will defend their members on the picket line, at city halls, at trade shows and even in the owners’ neighbourhood when needed. Today’s labour disputes involve a lot more than just maintaining a picket line," said Marty Warren, USW’s district director for Ontario.

Teachers take bargaining case to top court in B.C.

VICTORIA Teachers in British Columbia are at the province’s top court this week, fighting to get back both their constitutional and collective bargaining rights.

As part of an ongoing struggle at the B.C. Supreme Court, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) presented its case on Sept. 9, arguing the provincial government did not uphold a previous decision reversing a policy that quashed their bargaining rights.

Back in 2011, the Supreme Court ruled the government acted unconstitutionally when it passed legislation in 2002 eliminating the provisions of the teachers’ collective agreement concerning class size, composition and the teacher-student ratio.

Last year, the government passed the Education Improvement Act, or Bill 22 — which suspended teachers’ strike action and established what the province called a "cooling off period" so that a mediator could be appointed during negotiations.

"The BCTF is now seeking a remedy for our 2011 victory and will also argue that the government’s 2012 legislation, Bill 22, was unconstitutional," said BCTF president Jim Iker.

He added the union wants a restoration of those collective agreement provisions as well as a declaration acknowledging that the government failed to address the 2011 court decision. They are also seeking damages for losses.

The teachers’ contract expired in June, and negotiations are slated for October.

Unifor signs first contract since its inception

OTTAWA — New mega-union Unifor has ratified its very first contract since its formation at the beginning of September.

And as national president Jerry Dias promised during Unifor’s first convention, this collective agreement has targeted a non-traditional, virtual workplace.

Signed between Unifor Local 433 and their employer, Left Hand Media Co-op back in August, the eight staff members mailed their votes in, which were counted on Sept. 1. Since Left Hand Media is a virtual workplace — with staff located across British Columbia and Alberta — the majority of negotiations were conducted via email.

"This is what Unifor is all about," Dias said. "We want to help workers who have been left out of traditional unions."

Even more rare is that, because the company’s staff are also its owners, one of their own members sat on the management side of the bargaining table.

The contract includes a two per cent wage increase for each of the two years, designated days off and shift differentials, something Unifor said was not in place before.

Earlier this month, the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) union merged to form Unifor, the largest private sector union in the country.

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