Labour briefs, Jan. 15/01

Canadian job boom to plateau
Ottawa — The job market is booming, with more than 162,000 jobs created in the last four months, and 58,000 of those in November alone. Full-time employment rose by some 79,000 positions in November, the largest increase in more than a year. At the same time, 21,000 part-time jobs disappeared. Despite the growth, analysts say that the market will be easing up after a year of rapid growth, predicting job growth will slow in the coming months due to the slowdown in the U.S. economy and because of the persisting shortage of skilled labour. Canada’s jobless rate is holding steady at 6.9 per cent.

Construction delayed due to worker shortage
Toronto — The Canadian construction industry is short anywhere from 25,000 to 60,000 skilled workers stalling the completion of key developments. The Canadian Construction Association estimates that the market is already lacking thousands of skilled workers and they expect the situation to worsen as the industry ends a 10-year stagnant period in development. Contributing to the current shortage is the fact that many skilled workers left the industry during the recession and did not return when the industry started to boom. Canada is facing a shortage of 18- to 30-year-olds in the labour pool. The situation is even worse for the trades, since those who are looking for employment are not looking to the building trades. New legislation has been introduced in Ontario to minimize the risk of consecutive strikes in the construction industry.

Spy’s dismissal upheld
Vancouver — A Vancouver-based spy who refused to relocate to Ottawa has lost her wrongful dismissal claim against the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). Kim Lee Gilmour’s case was rejected by the Federal Court, which found that her continuing employment was based on her willingness to relocate. Gilmour, who had been a spy with CSIS since the mid-1980s, claimed the move would require her “to choose between her commitment and loyalty to the organization and my commitment to my marriage and family life.” The court also found that while the employer had the right to fire the spy, they did not follow proper procedure and awarded Gilmour two months’ salary.

Judges’ secretaries can join union
Toronto—The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that unionizing judges’ secretaries does not threaten judicial independence. The ruling was a loss for the Ontario government which argued the 33 judges’ secretaries should not belong to a union because it would pose a threat to the administration of justice and would constrict the judges’ authority over the secretaries. The court stated that being employed by the attorney general posed more of a conflict than belonging to a union. In the event of a strike, commented the Court, the labour relations board is likely to deem judges’ assistants as employees performing an essential service and therefore such labour action would cause little disruption to the courts.

Spying employer being charged
Winnipeg—A union representing grain employees in Winnipeg has filed an unfair labour practice charge after they allege the employer used a surveillance company to spy on union members and union activities. The Grain Services Union (GSU) filed the charge last month against Agricore Co-operative after they allege the company used a private security firm to spy on union meetings and social functions, including a union-sponsored family picnic and camping weekend in Manitoba. The GSU is asking the Canada Industrial Relations Board to order the company to pay the union $100,000 in damages. The union represents 700 Agricore employees in Manitoba and Alberta.

Slowdown in the auto industry
Oshawa, Ont.— The biggest auto makers in Canada are shutting down plants, cutting overtime and halting production at some plants as the North American industry continues to slowdown. General Motors of Canada has cancelled overtime at three Oshawa assembly plants, which means employees will lose more than 20 per cent of their gross pay. GM will also stop production at Number 2 Oshawa plant for two weeks and will stop output of engine parts from its St. Catharines plant for two weeks this month. DaimlerChrysler shut down its huge minivan plant in Windsor last month, sending home some 6,000 workers. GM also announced last month that it would cut about 335 white-collar jobs in Canada. Analysts say the move is reflective of a industry-wide slowdown due to the decrease in the demand for vehicles.

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