Labour Briefs (June 18, 2001)

Toronto — A union certification vote at a Toronto-area manufacturing plant was tainted because management hired two men with links to gangs to intimate workers, ruled the Ontario Labour Relations Board. The hiring of two men linked to a gang days before a union vote in 1998 at Baron Metal Industries of Woodbridge, Ont. was “peculiar and suspicious” and was done “for an improper, anti-union purpose...on the authority of a member of the Baron Metals’ management,” said Christopher Albertyn, vice-chair of the OLRB. According to the union, four employees were threatened. Management denies any wrongdoing. The board allowed the United Steelworkers a second vote at the metal-door manufacturing plant, which is expected to be within six months.

Ottawa — A notorious battle between Canada’s largest private-sector union and its archrival ended last month when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Service Employees International Union agreed to put the past behind them. The CAW was accused of raiding the SEIU when it gained 12,000 members after taking over eight SEIU locals. The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), labour’s umbrella group representing 2.3 million unionized workers, expelled the CAW, removing it from participating in national committees and other activities. With the CAW rejoining the fold, CLC president Ken Georgetti proclaimed Canada’s labour movement is ready to stand up for workers’ rights in the face of corporate globalism. “We expect this agreement to show the world the unity of purpose of democratic unions in this country,” said Georgetti.

Toronto — The Ontario Federation of Labour is considering calling for wildcat strikes to protest pending changes to provincial health and safety legislation. The changes, contained in Bill 57, the Government Efficiency Act, would eliminate the requirement to automatically report work-related injuries due to accidents, explosions and fires, and would also eliminate the requirement for employers to keep a list of hazardous materials at work. The right to refuse unsafe work would also be affected, with inspectors no longer required to investigate the refusal in person, but rather have the power to review the refusal over the phone. Due to these changes, the OFL may call on union workers to illegally walk off the job when safety is in question. “These health and safety changes will put people’s lives at risk,” said Wayne Samuelson, president of the OFL.

Iqaluit — About 1,300 public-sector workers in Canada’s newest territory — including nurses, social workers, clerks and janitors — have settled their labour dispute with the Nunavut government. A wide-scale strike was possible after the negotiating team recommended members turn down the government’s final offer, but a majority of members voted to accept the deal. “The members have spoken,” said Doug Workman, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s Nunavut Employees Union. The first contract negotiated between the fledgling union and the new territory includes a 3.5 per cent salary increase retroactive to April 1, 2000 and a 2.75 per cent increase retroactive to April 1, 2001 and an increase of 2.75 per cent effective April 1, 2002. The new contract will also include a travel assistance program.

Vancouver — Almost half of workers in British Columbia’s pulp and paper mills will be retiring in the next five years and there won’t be enough apprentices to replace those numbers, according to a recent report. The report, conducted by the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) and the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada, warns that in the next five years, 40 per cent of the 1,100 trades people in the B.C.’s pulp and paper mills will be eligible for retirement and there are only 125 apprentices currently at work in the industry. “This is an industry at a generational turning point, but with no place to turn unless it gets serious about apprenticeships,” said Dave Coles, vice-president of the western region of CEP. Sixty-four per cent of trades people in the province’s industry are 45 years or older and just one per cent are 30 years old or younger. The unions are calling for one apprentice for every five trades people in order to address the looming shortage.

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