Labour briefs (September 25, 2000)

Regina — Union organizers have succeeded in winning a first contract at a Regina KFC outlet, bringing workers at all six of the fast-food chain’s stores in the city into the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union. Union spokesperson Brian Christoph, explaining how contracts were achieved in an industry considered almost impossible to unionize, credited educating and listening to young workers, getting input from their parents and Saskatchewan’s favourable labour laws. Christoph added unions across the country hope to use the Regina KFC drive as a template.

Quebec City — Quebec is thinking about limiting the length of collective agreements to five years. “Quebec has recently seen some really long agreements — as many as six or seven years in length,” said Gordon Sova, editor of CLV Reports, a publication that tracks collective agreements. Across the country, there are numerous minimum lengths for agreements (not less than one year) but currently only Saskatchewan sets a maximum, limiting all agreements to three years (they had to pass a special act for a longer one between IPSCO and the Steelworkers Union), Sova explained.

Oshawa, Ont. — General Motors of Canada Ltd. suspended 13 workers — some for 60 days — who had active roles in a two-day wildcat strike last month that cost the company $50 million. Workers walked out to protest the suspension of a committee representative who had a shouting match with a manager. The wildcatters could have been fired, a point not lost on CAW president Buzz Hargrove, who said GM’s decision to opt for suspensions may be a sign the company wants to improve labour relations. But other union members view the penalties as too harsh.
Kitchener, Ont. — Golf sensation Tiger Woods is in the Screen Actor Guild’s bad books after filming a commercial in Ontario. The guild, which includes numerous celebrities who advertise products, has been on strike against commercial producers in the United States since May. While Canada is out of the guild’s jurisdiction, celebrities have, for the most part, respected the strike and avoided filming ads anywhere. Woods defended himself, saying he was forced to follow through on a contractual obligation, and supports the strike.

Ottawa — Canadian Labour Congress president Kenneth Georgetti took the occasion of the first Labour Day of the new millennium to release a plan for the future. Focusing on the reality of globalization, Georgetti called on the labour movement to pursue an agenda of family and community, as opposed to the “survival of the fittest” approach taken by “business and their pet governments.”

Toronto — Loblaw Companies Ltd. has reached an agreement with 15,000 workers represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Canada, averting a strike deadline. The six-year deal, which includes modest wage gains, was a tough sell to union members — it was ratified by a 54 per cent vote in favour of acceptance.

London, U.K. — Spies with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) may want to investigate how their British counterparts are tackling morale issues. British agents may soon have a union as part of reforms designed to improve morale at the United Kingdom’s beleaguered security services. CSIS agents are under similar duress following a string of embarrassing gaffes and reported internal strife.

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