News briefs (Dec. 4, 2000)

Bell stalls pay equity complaint • Inquest called into student deaths • Parental leave changes • New effort to integrate immigrant workers • Worker integration costly at Air Canada

Bell stalls pay equity complaint

Ottawa
— A Federal Court has ruled that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal hearing a pay-equity case between Bell Canada and 20,000 current and former female employees is not independent or impartial, further delaying the four-year-old hearing. Bell claimed it could not get a fair hearing before the Tribunal and last month the Federal Court backed that claim, citing the fact that members were appointed by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). The complaint stems from a joint Bell-union study that concluded employees in female-dominated jobs were paid less than male counterparts in male-dominated jobs of equal value. The employees are seeking $150-million in compensation. The union representing 4,000 Bell operators is set to appeal the decision and claims the ruling could interfere with all human rights complaints across the country. The CHRC also plans to appeal and said the ruling casts uncertainty upon the ability of the tribunal to hear other cases.

Inquest called into student deaths

Welland, Ont.
— An inquest will be held to examine the deaths of two teens killed at an Ontario workplace last month. Ontario’s chief coroner, James Young, said the inquest will examine the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the students who crashed an all-terrain vehicle into a parked tractor trailer, while visiting the John Deere Welland Works plant during Take Our Kids to Work Day. The coroner’s jury cannot assign legal liability or blame, but the provincial labour ministry has not ruled out the possibility of laying charges. If found guilty, the maximum penalty for a company is $500,000 and an individual can be fined $25,000 and serve 12 months in jail.

Parental leave changes

Victoria, Halifax
— Changes to pregnancy and parental leave under British Columbia’s Employment Standards Act take effect at the end of this month. The changes coincide with the expansion of parental benefits by the federal government. Meanwhile, the Nova Scotia government has proposed legislation to give parents the option of taking a full year off to care for new children while their jobs remain protected. The proposal in Nova Scotia would give adoptive parents the opportunity to take 52 weeks of leave.

New effort to integrate immigrant workers

Toronto
— In an effort to speed the entry of immigrants into the Ontario workforce to address skill shortages, World Education Services (WES) has begun providing academic credentials assessments in order to get the skills and education of immigrants recognized faster, as well as providing employers with tools to recruit skilled workers. Founded in 1974, WES is a not-for-profit organization that assists immigrants, employers, regulatory boards, professional associations and educators by providing research-based analysis of education equivalencies, drawing on a database of more than 30,000 institutions and 15,000 credentials from 223 jurisdictions around the world. For more information call 1-866-343-0070 or visit www.wes.org/ca.

Worker integration costly at Air Canada

New York
— Air Canada will fall about $150 million short of planned savings from merging with Canadian Airlines due in part to the high cost of integrating workers from the two organizations, Air Canada president Robert Milton recently told a group of New York security analysts. The airline had hoped to realize almost $880 million in savings through cost-cutting and economies of scale but no layoffs. “It always costs more than what people think to put two extremely complex service organizations together,” said one anaylst, citing rapid wage escalation in the industry and debates over how to measure seniority as some of the reasons it’s become difficult to merge the two groups of workers.

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