June 1, 2012
Volume 42, No. 21
Harper's Limit on Foreign Investment Reviews Slammed
The Harper government's decision to further limit reviews of foreign investment and takeovers over the next four years is totally counterproductive to Canada's economic development, CAW President Ken Lewenza says.
Lewenza said the federal government's plans to raise the threshold for review of a foreign takeover of a Canadian company to $1 billion from the current $330 million will weaken Canada's control over its own economy.
"This announcement is a slap in the face to the former workers at Caterpillar's Electro-Motive Diesel plant in London, Ontario who by the hundreds paid the price of lost jobs. This situation has been repeated across the country as a result of the already weak foreign investment rules currently in place," Lewenza said. Canadians have already painfully experienced the aftermath of takeovers of Inco, Falconbridge, Alcan and Stelco, he said.
"Instead of weakening the rules governing foreign investment, Harper should be pushing tighter scrutiny of foreign takeovers of Canadian companies," Lewenza said.
"Industry Canada's decision to preserve the loophole which allows already foreign owned companies to escape review when being bought by another foreign company is a lost opportunity," he added.
In a February 9, 2012 letter to Industry Minister Christian Paradis, Lewenza outlined five key areas of the Investment Canada Act (ICA) which required reform to prevent further cases like Electro-Motive, where 465 CAW Local 27 members were locked out. A month and a half later Caterpillar announced it was closing its London plant.
Lewenza slammed the Harper government for not strengthening the act by: tightening up loopholes;
defining and measuring Canadian costs and benefits; seeking stakeholder input; improved transparency and imposing and enforcing commitments and conditions.
To find out more please read Ken Lewenza's complete letter to Minister of Industry Christian Paradis at: http://www.caw.ca/en/10949.htm.
Changes to Unemployment Insurance No Help to Workers
The creation of three separate categories of Employment Insurance claimants is "a backward step" for the EI system in Canada, said FFAW/CAW President Earle McCurdy.
McCurdy, who represents 15,000 workers in Newfoundland and Labrador including many in the fisheries was reacting to comments by Federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley.
He noted May 24, that the Minister provided very little detail on proposed changes, but the creation of three tiers of EI recipient is "an ominous sign", and betrays the Harper government's disdain for seasonal industries and seasonal workers.
He dismissed as "ridiculous" the minister's claim that there had been consultation about these changes, and noted that the budget bill gives "unprecedented and sweeping powers" to the federal cabinet to change the EI rules, without the scrutiny of Parliament.
"I don't trust a Prime Minister who has described Atlantic Canadians as having a culture of defeat to treat us fairly in any regulatory change."
McCurdy also took issue with the minister's claim that changes to EI clawback rules were an improvement over the previous rules.
"For our members, the changes the federal government has announced related to working while on claim will penalize workers with short weeks of employment."
Overall, he said, government seems to be "determined to make precarious work even more precarious, but it is only when actual regulations are disclosed that the extent of the attack on seasonal workers will be known."
Cuts to Marine Communications Pose Major Safety Threat
The union representing fishery workers in Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia is raising grave concerns about the safety of workers on the east and the west coasts of the country, in light of the cuts to Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centres.
On May 17, 184 marine communications and traffic services officers working at 10 marine communications and traffic services centres were informed the centres would be closing.
"The marine communication centres in St. John's and St. Anthony are important lifelines for fish harvesters at sea," said FFAW/CAW President Earle McCurdy. The Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW/CAW) represents 15,000 working women and men throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, most of whom are employed in the fishing industry.
"The staff at these centres is the first point of contact for mariners, and they know the people as well as the local marine environment," said McCurdy.
"These closures on top of the previously announced closure of the St. John's Rescue Sub-station are a backward step, at a time when the fatality rates in the east coast fishery clearly point to the need for greater safety infrastructure. Not for one minute do we buy the bland assurances of the federal government that safety at sea will not be compromised by these cutbacks," said McCurdy.
The closures, to be phased in 2014 and 2015, will take place in St-John's and St-Anthony, NL, St-John, N.B., Rivière au Renard and Montréal, QC, Thunder Bay, ON, Vancouver, Tofino and Comox, B.C., some of the busiest marine areas. This is in addition to Inuvik, NWT closing at the end of 2012.
The closure of Coastguard stations will only delay and hamper response times, when minutes can mean life or death, said UFAWU-CAW Safety Director Darrell Enger.
The United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union-CAW (UFAWU-CAW) represent fishermen in crab, prawns, seine, gillnet, troll, trawl, black cod, & longline on the West Coast.
"Moving a response centre from Kitsilano, an area that hosts the largest shipping and recreational fleets on the West Coast of Canada, is dangerous and will cost lives," Enger said.
"In my 40 plus years fishing here on the BC coast, I have found that Vessel Traffic Systems and Coastguard radio operators with local knowledge of the area are so valuable for responses from other marine traffic or Search and Research in emergency situations," Enger said.
"The federal government's cost cutting agenda includes a total disregard for marine safety, said CAW Local 2182 President Martin Grégoire, representing Canadian Coast Guard Marine Communications Officers.
"We are calling on the mariners and users of our services to write to the Coast Guard Commissioner, to maintain the present number of communications and traffic services centres," said Grégoire.
Congrats to CALM Winners!
CAW local union communicators, newsletter editors, photographers and writers won big again this year at the Canadian Association of Labour Media (CALM) Awards. Congratulations to all winners and all local union communicators right across the country who continue to work hard to keep CAW members informed and engaged in the union.
The award ceremony was held the annual CALM conference, in Hamilton, Ontario May 24-26.
Best photograph produced by volunteers:
CAW Local 88 "A Mile in Her Shoes"
Honourable mention - Best overall publication of locals less than 1,000 members:
CAW Local 4451 - The Rubber Report
Best overall publication of locals more than 1,000 members:
CAW Local 222 - The Oshaworker
Excellence in writing produced by locals of more than 1,000 members:
CAW Local 222 - Durham College journalism intern from Durham College Siobhan Bothwell - for Oshawa Day of Mourning article in Oshaworker
Best flyer or brochure:
CAW National Communications "There's a lot at stake" (Ontario election flyer)
Honourable mention - Ed Finn award for best feature story:
CAW Local 88
Morden Lazarus Prize for opinion writing:
CAW National Communications - Ken Lewenza for "Corporate runaways..." Op-ed
Honourary mention - Cliff Scotton Prize:
CAW Local 1285 - for 50th Anniversary book
Dennis McGann Stroke of Genius Award:
CAW Local 199 for the 75th anniversary calendar
CALM is a network of union publications and editors that provides labour-friendly stories and graphics and training for labour communicators. The major affiliates of the Canadian Labour Congress set up CALM in 1976. For more information on CALM or to learn how to join, please visit: http://www.calm.ca
CAW Members at Evraz Camrose Works Ratify New Agreement
CAW Local 551 members in Camrose, Alberta have voted 80 percent in favour of a new agreement with Evraz, ending a more than two week long lock-out. The vote took place on May 24.
"The overriding factor in agreeing to the settlement wasn't anything do with money, but rather the company agreeing to keep the defined pension plan in the agreement for new hires and the company agreeing to limit supervisors and foremen working outside of the bargaining agreement by holding their seniority rights for only a one year time frame, while previously it was open ended," said CAW National Representative Todd Romanow.
CAW Local 551 President Larry Luckwell went on to say, "Respect and a good relationship are earned, with the way Evraz has treated our members and this community, they have thrown over 50 years of both out the door. Evraz has a long road ahead to win both of these back. One thing is for certain; our members will return to making the best pipe in the world for our customers as we have always done with pride and excellence."
The CAW contract with Evraz expired on February 1, and negotiations had been ongoing since November 2011. The settlement includes wage and pension increases over the term of the agreement.
CAW Local 551 represents a bargaining unit of 105 workers at Evraz Camrose Works in Camrose Alberta including trades persons, machine operators and labourers.
CAW to Appeal Outstanding WSIB Claims for Toxic Exposures
The CAW will be continuing to press forward on the 150 occupational illness claims out of General Electric in Peterborough, Ontario that were denied by WSIB.
The CAW organized an intake clinic with the Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers (OHCOW), which saw 675 GE workers and retirees. From this clinic claims were filed, with the WSIB approving 112 claims, and denying 150.
Up until the mid-1980s, workers were regularly exposed to deadly asbestos, and a number of other toxic substances through many of the work processes, as well as the insulation of the building. The multiple exposures are part of the reason for the difficulty in isolating illness symptoms related to certain chemicals and substances.
The CAW will be working with the Office of the Worker Advisor and OHCOW to review the awards for the 112 approved claims and review the claims of the 150 who were denied, in order to appeal.
"Workers went to their jobs each day at General Electric with the expectation that their employer was not putting them in harm's way," said CAW President Ken Lewenza. "It was only after the number of common illnesses started to mount that any action was taken. We see this situation replicated in workplaces across the country, with various chemicals, toxic substances and unsafe working conditions."
The latency period for asbestos-related illnesses is between 10-30 years, depending on the frequency and level of exposure.
The Peterborough General Electric facility dates back to 1892. The workers are represented by CAW Local 524.
Annual EI/CPP Conference Rejects EI Changes
Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour President Lana Payne addresses the EI/CPP conference in Port Elgin, Ontario
Delegates at this year's EI/CPP Conference delved into EI and CPP's current shortfalls, the conservative government's omnibus budget bill, proposed changes and the implications for workers across the country. The conference took place at the CAW's Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, Ontario May 25-27 with approximately 80 delegates from across the country.
During the weekend, guest speakers added more to the discussion. NDP MP Malcolm Allen revealed the inside political scoop about the Harper government's deceptive maneuvering and use of the budget to drive down wages. CAW Economist Jim Stanford debunked the economic myths the Conservative Party uses to justify its actions. CAW President Ken Lewenza greeted the delegates and spoke about the labour market, the pain of job loss and plant closures, the Harper government's multiple attacks on working people and the challenges facing unions today.
Retired CAW National Representative Laurell Ritchie, National Co-ordinator Dean Lindsay and CAW Council EI/CPP Committee Chairperson Dan Borthwick (CAW Local 88 President) enlightened the delegates about the proposed changes to EI, CPP and OAS and the replacing of the Appeals Board with the Social Security Tribunal. Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour President Lana Payne focused on Harper's attack on income security and labour market policies of catering to a cheap-wage dependency.
The delegates dissected the problems with EI and CPP today as well as the problems to be faced as the budgetary changes become reality. Delegates concluded that the budget has not resolved the current EI problems such as inadequate benefit rates, difficulty in qualifying, and the duration of benefits. Consensus was that any job is not a good job. In fact, delegates spoke about how bad jobs offer unsafe work environments, low wages, too few hours, insecurity and are called precarious work. Unemployed workers do not need to be categorized and mandated to take a job - they only need to be offered a "good job."
The conference concluded with signed letters to Stephen Harper calling on his "government to withdraw the EI and Social Security Tribunal provisions of Bill C-38 and to ensure any future proposals are subject to democratic debate in Parliament." Delegates are continuing the push back through letters to the editor and their Members of Parliament.
Register Now! CAW Women's Conference
The CAW Women's Conference will be held August 12 to 15, 2012 at the CAW Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, Ontario.
The conference will equip women with the skills, tools and confidence to build a long-term political strategy for the future. A key goal is to ensure that leading up to the next federal election in 2015 government policies which harm women are exposed.
Through a combination of workshops, plenary and creative activities delegates will get the chance to engage with CAW women leaders and activists as well as those from the broader movement to strategize and organize for the political fight in 2015.
The registration deadline is Monday, July 23. Please contact the CAW Women's Department at 1-800-265-1891 ext. 2471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
CAW President Ken Lewenza has appointed former National Executive Board member and former CAW Local 444 President Rick LaPorte to staff as service representative working out of the Windsor office, effective Sunday, June 3, 2012.