September 14, 2012
Volume 42, No. 31
Auto Bargaining Deadline:
Sept. 17 at 11:59 p.m.
On September 10, financial secretaries and strike captains from all CAW local unions across the Ford, General Motors and Chrysler chains met in Toronto to review strike protocol and prepare for a possible strike.
'We're still hopeful that we can avoid a strike by reaching a new agreement with at least one of the companies. Collectively though, we must be ready for any outcome," a membership update from the three master bargaining committees states.
A pamphlet was to be distributed in all facilities outlining strike protocol, such as strike duty, strike pay and the extension of health care benefits.
"The threat of a strike has certainly captured the attention of the media and company executives alike," the committees state in the Sept. 12 Auto Talks update. "Over the last few days, meetings have picked up and are now taking place more frequently. Much to our disappointment though, these meetings have not yielded many results.
All three companies appear to be fixated not merely on cost containment, but on deep concessions that would have a lasting and severe impact on our members. CAW committees at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are working around the clock in an effort to fight concessionary demands and reach a fair agreement."
For further auto bargaining updates visit: www.caw.ca/autotalks
Job Stats Show National Good Jobs Strategy Overdue
Disappointing job growth in the month of August is further evidence that the Harper government's approach to economic development is failing Canadians, said CAW President Ken Lewenza.
"This Conservative model bent on tearing down our economic structures, whether through tax cuts, looser foreign investment laws and more unfair corporate trade deals isn't delivering prosperity for working people, so let's explore new policies that actually work," Lewenza said.
"Let's quit stalling and get on with the formation a national good jobs strategy for Canada."
Lewenza lamented the growth of more precarious part-time jobs (+46,700) and fewer full-time jobs (-12,500) in the latest Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey report released September 7, noting this trend toward poorer quality jobs extends over decades.
Lewenza said he's particularly concerned with the poor performance of the job market for youth. Employment among 15-24 year old workers in August was down 72,000 compared with 12 months earlier. August also marked one of the lowest levels on record for summer student workers. This caused the official youth unemployment rate to jump from 14.3 to 14.8 per cent.
"Add in those underemployed and those who have given up looking, and the true youth unemployment rate sits closer to 20 per cent. That's one in five. That's unacceptable," Lewenza said.
The Quebec Election: A Historic Moment
The following are excerpts from a statement by CAW Quebec Director Sylvain Martin following the recent Quebec election:
September 4, 2012 will go down in Quebec history as both a happy and a sad day. It was a happy day, because for the first time in Quebec history, a woman was elected premier. Congratulations are due to Ms. Marois for her election. You may recall that, barely six months ago, many people were predicting that Pauline Marois wouldn't even make it past the holidays, notably due to unrest within the party coupled with the defection of several of its members. She successfully overcame all these challenges and we can be thankful for the tenacity and leadership shown by Ms. Marois.
However, September 4 will also go down as a sad day in Quebec history because of the deadly attack targeting Pauline Marois and what she represents..
.We are coming off an election and this is the best time to prepare for the next one. An election is like a collective agreement. As soon as it is signed, a serious bargaining committee gets to work preparing its renewal on a daily basis - and that's how it should be done. ...As a labour organization, it is our duty to get involved in the campaign, to analyze the political programs and to make recommendations to our members, while knowing that we can't tell them who to vote for because experience has shown us that this formula doesn't work. They expect our recommendations to be backed by solid arguments.
The challenge I am proposing is that we get a head start by politicizing our members right now, that we discuss with them the political issues we are faced with on a daily basis and that we defend the idea that a union that is not politically active neglects an important part of its mission as a force for change in society, because all political decisions directly affect not only our daily lives, but also our lives at work.
A union that doesn't get involved in politics can be compared to a union that doesn't negotiate occupational health and safety clauses in its members' collective agreements. No responsible union would ever think of doing such a thing.
To read the full statement, visit: www.caw.ca/en/11404.htm
Attack on Collective Bargaining in Ontario Schools
The CAW is expressing outrage at the Ontario government for its blatant legislative interference and disrespect for the fundamental right to free collective bargaining in the broader public sector, including Ontario schools.
"This intrusion by the provincial government to dictate the terms of settlement between school boards and teacher unions is simply beyond the pale," said CAW National President Ken Lewenza in a September 6 media release.
Lewenza was sharply critical of the attack on fundamental democratic rights - comparing the Ontario government's actions to those of the federal Harper government in its own attack on collective bargaining rights with unprecedented interventions at Air Canada, Canada Post and CP Rail.
Without any actual or threatened work stoppage in the education sector, Bill 115, the "Putting Students First Act", denies education workers and teachers the right to free collective bargaining with local school boards on the terms of their compensation and conditions of work.
"We express our solidarity and support to the tens of thousands of education workers in their determination to preserve their right to collective bargaining, and reject the Ontario government's attempt to create an unnecessary crisis in Ontario's education system, " Lewenza said.
The CAW represents 145,000 workers in Ontario including 26,000 public sector workers in health, education, municipal utilities and the urban transit sector. The CAW represents education support workers at several school boards including Avon Maitland as well as Thunder Bay and Windsor Essex Catholic District where the province recently assumed control over the local school board.
To read the full release please visit www.caw.ca/en/11398.htm.
Hope In High Heels Walk for Halton Women's Place
Jerry Dias presents a cheque for $45,000 to Halton Women's Place in Oakville, Ontario on behalf of Team Dias. Jerry and son Jordan were two of the top event fundraisers.
Photo: Jo-Ann Newell, CAW Local 414
CAW members and leadership joined together with community activists for the Hope in High Heels walk in Oakville, Ontario September 9 to support ending violence against women.
More than 60 volunteer participants, including CAW members from Local 414 in the area as well as other CAW locals, took part in the event.
Hope in High Heels asks male volunteers to walk about a kilometre in high heeled shoes to raise funds for Halton Women's Place, which provides shelter and crisis services for women in need.
CAW assistant to the president Jerry Dias and son Jordan took part and were two of the top fundraisers.
"This is about righting a wrong, so I am so glad about seeing so many of our brothers and sisters out here today - it is so important," Dias said. "It shows what type of an organization we are. The fact that CAW President Ken Lewenza is here speaks volumes about what it is we are trying to accomplish. My feet are hurting, but I'll do it again next year," he said.
EI Changes Make Workers More Vulnerable
The Harper government's recent changes to Employment Insurance eligibility rules will increase the precariousness of jobs and undermine the bargaining power of workers across the country.
This was the message delivered to a group of over 160 community activists and union members during a special town hall meeting held in Oshawa, Ontario on September 12. The event focused on significant changes to federal EI rules announced earlier this year within the federal government's omnibus budget bill.
The changes include forcing laid-off workers to seek new employment, even if those jobs fall outside their usual occupation or if those jobs pay substantially lower wages, among other moves.
CAW national staff representative responsible for adjustment and employment insurance services Cammie Peirce said these changes are part of a "cheap labour strategy" that enables employers to force vulnerable workers to work longer and earn less.
"The new rules will place pressure on the unemployed to seek and accept employment that doesn't meet their needs," Peirce said. "Forcing workers to accept the first available job is not a good labour market policy. Precarious work flourishes in this environment. We want workers to find good jobs that match their skill set."
Peirce was one of three panelists that spoke to about 75 town hall participants at the CAW Local 222 union hall and another 90 watching live, from the CAW Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, via Skype.
Durham Region Labour Council President Jim Freeman criticized the government for gutting the EI appeals process, effectively firing over 900 locally-based experts (who sit on regional referee boards to hear appeals) and replacing them with just 37 individuals, considered EI "specialists" - a move that will take effect in April 2013.
Canadian Labour Congress Senior Economist Angella MacEwan flagged that the suite of EI changes could result in laid-off workers returning to work by taking a 10-30 per cent pay cut (depending on how frequently they have received EI in the past) or taking on a job that involves a commute of up to one hour or even longer.
The event was wrapped up with an hour-long open forum, where participants asked questions and expressed their concern with the new rules. Many committed to speak directly with their local MP and MPP and participate in a CLC-led postcard campaign and future campaign initiatives.
The EI town hall was co-sponsored by the Canadian Labour Congress - Ontario Division, the Durham Region Labour Council and CAW Local 222.
United Way Campaign 2012
CAW President Ken Lewenza is appealing to members to support their local United Way campaign efforts by making a financial contribution and volunteering wherever possible.
"The United Way was established to provide a community response to local problems," wrote Lewenza in a letter to all CAW local unions on September 10. "If not for the United Way, many of the agencies created to provide support would fold. We cannot allow that to happen."
Lewenza stressed that many CAW members who have made significant contributions to United Way campaigns in the past now find themselves relying on those same services, as a result of massive job loss in the manufacturing sector.
The United Way sponsors vital community service supports, including food banks, youth programs, support services for new Canadians and a wide range of other initiatives.
Ontario Northland is Not for Sale
CAW members from across Ontario crashed a Liberal Party by-election campaign event in Kitchener-Waterloo on Thursday September 6, attended by Premier Dalton McGuinty. Union activists protested the provincial government's decision to privatize Ontario Northland services earlier this year. The government's decision includes the privatization of bus and ferry services, among other Ontario Northland Transportation Commission operations, as well as the full cancellation of the Northlander passenger rail service. CAW Local 103 represents 450 ONTC workers in north-eastern Ontario and has joined a coalition of community and business representatives calling on the Premier to negotiate a new deal for the ONTC. In 2002, the Premier (then Leader of the Opposition) promised to not privatize the ONTC. The Kitchener-Waterloo by-election was won by New Democratic Party candidate Catherine Fife. Photo: Andy Mitchell, CAW Local 103
Bev McCloskey Named Outstanding Retired Worker
Bev McCloskey (front) is recognized as the CAW Outstanding Retired Worker of the Year at the CAW Retired Workers Conference on September 6. McCloskey is joined by (L-R) CAW Retired Worker Advisory Executive Chair Len Harrison, CAW President Ken Lewenza, CAW Local 222 Retired Worker Chapter Chairperson Les MacDonald and Retired Workers Department Director Jenny Ahn.
Photo by: Rob McLean, CAW Local 200 (retiree)
Retired CAW Local 222 member, and long-time Oshawa community activist, Bev McCloskey was named the CAW's Outstanding Retired Worker of the Year during the union's annual Retired Workers Conference.
McCloskey spent 60 years as a trade union and political activist, much of that time pushing for women's equality rights at General Motors in Oshawa, among other social justice causes. She pioneered the first local union women's committee in Local 222 in 1968 - a group credited as being the catalyst for Ontario's adoption of landmark legislation banning sex and marital status discrimination in the workplace.
McCloskey is one of 13 recipients to ever receive the award, handed out each year during the week-long Retired Workers Conference in Port Elgin, Ontario. The conference coincides with annual retired worker-themed Labour Day festivities in the community of Bruce County.
The 2012 conference involved over 200 retired worker delegates from across Canada, elected through their respective local union retired worker chapters.
Delegates heard speeches from CAW President Ken Lewenza, Pension and Benefits Department Director Jo-Ann Hannah, CEP Secretary-Treasurer Gaetan Menard and former CAW President Buzz Hargrove among other special guests
CAW Retired Workers Advisory Executive Chairperson Len Harrison said the willingness to foster an ongoing relationship with its retirees is the mark of a truly progressive and forward-thinking union.
"Our retirees have the energy and passion to keep up the incredible work of our union, even after retiring from our jobs," Harrison said. "We'll never retire from the fight."
Conference delegates discussed and debated 47 resolutions submitted by the various retired worker chapters, including a call for a national pharmacare program.
The Retired Workers Conference was held on September 2-7.
Support for Striking B.C. Workers
CAW Local 333 and 114 offered their solidarity and support during a province-wide strike in British Columbia on September 5. Over 27,000 members of the B.C. Government Employees Union (BCGEU), the Canadian Office and Professional Employees union (COPE) and the Professional Employees Association (PEA) participated in a one-day strike that took place across 150 communities and over 700 workplaces throughout the province. The unions have been protesting provincial government demands for wage cuts and other concessions during the latest round of contract talks. CAW members attended picket lines and also cooked hamburgers for picketers in various communities by way of a truck-bed "solidarity barbecue." (L-R) Sandi Wright (Local 333), Mike Hagman (Local 333), Ben Williams (President Local 333), Jim Pullan (Local 333), Jeannie Blaney (Local 114), James Pollack (Local 333).
Are You Coming to Power?
On October 26-29, over 1,500 young Canadians will congregate in Ottawa for Power Shift 2012 - a massive, youth-lead event that aims to build the skills and capacities of young people through the lens of environmental and social justice.
The CAW has thrown its full support behind Power Shift, as have many local unions and CAW young worker committees across the country. Many young CAW members are signing up to participate. Momentum is growing.
For more information on Power Shift 2012 and to register online, visit: www.wearepowershift.ca or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.