March 22, 2013

Volume 43, No. 11


Joint Union Statement on Pension Relief for Air Canada

The following is a joint statement issued by the CAW, CUPE and IAMAW unions on the federal government's recently announced pension relief support for Air Canada:
 
As the unions representing the majority of Air Canada's workers, we are pleased the federal government has agreed to allow Air Canada further relief from its solvency pension funding obligations.   Basically, the proposal from the Minister of Finance would extend and modify the special regulations expiring January 30, 2014, which allow Air Canada to contribute to the plans on a reduced basis, until January 31, 2021. 
 
We supported Air Canada in its request for such continued relief because the alternative would have brought the carrier once more into serious financial difficulties, and potentially another round of creditor protection.
 
Minister Flaherty has attached a number of conditions to these special relief provisions.   Some are overdue - such as restrictions on executive compensation, dividends and share repurchases.  If, as we called for when the company left CCAA,  Air Canada management had been required to use even some of the cash from its asset sales to fund pensions rather than be siphoned off to outside investors, the Air Canada pension plans would be in much  better condition today.
 
Unfortunately, Minister Flaherty is also pushing Air Canada to seek, in the next round of negotiations, provisions which would require employees to contribute 50% of pension normal costs.  This is another example of the federal government's unjustified interference into free collective bargaining at Air Canada.  The government should let the parties decide their priorities and who pays what. 
 
Air Canada's pensions are not underfunded because members did not pay their fair share.   Unlike Air Canada, members never took contribution holidays...  They deserve to share in every bit of the company's success. In spite of this unwelcome intrusion into future bargaining, we will not oppose this funding relief plan, in the hope that better circumstances and better management will keep Air Canada and its pension plans viable in the long run.

CAW President Meets with ASP Bargaining Committee

CAW National President Ken Lewenza enjoyed a visit with the CAW bargaining committee for ASP, working in security-related functions at Toronto's Pearson International Airport. The workers are represented by CAW Local 2002.
 
From left to right:
Back row - CAW organizer Caroline Haddad, Benny Gonzales (Vice-chair), Gurpreet Malhi (Vice-chair), CAW President Ken Lewenza, Musa Hoxha (Vice-chair), CAW Organizing Director John Aman, Surinder Marok (Vice-chair). Front row - Savithri Alahari (Chairperson), Jesse Jackson (Vice-chair), Hassan Harai (Vice-chair).


CAW Wins Representation Vote at United Airlines

The CAW is welcoming 44 new members from the former Continental Airlines following a representation vote that affected customer service agents at Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport.
 
In March 2012, United Airlines and Continental Airlines applied to the Canada Industrial Relations Board to consolidate two existing bargaining units into one unit of 88 workers, as a result of a merger between the two airlines.
 
The CIRB ordered a representation vote be held for workers to democratically select which of the two existing unions (CAW and the IAM - International Association of Machinists) would represent the newly formed unit.
 
These new members join the over 2,500 active CAW members currently working at Pearson Airport and over 10,000 air transport workers in Local 2002.
 
"Our leadership and activists fought hard to ensure that these workers were given all the facts in order to decide which union they wanted to represent them," said CAW Local 2002 President Jamie Ross.
 
The union is awaiting a decision by the CIRB whether the current CAW collective agreement will apply.


Austerity Harming Ontario Economy, CCPA Report Finds

Ontario's economy was slowed by the province's experiment with austerity in 2012 and a new course of action is needed, a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative (CCPA) report says.

The report released March 18 by the CCPA's Ontario office reveals that the province has not returned to pre-recession economic health.
 
CAW Economist Jim Stanford and CCPA-Ontario Director Trish Hennessy prepared the report, which shows that austerity measures are compounding the problem, creating a "fiscal drag" effect that is slowing economic growth and undermining budgetary progress.
 
"The combination of federal, provincial and municipal program spending cuts is creating a fiscal drag on Ontario's economy, reducing the province's GDP growth by three per cent over the next couple of years," said Stanford, also the CCPA-Ontario Advisory Board chairperson.
 
Canadian GDP growth slowed almost to zero at the end of 2012, Stanford said. More spending cuts, combined with anemic private sector growth, could well create another recession, a CCPA media release states.
    
To read the report please visit www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/more-harm-good 


Challenge WTO Decision to Gut Local Green Job Policy

A coalition of labour unions, students and Canadian NGOs have produced the first in a new series of trade-related information bulletins, opposing a recent World Trade Organization (WTO) private tribunal decision to abolish Ontario's innovative green job creation program.
 
The March issue of the Sustainable Trade Bulletin was co-produced by the CAW, Blue-Green Alliance Canada, Canadian Federation of Students, Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the Council of Canadians. The bulletin was released in the wake of a December 2012 WTO ruling that found Ontario's local content requirements for wind and solar projects in violation of existing international trade rules.
Under the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) and the Agreement on Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIM), governments are forbidden from treating imported goods less favourably than domestic goods.
 
The province's innovative Green Energy Act pays an "above-marked premium rate (or Feed-in-Tariff) to renewable energy producers as long as they meet firm but fair local-content requirements for equipment, machinery, labour and materials," the bulletin states.
 
The CAW has argued that the WTO decision would limit governments, around the world, from adopting similarly inventive policies aimed at local job creation and encouraging sustainable energy development.
The federal government has appealed the WTO ruling and a final decision is expected in the spring of 2013.
 
The coalition is encouraging members and interested citizens in Ontario to contact their local Members of Provincial Parliament and express their support for the Green Energy Act and its local content provisions.

To download the bulletin visit: http://www.caw.ca/assets/images/Trade_Factsheet_English2.pdf  

New Investment at GE Great News for Peterborough Workers

A new CAW collective agreement at General Electric includes a significant investment in the company's Peterborough, Ontario facility that will be used to create a "North American Centre of Excellence" for large, slow-speed motors.
 
The initial investment will include approximately $21 million for the first phase of restructuring with an additional $5 million investment to support wind and solar businesses.
 
"This investment will help turn Peterborough's GE large motor operations into modern facilities with the most up to date technology and capable of competing for a wide range of work," said Jerry Dias, assistant to the CAW President. "Not only will the creation of a North American Centre of Excellence mean greater job security for Peterborough workers, it will also potentially generate new jobs," Dias said.

In Peterborough, CAW Local 524 represents approximately 550 workers at GE's large motors division. Workers overwhelmingly approved a new three-year agreement at GE at a ratification vote February 16.
 
"GE will continue to aggressively pursue significant marine opportunities with the Canadian government for the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy," a company news release states. "If successful, Peterborough will be GE's production facility of choice to meet demand for propulsion motors, generators and other components for these ships."
 
In October of 2011 the federal government announced $35 billion in naval, coast guard and icebreaker shipbuilding contracts under the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy


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