May 17, 2013
Volume 43, No.19
Local Content Rules Should be Expanded, not Scrapped
Governments should continue promoting the use Canadian-content, and other "buy-local" rules, to guide public purchases and direct investment, said CAW President Ken Lewenza.
Lewenza's comments come on the heels of a World Trade Organization appellate body ruling issued Monday, May 6, calling for a removal of local-content requirements within Ontario's Green Energy Act.
"Buy-local policies are one of the most effective tools governments have to retain investment and create jobs, and are consistent with fair international trade practices," Lewenza said.
Monday's ruling marks the final stage of a joint complaint filed by Europe and Japan in 2011. The complaint centred on the province's green jobs strategy, specifically the Ontario content requirements for wind and solar installations. Energy generators are paid an above-market rate for renewable power produced (through an innovative Feed-in-Tariff program), but only if they first prove that a significant portion of the equipment used was manufactured in Ontario.
Lewenza said these policies are used by governments all over the world, including in various Canadian jurisdictions, and roundly criticizes the WTO for its narrow-view on trade and economic development.
"The WTO should make considerations for the many ways democratically-elected governments choose to develop and enhance their local economies. Ontario's Green Energy Act, while not perfect, aims to leverage existing skills and capacity in the hard-hit manufacturing industry, putting people back to work in a sector that has a bright future," Lewenza said.
"The Act doesn't shut out European, Japanese or other global suppliers, and it's not protectionist. It's an innovative effort to build renewable energy capacity and secure investment. With respect to global trade, that's fair game."
The CAW intervened in the dispute through an amicus curiae (i.e. 'friend of the court') submission in 2012, along with a group of other concerned labour, student and social justice organizations. Among a series of arguments put forward, the group characterized the Green Energy Act as an important policy designed to spur sustainable development and assist Canada in meeting its stated greenhouse gas emission reduction targets - both goals supported by the WTO.
Lewenza said he is encouraged by provincial energy minister Bob Chiarelli's recent comments that the WTO ruling won't result in the immediate dismantling of local content requirements under the Act. As Ontario is not directly bound by the WTO ruling, Lewenza is urging Minister Chiarelli and Premier Kathleen Wynne, to ignore the ruling and stand by the policy.
Lewenza is also calling on the federal and provincial governments to undertake a thorough cost-benefit analysis of the country's participation in existing free trade agreements and treaties (including the proposed Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), to ensure democratically-elected governments are not stripped of the authority to legislate useful job creation and environmental protection policies.
CAW Local 599 Donates to Area Cancer Centre
CAW Local 599 has made a donation of $10,000 to the Timmins and District Hospital for cancer care.
Pictured here are CAW Local 599 President Shawn Connors, Xstrata Copper CAW Unit Chair Paul Fillion and accepting the cheque are Guy Guindon, Manager of the John P. Larche Medical Imaging and Cardiopulmonary Department and Ryan Taylor, Treasurer of the Timmins and District Hospital Foundation.
New Jobs Boost No Help to High Youth Unemployment
CAW President Ken Lewenza is raising concerns that new jobs created are having no impact on tackling chronically high youth employment. Lewenza is responding to the latest Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey results, which saw the addition of 12,500 new jobs in April, but a jump in youth unemployment to 14.5 per cent, with the overall unemployment rate remaining the same.
"Government should not allow the economy to limp along at this pace indefinitely - it is a terrible growth and jobs strategy. Persistently high unemployment in many parts of the country, particularly among young people requires action on the part of government and industry," said Lewenza.
"In failing to address the problem of high youth unemployment, we're turning our back on young people struggling to find jobs, pay for ever escalating tuition costs and just get by," said Lewenza.
Lewenza said that governments at all levels must address the problem head on and work to implement extensive youth employment plans that focus on good quality, full-time jobs - with targets and measurable results.
Lewenza also raised concern that the first four months of the year has seen a net loss of approximately 13,000 jobs. He said though that he is heartened though by the increase in manufacturing jobs last month to the tune of 20,600 new jobs and expressed hope that the upward trend in manufacturing will continue.
CAW Celebrates National Nursing Week
In honour of National Nursing Week, May 6-12, the CAW has re-committed efforts to support Canada's nurses and allied health care workers, as they struggle to improve work standards and provide quality care under austerity budgets.
"With our nation's aging population, combined with fiscal restraint policies of governments across the country, we are seeing our hospitals overburdened and unprecedented wait times for home care and long term care," said CAW President Ken Lewenza.
Lewenza pledged the union's support for adequate hospital funding and ensuring the federal government lives up to its responsibility to oversee the country's public Medicare system.
"The federal Conservatives have ignored creeping privatization, and it's evident they won't insist provinces follow the guiding principles of the Canada Health Act," said Lewenza. "Harper has effectively dismantled the Health Council of Canada, established after the Romanow Commission, and so far refused the concept of a national Pharmacare program that has the potential to save Canadians $10 billion each year on drug costs."
Lewenza said the workplace challenges nurses and caregivers face are mounting, with respect to heavier care and mental health patients being downloaded into the long-term care system.
"We will continue to make the argument that government legislate a measurable and enforceable standard of care that protects caregivers and those who receive care," Lewenza said.
To read the CAW statement on National Nursing Week, please visit: http://www.caw.ca/en/12104.htm
Take Action: Support Garment Workers in Bangladesh
The CAW has responded to global labour federation IndustriALL's call for solidarity contributions for the humanitarian relief effort for victims of the Rana Plaza tragedy with a donation of $25,000. This humanitarian relief does not replace the need for Western apparel brands, local employers and the Bangladeshi government to provide compensation to the thousands of injured workers and the families of those killed. Both the CAW and CEP are member organizations of IndustriALL.
On April 24 an eight-story building housing five textile factories collapsed in Bangladesh killing over 1,100 garment workers. With labour laws that require workers to request permission to form a union, less than 1 per cent of the 3.6 million garment workers in the country are unionized. The minimum wage for these workers is $38 per month.
In response to this travesty, labour activists across the world are calling for immediate action to raise working conditions and allow garment workers to join a union.
A statement released by the Canadian Labour Congress urges the Retail Council of Canada and its members to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement: "a binding agreement in which retailers ensure rigorous and independent third party factory inspections, transparency and oversight of their overseas suppliers, and ensures that workers and their organizations are an integral part of the solution."
Multiple online petitions are calling on brands to sign the agreement by a deadline of midnight May 15. The CAW signed an open letter from the Toronto-based Maquila Solidarity Network urging Canadian-owned company Loblaws (owner of brand Joe Fresh) to sign the agreement. In response to this pressure, Loblaws announced on May 14th that they would be signing the agreement.
Take action and show solidarity with these workers by sending a message to Bangladesh's Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and Employment http://en.maquilasolidarity.org/node/1123
CAW Young Workers Conference
On May 3-5, young CAW members from across Canada participated in the union's national young workers conference. The conference brought together 80 delegates and special guests, including representatives of the CEP National Young Workers Committee.
Over the weekend, discussions were focused on the New Union Project between CAW and CEP, and the opportunities it presents for young union members. Participants shared personal stories of union and community engagement and learned about a variety of current campaign touching on issues impacting young Canadians (like child care and environmental justice). Participants also offered suggestions on how to make the New Union more relevant to young workers, including more young worker-led organizing and decision-making. A keynote speech was delivered by former Quebec student federation leader Martine Desjardins. This was the 6th CAW young workers conference. The first was held in May of 2000.
Atlantic Canada Regional Leadership Conference
More than 200 local union leaders from across Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI and Newfoundland & Labrador participated in the Atlantic Canada Regional Leadership Conference this past weekend in Halifax.
Highlights included an address from CAW President Ken Lewenza and a presentation on the New Union Project by CAW Secretary-Treasurer Peter Kennedy and CEP Secretary-Treasurer Gatéan Ménard.
"Delegates along with guests from CEP local leadership are really excited about the progress in the New Union Project," said Atlantic Area Director Les Holloway.
The Hon. Darrell Dexter, Premier of Nova Scotia, also addressed the delegates and discussed his government's support of the workers at the New Page paper mill in Cape Breton (CEP), the shipbuilding contract (CAW/ MWF Local 1), and successful bargaining with Nova Scotia health care workers. Representatives of the Canadian Federation of Students presented on the importance of solidarity between the student movement and the labour movement and the need to engage young workers.
Annual Retired Workers Conference - September 8-13
The Retired Workers Conference is now accepting registrants for the popular annual event, held at the CAW Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, Ontario.
The conference will be the first one to take place after the founding of the New Union - Labour Day weekend. Retired from the job, but not the fight.
For more information or to find out how to register, please visit: http://www.caw.ca/en/12096.htm
CAW Welcomes New Members
- Kingston Interval House, Kingston, ON, 34 members.
- Inteva Products Canada Inc., Whitby, ON 4 members.
- Vast Auto Distribution Ontario Ltd., Brampton, ON 33 members
Health and Safety on the Job at Via Rail
CAW National co-ordinators Wyatt Clark and Jamie Hansen were given a tour of VIA Rail's chief maintenance facility, located in Montreal. An ergonomic assessment is being conducted at VIA Rail by safety committee members in order to identify ergonomic hazards. The list will be reviewed by an invited panel of experts, of which Wyatt Clark will be one. The purpose of the visit was to provide background information prior to the review.
Left to right: Jamie Hansen, National Health, Safety and Environment Coordinator, Chrysler; Wyatt Clark, Ergonomics Coordinator, Chrysler; Daniel Michaud, work place ergonomics sub-committee, Montreal Maintenance Centre, VIA Rail; Ken Cameron, National Health and Safety Coordinator, VIA Rail.
Download this poster at: http://www.newunionproject.ca/workplace-poster/ and put it up in your work place.
To read the highlights of the new constitution please visit: http://www.newunionproject.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/New-Union-Constitution.pdf .
A full draft version of the New Union Constitution will be sent to all local unions in early June.
Stay tuned for the launch of the new name and logo on May 30! Want to be kept in the loop? Visit: http://www.newunionproject.ca/ and sign up for updates.