Workers’ rights under attack

Bill C-89 has forced the postal workers, members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), to return to work as of November 27th – preventing the two sides from coming to an agreement.

“You cannot legislate labour peace,” says Mike Palecek, CUPW National President. “This law violates our right to free collective bargaining under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Legislating employees back to work has caused issues for governments in the past. In 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the right to strike to be fundamental and protected by the constitution. For this reason CUPW has filed a constitutional challenge to Bill C-89. During a previous work stoppage during the Harper government, the Liberals opposed the decision to legislate employees back to work. Now that they are in government they have changed their stance and are following Harper’s methods in legislating them back to work.  

“This federal government was supposed to be different from the last, and yet here we are again,” said CUPW President, Mike Palecek. “Trudeau is showing his true colours and the anti-worker agenda shared with former Prime Minister Harper. He knows we have always been prepared to bargain in good faith and to negotiate – quickly – fair collective agreements for our members. He could have directed Canada Post to do the same.”

CUPW was one of the most crucial organizations in establishing parental leave in Canada. During their work stoppage in 1981, the Postal Workers pushed for 17 weeks of maternity leave, which helped lead a movement that made parental leave available across the country. Unions fought hard for other key reforms for employees around the country that have become mainstream in Canadian society such as regulated hours, workplace safety, and much more.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has spoken out against the postal workers being legislated back to work.

“These workers love their job and love serving their communities, but they also face tough conditions and the highest rate of injury amongst federal workers,” said Singh. “All they want is fair negotiations but the Liberals have made that impossible.”

While CUPW members are no longer allowed to strike many other individuals have replaced CUPW members in solidarity on the picket line and postal workers and their allies have participated in demonstrations outside of Liberal MPs offices and Canada Post facilities.  Canada Post has made over 80 million dollars each of the last four years, with 2017 being the highest of the last three years. Canada Post’s business is expected to continue to grow due to online shopping.

Wynne Liberals block bill to ban pre-pay hydrometers

In December 2017, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government prevented an NDP bill which would have immediately banned pre-pay hydrometers in Ontario. Pre-pay meters force individuals to pay for their electricity before they can use it. Hydro One included a plan to use pre-pay meters in their application for increases for the next few years. Pre-pay meters can potentially lead to disconnections of electricity in the winter if the electricity bill has not been prepaid. Disconnecting electricity in Ontario in the winter is currently illegal.

“Today, we had an opportunity to do the right thing and put an end to the privatized Hydro One’s attempt to force families to feed the meter or face having their electricity cut off,” said Andrea Horwath, leader of the Ontario NDP. “By rejecting this bill, Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal government have sided with the privatized Hydro One and let families down once again.”

The Ontario NDP has also announced their plan to bring Hydro One back into public hands while bringing hydro bills down by about 30% for residents and businesses, and ending mandatory time of use pricing which charges people different rates depending on the time of day.

“Hydro prices are out of control thanks to years of Liberal mismanagement and their sale of Hydro One, a plan that Ontarians strongly rejected,” said Tom Rakocevic, Ontario NDP Candidate for Humber River-Black Creek. “If allowed, these new pre-pay hydro meters could leave many out in the cold.”

The Ontario Liberals sold Hydro One in 2015 which has resulted in a large increase in the hydro bills of Ontarians throughout the province. They had originally opposed selling off Hydro One during the previous Ontario PC government.

 

NDP proposes changes to Bill 148

The New Democrats attempted to make several amendments to Bill 148 (Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act) to protect temporary workers, to end exemptions to the minimum wage and to increase paid vacation to three weeks.

The NDP would like to see stronger protections than the ones which were passed by the Ontario Liberals.  During the recent debate around the minimum wage increase and other changes to the Employment Standards Act, the NDP made several proposals:

  • Three weeks paid vacation after the first year of employment – up from the current two
  • Ending exemptions that allow some worker categories to be paid less than the minimum wage
  • Five paid sick or emergency days for all workers
  • Ten days paid leave for survivors of domestic violence to access medical care, find safe housing or participate in legal proceedings
  • Making it harder for employers to label long-time workers “contractors” instead of employees
  • Requiring temp workers to become permanent employees after 90 days of work
  • Requiring employers of temp workers to bear the same responsibilities as employers of all workers when a worker is injured or killed on the job
  • Protecting injured workers’ benefits from unfair claw backs caused by deeming them eligible for jobs they never held

One of the major concerns relating to the minimum wage increase was that students and liquor servers would continue to not be guaranteed the same wage as everyone else. This two level system is considered inherently unfair by the NDP.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said: “Ending exemptions that allow some workers to be paid less than minimum wage is the right thing to do.”

Horwath was also adamant on ensuring that those who are sick or survivors of domestic violence are able to get time off:  “Giving everyone paid sick and personal emergency leave days, and enhancing the number of vacation days so they stay healthier – physically and mentally – is right for everyone in Ontario. And giving survivors of domestic violence the time they need to get medical care or find a safe place to live is critical.” The NDP was successful in bringing in paid leave to survivors of domestic violence into the legislation.

Bill 148 was passed on November 22nd and has brought changes to the minimum wage, critical illness leave, parental leave, family medical leave, and much more.