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 Association of Western Pulp & Paper Workers
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( Last updated Monday, June 1, 2020 11:08 pm EDT)
Detroit Three and parts suppliers resume production

Unifor members at the Detroit Three and at many parts suppliers have returned to the production line with new health and safety measures in place.

“Unifor worked closely with auto companies to ensure protocols to protect workers from COVID-19 were implemented before the resumption of production,” said National President Jerry Dias. “The health of workers must remain the key priority as the auto sector restarts.”

This week, one shift returned to produce the Chevrolet Equinox at the General Motors CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll with a second shift scheduled to resume June 1. Full production at GM’s St. Catharines Propulsion Plant is also underway.

Ford also began the gradual return of workers to the Oakville Assembly Plant this week, with both shifts back by June 8. Production has resumed at the Ford Windsor Engine Plant (ANNEX) while the Essex Engine Plant will restart June 1.

Full production of the Chrysler 300, Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger has commenced at the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Brampton plant, while two shifts are currently working at the Windsor Assembly Plant with a third slated to return June 1. The automaker will also bring a readiness crew next week at its Etobicoke Casting Plant (ECP) in anticipation of a June 8 start-up with one shift.

New post-pandemic safety protocols now require workers to perform a Daily Health Risk Assessment, to undergo temperature screening to prevent those who exhibit signs of a fever from entering the building, and to wear a face mask at all times in the facility.        

The plants have increased availability of personal protective equipment, redesigned job and rest areas and created protocols to allow for more social distancing, and have implemented thorough daily cleaning schedules of which most include a new start-of-shift sanitation process for each workstation.  

The auto manufacturers have also adjusted shift schedules to reduce employee interaction. 

At the FCA Windsor plant six medical tents, six trailers and multiple thermal imaging temperature stations have been installed, with similar measures in place at other Detroit Three facilities. Meanwhile, GM will modify air ventilation at CAMI to increase the fresh air intake.

Heath and safety protocols have also been implemented in the independent parts supplier (IPS) plants. Over the past week, Unifor conducted two health and safety webinars for IPS Chairpersons to provide information and guidance on COVID-19 precautionary measures. 

“We have and will continue to do everything we can to ensure a safe, secure and sanitized workplace for our members,” said Dias.

Thursday, May 28, 2020 10:45 am EDT

Unifor thanks paramedics for dedication and courage on the front lines

Unifor salutes the exceptional courage and compassion of all paramedics on Paramedic Services Week, recognized from May 24 to May 30, 2020.

“Paramedics, as emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, bring tremendous dedication, skill, care and compassion to their jobs as first responders,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “The pandemic has shown us the courage of first responders who often perform their work in dangerous conditions, making them true heroes in our public health care system. I am very proud to stand with the EMS workers represented by our union.”

While Unifor celebrates the vital work of EMS members, the union must also sound an alarm. Last year in Ontario, the Ford government launched a direct assault on public services including EMS.

“These cuts made no sense then nor now. Doug Ford has quickly changed his tune now by thanking paramedics for their hard work, but has yet to introduce or amend legislation to better improve the working conditions of paramedics,” said Dias.

Currently, there are dangerously slow response times in rural areas due to long travel distances and cuts to funding. Urban areas also face and inadequate numbers of ambulances available due to crisis-level hospital overcrowding and paramedics continue to be stuck in long offload delays.

Unifor stands in unity and respect during Paramedic Services Week with all paramedics and remains committed to ensuring fair and equitable terms and conditions of employment in recognition of not only their care and compassion, but also the tremendous courage and dedication, skill and commitment in their service to the health of Canadians. 

Download and share the Paramedic Services Week 2020 shareables and join us in thanking all Paramedics for their compassion, humanity and life-saving work in our communities.

Click here to download shareable 1

Click here to download shareable 2



Monday, May 25, 2020 12:45 pm EDT

Fish harvesters welcome announcement of direct federal support to compensate industry

Fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador were relieved to hear that direct federal support is on the way for the inshore fishery. Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that $470 million in wage subsidies and grants will be available to fish harvesters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Fish harvesters, crew members and processing plant workers sustain rural Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Keith Sullivan, President of FFAW-Unifor. “Today’s announcement recognizes the vital role fisheries workers play in the economies of our coastal communities and the significant impact the pandemic has had on their livelihood.”

Since April, FFAW-Unifor has called on the federal government to provide extended Employment Insurance benefits to fish harvesters, access to wage subsidy programs, debt relief through non-repayable grants and the waiving or reimbursement of fees related to the commercial fishery. FFAW-Unifor members have sent more than 2,000 letters to federal Members of Parliament calling on the government to take action.

Today, Prime Minister Trudeau’s announcement addressed three key issues for fish harvesters: a $252 million wage subsidy program that will provide coverage of 75% of losses up to $10,000 for fishing enterprise owners and crew, if they demonstrate a 25% decrease in income due to the pandemic; a $10,000 non-repayable grant to help license holders deal with fixed costs; and a commitment to support fish harvesters by making changes to the Employment Insurance system to ensure fish harvesters qualify based on income from previous years.

“This announcement was long overdue and is welcome news to fish harvesters who have been calling for income security, debt relief and access to affordable capital since this pandemic began,” said Sullivan. “Previous federal programs have fallen short when it comes to supporting fish harvesters. While these measures do not address every recommendation made by FFAW-Unifor, we are hopeful that further programs, particularly those that address concerns about Employment Insurance benefits, will be announced soon.”

This story originally appeared on the FFAW-Unifor website.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020 4:00 am EDT

Unifor’s Organizing team breaks new ground

Unifor’s Organizing Department continues to break new ground and adapt to the new realities of the COVID-19 pandemic – using tools such as Zoom meetings, distancing rallies and bigger fonts on flyers.

“Every day we learn more about organizing workers during a pandemic, and we are continually adapting what we do to reach workers whatever way works best for them in their workplace,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.

Take, for instance, flyers. Organizing has moved increasingly online as social distancing has made face-to-face contact more difficult, and even dangerous. At one long term care home, however, workers told organizers that while they appreciate the effort, they still prefer printed physical flyers.

“So that’s what we did – but we bumped up the size of the text so it was easier to read over a facemask or through a visor,” said Unifor Organizing Director Kellie Scanlan.

Online activities remain the greatest innovation, however. Organizers are hard at work with the Communications department developing several new websites to host organizing drives and engage with workers.

New online membership cards, set up in consultation with labour boards across the country have begun to roll out and have led to an increase in cards being signed. Already, Unifor has filed three union certification applications using online cards.

Organizers have also begun to use Zoom to meet online with workers interested in joining the union. This was begun as a response to the pandemic, since we can no longer hold big meetings in union halls or other venues, but is proving to be a model that can continue to be used even after this crisis, when larger meetings are allowed again.

The increased online presence has led to a higher level of social media engagement as a way for workers to explore their right to join a union.

“Many workers really like these online options, which is great. There will always be a place for face-to-face meetings and all the other traditional organizing tools, but these new online tools aren’t going anywhere,” Scanlan said.

“The more ways that we can find to engage workers, the more we can help them join Unifor – and that’s good news for everyone.”




Tuesday, May 19, 2020 4:45 am EDT

Unifor Local 1999 members ratify contract with Mr. Furnace

After a seven-day lockout that began May 4, 2020, Unifor members at St. Catharines-area HVAC provider Mr. Furnace have ratified a new collective agreement.

“Our members faced down an employer that was making questionable labour relations moves during a pandemic,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Local 1999 deserves credit for showing resolve despite these tactics.”

The new three-year collective agreement includes a two per cent wage increase in each year of the agreement, shift premiums, the six-month continuation of benefits for retirees, a signing bonus, and various other benefit enhancements.

“Unifor members are pivotal to the success of Mr. Furnace,” said James Tauvette, president of Unifor Local 1999.

Mr. Furnace is a subsidiary of Right Time Heating and Air Conditioning Canada. Local 1999 represents 19 workers serving as technicians and administration staff.

Thursday, May 14, 2020 11:30 am EDT

Manitoba Hydro cuts will impact services

A coalition of unions representing workers at Manitoba Hydro have vowed to resist layoffs announced by the Brian Pallister government.

“Brian Pallister is recycling a tired political strategy from conservatives everywhere: deliberately mismanage a valued public service and then claim that privatization is the only solution,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “He’s not going to get away with it. Manitoba Hydro is simply too valuable and we’re going to stop him.”

Unifor, IBEW, CUPE, and AMHSSE have learned that the Government of Manitoba is demanding up to 13 per cent of the workforce at Hydro be cut. That amounts to 700 workers. The coalition is concerned that such deep cuts to staffing will result in longer wait-times for service, among other outcomes.

“These are Brian Pallister’s instincts: cut essential services and frontline workers during a pandemic,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director. “Pallister is a man on an ideological mission and won’t let reason and good sense stand in his way.”

Pallister has been widely accused of political interference in the profitable public utility. In spring 2018, the mass resignation of his own appointees to the board of directors signalled that Pallister was unfit to oversee Manitoba Hydro.

“These cuts will affect the safe and reliable service of natural gas in Manitoba,” said Victor Diduch, Acting President of Unifor Local 681.

Manitoba Hydro delivers the second lowest hydro rates in the country.

Manitobans have mobilized for two car-based protests against Pallister’s cuts, including one on May 13, 2020. More are expected in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020 2:00 am EDT

A brutal wake-up call regarding the situation in long-term care homes in Quebec

In the province hardest hit by COVID-19 in Canada, residential and long-term care homes (LTC) in Quebec have borne the brunt of the outbreak.

In recent weeks, horrifying stories have emerged of seniors who are left alone in their rooms, frightened and without staff to care for them, thirsty and hungry, often in soiled diapers... The scenes described are shocking.

As workers have fallen sick or abandoned their posts out of fear of catching the virus because of a lack of protective equipment, residences have faced acute problems.

“Doctors, nurses and patient care workers who have witnessed some of these situations have even evoked a ‘genocide of the elderly,’” explained brother Renaud Gagné, adding “It’s revolting!”

This nightmare has shone a very public light on the extent to which workers in these residences have always been undervalued and overworked. For too long, these workers, many of them immigrants, have been under-paid and deprived of decent working conditions, both in private and public residences.

Another aggravating factor has been the ban on visits by personal caregivers, who provide endless hours of care to their family members in residences.

“Coming on top of the lack of personnel, this ban created a perfect storm that led to the tragic situations we have witnessed,” added Brother Gagné.

“Despite our repeated calls for better working conditions over the years, it is clear that the majority of the population preferred to close their eyes and avoid facing reality. This is a painful awakening for the entire population of Quebec. But it’s also a necessary awakening,” Gagné said.

Unifor has joined with the QFL and affiliated unions representing members in LTC to demand that the government issue a decree that would force the private sector to set decent minimum wage rates.

Negotiations are ongoing in the public sector to increase the salaries of patient attendants. “In the meantime, private-sector workers are being paid a bonus of 4 per cent per hour. It’s a start, but more is needed.”

The Legault government has promised a major overhaul in this sector, even evoking the possibility of a nationalization of private seniors’ homes! Quite the turnaround. While we doubt he will go that far, it seems almost certain that much stricter controls will be put in place. That’s welcome news.

Despite the fact that some long-term care homes are still struggling with COVID-19, the situation now seems to be under control thanks to the thousands of workers who have volunteered to work in the long-term care homes to make up for staff shortages.

However, according to Renaud Gagné, “it’s unfortunate that it took all these deaths for the population and the government to realize the importance of offering decent working conditions to people working in long-term care homes.”

Situation in Quebec on May 5, 2020







COVID-19 has hit particularly hard in the greater Montreal area, which has the vast majority of cases, with 81% of cases of infection and 87% of deaths.

Cases of infection by age group

29 years and under


30 to 49 years


50 to 69 years


70 years and over


Although the percentages of people infected are distributed more evenly across the different age groups, the rate of death is much higher among people over the age of 70 (91% of cases).

Deaths by age group

30 years and under


30 to 49 years


50 to 69 years


70 to 79 years


80 to 89 years


90 years and over



Friday, May 8, 2020 11:45 am EDT

Cape Breton local restocks community pantry

Members of Unifor Local 4600 know a lot about caring for one another – as health care workers, child and community care workers and proud Cape Bretoners, it’s part of daily life. It’s no surprise then, that when a community cupboard was nailed to an oak tree outside the Local 4600 office with a sign that read “Take what you need, Leave what you don’t, Give if you can” the local took notice.

“I watched many people restocking the cupboards daily, but come the next morning it would be empty all over again,” said Jamie Pollock, President of Local 4600. “There were clearly people in need in our community, so we got together and decided to help out.”

The local quickly agreed and passed a motion to donate $500 to help community members who were struggling during the pandemic. The chair of the local’s Human Rights Committee does the grocery shopping, supplies are then stored in the office and replenished in the community cupboard daily.

“We all love hearing stories of people helping one another, especially in times like these,” said Linda MacNeil, Atlantic Regional Director. “I want to thank the executive of Local 4600 for their community outreach and for their continued support of all the hard-working health care, child and community care members they represent.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2020 10:45 am EDT


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