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( Last updated Saturday, September 19, 2020 9:57 pm EDT)
Unifor raises $134,000 to aid domestic violence victims

Unifor raises $134,000 to aid domestic violence victims

Unifor has raised a record breaking $134,000, so far, for Halton Women’s Place in a ‘Hope in High Heels’ walk today led by Unifor National President Jerry Dias and his son Jordan.  

“These much needed funds will provide safe shelter and services to women and children escaping domestic violence at a time when many have been forced to isolate with their abusers,” said Dias. ”We’ve seen a rise in domestic violence during the pandemic so in addition to raising money our goal is to also raise awareness about the ongoing violence that thousands of women across the country are experiencing.”

This year the annual ‘Hope in High Heels’ walks were modified due to COVID-19. Unifor opted to hold a walk with a limited number of men at Nathan Phillips Square in the heart of downtown Toronto.

“Every year I am overwhelmed by the dedication and passion that Jerry, Jordan and their Unifor team show at our walk events,” said Carm Bozzo, Manager of Development & Communications for Halton Women’s Place. “It is just amazing to see these men come out every September and stand up against women abuse and raise such an incredible amount of money that directly supports the women and children who use our services. This year, this is so important as fundraising events have been cancelled and majorly shifted because of COVID-19.  Thank you, Jerry, Jordan and Unifor!”

Halton Women’s Place provides shelter and crisis services for physically, emotionally, financially and sexually abused women and their dependent children. To date Dias and his team have raised more than $830,000 in Hope in High Heels events. Dias thanked the many Unifor employers and partners who made generous contributions this year, even amid the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

“This is about helping survivors rebuild their lives, but it’s also about men taking responsibility to end gender-based violence and promote equity” said Dias who led participants in a pledge against violence. “Women are most vulnerable right after they leave an abusive partner and often the one place the abuser knows they can find them is at their job which is why our union has worked to create supports within our workplaces.”

Unifor has made it a bargaining priority to negotiate the union’s ground-breaking Women’s Advocate Program, which trains workplace representatives to assist women with issues including workplace harassment, intimate violence and abuse.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector and represents 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

Saturday, September 19, 2020 1:15 am EDT

Unifor members receive Indigenous teachings

On September 10 the Aboriginal and Workers of Colour Committee of Unifor Local 1-S erected a teepee on the east lawn of the Saskatchewan legislature in Regina. Led by Unifor activists Janna Pratt, Cathy Sapergia, and Don Wren, the event was designed to hold cultural teachings, including instructions on how to set up a teepee and a Cree language class. Elder Brenda Dubois also led participants through the meaning of the poles in teepees.

"Our goal is to do our part to advance reconciliation by helping Unifor members in Regina learn more about Indigenous heritage and teachings," said Wren.

The Local 1-S teepee joined two others on the legislature lawn. One has been standing since July 31 as part of the Walking with our Angels camp. Organized by Tristen Durocher, the campaign aims to raise awareness about the suicide epidemic, especially in Northern Saskatchewan. Durocher walked from Air Ronge to Regina to begin his protest at the legislature, where he began a 44-day fast that ended September 13.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020 6:30 am EDT

Unifor Hope in High Heels team support domestic violence victims

A Unifor team, led by Unifor National President Jerry Dias and his son Jordan, will participate this Saturday in the annual Halton Women’s Place ‘Hope in High Heels’ walk in support of victims of domestic violence.

“Due to the reality of COVID-19 the charity walk has been modified this year but team Unifor is determined to proceed,” said National President Jerry Dias. “Sadly the pandemic has also led to women and children being confined in their homes with their abusers with access to outside supports cut off. The need to provide a safe place and services for them is greater than ever.”

Halton’s Women Place provides shelter and crisis services for physically, emotionally, financially and sexually abused women and their dependent children. The organization provides services to the Halton Region community in Burlington, Milton, Halton Hills and Oakville. It operates two emergency short-term shelters in Milton and Burlington and responds to more than 2,500 crisis calls each year.

“Jerry and Jordan, along with the Unifor team, have been true champions for ‘Hope in High Heels’. They are incredible ambassadors for Halton Women’s Place and truly want to be a part of the solution in ending violence against women. We are so grateful to be able to count on their support every year – especially this year when COVID-19 has put women experiencing domestic violence in more dangerous situations as they are isolated at home,” said Laurie Hepburn, Executive Director for Halton Women’s Place.

“We know that with this added awareness and advocacy we can reach more women who need our services and show them that groups like Unifor and men and boys, like Jerry and Jordan, support them.

Team Unifor will hold its fundraising walk Saturday September 19, 2020 at 11 a.m. at Nathan Phillips Square at Toronto City Hall. Last year team Unifor raised a record-breaking 126,000 in the Hope in High Heels walk and to date have raised more than $460,000 in total.

“I know times are tough this year for a lot of people but we’re asking those who can to help, every dollar makes a difference in the lives of families trying to escape abuse,” said Dias.

To make a tax deductible donation click here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020 2:45 am EDT

Unifor takes action on Labour Day in support of striking Dominion store workers

In recognition of Labour Day, Unifor members took action in support of Dominion grocery store workers, on strike at Newfoundland locations against parent company Loblaw Companies Limited.

“My message to you Loblaw is that you should be damned ashamed of yourself,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias outside Loblaws flagship grocery store in downtown Toronto. “Galen Westin’s net worth is 8.7 billion dollars. This is an employer that is eliminating full-time jobs so that they don’t have to provide benefits to their workers.”

Unifor members held information pickets at Loblaw owned locations across the country, including Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Windsor, Kitchener, Port Elgin, Toronto, Sydney, Saint John, Antigonish and multiple locations across Newfoundland including Grand Falls, Gander and St. John’s.

The 1,400 Newfoundland Dominion workers have been striking for fair wages and full-time jobs since Saturday August 22, 2020. At the 11 Newfoundland stores, more than 80% of the workers are classified as part-time with Dominion paying 75% of workers less than $15 an hour. 

On day 17 on the picket line Atlantic Regional Director Linda MacNeil warned that billionaire Galen Westin better start listening to his workers.

“They’re here because enough is enough. Workers are telling the employer this has to stop. Loblaw has to stop eliminating full-time jobs. They have to stop manipulating part-time hours to avoid paying pension and benefits,” MacNeil said.  

Despite record profits during COVID-19 Loblaw chose to claw back pandemic pay from the frontline workers in June, in unison with competitors Metro and Empire Company.

“These are the same workers who got them through the pandemic, who came into work every single day, made sure there was food on the table, and they are the same workers who had pandemic pay snatched away by the big bosses at Loblaw,” said Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi. “We’re leafleting Loblaw’s customers from coast-to-coast-to-coast. We want customers to be part of a national dialogue on the struggle of retail workers.”

Western Regional Director Gavin McGarrigle also called out the grocery giant on its treatment of workers.

“We’ve heard a lot during this pandemic about COVID heroes and that we’re all in this together but when push comes to shove the billionaires want to make sure that they get even richer. They want to rip away the pandemic pay and they want to make sure that they continue these part-time jobs,” said McGarrigle. “Let’s make sure that we don’t just talk about respecting these COVID heroes and that we treat them with the respect and the pay they deserve.”

Chris MacDonald, Assistant to the Unifor National President, pointed out that the reality of poor wages and precarious work in retail extends across the country. 

“Fairness isn’t so simple with Loblaw, and many other union and non-union retailers, with their failed strategy of part-time work and low wages. What we’re seeing in Newfoundland is not unique and a business model reliant on part-time work tied to poor wages is not acceptable,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald encouraged retail workers and others to call on Canada’s largest grocers to compensate employees fairly by signing the petition at unifor.org/fairpayforever.

“We’re making sure we get Loblaw’s attention right across this country,” concluded Dias. “We’re with you out there in Newfoundland we’re standing with you right here.”

The virtual rally in support of the striking workers was live streamed on Unifor’s Facebook page. Watch here.

Monday, September 7, 2020 7:45 am EDT

Regional Directors advocate for #SafeSeptember return to school across Canada

As back-to-school season begins, Unifor continues to press for safe conditions for children, teachers, education workers, janitorial staff and bus drivers. A recent webinar hosted by the union’s Education Department about the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women, highlighted school and child care closures as a key component of the dramatic drop in women’s workforce participation since March.

Members shared their experiences including fears for their children with special needs, and concern for education assistants and school bus drivers who cannot socially distance in their work. Many members spoke of their own mental health deterioration trying to juggle working from home and home-schooling their children.

Atlantic Regional Director Linda MacNeil highlighted the impact on essential workers.

”Our members are between a rock and a hard place,” said MacNeil. “So many of them are essential services workers with exposure to the public. We need them to go to work and yet we are increasing their risk if we aren’t putting enough resources towards a safe re-opening of schools and child care facilities. This is hitting women particularly hard, both at work and at home.”

The process of developing a plan for school re-opening has varied across the country. Western Regional Director Gavin McGarrigle contrasted the approaches of governments in the West.

“B.C. has involved unions, parents, child care advocates and health professionals to work towards a safe re-opening,” said McGarrigle. “This can be contrasted with provinces such as Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba where their austerity-led autocracy undermines the public school system and endangers workers and children.”

Unifor education locals in Alberta have been active in mobilizing against lay offs and lack of appropriate protections to return to the classroom.

Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi kept up the pressure with the Premier by underscoring September’s pivot point for parents, workers, children and the economy. Unifor bus driving members have increased their engagement, concerned about having as many as three classrooms-worth of students on each bus every day. While alterations for classrooms are underway, children will still be crammed into busses with, in some cases, three to a seat.

“The biggest test of Premier Ford’s leadership so far in this pandemic will be as our children go back to school,” said Rizvi. “As a parent of school-aged children and as a labour activist I am startled and deeply concerned by the lack of appropriate education funding and protocols in place and have urged Doug Ford to urgently invest in education and child care for the sake of all Ontarians’ health and safety.”

Unifor encourages members to contact their local provincial representatives to advocate for a #SafeSeptember.

For future webinars hosted by the Unifor Education Department, visit onlineeducation.unifor.org.

Thursday, September 3, 2020 9:45 am EDT

Unifor urges action to defend forestry jobs in the North Shore region

Hundreds of forestry workers and their supporters in Baie-Comeau participated in a morning rally at the Resolute Forest Products paper mill to protect jobs in the North Shore region.

“Our members are worried. They are unemployed while the resource continues to be harvested for processing in mills outside the region. It doesn’t make sense and it’s unacceptable to the people in the North Shore region,” explained Unifor’s Quebec director Renaud Gagné.

For the union leader, natural resources should primarily benefit the communities in the region where they are harvested. The union is also calling for the mill to be re-tooled in order to create more jobs. “We’ve known for a long time that the newsprint market is in decline. Covid-19 has not helped the situation. More than ever, we need to act in order to develop the niche markets of the future,” Gagné insisted.

This will require making major investments to adapt the mill’s equipment. “Our members have no intention of standing by and watching as their jobs are taken away from them,” warned Gagné. “The Baie-Comeau mill represents the heart and lungs of the forest industry on Quebec’s North Shore. It must remain in operation. Otherwise, the entire industry, including sawmills and forestry operations, is at risk.”

 Unifor is the largest union in the forestry industry in Quebec and Canada.

Monday, August 31, 2020 4:00 am EDT

Striking Dominion workers call for cross-country action on live-streamed rally

As support grows for striking grocery store workers, Unifor Local 597 members in Newfoundland stood up to their billionaire boss, Galen Weston Jr., and asked Canada’s workers to turn their support into action.

“Loblaws should be ashamed of themselves. This is an employer, Galen Weston, who has $8.7 million in equity. This is a company that pays its CEO Sarah Davis $6.7 million a year in total compensation,” began Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “This is an employer that’s eliminating full-time jobs and creating part-time jobs. Why? So that they can pay you less and not provide you benefits.”

More than 1,400 Dominion grocery workers went on strike August 22, 2020. In 2019, Dominion eliminated 60 full-time positions in Newfoundland stores. Today, 75 per cent of workers are paid less than $15 an hour. In July, the company clawed back the $2 an hour pandemic wage premium.

“Galen do you have any idea what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet? We were there for you when you needed us most – we stocked your shelves, we showed up every day and kept your customers happy. Now it’s your turn to be there for us,” asked Kim Youden of the Loblaw Co. CEO. Youden is a mother of three  who makes fruit trays for Dominion and has been limited to part time hours for 7 years.

The strike in Newfoundland has closed 11 stores across the island, as workers unite under the growing demand for fairness, and a return to full-time work with benefits and decent wages.

“A generation ago, you could raise a family on a salary from Loblaws,” said Chris MacDonald, Unifor Assistant to the National President. “But today, fairness isn’t so simple. Loblaw’s failed strategy of part-time work and low wages must be stopped.”

“At the height of the pandemic, Weston called thee workers heroes. Then, he cancelled the $2 premium pay in the middle of the pandemic,” said Linda MacNeil, Unifor Atlantic Regional Director.

MacNeil stood at a St. John’s picket line on Monday morning alongside striking workers, and asked viewers of the virtual event to sign a petition at www.unifor.org/FairPayForever demanding decent wages for not just striking Dominion workers, but all grocery store workers in Canada.

“I think it’s shameful what they’ve done to people who have given their working lives to make them profit,” said Robert Peddle, Unifor Local, 597 member, and 40-year Dominion worker.

Peddle began working for Dominion in 1980, and spent the last 20 years as a receiver. Peddle’s full-time position was declared redundant in 2019, he is now asked to do the same work for $5 less per hour, on part-time hours, with no health benefits, vacation, or paid sick days.

“What we’re seeing in Newfoundland is not unique,” continued MacDonald. “We see this across the country as businesses shift toward a model that’s reliant on part-time work, tied to minimum wages.”

Canada’s workers are now demanding better, with pressure increasing on retailers to pay all workers a decent wage.

Local 597 President Carolyn Wrice took time on Monday to thank the countless local small businesses, unions, organizations like $15 and Fairness NL, and workers who have stopped by the picket lines or added their name to the growing call to action for Fair Pay Forever.

The stories of Dominion workers like Cherie, a minimum-wage cake decorator and single mother to two young boys, are all too familiar to Canada’s workers.

In a video testimonial that’s gone viral, Cherie describes not only financial, but the emotional toll of disrespect and low wages.

Watch Cherie’s story below, and share this if you relate with her story, or if you believe that retail workers deserve fair pay forever.

Monday, August 31, 2020 3:30 am EDT

Telecommunication workers at BellMTS ratify contract to improve working conditions

Canada’s telecommunications workers build and maintain critical infrastructure for families and workers. On Thursday August 27, telecom workers at BellMTS in Manitoba ratified a three-year collective agreement to build upon a strong foundation and improve working conditions.

“Congratulations to the bargaining committee and the members for securing this contract,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director. “At the start of bargaining the members identified a goal of improving working conditions and job security and this contract achieves those goals.”

The new agreement includes wage increases in every year of the contract, improvements to Performance Management, and the conversion of casual and part-time jobs into more secure and predictable regular part time and full-time jobs.

Workers who raised work-induced stress as a critical issue will benefit from a negotiated review of mental health initiatives in the workplace.

The new contract also secured paid leave for survivors of domestic violence and two women’s advocates in the workplace. Unifor helped to spearhead the now global movement to negotiate these programs at the bargaining table. Information on the ground-breaking women’s advocate program can be found here.

“This contract shows the strength that telecom workers have when we unite and organize through our unions,” said Patty Deschamps, Unifor Local 7 President. “I’m grateful for the support from members across the province during this round of negotiations. My hope is that this new contract will deliver the stability and peace of mind that our members and their families need today.”

Friday, August 28, 2020 2:00 am EDT


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