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ORNGE Paramedics vote in favour of strike action
Collective Bargaining

ORNGE Paramedics have voted 94 per cent in favour of strike action if workers don’t receive an exemption from Bill 124 that caps their salaries to one per cent.

“Enough is enough,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “We can’t keep telling people how essential they are, how important they are, and then pass legislation that takes these paramedics and puts them into a separate bucket than all the other paramedics in this province. That doesn’t make any sense.”

The union is calling on the Ontario government to remove the one percent wage cap imposed by Bill 124 and allow workers to negotiate a collective agreement fairly. Land Ambulance services in Ontario have all negotiated collective agreements with higher wage increases. Last month Thunder Bay paramedics ratified their collective agreement which has an 8.5 per cent wage increase over four years.

“ORNGE paramedics have been instrumental in helping transfer critically ill COVID-19 patients to intensive care units across the province,” said Mark Etherington, Unifor 2002 District Chairperson. “This strike vote is an absolute last resort. We need Premier Ford to do the right thing and exempt us from Bill 124.”

Should the province not exempt paramedics from Bill 124. The union will start the process of negotiating an Essential Services Agreement (ESA). An ESA determines what services paramedics provide are essential and are not essential. The union is in the process of securing a date with the Ontario Labour Relations Board to mediate negotiations of an essential services agreement.

Thursday, May 6, 2021 9:15 am EDT

Open letter calls on Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford to protect jobs at Alstom Thunder Bay
Unifor Local 1075 member at Alstom wearing a Unifor T-shirt

In an open letter printed in the Toronto Star today, Unifor National President Jerry Dias called on the Prime Minister and Premier of Ontario to end their ongoing political drama over funding the province’s transit plans that has held up plans to order made-in-Canada transit vehicles manufactured at the Alstom (formerly Bombardier) plant in Thunder Bay.

“The workers at Alstom’s Thunder Bay facility are fully capable of building many of the light rail vehicles we need in Ontario and across the country,” Dias wrote. “Without the actual orders, there is no work for the plant. The solution is in your hands. Yet both levels of government continue to point fingers at each other instead of getting the job done.”

The open letter comes after more than a year of the union raising concerns that order books were rapidly emptying in advance of new ownership over the plant. In meetings with all levels of government early last year, Unifor repeatedly warned that with the sale of the plant to Alstom and no dedicated funding or orders of streetcars, subways and bi-levels, hundreds of direct jobs and many more spin-off jobs would be at stake.

Unifor Local 1075 President Dominic Pasqualino noted at the time that, “our plant has been around for more than 100 years and though different owners have come and gone we have always produced high quality products. All levels of government and all political parties need to move without delay to fund their share of Toronto’s transit needs and keep good jobs in Thunder Bay.”

Little has changed since then, with both levels of government remaining deadlocked over who will commit to funding their share of the transit funding first. The standoff appears to have little purpose but given the economic effects of the pandemic, the stakes are incredibly high. While the facility employed around 1,100 people in 2019, work has dried up and employment has shrunk dramatically leaving only about 300 workers on the job today. The plant has just one current order that will provide any work past July, the union estimates. Those orders are for a 28-car project for two transit authorities in the United States.

“Let that sink in. At a time when the Canadian public is inundated with government promises to spend billions on transit vehicles, the only program sustaining the facility is an American transit order,” Dias noted.

Since the onset of the pandemic, Thunder Bay has lost nearly 5,000 jobs. The union is hopeful that with sufficient public pressure, provincial and federal ministers will make a serious effort to get the plant back up to full capacity.

“It’s time for you to commit to the hard-working people of Thunder Bay. It’s time to put your money where your mouth is. It’s time to put an order in and make your promises of better transit and good manufacturing jobs a reality,” Dias urged. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021 1:15 am EDT

May Day marked with workers’ stories
Zoom meeting frames with Viri Gomez ILWU-Canada, Andrew Russo Unifor,  Lana Payne Unifor, James Lewis UE, Tristan Hughes EWOC, Karla Garcia-Mejia UWUA

Unifor marked May Day this past weekend with stories from across North America about workers who have found renewed reason for activism in 14 months of COVID-19 challenges. 

“We knew having a union would give us the ability to advocate for our patients without fear of retaliation,” Lori Hedrick, a newly unionized nurse in Asheville, North Carolina with the National Nurses Union.

Hedrick was speaking during Unifor’s online May Day webinar, held as part of the North American Solidarity Project, hosted by Unifor Secretary Treasurer Lana Payne.

The workers were joined by Rosemary Feurer, an associate professor in the Department of History at the Northern Illinois University.

“I am just blown away by all these great stories,” Feuer said. “We will figure out a strategy even in the midst of the worst situations – and collective action can do that.”

Feurer told the story of the Haymarket riots in Chicago in May 1886, when workers took to the streets to fight for basic rights, and were met with a violent police response.

“The streets are ours. Mass movements are ours. People who oppose workers’ powers always want to restrict our use of the streets,” Feurer said.

The online event included video links to street rallies held in both Montreal, which included members of Unifor Quebec, and Mexico.

New Unifor member Andrew Russo, now preparing to negotiate a first contract at Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto, said the workers needed a union before the pandemic, but COVID-19 crystallized that need.

“To finally have a voice and a path towards getting the necessary improvements and make sure all the people are treated fairly and just as well as the animals, is really excellent.”

James Lewis, a mathematics graduate student at New Mexico State University, said the pandemic hit international students particularly hard.

“They are the number one group of students using the food bank on campus,” he said, adding international students also often face threats of being sent home.

“The professor or management wants to get a task done, and they say if you don’t get this specific task done, who knows what happens with your visa next semester. It is quite a horrible situation.”

Tristan Bock-Hughes outlined his work to help workers organize during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee (EWOC), a joint project of the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America and the Democratic Socialist of America

“One of EWOC’s main goals is training and mentoring workers to be life-long shop floor organizers. We aim to never do for rank and file workers what they can do for themselves,” Bock-Hughes said.

Longshore worker Viri Gómez of Local 519 ILWU-Canada and the International Transport Federation youth representative, stressed the need for health and safety on the job for all workers.

“Health and safety has been one of the most present and never ending issues that workers face in all industries,” she said.

“We don’t need a fine-based system, we need stronger laws that prevent negligent employers from killing our workers. The death of a worker can happen suddenly, or slowly very a long time.”

When COVID-19 hit, Karla Garcia-Mejia of UWUA worried about finding safe and adequate care for her two children, while trying to say safe at work as customers ignored the pandemic protocols she was relying on to prevent bringing the virus home.

“I am thankful that I have been able to work through the pandemic, but it also brought some struggles,” she said.

“Thankfully I was able to get the support from the union, and be able to be given the time off and to figure out the ‘what’s next’ and who was going to stay with my kids.”

Monday, May 3, 2021 3:15 am EDT

Workers relieved after Georgetown food processing plants hold vaccine clinics
image close up of a needle jabbing an arm, someone getting a vaccine

Workers at two Halton Region food processing plants now have some protection against the COVID-19 virus after vaccination clinics were held in the workplace.

“It is great to see employers being proactive and the response of workers in these plants just shows how much people just want to get their shots,” said Unifor President Jerry Dias.

“We just need more employers to work with local public health units and get more jabs in arms. These are the essential workers who have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic and we need to prioritize them now.”

Halton Public Health worked with BFG TreeHouse and Saputo plants in Georgetown, Ont. to arrange for the vaccine clinics on April 23 and April 28 respectively, according to Vito Beato, the First Vice-President of Unifor Local 1285.

Roughly 85% of each plant’s membership – more than 200 at Saputo and nearly 300 at BFG – received the Moderna vaccine, he said.

“It’s huge,” said Beato. “A lot of the members took advantage of the vaccinations being onsite. They are happy, relieved and some members were waving their hands and arms in the air and doing a little dance after they received the shot. There was a lot of positivity.”

The vaccine was administered on a voluntary basis.

There are preliminary plans for the clinics to return to give staff their second doses, but no dates have yet been determined.

“When I think back to when this pandemic started last year, these are the workers that still continued to work,” he said.

“They went to work and provided milk, crackers and baked goods for our families, because they were deemed essential and had to go to work. The fear that they had initially because we did not know what this pandemic was all about. It is with great respect to these members as they were not the fortunate ones who could work from home.”

During COVID-19, Unifor continues to demand priority vaccination access for essential workers,  paid time for vaccines and paid sick days.

Having the vaccine be available improves quality of life for not only manufacturing workers, but their families, said Beato, who believes more work needs to be done to bring vaccination clinics to other manufacturing workplaces, especially in Peel Region, a known hotspot.

“There are mobile vaccination clinics, but criteria is specific,” he said. “(Manufacturing plants) are part of Phase Two, but we want to get it sooner.”

Monday, May 3, 2021 11:30 am EDT

Push for change as Unifor mourns 19 members
zoom meeting frames with Unifor leaders and guest.


They weren’t just statistics. They were fathers, fish harvesters, veteran personal support workers, broadcasters, telecom technicians, cargo drivers and more.

Seven died from COVID-19.

On April 28th, the Day of Mourning, Unifor honoured the 19 workers over the last year who were killed at work or lost to the virus. 

“Today, we recognized 19 members who have lost their lives,” said Unifor President Jerry Dias. “We think about their families, we think about their partners, we think about their children. We think about their families that are mourning their losses today.”

The federal government recognized the day beginning in 1991, eight years after it was launched the labour movement in Canada. It has since spread to more than 100 countries or regions across the world.

Organizations, communities and individuals paused Wednesday at 11am for a moment of silence for those lives lost, said Joie Warnock, Assistant to the President, who moderated the online vigil.

Secretary Treasurer Lana Payne extended heart-felt condolences to the families, loved ones and communities of members lost this past year.

“The path to success in the fight against workplace fatalities is no mystery,” she said. “Unifor has and continues to diligently work to gain many health and safety protections for workers through legislation and collective bargaining. We can build a better and safer world for workers through our collective actions. Remember it is our union that gives us the power to demand better.”

Linda McNeil, Unifor’s Atlantic Regional Director, said worker occupational health and safety representation leads to improvements in the conditions of work.

“Our joint Health and Safety Committees and representatives raise safety concerns with the employer and given them opportunities to fix the workplace hazard,” said McNeil.

“The employer has a right to manage and we have a right to refuse unsafe work or call in a government inspector. The inspector may not rule in our favour, but the employer needs to know that health and safety issues will not be resolved without a fight.”

Nearly 1,500 Unifor members were infected with the COVID-19 virus.

“Normally, we talk about occupational injuries, occupational cancers, industrial disease,” said Dias. “We talk about how our members have been negatively impacted, who have gone to work and never came home.”

According to the most recent statistics from 2019 from the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada, 925 workplace fatalities were recorded in Canada. Of that number, 882 were male workers, and 43 were female workers.

An emotional memorial video recognized the 19 workers, the highest number of deaths in Unifor’s history.

Dias said 12 members died from occupational hazards and that working during the pandemic has been physically and emotionally tough on frontline essential staff.

“I think about our members in health care, in the airline sector, in transit, in retail, hospitality,” he said. “I think of our members in telecommunications, our members that are doing so much today and of course, I think about what we’re doing to ensure that our members are safe and that workers right across this country are safe.”

Dias reiterated the dire need for paid sick days, beyond the three days the Ford government announced in Ontario this week, and said he would stand up for essential workers to be moved to the front of the line for vaccinations and be compensated for time-off to get those jabs.

“We have so much to do to fight for justice,” he said. “The pandemic has shown the real inequalities of which we live.”

Unifor’s Western Regional Director Gavin McGarrigle echoed that sentiment, stating that COVID-19 lockdowns and Stay-At-Home orders don’t work without paid sick leave and provincial and federal governments need to step up.

“The saying, ‘If you’re sick, stay home’ is not just smart workplace policy, it’s also smart public health policy,” he said. “COVID-19 has elevated the importance of this approach to new levels. Preventing the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces is literally a matter of life and death.”

Meanwhile, Unifor Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi said workers have the power to have control over how they take care of one another during this challenging time.

“We should remember that this is absolutely the time to lean on each other. If we can’t connect physically, we certainly can connect emotionally. So, stay in touch with each other, and reach out if you need support,” she said.

“We’re apart but we’re not alone.”




Friday, April 30, 2021 8:45 am EDT

Federal budget makes good on key Unifor aerospace recommendations
Workers at Bombardier Aerospace examine an aircraft engine nacelle

After months of lobbying the federal government to support Canada’s aerospace industry, Unifor is relived to see movement on key policies and budget commitments of more than $2 billion to support the sector.

“Our message to the federal government all along has been that we must come out of this pandemic with a stronger and more resilient economy,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “That means investing heavily in our domestic aerospace industry and protecting our incredibly valuable advanced manufacturing jobs.”

Budget 2021 responds directly to a number of Unifor’s key recommendations presented in the union’s COVID-19 recovery plan for the aerospace industry, including $250 million over three years to directly support the sector and $1.75 billion in increased domestic research and development funding.

“I welcome these announcements by the federal government that we have been impatiently waiting for,” added Renaud Gagné, Unifor’s Quebec Director. “Some of the budget measures are already being implemented and certain projects have been cleared, all of which is a very good sign. But the devil is often in the details so we are eagerly awaiting more specific details on the various programs.”

The budget also commits to peripheral space agency funding and defence spending that will bring long-term benefits to the industry. The largest funding commitment of more than $250 million is dedicated to sustaining and modernizing North American Aerospace Defense Command’s (NORAD) operations. This investment would lay the groundwork for NORAD’s future, including research and development of cutting-edge technologies. The federal government is also dedicating $9.9 million to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to plan for next-generation Earth observation satellites.

 “The federal budget delivered on some of our key recommendations including strategic funding for research and development and a modest recovery package for the industry,” said Carmen Ledarney, Unifor’s Aerospace Director. “There’s still much work for our union to do to secure more for Unifor members to weather the pandemic’s worst effects.”

Canada’s aerospace industry continues to suffer from a downturn brought on by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Most global air travel remains at a standstill with aerospace orders slowing down and sometimes even drying up at manufacturers across Canada and the globe.

“The real test of the federal budget will be how quickly funding finds its way into workplaces and begins to bring back laid off workers.” said Alexandre Lamarre, Unifor Aerospace Industry Council President. “Everyone in the sector has been affected from the largest facilities Quebec to those in Western Canada, Ontario and the Maritimes. My own workplace, CMC Electronics in Saint-Laurent, has had devastating layoffs. Our union’s primary focus is supporting those workers and protecting their jobs.”

Thursday, April 29, 2021 10:30 am EDT

In Memoriam - 19 Unifor members lost in a year
photos of the 19 Unifor members we have lost

The past year, marked by a once-in-a-century pandemic, has seen 19 Unifor members die on the job and from the COVID-19 virus now entering a third wave of infections across the country.

“To lose even one member is difficult, and to see 19 die in just one year is simply devastating,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias said.

“Nineteen said goodbye to a loved one in the morning, never to see them again. Nineteen people died in entirely preventable ways. It is truly tragic.”

Unifor will hold an online commemoration for the lost members on April 28 at 7pm ET. Register online beforehand.

We remember every member lost.

Leonard RodriguesLeonard Rodrigues, 61, Local 40 with Access Independent Living Services in Toronto, died of COVID-19 on Wednesday, May 6. Rodrigues was a personal support worker for more than 30 years providing care for those in need. He did his best to prevent the transmission of the virus by purchasing his own masks. His employer had advised him that PPE supplies were limited and they were being saved in case an employee or resident became sick with COVID-19. Rodrigues was sent home to self-isolate on April 6 after one of his co-workers tested positive for the virus. His symptoms worsened as he tested positive for the virus on April 26 and died 10 days later. 

Edward Norman, Scott Norman, Jody Norman, and Isaac KettleEdward Norman, 67, Scott Norman, 35, Jody Norman, 42, and Isaac Kettle, 33, all from St Lawrence, Newfoundland were reported overdue by family members on Monday, May 27.  The next day, three bodies were recovered, one is still missing. The crew was snow crab fishing at the time of the incident. Three of the four were FFAW-Unifor members. The Norman family lost a father, a son and a nephew. The fourth crew member was a family friend. The 25-foot Sarah Anne fishing vessel had an emergency craft aboard but the men did not have time to access it.

Derrick CrooksDerrick Crooks, Local 414 member at Metro Warehouse in Etobicoke, Ont. died of COVID-19, Sunday, June 7. He was 62 and had been working at Metro for more than 30 years. A month prior to his hospitalization, Crooks was not feeling well and went home early from his shift.  A few days later, he went into the hospital suffering from kidney stone pain. He tested positive for COVID-19 and did not return home.

Vince McIvorVince McIvor of Local 3000 at the KFC in Langford, B.C. had a medical emergency on July 18, and died while at work. There were four other members working who were offered EAP assistance. The restaurant was closed for the remainder of the day. McIvor was a shop steward and a lead who mobilized and motivated the membership. When the unit had meetings, strike votes etc, the membership came out in full, and hung around the parking lot for several hours, catching up on the latest news.

Colin HurdColin Hurd, Local 4209 died on the job, Wednesday, October 21. Hurd, 51, was a driver at Kindersley Transport. He was involved in a collision between three semi trucks and died on the scene in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  Hurd was a shop steward with CEP Local 605 and Unifor Local 4209. Hurd was a devoted Saskatchewan Roughrider fan, and member of the Legion. He enjoyed farming and time spent at the family farm near Pelly, SK.

Adam BaranAdam Baran, Local 4268 died on the job, Monday, October 26. Baran, 59, was a mechanic at Waste Management, Stoney Creek, Ontario. He was outside assisting a roll off driver when something went terribly wrong.  Baran was a farmer, soldier, sailor and a mechanic for more than 32 years. He was also an active and devoted member of the Polish church and community.  Baran leaves behind his wife Wieslawa, daughter Justina and son Patrick.

Carl OsmondCarl Osmond with FFAW in Newfoundland and Labrador died on the job, Tuesday, December 1. Their vessel ran aground with eight crew members on board.  Osmond, 61, died shortly after jumping into the water with his survival suit on.  The other seven crew members survived. Osmond leaves his wife of 43 years Jane, sons Darren and Chad Osmond and their children.

Mike PattersonMike Patterson, Local 2002 died on the job Monday, December 7 at the age of 55. Patterson was working at Canadian Cargo North in Ottawa and fell from loading equipment at a height of approximately 20 feet to the pavement. He was taken to hospital by ambulance and passed away from his injuries. Patterson was the cherished husband of Lisa for 31 years and beloved father of Justin and Jeffrey Patterson. Patterson had an unparalleled work ethic and an effortless ability to lead. No matter the job, Patterson took great pride in being the best he could be, and making sure those around him were the best they could be.

Sheila YakovishinSheila Yakovishin, Local 2458 passed away from COVID-19 on December 31. Yakovishin, age 60 worked as a personal support worker for more than 30 years.  Her workplace, the Berkshire Care Centre in Windsor, Ont. was in severe outbreak with 82 residents and 38 staff having tested positive for COVID-19. Yakovishin was known for her optimism, large heart and caring personality. She is remembered for the smiles she gave to so many when they needed it.

John CopseyJohn Copsey, Local M1 passed away on January 25.  Copsey, 54, was a radio anchor at Global BC/CKNW in Vancouver. Copsey’s voice was familiar to many Corus Radio network listeners in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto.  John was passionate about music, horror films, theatre and public speaking. He leaves behind a family in Winnipeg, a girlfriend in the Lower Mainland, and a daughter in Calgary.

Gérald LévesqueGérald Lévesque, 63, Local 81 was killed on the job April.  Lévesque was a cable repair technician with Bell Canada. He was electrocuted while performing his duties in Saint-Sauveur, Québec. He lived in Sainte-Adèle and leaves his partner Martine and son.

Amarprit SandhuAmarprit Sandhu, Local 4003/Council 4000 died on the job April 5. Sandhu, 44, was employed by CNTL in Brampton and was involved in a motor vehicle accident. The incident occurred at a customer’s facility as Amarprit was preparing to return to CN’s Intermodal Terminal, only two minutes away.  He leaves a wife and three daughters.

Antonio GenovaAntonio Genova, Local 40 member passed away as a result of COVID-19. Genova, 56, worked as a service technician at Yorkdale Ford Lincoln in Toronto.  A COVID-19 outbreak was declared March 16 by Toronto Public Health at the auto dealership with at least eight people infected, including Antonio.  He leaves a wife Christina and three children.

Luc BelangerLuc Bélanger, Local 94 passed away from COVID-19.  Bélanger, 38 worked at Boise All Joist in St-Jacques, New Brunswick where about 20 workers are in isolation as a precautionary measure.  Luc leaves a wife and daughter.

Jim NowaskowskiJim Nowakowski, Local 112 Angus Facilities passed away from COVID-19 April 22.  Nowaskowski, 72, had been off work since spring 2020 on a leave of absence due to health concerns. Jim was fully vaccinated and was looking forward to returning to work. He was part of building maintenance at Angus Facilities and well-liked by his co-workers.

Edgar PoblacionEdgar Poblacion, Local 303 passed away from COVID-19 on April 25. Poblacion, 62, worked at Scepter Canada for nearly 30 years as a production operator.  He tested positive on April 5, and was hospitalized shortly thereafter. He leaves behind his daughter Annabelle Poblacion.


Wednesday, April 28, 2021 10:00 am EDT

Update on global union movement campaigns
Photo of Zoom call with 134 participants

The global pandemic and its impact on workers lives and livelihoods, the urgency to organize for a better world, and vaccine equity dominated discussions and decision-making at recent global union executive meetings of the International Transport Federation (ITF) and IndustriAll.

Unifor and its predecessor unions have long been affiliated with both global unions. National President Jerry Dias is a member of the executive committee of IndustriAll and National Secretary-Treasurer Lana Payne sits on the ITF executive board and co-chairs IndustriAll’s North American regional executive.

It was reported at the IndustriAll Executive Council that the pandemic highlights the failures of the global economic system. Participants on the call heard that the labour movement has seen many crises, nevertheless this time it is different and the implications for organized workers across the globe are profound.

Dias said it is clear that this latest crisis means unions must play a historic role in defending a better world for workers. “At no time in modern era have unions been needed more and we must all rise to the occasion of these times. Workers lives, health and jobs are depending on it.”

IndustriAll will hold virtually its 3rd Congress this September.

With respect to the ITF, the global union has been front and centre fighting for transport workers and demanding justice for seafarers to aviation workers – all of whom have been hit hard by the pandemic.

The ITF is leading a number of important grassroots campaigns on global supply chains, public transport, and fighting for union rights for workers in many jurisdictions of the world. The ITF executive board also struck a special advisory group on the gig economy.

Speaking to the ITF executive in favour of the special advisory group, Payne said: “We all know that if there is a way to exploit workers and avoid abiding by global rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, capital will find it. Our collective responsibility is to the workers of the world who find themselves trapped in these work arrangements with no collective bargaining rights, no social protections, no health and safety, and exempt from even minimum wages.”

ITF Women’s Committee meetings highlighted nine key demands for #GenderEqualNewNormal that guarantees good jobs for all workers. Work demanding nations adopt the ILO Convention 190 continues as well as the ITF Sanitation Campaign and action to end gender-segregation of transport jobs.

It was clear from reports from trade union women from around the world that women workers have born a disproportionate impact from the pandemic.

Leslie Dias, Unifor’s representative on the ITF Women’s Committee, noted just how devastating the crisis has been for women workers across many sectors of the economy including the aviation sector: “The service, hospitality, airline sector which are predominately women have been devastated. Women once again are economically disadvantaged and need a united global solution to fight both the pandemic and inequality.”

Payne said to get through this crisis and build a better world for workers it will require strength and solidarity at the global level, but also a commitment to organize for the kind of world we envision for all workers.

“Words will not get us there, co-ordinated action, organizing and solidarity will,” she said.

Watch Unifor Local 111 member Krista Lee Hanson in the ITF campaign for stronger public transit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMQBCSX0OUo

Monday, April 26, 2021 4:30 am EDT


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