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Unifor Locals 195, 698 , 815, 1285, and 1459 reached a tentative agreement with Team Industrial today covering 350 cleaning and facility management workers at auto assembly plants and parts depots in Red Deer, Windsor, Brampton, Mississauga, Etobicoke, and Montreal.
The bargaining committee unanimously endorses the two-year agreement noting that it provides members with solid economic gains that reflect their invaluable contribution to FCA/Stellantis facilities across Canada. Members are strongly urged to vote in favour of the contract.
“I want to congratulate the bargaining team for their hard work and dedication throughout the negotiations and join them in unanimously recommending the agreement,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “The important gains made in this round of bargaining would not have been possible with the support and solidarity of our members.”
The tentative agreement reached brings weeks of bargaining with the employer to a close. The gains made in the agreement include a signing bonus, wage increases, as well as numerous improvements to members’ benefits coverage.
Specific details of the deal will be presented to Unifor members at online ratification meetings scheduled to take place over the weekend of January 30-31.
Unifor members from across Canada gathered online Thursday to honour workers who have died in the pandemic, including three from Unifor.
“Unifor’s members have been at the forefront of the struggle against the virus, especially our frontline heroes in healthcare, long-term care homes and thousands of essential workplaces,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias said.
The Unifor members honoured on the vigil were group home worker Leonard Rodriques, Local 40, warehouse worker Derrick Crooks, Local 414, and personal support worker Sheila Yakovishin from Local 2458.
Local 40 President David Amow said Rodriques, who bought his own PPE at a dollar store, “always put clients first. Even up to his final days with us, he still put clients first.”
Local 414’s Gord Currie said Crooks loved to make videos of himself singing and dancing and was “full of laughs and loved to make people laugh.”
Local 2458 President Tullio DiPonti said Yakovishin was “known for her sense of humour and her fun-loving ways, she was also extremely caring and compassionate.”
Dias said Unifor will continue to honour these workers by fighting for improvements for all workers.
“The memories of these COVID heroes will never be forgotten and we will do everything as an organization in our power to honour them by making sure that employers do not sacrifice the health and safety of workers in the pursuit of profit,” Dias said.
Quebec Director Renaud Gagné said the pandemic has hit workers in the health care system hard.
“These people were mostly personal support workers who took care of our seniors. One morning they left for work to take care of our parents, our grandparents. They came back sick and unfortunately died. It's tragic. It should never have happened,” he said
Unifor Secretary-Treasurer Lana Payne said the best way to honour those killed by COVID-19 is to never forget the lessons learned during the pandemic.
“We must never forget how quickly essential workers went from heroes to having their pandemic pay cut. We must never forget the travesty of long-term care. The carnage that has occurred there,” she said.
Dias listed three key demands to keep workers safe: paid sick days, the right to know about hazards in the workplace and to refuse unsafe work and the need for Pesonal Protective Equipment (PPE) for all workers.
Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi outlined the need for paid sick leave, Western Regional Director Gavin McGarrigle outlined the right of workers to know and refuse, while Atlantic Regional Director Linda MacNeil discussed the urgent need for better access to PPE.
Members at the vigil stressed the need for action, including a paramedic who said he and his co-workers are not being provided with proper PPE.
“I am asking, please come help us because we are transporting COVID patients with the bare minimum of protection,” the member said.
Another stressed the need for workers to be able to refuse unsafe work.
“It costs lives and someone needs to be held accountable,” the member said.
An emotional night for all, one member also acknowledged his own privileged position, while recognizing the pain felt by so many and the need for action.
“I’m lucky, I’m still working. But there’s a lot of members who are hurting right now,” the member said.
The most recent Unifor webinar on Indigenous issues focused on affecting change in health care settings, with participants discussing systemic issues and how to address them.
“Unifor members working in health care are deeply committed to helping improve the system,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Indigenous Peoples are not receiving the quality of care they deserve, and Unifor is going to do the work to help break the cycle of systemic violence.”
Panelists in the January 19 webinar, a follow-up to one held January 13, included Diane Smylie, Susan Gill, Holly Lane, and Judy Harvey.
Smylie works for the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training program, a national program that helps health care professionals better deliver culturally safe health care for Indigenous people. She outlined key strategies her organization uses to give health care workers the tools to avoid perpetuating racist and discriminatory practices.
Other panelists recounted examples of the sub-standard care for Indigenous people they witnessed personally in health care settings.
Gill, a National Representative and former health care worker, discussed her experience working in the system and the historical lack of training to prepare non-Indigenous workers for the unique needs of Indigenous patients. She said that the pure lack of Indigenous health care staff in her region is a systemic problem that needs to be addressed.
Lane, a personal support worker and member of Unifor Local 229, echoed the need for greater training. She also said that services, such as on-call interpreters, would help increase the quality of care and comfort for many Indigenous elders.
The discussions were led by Unifor Indigenous Liaison Gina Smoke, who has been overseeing the Turtle Island series for the Education Department. Materials from both webinars are available online for health care workers and other Unifor members.
COVID-19 has changed how we meet, bargain and do the work of the union and there are many ways to improve how we communicate online. Whether it is bargaining with an employer, a local executive meeting or a live streamed virtual rally, it is important to have our voices clearly heard and understood. Here are some tips to improve the quality of your next Zoom, Webex, or Team Meeting by arranging good lighting, sound and framing.
Position yourself facing a window or other light source such as a lamp
Raise your device so you are not shooting up at your ceiling. (box or milk crate)
Frame yourself so you are not too far away so you will be easily understood
Use headphones with a built-in mic and turn off TV, radio and fans.
Mute yourself when not speaking. On Zoom Alt+M (Windows) Cmd+Ctrl+M (Mac)
For best quality, use ethernet cable to connect to internet
Turn your video on when you are speaking or presenting
On January 13, Unifor members from across the country tuned-in to the Education Department’s webinar about anti-Indigenous racism in the health care system.
Unifor Indigenous Liaison Gina Smoke was joined by panelists Dr. Alika Lafontaine, Diane Smylie, and Jane Collins.
Dr. Lafontaine is a physician of Cree and Anishinaabe heritage from Southern Saskatchewan/Treaty 4 territory. He lectures on the role that bias, discrimination and racism have on patient care.
Diane Smylie and Jane Collins are contributors to the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training program at the BC Provincial Health Services Authority, a program that helps health care professionals better deliver culturally safe health care for Indigenous people.
In part inspired by the revelations in the recent report In Plain Sight, Addressing Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination in B.C. Health Care, this third webinar in the Turtle Island series sought to help identify how Canada’s deep-seated racism has made it unsafe for many Indigenous peoples to access the health services they need.
Presenters discussed the widespread Scotoma (blindspot) among non-Indigenous health care practitioners that leads to bias, assuming that if they don’t see racism, it can’t exist. Dr. Lafontaine explained the various ways that manifests in inferior care for Indigenous patients and breeds a deep distrust of the health care system.
Smylie and her colleague Jane Collins explored the pedagogical foundations of her San’ysa program and reviewed some of the important terminology indispensable to the discussion and planning for anti-racist and anti-colonial action.
Materials from the webinar are available online for health care workers and other Unifor members.
A follow-up webinar will be held on January 19 to focus on anti-racist practices in health care and changing our health care institutions to better serve Indigenous peoples. Unifor members can register via firstname.lastname@example.org
The new law overhauls protections for workers and relieves employers of many responsibilities to keep workplaces safe. Unifor’s new factsheet reviews the unfair changes to how injured workers are compensated while off work. It was passed with no public consultation and little debate in December 2020.
“Employers must have an obligation to continue funding extended health benefits to workers recovering from a workplace injury,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Stripping injured workers of benefits is another new low for Jason Kenney.”
Beginning April 1, 2021, under the new legislation, employers will no longer have a legal obligation to cover the extended health benefits of workers off with a WCB claim. Injured workers in the process of appealing any WCB decision now risk having their wage replacement cut during the appeal.
“It’s kicking workers while they’re down,” said Gavin McGarrigle. “Bill 47 has dramatically shifted the balance of health and safety responsibility away from employers, making workplaces across Alberta less safe.”
Workers at the Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto voted to join Unifor this week after a grueling organizing campaign over several months that saw the aquarium’s management engage in efforts to undermine the union drive.
“We’ve repeatedly seen employers try and fail to undermine organizing efforts by workers. This is just one more example,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “I wholeheartedly congratulate the workers at Ripley’s Aquarium for standing up to these bullying tactics and fighting for a collective voice in their workplace.”
While workers were engaged in the organizing campaign, management at the Aquarium repeatedly attempted to dissuade workers from joining the union through a well-documented campaign that deployed misleading information to staff and outright called for workers not to join the union.
Efforts to undermine the union drive ultimately backfired with 70 per cent of workers voting to join the union this week.
“These jobs at the aquarium are complex and require dedication well beyond the status quo,” said Deb Tveit, Unifor Assistant to the National President responsible for the hospitality sector. “I look forward to our new members negotiating their first contract at this incredible facility that is an asset to the City of Toronto and its many visitors.”
Ripley’s Aquarium has been a vital tourist and educational destination in the City of Toronto. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the aquarium has been hit hard by public health restrictions with its doors largely closed to the public first in March, reopening briefly in summer and shut down again in the fall. Throughout the pandemic, workers were in regular contact with Unifor to express mounting concerns over health and safety standards, poor management communication, arbitrary pay cuts, layoffs and terminations that contributed to an overall decline in the workplace environment.
“What we were hearing from workers was upsetting but not altogether surprising,” said Kellie Scanlan, Unifor Director of Organizing. “Their workplace was no longer a place where they felt safe, listened to or treated fairly.”
With ongoing public health restrictions preventing many of the traditional means of union drives, including in-person meetings, Unifor sought to engage the aquarium’s large segment of young workers through virtual meetings on platforms such as Zoom and through social media.
“Young workers are typically cast as disinterested and disengaged. This was absolutely not the case in this drive,” added Scanlan. “Young workers played a central and important role in this union drive and that is so exciting to see. These workers worked to help bring about the kind of protections only afforded through unionization. That’s why I am so proud of our new members for asserting their rights in the workplace they value so much.”
Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the hospitality, gaming, tourism and attraction sector with more than 20,000 members across the country.
The new factsheet explains the diminished legal obligation for employers to reinstate injured workers after they have recovered. In current regulations, employers have a responsibility (to the point of “undue hardship”) to reinstate workers injured on the job. But under Bill 47, employers no longer have the obligation and may only do so voluntarily or accommodate them through the human rights complaint process.
“Preventative health and safety measures will suffer if employers are relieved of their legal responsibility to re-instate workers who get injured,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Bill 47 is an all-out attack on workplace health and safety.”
Last month Unifor members mobilized a show of solidarity across the province. Unifor vows to escalate actions this year.
“From the pandemic to the workplace, Premier Jason Kenney has proven that he can’t be trusted to keep Albertans safe and our members will not stand for it,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director.