Local News

Unifor looks to Ontario budget to address challenges

TORONTO, March 27, 2018 /CNW/ – The Ontario Liberal’s last budget before the June 2018 provincial election must address inequality and the crisis in care, says Unifor.

“Workers are looking for a provincial budget that builds off the advances that we have won in recent years and refuses to shy away from universal public programs that will build a more equitable society,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director.

“We have lobbied for legislation that raises wages and protects the most vulnerable members of our society but we’re not done yet, and Unifor members are not ready to slow down.”

In a pre-budget submission, Unifor proposed solutions that would address Ontario’s health care crisis and improve conditions for working families including;

  • Establishing a minimum standard of care in long-term-care including four hours of daily direct care,
  • Restoring hospital funding with a multi-year increase of five per cent per year,
  • Widening access to pharmaceuticals through a universal pharmacare program, and
  • Ensuring that families have access to public child care and that no one is turned away because of cost.

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Unifor Reassures Members About Split With Labour Congress

The member of Unifor’s executive board which voted in favour of splitting with the Canadian Labour Congress says members do not need to be concerned.

Dave Cassidy, who is the national chair of the committee on skilled trades and the secretary-treasurer of Unifor Local 444 in Windsor, says the dispute is over the rights of workers to choose which union will represent them.

He says the issue goes back to a move by the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 to transfer members to Unifor. The ATU Local 113 represents transit workers in Toronto. The ATU fired Bob Kinnear saying he had violated his oath of office. It characterized the move as “underhanded” and “secretive”.

Under Article 4 of the Canadian Labour Congress’s constitution the issue should have gone for a review, but instead, the union was placed in trusteeship.

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Canada, 10 Pacific-region nations, finalize sweeping trade pact

OTTAWA—Canada has joined 10 other Pacific region countries in a sweeping new trade deal, one that Ottawa touts as a progressive step forward but critics warn puts the country’s auto sector at risk.

The revised Trans-Pacific trade deal, called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, was finalized in Japan on Tuesday, a reality few thought possible a year ago when President Donald Trump pulled the United States from the agreement.

But the remaining nations, led by Japan, revived the pact with negotiations producing a finalized trade agreement, billed as the largest in the world.

“It’s a great day for progressive trade around the world,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a business audience in Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the World Economic Forum.

“The agreement reached in Tokyo today is the right deal,” said Trudeau, who stayed away from a meeting of TPP leaders in November in order to press for better terms.

“Our government stood up for Canadian interests, and this agreement meets our objectives of creating and sustaining growth, prosperity and well-paying middle-class jobs today and for generations to come,” Trudeau added.

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NAFTA talks focus on dispute settlement, autos

OTTAWA—Canada has made a bold offer to accept a controversial U.S. demand at the NAFTA talks about how to resolve commercial trade disputes, the Star has learned.

It involves the current binding trade dispute settlement process used to resolve lawsuits by investor companies against North American governments. Binational tribunals adjudicate complaints, and their rulings are final.

The U.S. wants it to become an “opt-in” system or, as one Canadian official called it, a voluntary system.

Canadian officials say the U.S. has signalled it would “opt out” of the system while expecting its two partners would still “opt in” the binational tribunals that decide complaints by companies who feel harmed by government regulations.

But Canada has effectively said “wait a minute.”

Instead, the Canadian team has proposed that Canada and Mexico would agree to a dispute settlement process between their two countries alone — to be outlined in an annex to the NAFTA, according to a Canadian official who spoke to the Star on a background basis.

In effect, Canadian NAFTA negotiators are taking a gamble on whether the Americans can take “yes” for an answer when it comes to rewriting NAFTA rules.

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NAFTA negotiations grind on in Montreal with little sign of progress

Canadian counter-proposals deal with controversial U.S. demands on increasing continental content requirements for automobiles, doing away with NAFTA’s dispute resolution mechanisms, and for a five-year sunset clause.

However, despite some positive momentum, major differences remain as officials from Canada, Mexico and the U.S. meet in Montreal for the sixth and penultimate set of talks on the trade pact.

Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, one of the largest Canadian trade unions which represents workers in the auto industry, who participated in the stakeholder briefing with Canada’s chief negotiator Steve Verheul said there seems to be an understanding among U.S. negotiators that the Canadian counter-proposals on so-called tracing and rules of origin offer a track to break some of the negotiating logjams.

“The reality is the original agreement was put together 24 years ago,” Dias told reporters in Montreal. “So there is clearly going to be an understanding that we need to modernize the tracing list. But we’re also starting to talk about how do you really win the type of high end investment the latest IP (intellectual property), research and development.”

Canada argues that if the value of the software in the cars were taken into account, the North American content of the cars would go up considerably.

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Worker Self-determination At Heart Of Strong Unions

The right to choose is at the heart of any democracy. Whether electing a mayor, prime minister or the leadership of a union, the will of the people must be respected.

For too many Canadian workers, however, that kind of choice can too easily be taken away, and that weakens all workers.

The strength of the labour movement, after all, is the ability of workers to set the course of their own bargaining unit based on the wants and needs of the members who were there, and the needs of their families and communities.

When all workers can do that, their collective voice and power is stronger.

When threats and intimidation prevent workers from speaking their minds or making decisions that reflect their needs, however, the labour movement as a whole is compromised. Unions are rooted and based on democratic principles and the aspect of asserting workers’ power in the struggle. When those principles are lost or not adhered to the needs of Canadian workers are compromised.

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Update: Trade unions demand ‘respectful’ agreement from NAFTA trade talks

Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, will be among those giving speeches

As renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) continues, members of the Unifor union demonstrated Saturday in Montreal to demand “respectful” international agreements, in particular with regard to workers’ rights.

Unifor president Jerry Dias and Renaud Gagné, Quebec director of the union, spoke at the demonstration near the American consulate.

“We’re asking the Canadian government to stand firm in both the renegotiation of NAFTA and other trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Labour, environmental and social rights should not be sacrificed in favour of purely financial interests,” Gagné said in a statement on Saturday.

In an interview with Presse canadienne, Gagné noted that thousands of jobs are at stake in the talks, which will resume in Montreal in late January.

Gagné said it is better not to enter into a new free trade agreement with Mexico and the United States if it does not meet Canadian concerns.

Unifor has more than 315,000 members in Canada, including 52,000 in Quebec.

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Unifor donates $500,000 to Hurricane Irma aid

Unifor, through the Union’s Social Justice Fund, has donated $500,000 to the Canadian Red Cross for Hurricane Irma aid in the Caribbean.

“This donation by Unifor will reach the most vulnerable people in the Caribbean to help provide desperately needed relief efforts and supplies, which may include items such as shelter, food, and clean water,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.

Millions of people were left devastated by Hurricane Irma. Unifor’s donation will provide direct assistance and emergency relief where it is needed most, in the hardest hit Caribbean countries.

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