A Decisive Date: Why It Matters When Stephen Harper Calls The Election

The Canadian political world has been buzzing as many sources have been speculating that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be calling the election as early as Aug. 2.

In 2007 a law was created to implement a fixed election date that must be held on the third Monday in October in the fourth calendar year. There is a rule that there must be at least 36 days between the date that people vote and when the Prime Minister asks the Gov. Gen. to dissolve parliament and formally call an election, also known as ‘dropping the writs.'

This has a lot of implications for political parties, tax payers and third parties running campaigns.  Here is a brief overview of what the Aug 2 announcement could mean for Canadians.

 1.     Election Spending

According to political science professor Thierry Giasson in an interview with the Huffington Post, election campaigns are organized 12 to 18 months in advance, but only expenses incurred during the official campaign period are capped.

Opposition party MP’s have stated that a fixed-date election extends that period considerably and there will be weeks and months of unofficial campaigning not subject to rules.

And as part of the Conservative’s Fair Election Act which was passed in 2014, spending limits for political parties are increased by $685,000 for each day past a 36 day period. A longer campaign and a larger spending cap would give a larger advantage to the Conservatives who have led fundraising efforts.

2.     Third Parties

Calling an election early could have negative results for third party groups such as Engage Canada or Public Service Alliance of Canada, both of whom have been campaigning against the Conservative government.

According to the Huffington Post, calling the election early would force these third parties to ‘spend money they do not have fighting a longer campaign.’ As of right now third party groups can spend unlimited amounts, but they would be capped at $433,849 nationally and not be allowed to spend more than $8,677 in one riding.

3.     Tax Payers

Political parties and third parties would not be the only ones who would be paying for an early election, so too would tax payers.

In an article by the Canadian Press they pointed out that most of the ‘money parties and candidates will be throwing around’ during the campaign comes from various donations, which are worth generous tax credits.

The article also points out that taxpayers will be paying ‘millions in extra administrative costs.'

4.     Who has the advantage

In terms of funds, Elections Canada estimated that the Conservative Party has ‘raised more than $69 million since 2012, while the Liberals have raised $41.8 million and the NDP almost $28.2 million.'

According to CBC’s Election Poll tracker as of July 31 if an election were called today, the Conservative party would win with 130 seats. In terms of public polls, the Conservative Party is in the lead followed by the NDP and the Liberals.


Lawrence Jacques: Taking Pride In His Role As A Business Agent

The responsibilities of a business agent in the Teamsters union is multifaceted.

From selecting strong shop stewards to processing grievances to running meetings – business agents have a lot of roles to fill, and Lawrence Jacques takes pride in all of them.

Jacques started out as a shop steward with Teamsters and was happy to transition into the role of business agent – a role he said really gives strength to the members.

"They know there is someone standing there, removed from the company, who is acting 100 per cent of the time in their best interest," he said.

In this video we learn more about Jaques and what it takes to be a business agent for Teamsters.


Don't Worry, Be Happy: Studies Reveal Union Membership Linked With Higher Life Satisfaction

There are always lots of recommendations out there for how to help lift our spirits and brighten our mood. From getting more sunlight to being physically active or simply eating better – there are plenty of suggestions.

And according to recent studies, joining a union should definitely be added to that list.

Patrick Flavin is an assistant professor at Baylor University and Gregory Shufeldt is an assistant professor from the University of Arkansas. According to a recent article in the New York Times, the pair used data from five different years between 1980 and the mid-2000's to study the effect of union membership on life satisfaction.

They found that overall union members are ‘more satisfied with their lives than those who are not members and that the substantive effect of union membership on life satisfaction is large and rivals other common predictors of quality of life.’

It is easy to see why people would be happier in unions when it comes to overall happiness in the workplace – ­ they have better wages, work better hours, have better job security and good benefits.

But the effect of unions was also found to translate to members' overall quality of life outside of work with the study finding that they had a sense of better social well being and life satisfaction, so much so that being a member of a union offered ‘a bigger boost in satisfaction than an increase in income.’

As pointed out in a recent article by The American Prospect, the environment that a union provides can reduce stresses that can take place in a workplace and also create ‘more of a human connection among members and their families.’

This isn’t the only study to have found this information either.

2011 study completed at the University of Notre Dame by political scientist Benjamin Radcliff found that people ‘who live in countries in which labor union membership was robust were happier – regardless of whether of not they belonged to a union.’

Radcliff pointed out that non-union members benefit indirectly, because of the pressure employers felt to extend the same ‘benefits and wages to compete with union shops.’

Overall both studies correlated countries with higher union membership, with a higher level of happiness.

With hard facts proving that unions are better for not only the workforce, but society in general, it seems clear they are needed.


Leadership Important When It Comes To Safety In The Workplace

Having a leader in the workplace is essential for any good work culture, but being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean you have the title of ‘boss’ or ‘supervisor.’

According to Kathleen Brady, a corporate trainer, most people think leadership is linked with a specific job title, but you need much more than that to be a leader in the workplace.

She described a leader as someone who has ‘the ability to influence people to achieve a better result for an organization or group.’

A leader can be anyone in the workplace – from a newly hired apprentice to a senior staff member. It really means that you take the initiative to inspire and engage with coworkers.

And this leadership in the workplace is important for many things – morale, direction and guidance being a few of them.
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A great example of this within a union is a shop steward – a fellow coworker who represents the union and is the go-to person for any concerns in the workplace. It is someone in the workplace who other members can look to for guidance, knowledge and mentorship.

They also ensure the safety of everyone in the workplace, something research says is directly tied to leadership.

A study by Select International emphasized the importance of ‘having effective leaders who can build and sustain a strong safety culture’.

They found that by focusing on having safety leaders within an organization, there would be a direct ‘impact on injury rates and overall safety performance.' This doesn’t mean just physical safety, but also mental well-being.

Researchers at the University of Queensland found that leaders can increase productivity, prevent burnout, help employees feel united and create a sense of identity with their coworkers – all leading to better mental and physical health.

"Leaders who create a strong sense of 'us' and a sense of belonging within their teams help staff to feel more positive about their work," said Dr Niklas Steffens, lead researcher on the project "This feeling translates to increased levels of engagement. Feeling part of a group affects an employee's sense of self-worth and increases their sense of achievement.”

Nova Scotia’s workplace safety strategy includes leadership as its top priority, encouraging workplaces to have safety leaders from ‘the corner office to the shop floor.’

David Stuewe, a professor at Dalhousie University and former CEO of Nova Scotia’s Workers’ Compensation Board, said that leaders that are effective will always be monitoring ‘their teams situation and provide feedback and recognition to all workers.’
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“It is a leader’s job to create and maintain workplace cultures that promote safety,” he said.

Stuew said there are no simple answers to workplace safety but that effective leadership would tie together personal wellness, organizational wellness and physical work environment.

He pointed out that behaviours that are not safe usually have immediate rewards, while safe behaviours have delayed and uncertain rewards.

“Leaders must accept that safety is a long-term investment and they must take action and be responsible for it,” he said.

Not taking a break and working extremely long hours to get the job done may have the reward of getting the job done quicker, but in the long run is risky and may cause mental and physical issues.

Leaders must be there to ensure people are looking after each others mental and physical well being at work.


Generation Y And The Future Of Organizing

Generation Y, or millennials, have been described as more ‘civic minded’ and focused on a strong sense of community, it is no wonder then that they view unions in a more favourable light than older generations

With workforce trends going the way they are, and youth unemployment as a global concern, it is important for young people to be aware of the benefits of joining a union.

In a survey of millennials born between 1980 and the early 2000’s, over 60 per cent had a very favourable view of unions, but a lot of young workers don’t join them.

But this past April the editorial staff of the very popular blog called Gawker announced that they were organizing and trying to unionize.
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The celebrity and pop culture blog is put together by millennials, for mainly millennials. A lot of the staff at the blog are freelancers, writers who do not work a typical 9 to 5 desk job.

Hamilton Nolan, a writer for Gawker, explained why he had decided that this was the right move in a post on the site.

He first pointed out that every workplace could use a union because it is the only thing that can represent the interests of the employees in the company.

“A union is also the only real mechanism that enables employees to join together to bargain collectible, rather than as a bunch of separate, powerless entities,” he wrote.

He said that Gawker would be the first major online media company to organize.

“There are plenty of companies in this industry whose workers could desperately use the help of a union. If we can show that it's possible, I hope that a positive precedent will be set,” he wrote.

And for this generation, a lot of workers need to know it’s possible for a number of reasons, including the increase in precarious, freelancing and contract work as well as the rise of cheaper automated machines, as opposed to human workers.

Joining a union is something that also fits this generation’s socially conscious attitude.
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Gabriel Bako recently wrote in a post for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that ‘young people want to take collective against all kinds of injustice but are often doing this in non-traditional ways.’

Social media is a prefect example, with young people actively engaged in debates, sharing information and creating initiatives online.  It is a matter of transferring this spirit into organization.

“Unionization is still the best option for achieving workplace rights,” Bako wrote, going on to point out that unions must allow youth to take on ‘participatory roles in all aspects of the union’.

The potential of young people and unions to come together is there, and both sides together can make a change in how we shape workplaces for the next generation.

 


TRADEtalk

Two very good Articles, one from Tom Sigurdson, Executive Director at BC Building Trades, and the other from Robert Blakely, Director of Canadian Affairs, Canadian Office, Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, as they speak about the upcoming Federal Election. A special thanks to TRADEtalk brought to you by the BC Building Trades for these Articles.

Tom Sigurdson

Robert Blakely

 

 


Bill C-377: What You Need To Know

On June 30, a bill that has been receiving a lot of attention passed royal assent after years of debate. The amendment to the Income Tax Act, targets labour organizations with the intention of creating ‘more transparency', while critics argue it is unconstitutional and violates the rights and privacy of all Canadians.

1.   What is the Bill?

Bill C-377 was introduced by Conservative MP Russ Hiebert over three years ago. According to the Huffington Post, the bill requires ‘unions, labour trusts and employee associations to disclose any transaction of more than $5,000, along with the names of the payer and payee, to the Canada Revenue Agency.’ Also included in the bill is that unions would have to disclose ‘any executive or officer who earns more than $100,000.’

2.   Why Do Some People Think It Is Necessary?

Hiebert said that he wants this information disclosed because under the Income Tax Act unions benefit from tax deductions, so it is ‘only fair for unions and labour groups to be transparent and accountable for their spending beyond their membership.’

3.   Who Has Come Out Against It?

Some very high-profile groups have been speaking out against the controversial bill including the Canadian Bar Association, the National Hockey League Players Association, union leaders, seven provinces, both NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and the former federal privacy commissioner.
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4.   What Are The Major Concerns?

Irony

Nora Loreto, an editor for Rabble, pointed out in a recent blog post that ‘the most incredible part of Tuesday’s vote is the irony’ referencing the recent news of financial mismanagement in the senate. With nine senators being investigated by the RCMP, Loreto writes that ‘it's high comedy that they think they can impose financial transparency on labour organizations.’

Unconstitutional

A recent editorial by the Toronto Star, said that seven provinces have officially protested the law ‘arguing that it infringes on provincial jurisdiction over labour relations.’ The Star also pointed out that the bill sets a ‘worrisome precedent’ that any sort of similar intrusive legislation could be turned on any sort of group depending on who the government in power wanted to target.

Costly and Burdensome

Many have said the bill was mainly brought forward to ‘tie labour organizations in red tape and then fine them punitively if they don’t comply.’ Not only will this bill create an intense amount of paperwork and regulations for labour organizations, but also the Canadian Revenue Agency. According to the Globe and Mail, The CRA estimated that ‘the new requirements would cost the agency about $2.4-million over the first two years – with 22 additional full time staff.’

Not Needed

Union leaders have said that this bill is unnecessary because unions already provide regular financial reports to their members and are disclosed at local meetings. Labour unions are ‘required by federal, provincial and territorial legislation and their own constitutions to be democratically accountable.’

Privacy

In 2012 when the bill was brought forward, former federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said she thought the bill was ‘a significant privacy intrusion, and it seems highly disproportionate,” adding that it could infringe on the privacy rights of anyone who provides services to a labour organization.

5.   What is Next?

Since the bill received royal assent, unions would have to become compliant by January 30 2016. Some Canadian unions have said that they see this as ‘a direct attack on them and their members, and are vowing to fight it.’ Canadian Labour Congress President Hasan Yussef has said he plans to take the bill to court. Mulcair and Tudeau have both said they would repeal C-377 if they took power in the next election.


The Life Of A Business Agent

The role of the business agent is one that is so much more than dealing with a grievance.

Working their way up from employee to shop steward to finally, a business agent, is a rewarding journey – described by several of Local 362’s business agents as ‘the ultimate.’

They are strong advocates for members’ rights, have an important relationship with the shop steward and are someone you know you can call if you have any issues.

Whether it is dropping in to check on worksites, answering members' questions about benefits or even acting as a mentor to others within the union – those who take on the role are extremely passionate about what they do.

Teamsters 362 will be profiling some of our business agents and the journey they have each experienced. In this trailer, you will get a glimpse into the life of a business agent and the esteem each one has for their role in the union.


Putting The Spotlight On Workplace Bullying: Alberta Occupational Health And Safety Takes A Closer Look At The Issue

Bullying in the workplace has often been brushed-off, but the truth is that this workplace issue is a major concern for Canadians.

Whether it is spreading rumours about a fellow employee or physically threatening someone – bullying in the workplace can come in many forms and until recently, it hasn’t been discussed as much as it should.

But Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) has taken notice and talk of implementing workplace harassment policies into an update of its code was discussed during a recent review, according to an article in Metro Calgary.

Stacey Coombes is with the Alberta Human Rights Commission and said in the article that there has been much more attention recently on the negative affects that bullying can have on a person's mental and physical health , adding that is likely the reason for the tentative inclusion.

“It’s really important for companies to have a policy because then you can say, ‘We’re trying to protect our employees.’ If you don’t have that policy, how do your employees know that it’s not OK to pick on somebody?” she said.

The Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) pointed out on their website that the most harmful forms of bullying are usually psychological and subtle – making them hard to recognize.

This can result in disrupting sleeping and eating patterns, increased use of drugs or alcohol, depression or even suicidal thoughts.

So what can you do if you are being bullied at work? ALIS recommended keeping a journal of events and any physical evidence of the bullying such as letters, emails or texts.

Although they also suggested simply telling the bully to stop the behaviour, this technique can sometimes cause more problems than it can solve. Resisting the urge to retaliate is very important and so is staying connected with other co-workers so as not to isolate themselves.

If the bullying persists they recommended speaking with a supervisor or manager. There are also resources at the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Another option is to contact your trade union about the bullying behaviour – reaching out to a shop steward, business agent or any member you feel comfortable sharing the issue with. If you are not yet a part of a union, calling them and finding out what your rights are is also an action you could take.

Trade unions are there to stand up for all of your rights as a worker and ensure that you are working in a safe and healthy work environment –  that definitely includes workplace harassment.

While the final results of the update to the OHS code have not been confirmed, it is clear that this is a workplace issue that deserves attention.


Remembering Important Moments In Canadian Labour History

We have a lot to be proud of as Canadians and July 1 is the perfect day to celebrate that.  Our right to be a part of a union, to feel safe at work and to work reasonable hours are all things Canadians fought hard for, and that we sometimes take for granted today. There is a long list, but we have compiled a few of the significant moments in Canadian labour history. These important events are something think of this Canada Day while enjoying the fireworks or singing our national anthem.

The Toronto Printers Strike

Noted as one of the most influential strikes in Canadian history, this event took place in 1872 according to the Canadian Encyclopedia. It was part of a wider campaign in Canada called ‘the nine hour day.’ Over 100 strikers in Toronto fought hard to win a 54-hour work week and better wages.

The appropriately titled 'nine hour day' movement was meant to standardize shorter workdays. The movement had an impact on working class activists, led to the formation fo the Canadian Labor Union in 1873 and many other important changes such as the limited right to associate in trade unions and the passage of laws strengthening workers’ rights.

Royal Commission on the Relations of Labour and Capital

In 1889 the federal government established the Royal Commission on the Relations of Labour and Capital.

According to CBC News, due to a high level of injury amongst workers, this commission condemned ‘oppressive working conditions in many industries’ and made recommendations to improve them.

The federal government originally refused to follow through with any of the recommendations, saying that they would be infringing on ‘provincial authority.’

Ontario Workmen’s Compensation Act 

Created in 1914 this was the first Canadian model for provincial legislation that recognized that ‘some level of injury is inevitable and that compensation should be provided.’ Other provinces shortly followed suit – Nova Scotia in 1915, British Columbia in 1916 and Alberta and New Brunswick in 1918.

 The Right To Safety In The Workplace

In 1972 a very important legislation was passed in Saskatchewan that dealt with workplace safety called the Occupational Health Act. This legislation was considered a ‘first of its kind’ in not only Canada, but North America.

 Still existing to this day, the act states that workers have three basic health and safety rights.

.    the right to know the hazards at work and how to control them;

.    the right to participate in identifying, assessing, eliminating and controlling workplace hazards; and

.    the right to refuse work they believe is unusually dangerous to themselves or others.

Maternity and Parental Leave Rights

Maternity and Parental Benefits in Canada allow people who are pregnant, have recently given birth, are adopting a child or are caring for a newborn paid leave from work, but these rights came fairly recently.

The Unemployment Insurance Act (EIA), according to Statistics Canada, was created in 1940 and over 30 years later in 1971 maternity rights were added to it where mothers with ‘20 or more insurable weeks could claim up to 15 weeks of benefits.’

Ten weeks of parental leave benefits were added in 1990 that could be used by either parent or could be split between them. A decade later parental leave benefits were increased from 10 to 35 weeks, increasing the total maternity and parental paid leave time from six months to one year.