Labour Highlights From The 2016 Federal Budget

Last week the Liberal government announced their first budget with Justin Trudeau as their leader, and Canadians watched closely to see what election promises the party would deliver on.

The past few years have been tough on the labour movement when it comes to government decisions – several anti-union bills were drafted, Canadians face a job crisis and the issue of precarious work is a major concern.

"This budget is not an austerity budget," said François Laporte, the President of Teamsters Canada. "Today's announcements are in line with a policy of economic recovery, which our union supports entirely."

He added that massive job losses in the oil industry have hit some of the members hard, and there are thousands of working families going through ‘very tough times.’

This new budget offers an opportunity for Canadian workers and the labour movement to move forward with the new government, and we have listed some of the highlights.

1.     Employment Insurance

The government announced that it will be adding five weeks to the regular benefits workers receive, effective this July but retroactive to January 2015. The budget is changing the rules that govern employment insurance to help resource-dependent provinces. This is a ‘good start’ according to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, where the economy has been hit hard.

2.     Skills Training and Infrastructure

Over the next five years, $85.4 million has been dedicated for the development of a new framework supporting union-based apprenticeship training. Also over the next five years $11.9 billion is assigned to be spent on new infrastructure in the country, creating jobs in Canada’s economy.

3.     Youth Employment

Youth employment is a major issues in our country and the government announced that $165.4 million has been outlined for the Youth Employment Strategy in addition to last month's announcement of the government's three-year $339 million investment in the Canada Summer Jobs program.


Alberta Introduces New Strike Legislation

Alberta has been at the centre of attention in the country when it comes to strike legislation, and a decision last week has changed everything for publicly funded workers.

Publicly funded workers such as nurses, paramedics, correctional officers and university support staff will soon have the right to strike in Alberta after legislation was introduced to expand the right to strike for about 150,000 public-sector employees.

Alberta traditionally has banned strikes and lockouts involving public-sector workers, but almost exactly a year ago the Supreme Court ruled that the right to strike is a fundamental right for unionized employees.

Labour Minister Christina Gray says the legislation brought forward this week is to bring Alberta in compliance with that ruling.

As part of the legislation the public sectors must ‘negotiate an agreement that lays out the condition of any job action’ and they must have an ‘essential services agreement’ before they can proceed with collective bargaining.

There will also be an essential services commissioner appointed, who will provide oversight of the process and have the power to refuse essential services agreements.

Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan acknowledged in a release the 'importance of ensuring services are still provided in cases where a labour disruption could endanger the lives or safety of the public.'

While striking is always a last option in negotiating, having the right to do so is so important when it comes to fair workplaces. Labour unions provide that support and solidarity during a walk out.

The supreme court of Canada stating that the right to strike is a constitutional right of all Canadians, gives more power to workers. It also emphasizes the importance of collective bargaining for all workers, not just those who are public employees.

Passing Of Ed Lawson

Ed Lawson, born in Gerald, Saskatchewan in 1929, passed away recently. Lawson was the Director of the Canadian Conference of Teamsters and a Canadian Senator. He was the architect behind the creation of the Canadian Conference of Teamsters in 1976, an organization which later became Teamsters Canada in 1992.

Read more about Ed Lawson here.

Three Reasons To Thank A Union

It often gets taken for granted, but most of the rights we have when it comes to the workplace are because of labour unions. That fight continues today for the labour movement as they are always trying to make sure workplaces are fair and safe for all employees. There are almost too many to list, but we thought we would start with three major reasons all Canadians have to thank labour unions.

Download Our Guide On How To Know If Your Workplace Needs A Union!

1.     Safe Work Environments

The environment where we work is so important to our everyday safety and it is because of unions that we are able to work without worrying about whether or not we may be hurt on the job. Many decades ago unions led the fight to implement the Canada Labour (Safety) Code that clearly set out laws and regulations for safety in

Canada. Today unions continue to fight to make sure all workers, whether union or non-union are both physically and mentally safe in their work environment. 

2.     A Standard Work Week

Working a set number of hours for a set number of days is something that every worker should be entitled to and is something unions put in place. Today with the rise of precarious work it is important to remember where those initial standards came from. The Toronto Typographical Union made that possible in 1872 when they first demanded better working hours. Now workers in Canada are able to enjoy weekends and parts of their day to take time to themselves or hang with friends and family.

Download Our Guide On How To Know If Your Workplace Needs A Union!

3.     A Fair Wage

Unions have a long history of fighting for fair wages in Canada and have set the standard for not only union employees, but non-union as well. Once the bar is raised for union employees, other employers have to follow suit. And the fight for fair wages across North America continues with the social movement ‘Fight for 15’ making sure all workers are entitled to a fair living wage.

The Gender Wage Gap – The Good, The Bad And The Future.

When it comes to the wage gap between men and women, there is good news and bad news.

The good news is that in a recent study done by Glassdoor, the vast majority of workers believe in equal pay for equal work. They found that 93 per cent of workers in the U.S. wanted to see equal compensation for employees, and 87 per cent are like-minded in Canada and the U.K.

Most people who were questioned said they would not want to work at a place that they knew had a gender wage gap, something authors of the study said employers should be taking note of.

The bad news is that 70 per cent of employees believe that their current employers pay both men and women equally, and statistics in Canada show that is not the case.

report by Oxfam Canada released this month found that in 2009, women in Canada earned on average 74.4 per cent of what men earned. In 2010, it was 73.6 per cent, and in 2011, it was 72 per cent, roughly where it remains today.

They said that part of the problem is that women find themselves typically in disproportionately lower-paying industries.

The topic has been brought up recently in political debates with Bernie Sanders commenting that the 'absurdity of women today making 79 cents on the dollar compared to men' needs to end.

So why is it so bad that most people don’t believe that there is a gender wage gap where they work? It shows a disconnect that people have when it comes to the gender wage gap, and a need for further education. Many Canadians don't even realize there is a pay gap and that is a problem.

In most cases in order to be paid the same as men, women need to have a union agreement.

Unions have taken major steps forward when it comes to furthering women’s rights in the workplace and Teamster contracts have historically lead the way when it comes to gender equality. According to the Canadian labour Congress, union members earn on average $5.28 per hour more than workers without a union and women earn $7.10 per hour more on average with a union.

Having a good contract ensures that men and women will be paid equally for equal work, something that is often taken for granted.

The Teamsters Women’s Conference hosted every year in a different city brings together thousands of women from across North America. The conference includes a program of speakers, dozens of educational workshops and union-building activities with in-depth workshops on everything from shop steward training to the history of the Teamsters Union.

Education and awareness will be key in making sure we close the gender pay gap and the labour union is a key part of that awareness.


Wear 'Plaid For Dad' And Support Prostate Cancer Research June 17

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canadian men and this June you can help raise awareness and funds by taking out your finest plaid.

On June 17 you can join others across Canada by wearing ‘plaid for dad’ to work, an initiative Teamsters Local 362 is encouraging workplaces to take part in. This twist on ‘jeans day’ is a great support for this vital cause and everyone in the office can take part. There are prizes for sharing your amazing plaid outfit on social media and you can also donate online.

Last year over 200 workplaces took part and #WearPlaidForDad was a top treading topic supported by celebrity ambassadors such as W. Brett Wilson, and the King of Plaid himself, Don Cherry.

Statistics show that one in eight Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 4,100 will die from the disease, but support for research has made a huge difference.

The death rate has been declining significantly from improved testing for prostate cancer and better research treatment options. The survival rate for prostate cancer can be more than 90 per cent when detected early.

For more information check out this guide or visit the plaid for dad website.


Issues Facing Young People When It Comes To Employment

Young people are facing an uphill battle when it comes to employment, not just in Canada but around the world. The International Labour Organization, a UN body that tracks the human toll of economic progress, has launched a Global Initiative for Decent Jobs for Youth, showing why having a labour union to back you up as a young person has become more important than ever.

Download Our Guide On How To Know If Your Workplace Needs A Union!

1.     Unpaid Internships

Everyone deserves to be paid for the work they do, no matter their age. Unfortunately, a reality for many young people in post secondary or just graduating is that there are a large number of internships that are unpaid. Recently the Liberal Government has been facing backlash over proposed regulations that ‘would allow federally regulated workplaces to hire unpaid interns’ something that contradicts the Liberal’s campaign pledge to help young workers.

2.     Underemployment

Underemployment is classified as ‘working in a field that does not utilize educational background and working contract, temporary or part-time hours.’ This is an issues that is facing many Canadians, but mostly young people as they are just starting out their career. According to the Calgary Herald  'Non-standard” (contract, temporary, part-time) work accounted for nearly one-quarter of job growth in Canada between 2003 and 2013.'

3.     Job Competition

With so little opportunity to find full time and well-paid job positions the competition is fierce for young workers to fill those positions. Another competition for young people are seniors, with seniors today (65+) twice as likely to have a job than they were 30 years ago.

Download Our Guide On How To Know If Your Workplace Needs A Union!

4.     Safety

According to a study released last year young workers are much more ‘vulnerable to accidents and less likely to raise safety concerns with their employers.’ Safety in the workplace is so important, and if there is no one looking out for young people in the workplace it could lead to disasterous results

Unions Allow You To Make A Life, Not Just A Living

You may not always recognize it, but our work life directly impacts home life – no matter what type of situation you are in. Stresses from work can spill over into family life and vice versa. From low wages to being overworked, we can't help but be impacted by how we make a living.

Being a member of a union can help with that work-life balance in a number of ways, and gives meaning to the phrase ‘make a life, not just a living.’

Download Our Guide On How To Know If Your Workplace Needs A Union!

1.   Benefits

When you are part of a labour union, you are able to take advantage of great health benefits. This can take a huge stress of being able to take care of your own health and your that of your family. Without the worries of drug costs and medical bills, some of the pressure of health issues can be relieved.

2.   Stable Hours

Being able to work stable hours is something a lot of people take for granted. With the rise of precarious work and the ‘gig economy’ people are working extremely long hours or are on call at all hours of the night. With a union looking out for you, you are able to have stable hours so you can plan activities outside of work including spending time with loved ones.

3.   Good Wage

Money can’t buy you happiness, but earning a fair wage is essential to having a quality of life. With a union you are paid a fair wage for your work and the level of your seniority is respected. This means you can provide for yourself and your family without having to worry about making a fair wage.

Download Our Guide On How To Know If Your Workplace Needs A Union!

4.   Solidarity

Feeling alone or isolated at your place of work can be extremely stressful and that is why having a union to back you up is so important in a workplace. You know you have brothers and sisters looking out for you not only in the workplace, but outside as well. Being part of a union is like being a part of a family and you know that you are never alone.

Making Changes To Stigma Surrounding Mental Health And Suicide In The Workplace

At the end of 2015 people in Alberta were shocked to learn that in the wake of mounting job losses, the suicide rate in the province had increased by 30 per cent.

The Alberta Health Minister said there is a mental health review currently happening and the results will be released very soon. Mental health efforts have received a $10 million dollar increase in the provincial budget.

And the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace is found in the small print of many insurance policies, but that is changing as of late.

After CBC news did an investigation they found that leading insurance companies can ‘refuse to pay for treatment related to self-inflicted injuries and suicide attempts whether, as some policies state, the insured person was "sane or insane" at the time.’

Dr. David Goldlboom, a psychiatrist at CAMH and past chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, said in an interview with CBC that it is harmful to view ‘suicide and self-harm entirely as acts of free will.’

He said that Canadian companies don’t realize ‘the exclusionary clauses are even in the policies being offered to their employees,’ and it is time to start pressuring insurance companies to remove them.

Stigma still exists when it comes to mental health in the workplace and it is something labour unions have been working very hard at fighting against.

Mental Health issues cost the Canadian economy over $50 billion each year and both Teamsters Canada and Teamsters Local 362 have created ‘Make It Mandatory’ mental health campaigns to make mental health resources mandatory in every workplace across Canada.

Canadians must work together to end the stigma and let people suffering know that they are not alone.