A Look At The Federal Budget for 2018

It is that time of year once again when Canadians find out just where the government plans on spending money.

This budget was titled ‘Equality + Growth, A Strong Middle Class’ and included a number of issues the government plans to take on in 2018 including pharmacare, Indigenous issues and the opioid crisis.

The biggest theme for this budget was gender equality.

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"We believe that Canada's future success rests on making sure that every Canadian has an opportunity to work, and to earn a good living from that work," said Finance Minister Bill Morneau. "And that includes Canada's talented, ambitious and hard-working women."

Union leaders and members were pleased with the budget, especially the attention to universal pharmacare and pay-equity – which is long overdue.

“Women in Canada have waited far too long for fairness, and Canada’s unions look forward to working with the government to get this legislation right,” said Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff. “That means ensuring, for example, that it establishes both a distinct Pay Equity Commission and a Hearings Tribunal – two essential components of a proactive pay equity regime.”

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Here are some of the major highlights from the budget:

    • New apprenticeship and training initiatives including incentive grants for women entering the Red Seal trades

 

    • A commitment to consult with employers, unions and other stakeholders to work to develop pay-equity legislation, which will be included in the budget bill

 

    • $1.2-billion over five years to create a new five-week "use-it-or-lose-it" incentive for parental leave for fathers

 

    • $447-million over five years to create a new Indigenous Skills and Employment Training Program

 

    • Increase the take-home pay of low-income workers through a revamped tax credit

 

    • A pledge for a national pharmacare program although the budget does not lay out what this might cost

 

  •            $191-million over five years to help to cover the cost of NAFTA and WTO legal challenges

 

 


Employment Code Changes Protect Workers

This year the NDP government implemented changes to the employment standards code.

It marked the first time in three decades that changes had been made. They were very long overdue, to say the least.

These changes finally defended workers’ rights – especially those who are in precarious or part time work, shift work or non-unionized workers. These are workers who are often taken advantage of and are too afraid to speak up.

While some employers have been okay with implementing the changes and publicly have shown their support for workers’ rights – other have not felt the same way.

The first major issue was the raise in minimum wage, and now the latest showdown is over statutory holiday pay.

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Marty Giles, the owner of vehicle dealerships in Fort McMurray, Calgary, Cochrane and Fort McKay recently recorded a video rant and posted it on social media. He stated that the new general holiday pay was going to hurt his businesses.

Giles said that these rules are going to cost his business $103 an hour on stat holidays because of the new changes and that he is basically paying his employees to ‘sit on the couch.’

Describing them as just 'sitting on the couch' is insulting to his employees. If you value your workers, you should make sure they have much needed time off.

Business owners, especially ones who have been as successful as Giles, need to realize that these costs come with running a business. If you can't afford to have your employees make a decent wage or pay for statutory holidays, then maybe your business model doesn't work. It's time to rethink it.

The code now states that ‘all eligible employees are entitled to holiday pay, where they are paid the equivalent of a day's pay whether they work or not.’

Previously, the employer would pay the stat pay the employee had worked five of the past nine days that the stat holiday fell on. This has been practiced in Saskatchewan and is included in their labour code.

Employees and employers alike would often be confused about how to interpret a ‘work day’ or the eligibility of a worker.

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Now all shift workers are protected on a statutory holiday, whether they are spending time with their family, running errands they wouldn’t otherwise have time for or just ‘sitting on a couch.’

"We absolutely recognize that employers, and indeed all Albertans, are facing tough economic times. Through the feedback we received, we developed modern and fair rules for workplaces that balance the needs of both employers and employees," said Christina Gray, Alberta Labour Minister, in an e-mail to the Globe and Mail.

The Employment Standards Code has remained the same for 30 years and required an update so that workers would be protected and have the same rights as workers do in several other provinces across Canada. Alberta has changed a lot in 30 years, so has the way business is done and our labour codes should reflect that.

 


Fourth Round of NAFTA Talks Doesn't Do Enough For Workers

NAFTA is in the news again after the United States made some aggressive demands for the deal. The fourth round of talks took place in Virginia and is the fourth of seven.

The proposed a ‘sunset clause’ that would want any new NAFTA terminated after five years and a new auto manufacturing proposal that was criticized by Canada, Mexico, unions and car manufacturers themselves.

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The U.S. has almost made demands around the dairy industry and trucking.

In Washington, top Teamsters leaders from across North America came together with members of Congress and fellow unions to push forward the message that NAFTA must enforce basic labour rights.

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa applauded Canadian Teamsters for their support in mobilizing the spread of right-to-work laws.

Teamsters Canada President Francois Laporte pointed out that like members in the U.S., Canadian Teamsters recognize that the new NAFTA must contain a new chapter that will protect workers’ rights.

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“We appreciate the text tabled by our government, but we want to emphasize that worker rights and protections for indigenous people and women in the workforce are all very important, but that the enforcement is essential,” explained Laporte. “New rights in a new NAFTA won’t be worth much without trade sanctions to back them up.”

Teamsters are participating in talks with the Steelworkers, the AFL-CIO and fellow unions from Canada and Mexico to ensure a successful NAFTA renegotiation.


Why You Need To Vote On Oct. 16

On September 30, Edmonton was in shock with the news that a terror attack had occurred in the city.

That night, 30-year-old Abdulahi Sharif drove a car into a police constable and stabbed him. He later ran into four pedestrians, causing serious injuries.

Edmontonians, Albertans and all of Canada couldn't believe the news.

“It is vital now that we not succumb to hate, that we not be intimidated by violence, and that we respond with the loving strength of this whole community in support of the victims, and our brave first responders,” said Mayor Don Iveson. “We will not be divided.”

However, not all felt the same way.

After the attack Karen Draper, who is running as a Calgary public school board trustee in Wards 12-14, posted her thoughts about the incident on Facebook.

“LGBTQ are you too dumb to see the terrorist attack in Edmonton is your fault as well.”

The post received a huge backlash on social media with thousands of comments.

She said in a statement to Global News  that the choice to post her views was ‘somewhat in response to  the private and public slandering I have had from the LGBT community over my opposition to the GSA and SOGI123 curriculum.’

GSA stands for Gay Straight Alliances and the SOGI_123 curriculum is indented to help support LGBTQ students.

This is a prime example of why it is so important to get out and vote on Oct.16 no matter what part of Alberta you live in. Yes, Draper received a huge reaction on social media, but that will not mean anything if she is elected and gets to make policy decisions for Calgary students.

If you don’t vote, people with exclusive and discriminative views may have the chance to be elected and shape the way our major cities run.

And the last election saw low voter turn outs with around 39 per cent in Calgary and 35 per cent in Edmonton. These numbers are much too low, so we thought we would answer common questions about what you need to vote.

How do I know if I am eligible to vote in the municipal election?

You must be at least 18 years old, be a Canadian citizen, have resided in Alberta for 6 consecutive months before election day and your place of residence must be located in the area on election day.

What do I need to have when I show up to vote?

You need to have one piece of valid identification. The list can be found here.

Do I get time off of work to vote?

Employees have the right to have three consecutive hours to cast their vote while the voting station is open. If the hours of the employee’s employment do not allow for three consecutive hours the employer must allow them additional time for voting.

Where is my voting station?

You can find them on the following websites

Calgary:  http://www.calgary.ca/election/Pages/information-for-voters/find-my-voting-station.aspx

Edmonton: https://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/municipal_elections/find-your-voting-station.aspx

Red Deer: http://elections.reddeer.ca/media/reddeerca/election/documents/City-of-Red-Deer-Voting-Stations.pdf


Third Round Of NAFTA Talks Doesn't Do Enough For Workers

The third round of  NAFTA negotiations took place in Ottawa this past week and there is still little progress on major issues. This has many worried that President Donald Trump may pull out of the deal all together, something he has threatened if certain demands are not met.

According to the Globe and Mail, Trump has a list of around 100 demands surrounding NAFTA renegotiations including using “Buy American” provisions to bar Canadian or Mexican firms from seeking U.S. government contracts and also opening up more Canadian or Mexican government contracts to U.S. companies.

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NAFTA stands for the North American Free Trade Agreement and was created in 1994 as an expanded version of the 1988 Canada-U.S. free trade agreement. Essentially, it removed ‘barriers to the flow of goods and labour between Canada, the United States and Mexico.’

According to CBC news, labour unions have pointed out that Canada has been facing opposition from the United States and Mexico 'on its proposal to raise labour standards.'

In a joint statement from Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa and Teamsters Canada President François Laporte, the leaders stated that the first draft of the proposed U.S. labor chapter from the latest meeting is inadequate, pointing out that the 'interests of working and middle class families are better served by the current Canadian proposal.'

"Teamsters remain committed to supporting the proposed Canadian labor chapter, which will improve wages and working conditions in all three NAFTA countries and end right- to-work in the United States," the statement read. "A modernized NAFTA will be a model for future trade deals. It is imperative that our governments get it right when it comes to workers’ rights.”

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Some of the major issues the leaders pointed out in the statement were dairy industry supply, Mexican trucking and Right-to-Work laws.

Uncertainty surrounding NAFTA has already had effects on our dollar and the energy sector. It is clear that a fair deal is needed soon to protect workers and all Canadians. The next round of NAFTA talks will take place in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 11.


Teamsters Urge NAFTA Negotiators to Address Labor, Trucking

Please click the link below to view the Teamsters News release in regards to the NAFTA negotiations.

09.27.17jointNAFTAstatement


NAFTA Talks Important For All Workers

NAFTA has been a hot topic in the news ever since Donald Trump was elected President this year. Some see it as just another acronym thrown around in politics, but the truth is NAFTA is an intricate part of our economy in Canada and we should be paying attention to what is happening to it.

NAFTA stands for the North American Free Trade Agreement and was created in 1994 as an expanded version of the 1988 Canada-U.S. free trade agreement. Essentially, it removed ‘barriers to the flow of goods and labour between Canada, the United States and Mexico.’

According to the Globe and Mail, Trump has a list of around 100 demands surrounding NAFTA renegotiations including using “Buy American” provisions to bar Canadian or Mexican firms from seeking U.S. government contracts and also opening up more Canadian or Mexican government contracts to U.S. companies.

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The President has threatened to pull out of NAFTA if these demands are not met.

Some of the most contentious trade issues regarding Canada are dairy supply management and softwood lumber.

Trudeau told a group of labour members last month that we're going to land an agreement that union members and all people across the country can be proud of.

"The bottom line is, after years of neglect, organized labour finally has a strong partner in Ottawa, and we will not let you down," said Trudeau.

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa and Teamsters Canada President François Laporte released a join statement this month in response to the second round of negotiations of NAFTA in Mexico City.

They acknowledged that the Canadian proposals could do more to protect workers rights in North America than any previous trade agreement and that crafting a chapter that protects workers rights is ‘central to the success to the renegotiation.’

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“On labour, we agree that the substantive protections should be grounded in the ILO conventions, and that violations should be enforceable by trade sanctions. We also agree that U.S. state ‘right to work’ laws depress wages and thereby arguably constitute an export subsidy to U.S. exporters who move production to those jurisdictions,” they said in their joint statement.

Uncertainty surrounding NAFTA has already had effects on our dollar and the energy sector. It is clear that a fair deal is needed soon to protect workers and all Canadians. We will all be watching as talks return to the United States in October.


Anti-Union Legislation is Shut Down with Passing of New Bill

As we head into the summer season in Canada, the parliament is pushing through several bills before they take a break.

One bill that was passed through this week was Bill C-4, a bill that was praised by union members and leaders across the country.

This bill repeals two bills that were passed under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, C-377 and C-525.

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Bill C-377 received royal assent on June 30, 2015, on the last day of Parliament and after years of debate. The amendment to the Income Tax Act, targets labour organizations with critics arguing that it is unconstitutional and violates the rights and privacy of all Canadians.

It was also argued that it was designed to ‘smother unions in red tape’ and would require extra costs and time.

Bill C-525 would make the union certification process very difficult, eliminating the automatic card check certification and replacing it with a two-stage process adding a voting process in addition to card signing.

In April, the senate had passed amendments to the bill that changed some of the most important aspects. In May it was rejected.

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"By passing Bill C-4, the federal government has demonstrated it understands the importance of fair labour relations, and the critical role unions play advancing rights for all Canadian workers," said Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff in a press release.

The ability for Canadians to join a union is a right we all have. Higher union membership has been shown to create a stronger middle class and a happier society overall. Unions fight for the rights of not only their members, but all Canadians in the workplace and that should bot be hampered by the government.


Senate votes to change bill that would reverse anti-union laws

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won the 2015 federal election he pledged to reverse two laws that were viewed by many across the country as anti-union.

In November of that year he restated that commitment when he spoke at the Canadian Labour Congress gathering in Ottawa, stating that ‘labour is not a problem, but a solution.’

Unfortunately, not everyone in government sees it that way.

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The Senate amended Bill C-4 that reversed the original intent, which was to repeal C-377 and C-525.

Bill C-377 received royal assent on June 30, 2015, on the last day of Parliament and after years of debate. The amendment to the Income Tax Act, targets labour organizations with critics arguing that it is unconstitutional and violates the rights and privacy of all Canadians.

Bill C-525 would make the union certification process very difficult, eliminating the automatic card check certification and replacing it with a two-stage process adding a voting process in addition to card signing.

Many have argued that this extra vote gives employers the opportunity to intimidate workers before the second stage of the process where they vote on joining a union.

In a vote by the Senate, mostly supported by Conservatives, they changed the bill to keep the elements of Bill C-525.

However, a spokesperson for federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu signalled that the government would be voting to reverse the Senate changes, according to the Globe and Mail.

In an interview with the Globe and Mail Hassan Yussuff, President of the CLC, said that the card check system has not shown any signs of problems.

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“It prevents employers from intimidating and interfering,” he explained. Every time there is a vote, employers do interfere. They express their opinion. They threaten to close the workplace.”

The labour movement, and those who want to unionize, will be keeping a close eye on the Senate as more developments come forward over the next few weeks.


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.