June 25, 2020 - No. 44
Ends at Regina Co-Op Refinery
Defence of Co-op Workers' Dignity and Unity
The Right to Housing During
• End the Criminalization
of Vancouver's Homeless! - Brian Sproule and
• Union of BC Indian
Chiefs' Statement on Police Raid of Namegan/CRAB Park
Demands of Hospitality Workers for Job Protection
• Hospitality Workers
Must Be at the Centre of Any Sectoral Relief Package
• Vancouver Hotel Workers
Demand Protection of Their Jobs - Joseph Theriault
Defending the Rights of
• Demand for Improved
Access to Employment Insurance
Lockout Ends at Regina Co-Op
Photo posted to Unifor Local 594's Facebook page following the
settlement, thanking all those who stood with them during the lockout.
Congratulation to the workers of the Co-op
refinery in Regina! After more than six months the lockout has ended.
Throughout this long and difficult struggle the 730 locked-out workers
stood united against a brutal combined assault on their rights by their
employer, Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL), the Regina Police
Service and the Saskatchewan government. Workers stood together when
they were thrown onto the streets, and they stood together when they
went back to work after six months of resistance to this brutal assault
and of mobilizing workers in various parts of the country as well as
communities in Saskatchewan to support their just cause. It was clear
that the aim was to break the unity of the workers and in this the
company utterly failed. The Saskatchewan government did not defend the
workers against the attacks of the company and the police, claiming
that these are 'private matters.' Workers'
Forum supports the stand of the workers that a "different
Saskatchewan" is needed in which the voices of the workers are heard
and the rights of workers upheld.
An agreement was reached between the company and
the negotiating committee of Unifor Local 594 and was announced at a
rally at the legislature on June 18 where the workers had been
demonstrating daily since it re-opened on June 15. On June 22 the
workers voted 89 per cent in favour of the proposed settlement and this
brought an end to the lockout which started on December 5, 2019.
Details of the agreement have not been made public.
June 5 marked six months since the workers at the
Co-op Refinery in Regina were locked out by Federated Co-operatives
Limited (FCL), two days after a strike vote and after the company had,
over several months, made extensive preparations to hire and house
scabs who, together with management, have been operating the refinery
for the past six months.
Over the course of the lockout and before, the 730
members of Unifor Local 594 made every effort to negotiate a collective
agreement, including accepting the recommendations of mediators Vince
Ready and Amanda Rogers which included concessions demanded by
FCL. In spite of the workers' acceptance of the mediators'
proposals, the company rejected them and introduced demands for new
concessions plus an unacceptable Return-to-Work protocol according to
which FCL would have the ability to terminate anyone they choose
whenever they want.
Throughout the prolonged battle that the Co-op
workers waged in defence of their rights they had broad support from
Unifor members from across the country, from members of other unions
locally and nationally, from the National Farmers' Union and local
organizations and communities throughout the province and as far west
as British Columbia in the boycott of Co-op retail outlets.
workers gathered at the legislature on June 18, Unifor Local
594 president Kevin Bittman expressed his disappointment in the actions
of the company and the government against the workers. Speaking of the
courageous fight that the workers waged throughout the lockout, and the
broad support of the labour movement and communities he said that the
workers would continue to fight for changes to rules on collective
bargaining and to create "a different Saskatchewan." The workers have
faced court injunctions which rendered picketing ineffectual, the use
of scabs, police harassment and arrests, the mobilization of all the
police powers of the state against them. Bittman said, "This was about
union busting, it wasn't about collective bargaining.... Right now for
us, Saskatchewan is a pretty disappointing place to live." He
emphasized that the aim of the company, as evidenced by its endless
demands for concessions, was to break the union and that in this they
had completely failed. In the course of the lockout not a single worker
had crossed the picket line and the 730 workers who had been locked out
in December would return to their jobs with their heads held
While unable to negotiate a Return to Work
protocol that protected everyone from discipline, including
terminations, the local was able to negotiate an expedited process to
fight and resolve any retributions by the company against individual
workers. Bittman also made the point that while the agreement signals
the end of the lockout it does not signal the end of the fight of the
Co-op workers and workers throughout Saskatchewan for anti-scab
legislation and other measures that restrict the ability of employers
to act with impunity in violation of workers' rights.
The Right to Housing During
In spite of the
efforts of advocates for the homeless and people who are inadequately
housed, dozens of people in Vancouver continue to live in tent
encampments and continue to be under constant threat of eviction from
the authorities. On May 8 the largest of these, at Oppenheimer Park,
was cleared and those who did not receive housing set up a new camp on
Crab Park on property of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, a federal
body. On June 10, the Port Authority applied for an injunction to
remove the campers which was enforced on June 16, after the campers had
already tried to comply with the injunction by moving from the park to
a nearby parking lot.
In the early hours of June 16 Vancouver Police
enforced the court injunction, arresting 46 people who refused to leave
and charging them with civil contempt. Police seized their tents and
possessions. More than 100 campers, many of whom are Indigenous people
and many who have serious health issues, were forced to relocate
everything for the third time in less than two months. The camp has now
been re-established at Strathcona Park in East Vancouver.
Campers told CBC News they were given no direction
from police or other officials as to where they were expected to go
next. One stated "We've got nowhere to go, so we'll find a place to go
and go there. We're homeless but we're not helpless."
At the camp people are able to look after one
another, have organized food services and medical support, and are
safer than in some of the shelters and other temporary housing in which
people may be isolated and have to live in unsanitary conditions. Those
who are still living in camps are those for whom no adequate housing
has been provided.
On the day of the eviction, CBC interviewed
Elizabeth Ramsden, a nurse working in the community, about what had
happened. She said "This is, I think, abhorrent. I'm speechless that,
during a pandemic, this is the response that people want to
demonstrate. We have medics [here], we have food services around the
clock, and you want to tear that down with no warning, no housing, no
plan?" She explained that she herself had left her job to come and
provide health care to the people at the camp "because people need
health care. It's really important for people to have outreach and no
one is outreaching here because it's been determined to be a dangerous
space. This is a community organized space." She also made the point
that there was no warning before the early-morning raid and no support
on site to help people with finding a place to live.
The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) issued a
statement the same day denouncing the police action. Grand Chief
Stewart Phillip, president, said the police raid "created a dangerous
situation. During a pandemic in which the province committed to
preventing evictions, the VPD (Vancouver Police Department) seized this
opportunity to evict some of the most vulnerable residents of the
Downtown Eastside, many of whom are survivors of ongoing Indigenous
genocide. Residents were given a sheet of paper with a few phone
numbers to call for housing, but the outstanding issue is that we
understand no housing is available at this time. Where are they
supposed to go?"
Commissioner John Irwin told CBC Early Edition host Stephen Quinn that
"We're just moving people around when really they should be housed. We
have to grapple with the problem." He said that there are lots of empty
hotel rooms because of the COVID-19 crisis and the City has the power
to compel the hotels to provide more temporary housing but has not done
so. Shane Simpson, provincial minister of Social Development and
Poverty Reduction, told Early Edition that "Some don't want to move
into temporary housing." Fionna Yorke of the Carnegie Action Committee
explained that people often feel more secure in tent communities than
in shelters where they have to share washrooms, are not allowed to have
guests or live with their partners, can't have pets and are isolated.
Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart is calling on the
federal government to "step up" and support plans already in place to
build housing for the homeless and under-housed. "The only way to end
homelessness is by building housing, not evicting homeless residents
without a plan for where they go next. If Ottawa came to the table, we
could drastically increase the amount of housing we're able to
provide." A meeting between Stewart, BC Housing Minister Selina
Robinson and federal Families, Children and Social Development Minister
Ahmed Hussen has been scheduled for the week of June 22.
The housing crisis in BC predates the pandemic.
The April 9 letter from four BC organizations that advocate on behalf
of people who are homeless outlines concrete measures that must be
taken to provide housing in these conditions.
Governments at all levels, social agencies and the police forces are
all acutely aware of the increased danger to the homeless and the
communities because of the conditions that foster the rapid spread of
the virus, not to mention other consequences of the pandemic and the
shutdown, including a massive increase in overdose deaths in BC in May.
In the conditions where a crisis of homelessness
and precarious living conditions is worsened by the pandemic one could
expect every politician to agree that housing is a right. While the
politicians point fingers and pass the buck working people like the
nurse quoted above selflessly come forward to serve others. The block
to progress is the economy controlled by narrow private interests with
governments at all levels recognizing the claims of the rich, including
developers and land speculators. A new pro-social direction of the
economy is needed with working people as the decision-makers.
1. see "Call
for Immediate Action to House All Unhoused BC Residents." Workers' Forum,
April 17, 2020.
The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) stands in
solidarity and shared outrage with the residents of Namegan/CRAB Park
Tent City who were forcefully displaced this morning. The Province of
British Columbia and the City of Vancouver have continued their pattern
of prioritizing corporate interests and colonial property over the
lives and safety of unhoused community members.
"By raiding a peaceful encampment at dawn with
dozens of armed Vancouver Police and no presence from or coordination
with housing providers, danger was created, not prevented," stated
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian
Chiefs. "During a pandemic in which the Province committed to
preventing evictions, the VPD seized this opportunity to evict some of
the most vulnerable residents of the Downtown Eastside, many of whom
are survivors of ongoing Indigenous genocide. Once again, dangerous
state sanctioned violence was needlessly perpetrated against poor and
homeless Indigenous peoples. This conduct is absolutely deplorable.
Residents were given a sheet of paper with a few phone numbers to call
for housing, but the outstanding issue is that we understand no housing
is available at this time. Where are they supposed to go? We call on
the City of Vancouver and the Province of British Columbia to commit to
providing more permanent housing options immediately, and to completely
overhaul the processes that allow for such violent displacements to
Just Demands of Hospitality
Workers for Job Protection
Unite Here Local 40 in British Columbia organized
a lively car rally in downtown Vancouver on June 3, calling on the
public, including workers from all sectors, to participate in cars and
on foot to support the just demands of hospitality workers for
protection of their jobs. Hundreds of people participated in cars
adorned with their union flags, placards and banners in support of the
hotel workers. The caravan passed, honking, in front of the Hyatt
Regency Hotel in downtown Vancouver where Unite Here members with
T-shirts and placards were demonstrating.
Most of the
members of Unite Here Local 40 work in restaurants and hotels and the
union reports that 90 per cent of their members have been out of work
since airports, hotels and restaurants were shut down in mid-March. The
majority of the workers affected are women and national minorities, and
many have worked in the industry for decades. Having waged a long and
courageous fight for improved working conditions the workers are
determined not to lose what they have gained by employers using the
justification of the pandemic to not re-hire them.
In an article published in The Hill Times on
May 7, the presidents of Unite Here Local 40 in British Columbia,
Zailda Chan,and Local 75 in the Greater Toronto
area, Guled Warsame, explained the situation and demands of their
members who have been impacted by the shutdown of tourism and air
travel in the conditions of the pandemic:
"Canada's hospitality and travel industries face
unprecedented economic devastation. As leaders of hospitality unions
based in Toronto and Vancouver, two of Canada's top hospitality
markets, we understand that airlines, airports, and hotels are
potential sites of mass viral transmission. That means hospitality
workers will return to the job slowly as public health authorities
struggle to understand how we can hold meetings and conventions safely.
It may be at least a year or 18 months before we are back to work full
stay afloat, hospitality and airline industries and aviation
authorities are asking for sectoral relief, such as forgivable loans,
rent and fee waivers, tax deferrals and relaxed regulations. While
government should consider the unique impact the pandemic has on our
sectors, we believe the industry's workers must be at the centre of any
sectoral relief package....
"In the face of long-term uncertainty, hospitality
workers need to stay connected to their jobs or risk falling through
the cracks. That means business, government, and labour need to work
together to ensure workers have adequate income replacement, maintain
benefits over a period of long unemployment or underemployment, and the
right to come back to their jobs. The new Canada Employment Wage
Subsidy (CEWS) is central to this effort. CEWS allows workers to
maintain 75 to 100 per cent of their income whether they work or not,
and unlike CERB or employment insurance, reimburses health benefit
costs and keeps a crucial connection to a job in a seasonal industry."
The same demands were presented in a letter sent
April 16 to Finance Minister Morneau from Ian Robb,
President/Administrator of Unite Here Local 47 in Alberta, in which he
also pointed out that workers in high COVID-19 risk worksites must have
government certified health and safety training, full PPE and
appropriate hazard pay.
The local presidents report that most employers in
the sector have not expressed an interest in re-hiring laid off staff
through the CEWS, but that employers are asking the government for more
financial relief. The unions are asking for a commitment from
government that such relief, including relief for rent, mortgage or
other loan payments, should be conditional on employers committing to
keep workers on their payrolls. They are asking that governments at all
levels ensure that workers' right to be recalled to their jobs be
extended to 24 months and point out that recall rights in collective
agreements, where the workers are organized and where there are such
provisions, are varied. Workers who are not union members have no such
protections. The unions point out that this protection must extend to
all workers, including the many hospitality workers who are not
directly employed by hotels or airlines, but work for subcontractors.
They give the example of airport concession workers and demand that
there must be a commitment to protect the current workforce even if the
airport changes subcontractors.
On June 3 hundreds of hospitality
workers and their supporters took to Burrard Street near the Hyatt
Regency Hotel in Vancouver on foot and in cars, trucks, bicycles, motor
cycles and scooters with signs and flags and banners to press the
government and their employers for better job security following mass
layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zailda Chan, Unite Here Local 40 president, said
the demonstrations were "a powerful message to our employers and our
government that tourism workers are not disposable."
Most of the
workers in B.C.'s hospitality industry were laid off in mid-March after
the pandemic shuttered the tourism industry. Unite Here Local 40 said
in the span of two weeks, 90 per cent of their 60,000 members lost
While many of the workers were able to get
employment insurance or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB),
their recall rights -- the right of a laid-off employee to be called
back to work by their employer -- could soon expire.
This situation is especially painful given the
militant strike action the union took in 2019, which resulted in raises
of up to 25 per cent, new standards for workplace safety, protection
against sexual harassment and improved job security.
Premier John Horgan addressed their concerns at a
press conference the day of the rally. A CBC news report quotes him as
saying "We're calling on employers to do the right thing and make sure
they're keeping their workforce intact to the greatest extent possible,
we expect that to happen, if we need to take steps using the
legislature to protect workers, we'll do that. But our concern now is
how do we get businesses up and running."
He did not commit to ensuring the right to recall
for the hotel workers. Instead he is asking that they rely on the
employers "doing the right thing."
Michelle Travis of Unite Here Local 40 says
there's concern that laid-off employees will be replaced with new hires
who will be paid less.
"We figured it's going to be summer 2021 before
the industry really recovers and we want to make sure that workers who
have spent years doing these jobs and are professionals at their work
have a shot of getting their job back and be first in line to go back."
Travis told Global News.
Zailda Chan said "We know that the tourism
industry will take years to recover and what we're asking for is a
24-month guarantee that people will have their jobs. That will give
hospitality workers enough time to go back to work."
Support the just demands of hospitality workers to
be recalled to their former positions without loss of seniority rights
or former pay levels!
Defending the Rights of
On June 9, at
the initiative of Action-Chômage Côte-Nord, more
than 60 organizations sent an open letter to the Canadian government
asking for immediate measures to improve access to the Employment
Insurance system for all Canadian workers, with a particular urgency
for seasonal workers. Among the organizations that signed the letter
are defence organizations of unemployed and vulnerable workers from
different regions of Quebec, two from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick,
Aboriginal communities on the North Shore, regional county
municipalities in the region, workers' unions and businesses.
Forum thinks this is an excellent initiative of
Action-Chômage Côte-Nord which mobilized all these
organizations in the midst of a pandemic when people are much harder to
reach. Workers' Forum is proud to be among the
signatories and to continue to offer its pages to the fight to build
the employment insurance system as a social program that defends the
economic dignity and security of all workers who find themselves
The letter appeared in several newspapers in
Quebec. It can also be found on the committee's website here and
on its Facebook
page. Action-Chômage Côte-Nord calls upon all
individuals and organizations who support this important struggle to
share the open letter.
Below is the text of the letter.
Open Letter to the Government of Canada
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the federal
government to put in place measures to assist workers and businesses.
These measures, while important, will not be sufficient for the
Considering that the Canada Emergency Response
Benefit will not provide long-term financial support, that the paid
training pilot project ended in March 2020, and that the pilot project
providing five additional weeks of benefits to seasonal industry
workers ended on May 30, 2020, workers in the seasonal industry will
need new measures to access employment insurance to deal with the
impact of the pandemic.
To this end, we are asking the federal government
to eliminate the reference to the regional unemployment rate and to put
in place a universal standard that will allow all Canadian workers who
need it to benefit from employment insurance.
- 420 hours of
work or 12 weeks;
- a benefit rate of at least 70% based on the best 12 weeks;
- 35 weeks of benefits;
- 5 weeks of additional benefits for workers in seasonal industries.
Catering, lodging, cruises, agri-food production,
fisheries and cultural industries, to name a few, will suffer from the
impact of COVID-19. Many employers will have to lay off their employees
or, in the worst case scenario, close their doors due to a lack of
customers. Under the current employment insurance criteria, hundreds of
workers will not be able to accumulate the hours needed to qualify for
benefits. By adopting the proposed measures, Canada will kill two birds
with one stone: it will allow workers to qualify for employment
insurance and employers to better plan their season based on the number
of insurable hours required.
The impact of the coronavirus on the economy and
the workplace is very real and, without government intervention, it
will have a devastating effect on many families and communities that
rely on the seasonal industry. Not all workers will be able to look to
Canada's fields to compensate for the loss of their jobs. We cannot
condemn thousands of Canadians to the black hole because there is a
lack of work when simple and realistic solutions exist to help them. A
special measure for workers who will not have access to their regular
jobs because of COVID-19 must also be proposed by the Government of
(To access articles
individually click on the black headline.)
PREVIOUS ISSUES | HOME
www.cpcml.ca Email: firstname.lastname@example.org