July 9, 2020 - No. 48
Canada Discontinues Service on
30 Domestic Regional Routes
Sacrifice Regional Needs in
Favour of Private Interests
Alberta Retail Workers Defend
• Safeway Workers Vote in
Favour of Strike Action
Anti-Worker "Project Sunrise"
• Conditions of
Retail Workers in Canada
Defence of the Rights and Dignity of Hospitality Workers
• BC Hospitality Workers
Step Up Their Fight for Job Security - Brian
to Fix Long-Term Care
• Workers Demand Public
Inquiry into Northwood Deaths
Air Canada Discontinues
Service on 30 Domestic Regional Routes
Air Canada likes to claim that it is Canada's
carrier." Canada's size, geography, climate, political, economic and
social organization dictate definite needs. This is
turn leads Canadians to identify the role they require from a
national airline or airlines to meet those needs. The truth of
matter is that Air Canada does not meet those needs because to do so is
not profitable to the narrow private interests which own and control
it. This is a topic which is not up for discussion but the need of
Canadians always clashes with the private aim and this is never far
from people's minds.
the June 30 announcement by the company that it was discontinuing
service indefinitely on 30 domestic regional routes and closing eight
stations in Canada, the destructive impact and nation-wrecking is
further revealed. There is no mention in the press release of
impact this will have on the regions hit, which are already struggling
to survive. There is no mention of how many workers will be
affected by these actions. With those route suspensions it is obvious
that there will be an effect on employment in the stations that aren't
being closed as well.
Of the 30 routes discontinued 14 are in the
and Newfoundland and Labrador, 12 are in Quebec and Ontario and four in
Western Canada. The latter affect service between Regina, Winnipeg and
Saskatoon and between the two Saskatchewan cities and the national
The Quebec suspensions affect Baie Comeau, Mont
Gaspé and les îles de la Madeleine, Quebec City,
Sept-Iles, Val d'Or, Rouyn-Noranda and Montreal. In Ontario they affect
Kingston, London, North Bay and Windsor.
The Atlantic suspensions affect Deer Lake, Goose
St. John's, Fredericton, Halifax, Moncton, Charlottetown, Gander,
Bathurst, and Wabush, as well as service from Frederiction and Moncton
to the national capital.
Negating any responsibility toward the people
Air Canada simply presents these actions as part of "a range of
structural changes including significant cost savings and liquidity
measures" in order to reassure shareholders that everything is being
done so that they can continue to profit from the airline's activities.
Included in those "cost
savings" is the recent layoff of 20,000 employees -- more than 50 per
cent of its staff.
Workers and their unions are vehemently denouncing
Canada's callous decision. On June 30, Serge St. Pierre, President of
the Central Council for Gaspésie and the Magdalen
wrote on the Council's Facebook page that:
"Air Canada, the main carrier in our region, has
left us stranded. It's time that all of us, citizens, elected
officials, unionized and non-unionized workers alike, form a bloc in
order that the government consider all the regions' inhabitants an
integral part of society. They are entitled to the same services as all
citizens. For this to actually
happen, we must not rely on private companies for the provision of such
a service, as they only have profit in mind. Air transportation
services are essential for a region's social and economic development
and must be provided by the government."
Mayors and councillors of the cities affected are furious about Air
Canada's withdrawal. Chris Mayne, a North Bay city councillor, stated
that the announcement was "grim news for small airports across the
country," especially with Air Canada considering other service
suspensions. He explained that Air Canada provided 80 per cent of the
airport's revenue and that they may have to shut it down. The city has
committed funding to cover salaries and operational costs until the end
The mayor of Bathurst declared that "it is another
to northern New Brunswick following the loss of major employers in
recent years. Air Canada was the airport's only carrier. The airport
remain open because it hosts chartered flights, couriers, emergency
services and other operations but it will have to reduce operations and
staff. It had recently invested $7 million in expanding its terminal
and lengthening its runway. The airports in Moncton and Fredericton
also reacted with concern about the financial hit from the suspensions,
which effectively ended links between Halifax and the other Atlantic
Prime Minister Trudeau expressed his disappointment, while Transport
Minister Marc Garneau called the decision an "unfortunate development"
and cried some crocodile tears for the residents and communities
affected. The government continues "to work with Canadian
and airports during this challenging time," he insisted. All this
reveals is that the government clearly has no solution to the
problem and is on its knees because it agrees with Air Canada's mission
to serve its private shareholders.
The government of Quebec has considered creating
airline to serve the regions along with other possibilities, including
paying the rich by offering subsidies to an airline company to take up
the flights that Air Canada has abandoned. While justifying subsidies
by declaring that having all the regions of Quebec served is "an
essential service," Quebec Premier François Legault had
nothing to say about why Air Canada was allowed to abandon that
of COVID-19, countries around the world have imposed travel
restrictions as a measure to protect their citizens. Even where people
are able to travel they hesitate to do so because of ongoing fear of
Air Canada and the other Canadian airlines have
lobbying the government to remove travel restrictions so that
they can return to profitability. Therein lies the problem. In our
far-flung country, airlines are essential for business travel, to
provide access to health care and other essential services, to connect
families, and for leisure activities, as well as the transfer of goods
and supplies, both domestically and internationally. Dependence on
airlines whose only motive is profit is being proven to be
We need a national airline that belongs to the
Canada, run by
the people who work for the airline, and organized to serve our needs.
This is part of the new direction that is needed in the airline sector
and in the economy as a whole. Only then will such attacks on the
regions end and will people be looked after during times of crisis like
the pandemic we are living through.
Alberta Retail Workers
Defend Their Rights
Alberta Safeway workers have given a resounding
rejection to the insulting last "offer" received from Safeway. Members
of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 401, voted 79 per
cent in favour of strike action in a province-wide,
government-supervised vote which took place on June 25-26.
As soon as the vote was announced, workers
starting posting messages of Solidarity!, fist
emojis, and their positive reactions to the results on the UFCW Local
401 page. "I can't be more happy to hear this result! Good job brothers
and sisters!" one worker wrote. "We are worth far more than Sobeys [who
owns Safeway, -WF Ed.]
is willing to not give us....takeaway takeaway takeaway and we are
supposed to be happy with that. Well we have just
given a strong, NO to Sobeys, now we have the mandate to push the
company hard for a fair deal!!!" another wrote. "Stand strong," said a
postal worker, with workers from other sectors expressing their support
Safeway workers post photos from strike votes across the province on
UFCW Local 401's facebook page.
Safeway workers' collective agreement expired in
2017. The Union issued a bargaining update on July 1 informing that
Sobeys has now agreed, following the strike vote, to go back to the
bargaining table. Bargaining sessions are now scheduled be held the
week of July 13 with the assistance of a government appointed mediator.
Clearly, Safeway employees are not looking for a fight but they are
demanding fairness, the update said. Sobeys is also taking steps to be
in a position to lock out the workers.
The pandemic is shining a light on the wages and
conditions of the workers who ensure our food supply and provide
essential services to society. Empire Company Limited which owns Sobeys
Safeway, like the other giant corporations who control wholesale and
retail grocery trade, were quick to praise the workers as "heroes" and
much of the fact that they were increasing their wages. While the
pandemic is far from over, all the supermarket chains have withdrawn
pandemic pay while the workers continue to put themselves and their
families at risk to go to work and make sure Canadians have access to
the food and groceries they need.
Many supermarket workers are among the lowest paid
workers in Canada. The cartels have imposed two-tier wage systems,
part-time and precarious work and constantly try to expand the number
of people working part-time, at or just above minimum wage, and with
few or no benefits. The opening of "discount stores" is one tactic,
Sobeys carrying out a five-year plan to convert about 20 per cent of
its stores to FreshCo stores. The concept of a "discount store"
includes driving down wages, cutting staff numbers to the bone, and
providing customers with a bare minimum of service.
boasting of its record profits during the pandemic, Sobeys has refused
to engage in anything that could be called negotiations, and instead is
demanding that the workers accept attacks on wages, job security,
benefits, and working conditions. Sobey's proposals include terms of
conversion to FreshCo stores which are designed to severely
restrict or even eliminate full-time jobs and make precarious work with
wages at or just above minimum wage the norm. For the remaining Safeway
stores, Sobeys has tabled numerous union-busting
proposals to remove workers from the union and use non-union workers in
the Safeway stores to stock shelves and work at in-store kiosks. The
company's demands also include cuts to health and dental
benefits for part-time workers, introduction of a co-payment for health
benefits for full-time workers, cuts to overtime pay, more arbitrary
shift scheduling provisions, and cuts to the education and training
UFCW Local 401 reports that workers at Safeway and
Sobeys face a high level of stress and anxiety. "You're worried about
your safety and getting sick. Measures to protect you vary from store
to store and are often poorly communicated. Customers are stressed out
and anxious and sometimes they're taking it out on you!"
"In the midst of all of this, Safeway workers have
remained calm and composed. You remain focused on doing your job.
You're supporting the public through this challenging time by ensuring
the food they need gets to their tables..."
"In response, Sobeys is attacking benefits, wages
jobs at the bargaining table. While you are doing everything
to make their stores successful, working long hours under incredible
strain to support their skyrocketing sales, Sobeys is pushing to take
work, hours, and pay away from you."
It is unconscionable and the workers have made it
clear they will not stand for it. Workers' Forum calls
on everyone to stand with the Safeway workers. They have been there for
us and we must be there for them! Wear a mask with an "I support
Safeway workers" message when you go shopping. Let the workers know you
will be there
on the picket line with them if they are forced to go on strike. Speak
to your co-workers, families, and neighbours about how Sobeys boasts of
record profits while it treats the workers with contempt. Our security
lies in the fight for the rights of all!
Even before the pandemic, Sobeys was making
profits as it has continued its anti-worker offensive named "Project
Sunrise." Reporting on fourth quarter earnings on June 18, Sobeys
reported earnings per share were up from $0.45 to $0.66, and annual
dividends up 8.3 per cent, with Project Sunrise exceeding its targets
Sobeys parent company, Empire Company Limited,
an increase of 43.2 per cent in adjusted net earnings (profits) from
$126.5 million to $181.2 million for the fourth quarter ended May 2,
2020. In the same period store sales increased by 18 per cent.
President Michael Medline says the company "still has a long way to go"
in its "cost-cutting" plan. Empire is planning
to expand in Ontario where it has recently acquired the Farm Boy
stores. Empire already has 100 FreshCo stores across Canada,
and expanding its "discount" FreshCo banner in western
Canada by converting Safeway stores is a key part of this operation.
Medline speaks about the "team," suggesting that
of the rich in growing their empires and amassing ever greater fortunes
means success for all. But the reality is revealed as he boasts about
the company's "cost cutting" measures, which have included the loss of
hundreds of jobs and the conversion of Safeway stores into FreshCos,
with significant concessions imposed on the workers.
"This is one of our proudest quarters in Empire's
year history," said Michael Medline, President and CEO, Empire. "Our
127,000 teammates across the country gave their all to keep our
customers safe and healthy and our grocery shelves stocked during the
unprecedented coronavirus pandemic. Due to their herculean efforts, our
saw significant market share increases. Our team has also surpassed our
Project Sunrise turnaround targets. This three-year transformation is
one of the most significant turnarounds in Canadian retail history."
Precarious work, casualization and involuntary
work, with lack of rights such as paid sick leave, health benefits, and
security in retirement are the consequences of the "success" of the
filthy rich who control the wholesale and retail food trade, their
greed, empire building and ruthless competition. The Weston family, for
example has a
net worth of $8 billion, the Walton family who control Walmart a net
worth over $US190 billion. Costco had an annual revenue of $152
billion in 2019.
The pandemic has shown even more starkly that the
prosperity of narrow private interests does not lead to the prosperity
of all, and the necessity for the workers and people to take control of
the decisions which affect them and their society. A new direction for
the economy is needed to provide food security for Canadians and uphold
rights of workers who produce, process and distribute food.
According to Statistics Canada's data,
in 1998, 5.2 per cent of all Canadian workers had minimum wage jobs.
Twenty years later in 2018, the most recent year for which data is
available, that percentage doubled to 10.4 per cent. In 2017-2018, the
share of minimum wage workers rose from 6.4
per cent to 10.4 per cent. The increase was in part due to increases in
the minimum wage in recent years, which had remained virtually
unchanged in constant dollars for decades. This shows the large number
of workers who were earning close to minimum wage before the increases.
In the early 2000s, retail trade surpassed
and food services as the largest employment sector for minimum wage
workers and has remained the largest ever since. In 2018, 32.7 per cent
of all minimum wage workers were employed in retail trade, for a total
of 720,000 workers. By 2018, the proportion of employees earning
minimum wage in the retail trade was close to 2.5 times what it was in
2006. Twenty-six per cent of minimum wage workers worked in
accommodation and food services.
Women make up over 60 per cent of all workers
minimum wage, and workers who have immigrated to Canada are
also over-represented. The proportion of employees
earning minimum wage increased at a faster pace among large firms
compared with medium and small firms between 1998 and 2018.
These statistics show the real impact of
globalization and the anti-social offensive. Food retail and processing
have traditionally seen the highest rate of unionization of retail
trade, and the oligarchs who control this sector have carried out
continuous union-busting and assaults on the wages, benefits, pensions
and working conditions
Statistics Canada, Labour Statistics: Research Papers, Maximum insights
on minimum wage workers: 20 years of data.
In Defence of the Rights and
Dignity of Hospitality Workers
Hotel workers protest outside BC legislature, July 7, 2020 demanding
the government protect their job security.
At least one BC hotel is using conditions created
pandemic as an excuse to terminate the jobs of workers without
severance pay. The owners of the Four Points by Sheraton Vancouver
Airport Hotel are claiming that the pandemic means they do not have to
provide severance pay to terminated employees and have notified 20 to
30 workers that they were terminated and will not receive severance.
The BC Employment
requires that an employer pay severance to workers who are laid off at
the end of a certain period when the layoff is deemed to have become a
termination, and that period, at the request of employers'
organizations, has been extended under
the emergency powers declared to deal with the pandemic. If the actions
of the hotel are allowed to stand, hundreds of thousands of working
people laid off during the pandemic, who have not yet returned to work,
would be in danger of being denied severance pay if their layoffs
Points by Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel is independently owned but
the Sheraton name and some services are franchised from Marriott
International Inc. whose net worth is nearly $41 billion Canadian. The
hotel's general manager, Vijaay Kanna, wrote to employees in May
claiming that the drop in business during the pandemic had
made terminations necessary. Kanna wrote "While the government wage
subsidy allowed us to continue to provide you some work in hopes of the
situation turning around there is no longer a reasonable prospect of us
continuing to need your services."
The workers are not represented by a union. The
terminated workers have to file individual complaints with the
provincial Labour Standards Branch. Shannon Leung, a front desk
employee for the last seven years who is one of the fired workers, says
she is concerned that older workers will have an especially hard time
finding new jobs. "I
think everyone should have a choice whether they get to stay or not. I
feel like they're getting rid of us just because they can." Leung added
that the hotel pays slightly better than the minimum wage but she fears
the hotel may want to hire new workers at lower pay.
UNITE HERE Local 40 which represents thousands of
unionized hotel, food service and airport industry workers throughout
B.C. is speaking out not only on behalf of its own members, nearly all
of whom have been laid off, but also on behalf of workers who do not
have defence organizations.
On June 25, the Horgan government announced an
of the layoff period before employers would have to pay severance. From
the 13 weeks in the legislation, the period is now extended to 24
This provision expires August 30. On the same day, Local 40 held a
and press conference outside the Rosewood Hotel Georgia
demanding "Where is Our Right to Return to Work?" President Zailda Chen
stated "We are incredibly disappointed by the Government's decision
today to extend temporary layoffs and delay severance to help the
business community without any protection for workers. The government
had to put 50,000 hotel workers out of work, but without any
legal rights to get their jobs back. Hotel workers are already being
permanently terminated as a result of this pandemic. A wave of
terminations may come in September. This decision falls far short of
what laid-off workers need to stay connected to their jobs. The B.C.
government needs to act and protect workers-not just businesses."
BC Federation of Labour President Laird Cronk
said, in a
news release issued June 25, "If employers are getting more time to get
their business back on its feet, it's only fair that workers have the
right to return to their jobs when that period ends.... Employers
an extension would help them bring their employees back -- so let's
workers are demanding that the government take action to protect their
jobs, no matter how long the layoffs last, whether they have a union or
not, something that can be done under the emergency powers.
are members of UNITE HERE Local 40 negotiated the right to return to
their jobs following a layoff of up to six months in the contract that
ended their strike in the fall of 2019. They are concerned that as soon
as that six month period
expires the employer will terminate all the workers so they can hire
new workers at lower wages, eliminate the negotiated contract and the
union as well.
James Milling who worked as a doorman at the Hotel
Georgia for nine years stated "Our contribution to BC's hotel industry
is significant. I hope the Province does not let workers with years of
experience go by the wayside. The provincial Government should make
sure that hotel workers who have built this industry are guaranteed to
jobs back as the industry recovers."
At the onset of the pandemic the financial
through its political representatives claimed over and over that "We
are all in this together." However it is clear that the rich are only
interested in resolving the crisis in a manner that favours them while
leaving everyone else to fend for themselves. Hospitality workers and
their allies are
stepping up the fight for recognition of their right to job security.
The Need to Fix Long-Term
At the end of June, the Nova Scotia government
it is conducting a review of the COVID-19 death toll at the Northwood
Manor long-term care facility for seniors in Halifax.
Northwood Manor is a huge facility, with close to
residents and 400 workers caring for them, where 53 residents died this
spring of COVID-19. Hundreds of residents and workers were also
infected. At the end of April the government of Nova Scotia issued a
ministerial order redeploying members of the Nova Scotia Government and
Employees Union (NSGEU) to Northwood Manor. NSGEU
denounced the use of the ministerial order to force redeployment, a
violation of the collective agreement according to which redeployment
to another employer must be done on a voluntary basis. The union
reported that the NSGEU members who went to Northwood said
that the situation there was like a war zone. It was marked, among
other things, by a lack of infection control measures to protect
vulnerable seniors and frontline workers, and a lack of appropriate
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
government has announced that it is not going to hold a public inquiry
on the death toll and the whole situation in long-term care facilities
in the province, but has ordered a review to be done by a
Quality-Improvement Committee comprised of two appointed members. This
committee is supposed to deliver recommendations to the
Minister by the end of September after consulting with staff and
physicians, administrators, families and others.
There is also going to
be an internal government review of broader infection prevention and
control within the long-term care sector. The activity of the
Quality-Improvement Committee is covered by the Quality-Improvement
Information Protection Act which gives the Minister the
authority to limit what information from the review is released via the
Freedom of Information and Protection and Privacy Act. This
means that the province will publicly release only the recommendations
that come out of the panel's investigation, not the details of the
itself. In order to justify its refusal to hold a public inquiry and to
instead use the process approved by the Quality-Improvement
Information Protection Act,
the government of Nova Scotia gave the spurious argument that it has
chosen the best approach to get the investigators to work as soon as
possible so that the recommendations can be
made public as quickly as possible.
Workers reject this argument. They see it as a way
prevent the workers, the patients and their families, and Nova Scotians
at large from speaking out and being heard publicly so that their input
is there and their solutions are also made public.
Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union
"NSGEU writes in its press release dated July 2:
"Government should have initiated a public
immediately, rather than waiting until the first wave had concluded. We
know that a variety of factors, such as double-bunking and inadequate
staffing ratios, contributed to the spread of COVID-19 at Northwood
Manor. Government needs to take action now to address these known and
"'Fifty-three people died at this facility, and
families deserve to know what really happened,' said Jason MacLean,
President of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union
"'They deserve to know how staffing issues and
inadequate infection control made a bad situation worse. These families
and all Nova Scotians deserve to know the answer to a very important
question: Was this avoidable? We need to know what could have been done
to prevent these deaths, so we can ensure the staff and residents at
long-term care facilities are better protected in the event of a second
"The situation calls for a comprehensive public
that includes an opportunity for everyone -- residents, family members,
staff and unions -- to provide their first-hand accounts of what
happened, and what they think could be done better."
Nova Scotia Federation of Labour
The Nova Scotia Federation of Labour is also
full, transparent public inquiry into long-term care. President Danny
Cavanagh wrote a letter to Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey
on July 6, which states, in part;
"[...] the method announced recently by the
government -- a review struck under the Quality-improvement Information
Protection Act -- allows the review to happen behind closed doors.
"All those involved -- including Northwood staff
management, government and Nova Scotia Health Authority officials,
family members and others -- must feel free to speak openly, without
fear of legal repercussions, and all findings must be released to the
"Issues in long-term care didn't start in March --
system was broken long before the Pandemic. We now see that the
COVID-19 crisis has drawn attention to inconsistent regulations, low
standards of care, and poor working conditions in long-term care
facilities. Now is the time to take the opportunity to learn from what
went wrong and
build a clear plan to fix the system.
"Any review of long-term care must involve the
who are on the front line every day and the review must be of the
entire system, including Northwood. Before the Pandemic, any frontline
worker would have told you that our long-term care homes have been in
crisis for years. In fact, many unions commissioned reports to
about the crisis.
"Workers will tell you that the arrival of
added enormous stress to a system that was already broken. Any report
cannot be about blame but must focus on making long-term care a better
system of care. A review must also look at the funding provided to the
system over the last 20 years. Should the system fall under the Canada
Health Act and [be] built on a minimum of national
"The report must be made public to avoid the
not sharing information on its findings. A second wave of COVID-19 is
around the corner and we know that a variety of factors, such as
double-bunking and inadequate staffing ratios, contributed to the
spread of COVID-19 at Northwood Manor. Government needs to take action
to address these known and acknowledged issues."
Nova Scotia Health Coalition
The Nova Scotia Health Coalition is calling for
Minister of Health and Wellness to commit to releasing the full report
of the Quality-Improvement Committee to the public and is also calling
for a full independent inquiry into the long-term care system. In its
press release dated July 2, it states:
"The committee, announced today and due to finish
review in September, will report directly to the Minister Delorey, who
will then decide how much information will be released to the public.
Since the two person committee will presumably be investigating the
role of the Minister and other elected officials in pandemic planning,
creates an inherent conflict of interest.
"'53 people died at Northwood and the public
to know the uncensored truth about what happened. Lives are at stake,'
said Chris Parsons, Provincial Coordinator for the Nova Scotia Health
Coalition and a former frontline worker at Northwood Manor. 'It should
not be up to the Minister or the Premier's office to determine what the
public can and cannot know about this tragedy.'
"'The terms of reference focus too heavily on the
actions of staff and leadership at Northwood. Given the imminent second
wave of COVID-19 and the broader failings of our long-term care system
that the disease has revealed, it's clear that we need a review of the
system as a whole, to find out what worked and what did not work
throughout the province. These problems did not start in March,'
"While quick answers are needed to ensure mistakes
not repeated, the Coalition also is calling for a full and independent
public inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act. Such
would allow for full independence from the Minister and provide the
necessary investigative resources and legal powers needed to understand
tragedy at Northwood and the broader failures of Nova Scotia's
long-term care system."
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