September 3, 2020
- Number 58
Eve of Labour Day 2020
Ministerial Powers to Silence Workers' Voices and Pro-Social Solutions
Multiple Resignations of
Nurses in Quebec
• Nurses' Rights Must Be Upheld!
in Defence of Hotel Jobs and for the Rights of All
• BC Hotel Workers
Persist in Upholding Rights of Laid-Off
- Brian Sproule
Education Is a
• Students Speak for Themselves About the
Reopening of Schools - Education Is a Right
Labour Day 2020
Cavalcade of Cars
• Calendar of Events
Eve of Labour Day 2020
care workers demonstrate against the use of ministerial orders,
Saguenay Lac Saint Jean, July 9, 2020.
Labour Day 2020 just a few days a way, a serious problem the workers
and their organizations across the country are tackling is the use of
the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis by federal, Quebec and
provincial governments as a pretext to wield and strengthen arbitrary
powers. These governments claim that under the exceptional
circumstances of the pandemic, the people should accept this as
legitimate and accept whatever measures are imposed in this way,
including the attacks on the rights of workers. According to them, it
is not possible to deal with COVID-19 public health emergency, mitigate
its impact and reopen the economy in a manner which upholds the rights
ministerial orders and orders-in-council appear in such rapid
succession we suspect even the ministries cannot keep up with them.
Real life has shown that the pandemic makes all the more necessary, not
less, the need to render account for decisions which affect the people.
The aim of bringing the pandemic under control requires full
information and discussion, the involvement of those who are affected
by the decisions and their consent, in order to put full weight behind
decisions. But when governments instead use arbitrary powers to impose
anti-social measures, this does great harm to society.
In light of this, the actions of workers across the country
are truly heroic and important. In this issue we report on the plight
of Quebec nurses and actions of BC hotel workers. Uppermost on our
minds is the plight of our teachers and education workers across the
country as many schools reopen. The refusal of governments to put the
well-being of students, education personnel and parents as the guiding
principle of their actions is putting tremendous pressure on their
physical and mental health. It is not at all what is being reported by
monopoly-owned media who devote their coverage to inciting discord
against teachers, promoting claims by governments and editorial boards
which are simply not true and have nothing to do with what is taking
place "on the ground," and merely serve to increase the anxiety of the
teachers and staff who have to deal with the consequences. It is
demand the withdrawl of Ontario Bill 195 which extends extend temporary
issued during the COVID-19 state of emergency, once the emergency is
workers and their organizations are coping with laws and ministerial
orders that declare negotiated collective agreements null and void,
attempt to deprive workers' defence organizations of any clout, and
dictate that paying the rich, no matter the cost to society, is the
only way forward. What ministers and media declare is happening has no
relationship to what the workers are actually experiencing at their
places of work or the measures they have to take to guarantee their own
health and safety and that of the population. Wherever people feel safe
it is thanks to measures the workers in that sector have put in place,
and to their speaking out about the actual conditions and what is
pressure on workers in the health sector has been tremendous and, on
top of it, they are supposed to carry on business as usual as if
governments are providing everything they require. Now teachers and
education workers are going through the most stressful conditions as
they attempt to guarantee both the safety of students, parents and
staff, as well as teach the children and youth. The stories of what
they are being asked to do and put up with are themselves distressing
but all we hear from the premiers and media is that money has been
thrown at the problem and everything is fine, or that the demands of
the teachers and staff are impossible and that COVID-19 in the schools
is inevitable. It is not the case.
We salute all
the workers across the country for their role producing the goods and
delivering the services required under the stressful conditions and
those from other strata who have collaborated with them. The fend for
oneself approach governments force on the population must be denounced.
They make the conditions of the pandemic unmanageable. This is
unacceptable in a modern society which is more than capable of handling
the difficulties on a pro-social basis.
care workers and professionals have been the first line of defence for
the health and safety of seniors in long-term care and
homes, and for patients in the hospitals, carrying out their
responsibilities at great personal sacrifice. It is the implementation
of the demands and solutions of the health care workers and
professionals which can resolve the crisis in health care and
seniors’ care. So too in other sectors of the economy. The
lessons are clear, and with schools reopening the demands of the
teachers, edcuation workers, students and parents and the
solutions they propose must be discussed and taken up for
implementation, not dismissed.
proven, under very difficult circumstances, that they are the essential
factor in the functioning and well-being of society. They have to take
things into their own hands all the time while standing up to the abuse
of their rights by those who have usurped decision-making power at
every level. They are making every effort to make their voices heard by
taking clear stands against returning to "business as usual," a state
of affairs that gave rise to the crisis conditions in the first place.
This situation is worsening except to the extent that the workers are
able to put a stop to it.
The only thing which is
predictable is that the processes governments have imposed as "the new
normal" eliminate the voice of the workers and their organizations as
the essential factor in determining what is required to ensure the
health and safety of the population and set the direction of the
economy. This refusal to implement pro-social solutions to the crisis
will cause more problems.
What goes around comes
around. This makes it essential for the workers and their organizations
to be able to keep abreast of what is happening so as to not be caught
flat-footed even as they fight every day for what belongs to them by
In this situation, the responsibility the
Workers' Centre of CPC(M-L) has taken up is to hold as many workers'
forums as possible where the workers can speak their minds, exchange
experiences and analyze the consequences of unfolding events and the
measures which are being taken.
silence on living and working conditions is important to break the
isolation and marginalization of workers in all sectors, appreciate the
human factor/social consciousness that keeps the economy going, and
enable the workers to enable themselves to turn things around in their
Resignations of Nurses in Quebec
Bédard (left), President of Inter-professional Health
Bas St. Laurent health care
facility to speak to workers about the conditions they face.
Since March, that is, since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, the
number of resignations of nurses in Quebec has skyrocketed. There have
been more than 800 resignations in Montreal alone, and resignations
also affect many regions, including Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and the
North Shore/North of Quebec.
These nurses quit
their jobs to seek careers elsewhere. Some go to private placement
agencies to return to nursing but under conditions where they do not
have the same constraints regarding their hours and shifts, which have
become untenable. Many nurses have also taken early retirement, which
penalizes them financially. The number of nurses going on sick leave is
The resignations in particular
cause a serious problem for the capacity of the health system to face a
second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cloutier, President of the Union of Healthcare Professionals of the
Est-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, confirms that
resignations are on the increase in the Integrated University Health
and Social Services Centre of Est-de-l'Île, Montreal's east
end. He speaks of 363 departures since March 15, twice as many as in
the same period last year.
"These are people who
are completely reorienting their careers," Cloutier said. "We are very,
very worried about the fall, because we always see a drop in the number
of emergency patients in the summer and, with the fall, the viruses
start up again. "
The nurses and
their unions forcefully blame the Quebec government's ministerial
decrees for the attacks on their rights and the deterioration in their
working conditions which are forcing many to resign. The ministerial
decree of March 21, which has since been renewed, allows for the
cancellation of collective agreements covering workers in health and
social services so that their working conditions can be changed
unilaterally at will, in the name of the health emergency.
a statement to Radio-Canada on August 21, President of the
Inter-professional Health Federation (FIQ) Nancy Bédard
explains that the ministerial decree came down and "violated their
rights, their vacations, their leaves, changed their schedules at the
last minute, demanded they work all kinds of shifts, disrupting their
This situation persists after five months,
she informs, which makes nurses say that the ministerial decree is in
fact, in the name of the emergency, a management tool under which the
government executive and employers are attacking the working conditions
of nurses instead of correcting problems that existed long before the
"With the work overload, the ratios not
yet deployed, government action taking time to be implemented, we
already had major problems," she said. "More and more nurses were going
on sick leave, resigning or retiring prematurely. In this climate of
exasperation, we are now seeing a renewed move among the nurses toward
the private agencies. At the start of the pandemic, when it was
announced that the government was going to give many rights to managers
by ministerial decree, the government and the ministry assured us that
there really would have to be cases of COVID-19 everywhere in an
establishment, a real disaster, before the decree would apply. That is
not how it happened.
"They used the ministerial
decree to manage the shortage, the difficulties that were there before,
and it continues. So the effects are devastating, extremely harmful. We
are now talking about a possible second wave. If the approach taken
during the first wave does not change, in terms of working conditions
and positive incentives for healthcare professionals, it will be even
worse and more nurses will leave the profession."
in Defence of Hotel Jobs and for the Rights of All
Hotel workers outside BC
Legislature, August 2020.
Nearly all 50,000 hotel
workers in BC as well as other hospitality workers such as those in
restaurants and airports and thousands of others linked to the industry
were laid off at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only small numbers
of workers have been called back to work while many have been
permanently terminated without severance pay. Those that have returned
to work report that instead of their regular jobs they are only working
part time and on an on-call casual basis at lower pay than before the
layoffs. Some hotels are insisting that workers sign away their rights
or face termination.
Unite Here Local 40 which
represents 6,000 of these workers has been helping them uphold their
rights under the circumstances.
been held on the lawn of the BC Legislature in Victoria since August
10. The workers also started day-long fasts outside the Legislature in
support of their demand for the legislated right to return to their
jobs after the hospitality industry recovers from the current pandemic.
A car caravan with signs and banners took place near the
Legislature on August 12. A worker at a nearby business posted on
social media "how grossly our industry staff have been treated by
business owners trying to make their buck on our health and lives.''
Reports appeared of people around the province organizing
fasts and pickets in support of the hotel workers.
Rally and fast outside
Tourism Minister Lisa Beare's constituency office in Maple Ridge,
Frequent press conferences were held and
a candlelight vigil took place on August 15. On August 27 a rally and
fast took place outside Tourism Minister Lisa Beare's constituency
office in Maple Ridge. Retired Presbyterian Minister Allen Aiken who
has been organizing support stated "Maple Ridge residents like me are
standing together with hotel workers during this crisis." He called on
the government to do the right thing.
In the course
of their fight, laid off workers informed union representatives that
they have been forced to relinquish their full time status and the
rights to severance and vacation pay it entails to keep their jobs.
Lawyer Suzanna Quail was quoted on the Local 40 website:
might have had 20 years in this job, and then there's a pandemic and
the employer gets to just fire you and start from the beginning again?
It makes no sense." "A lot [of these workers] are immigrant women,
people with limited education, limited other opportunities to get a
unionized job and stay in a hotel for decades," Quail added.
The high-end JW
Marriott Park Hotel which sits on provincial crown land adjacent to BC
Place Stadium is the latest in a string of hotels to fire workers.
Unite Here Local 40 recognizes that as a result of the pandemic and
Ministry of Health orders the hotels had no choice but to shut their
doors and lay off workers. The workers themselves realize that it may
be two or more years before the hotels are fully operational. Their
issue is that while the hotel owners have requested a $680 million
bailout no worker has a legal right to get their job back as businesses
People from the community, workers from
other unions, church organizations, cultural groups and some
politicians came out to support the workers. They won widespread
community support because this is in fact an issue coming up across the
country as the federal and provincial governments define the terms of
COVID-19 layoffs and payments received through federal programs, in a
In the case of BC, the NDP
government has systematically refused to protect jobs through
guaranteeing recall rights. All kinds of self-serving arguments are
advanced to present this unprincipled position as proper. It is not
proper and no amount of fast-talk and expediency will turn a sow's ear
into a silk purse.
Unite Here Local 40 has now
informed that laid-off hotel workers ended their "Fast for Our Jobs"
hunger strike in Maple Ridge following the September 1 announcement by
provincial Labour Minister Harry Bains regarding "recall protections."
The government announcement does not unequivocally uphold the rights of
the workers. Instead, Bains showed the extent of government hypocrisy
when he said that any economic recovery package would contain "a pledge
for employers to offer a right of first refusal to existing employees
when work resumes." In other words, it is their choice to "do the right
Picket outside the Surrey
office of the Minister of Labour Harry Bains, August 31, 2020.
Unite Here Local 40 said members "will continue to push the
hospitality industry to ensure workers are able to return to their
pre-COVID jobs" and said it would consider this announcement "a first
step toward recall rights for laid-off workers." A union press release
quotes one of the laid off room attendants from the Hyatt Regency
Vancouver who participated in the hunger strike, saying, "Hotel workers
refused to stay silent and brought this crisis to the forefront. The
fact that we came together, first in Victoria and then in Maple Ridge,
to fast for 22 days to save 50,000 jobs, that's an accomplishment."
Known for their courage, BC hospitality workers had decided to
continue their hunger strike indefinitely as well as step up other
actions including press conferences, rallies, car cavalcades and picket
actions outside hotels and MLAs' offices. They now say they will not
back down from their just demand for the right to recall on the basis
of seniority with the same wages, benefits and working conditions as at
the time of layoff. Unionized and non-unionized workers, citizens and
residents of BC stand with hotel workers because their cause is just
and because they are defending the rights and dignity of all BC workers
and workers across the country.
Is a Right
high school students picket with their teachers in February 2020.
In episode 54, recorded on July 27, just days prior to the Ontario
government releasing its Guide to reopening schools, elementary and
high school students from Ontario speak about their thoughts and
concerns for the re-opening of schools. To listen to podcast click
by Mayworks Kjipuktuk/Halifax and
& District Labour Council
District Labour Council
District Labour Council
Labour Day March and Picnic
event online here
Hope 12:15 pm, Cobourg 1:30 pm
(Gilmer’s Hardware Parking Lot)
(Northumberland Mall Staples Parking Lot)
Toronto & York Region
Maureen King, email@example.com
September 6 -- 10:30 am
Hall, 66 Brady St
of Cars -- Show of Solidarity
for Essential Workers
1031 Barton St.
Area Council and Locals 1005,
4135, 5328, 7135 and 16506
information call Local 1005 at 905-647-1417
am - 2:00 pm
City Hall parking lot
Hall, 66 Brady St
Community Auditorium parking lot
and New Westminister Labour Councils
Day “Elsies” Awards
Laura Sharpe 604-254-0703 or
information click here
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