September 3, 2020 - Number 58

On the Eve of Labour Day 2020

Use of Ministerial Powers to Silence Workers' Voices and Pro-Social Solutions

Multiple Resignations of Nurses in Quebec
Nurses' Rights Must Be Upheld!

Actions 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 Right

• Students Speak for Themselves About the Reopening of Schools - Education Is a Right Podcast 

Labour Day 2020

• Hamilton Cavalcade of Cars
• Calendar of Events

On the Eve of Labour Day 2020

Use of Ministerial Powers to Silence Workers'
Voices and Pro-Social Solutions

Health care workers demonstrate against the use of ministerial orders,
Saguenay Lac Saint Jean, July 9, 2020.

With 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 of all.

Legislation, 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 unconscionable.

Protests demand the withdrawl of Ontario Bill 195 which extends extend temporary orders issued during the COVID-19 state of emergency, once the emergency is lifted.

Already 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 required.  

The 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.

Health care workers and professionals have been the first line of defence for the health and safety of seniors in long-term care and seniors’ 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.

Workers have 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 right.

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.

Smashing the 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 favour.

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Multiple Resignations of Nurses in Quebec

Nurses' Rights Must Be Upheld!

Nancy Bédard (left), President of Inter-professional Health Federation, visits 
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 also increasing.

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.

Denis 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.

In 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 lives."

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 pandemic.

"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."

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Actions in Defence of Hotel Jobs and for the Rights of All

BC Hotel Workers Persist in Upholding Rights
of Laid-Off Workers

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.

Demonstrations have 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,
August 27, 2020.

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:

"You 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 reopen.

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 self-serving manner.

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 thing."

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.

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Education Is a Right

Students Speak for Themselves About the Reopening of Schools

Windsor 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 here

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Labour Day 2020

Hamilton Cavalcade of Cars

For details click here.

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Calendar of Events


Online Concert
12:00-3:00 pm
Hosted by Mayworks Kjipuktuk/Halifax and
Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council

Saint John District Labour Council

Online Celebration
1:00-2:00 pm

Ottawa and District Labour Council

Virtual Labour Day March and Picnic
11:00 am-12:00 pm
Join the event online here


Car Caravan
10:00 am-12:00 pm


Car Caravan
Port Hope 12:15 pm, Cobourg 1:30 pm
Port Hope (Gilmer’s Hardware Parking Lot)
Cobourg (Northumberland Mall Staples Parking Lot)

Toronto & York Region Labour Council

Online Event
Time -- TBA
Contact: Maureen King,

Peel Region

Car Caravan
Sunday, September 6 -- 10:30 am
Steelworkers Hall, 66 Brady St


Cavalcade of Cars -- Show of Solidarity
for Essential Workers

9:30 am
Assemble at 1031 Barton St.
Steelworkers Area Council and Locals 1005,
4135, 5328, 7135 and 16506

For information call Local 1005 at 905-647-1417

Caravan and Tailgate
11:00 am - 2:00 pm
Assemble at City Hall parking lot


Virtual Labour Day

Car Rally
10:30 am-12:30 pm
Steelworkers Hall, 66 Brady St

Thunder Bay 
Car Rally
12:00 pm
Meet at Community Auditorium parking lot

Vancouver and New Westminister Labour Councils
Labour Day “Elsies” Awards
9:00-10:00 am
Online details TBA
Contact Laura Sharpe 604-254-0703 or
For information click here

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