April 9, 2021 - No. 26

Demands for Governments to Take Up Their
Social Responsibility 

Workers Must Have a
Decisive Say in What Constitutes
Safe Working Conditions

Rail Safety
Families of Railway Workers Continue Their Fight - Peggy Askin

Hospitality Workers' Job Security
Using the Pandemic to Deprive Workers of Their Jobs Should be Illegal 
More Actions in Support of BC Hotel Workers

Ending Violence Against Women
Thousands in Quebec Demonstrate to Oppose Violence Against Women and Children - Geneviève Royer

Demands for Governments to Take Up Their Social Responsibility
Rail Safety

Workers Must Have a Decisive Say in What Constitutes Safe Working Conditions

Canada has averaged 1,091 rail accidents a year over the past five years. Thirteen members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), which represents more than 16,000 railway workers in Canada, have been killed on the job in the last three years.

Speaking to the report of the death of one of these workers, Pierre-Luc (Sune) Levesque, Lyndon Isaak, President of the TCRC, said:

"The issues raised in the TSB [Transportation Safety Board] report into Brother Levesque's death are symptomatic of the shortfalls in Canada's rail sector safety culture.[1] The focus on profits and efficiency over safety must change. Every accident is preventable but after 13 fatalities in three years, it appears evident to our union that the rail carriers and regulators lack the commitment to take the necessary actions to prevent these tragedies."

Tragedies such as the crashes of Boeing 737 MAX airplanes, which killed 437 people, the Lac-Mégantic disaster in 2013 where 47 people died, the high number of rail accidents in Canada and resulting deaths and injuries, and countless other examples reveal the horrendous consequences of neo-liberal deregulation or self-regulation by the monopolies, who sacrifice safety in pursuit of maximum profit.

The CP Police Service is an extreme form of self-regulation, in which the company can declare that its police force has conducted a satisfactory investigation, that there is no need to examine anything but the actions of the crew, and that its conclusions are private business affairs. CP Rail is not even required to publish a report when a worker is killed or a community endangered by a derailment and spill of hazardous materials. It is not obligated to provide the information to the families or the workers through their union. "Self-regulation" in which private interests control the entire process and the police and governments permit these monopolies to act with impunity is a blatant form of corruption and must be ended.

The failure of governments to uphold the right and responsibility of workers to speak out about unsafe conditions and to exercise their right to refuse unsafe work is also designed to permit the monopolies to operate with impunity, cover up criminal negligence and punish workers and technical experts who take up their social responsibility. This must end!

Massive restructuring of the state is taking place to eliminate the space for workers and their organizations to have a say in matters of occupational health and safety. The necessity for workers and their unions to have a decisive say in what constitutes safe working conditions has emerged as the crucial factor. It should be a criminal offence for government agencies or corporations to threaten or discipline workers in order to silence them. So too the right of families and communities to actively participate in investigation and finding out the cause of tragedies when they occur must be upheld, so as to hold the monopolies to account and to prevent future disasters.

Families of workers killed on the job are persisting in their fight to end this impunity and to ensure that the workers, technical experts and investigators can carry out their social responsibilities, something which has become all the more crucial at a time when governments no longer function as a public authority, but rule on behalf of the financial oligarchs.


1. Pierre-Luc Levesque, a CN conductor/foreman trainee, was killed in an accident in the rail yard in Edmundston, New Brunswick, on December 4, 2018.

Haut de page

Families of Railway Workers Continue Their Fight

The families of rail workers who lost their lives working for CN and CP are once more taking action in their fight for justice for their loved ones and all rail workers. They have launched two new petitions, "Demand an Inquiry into Rail Policing" and "Protect TSB Whistle Blowers." The petitions continue the fight for safe conditions for workers, passengers, communities and all those impacted by the railways.

The first petition, "Demand an Inquiry into Rail Policing," calls for a national inquiry under the Inquiries Act to determine the consequences of Canada's private railway self-investigation model on the criminal investigation of thousands of railway fatalities, serious injuries, explosions, and environmental disasters. The petition states that with the exception of the criminal investigation announced by the RCMP into the 2019 fatal derailment near Field, BC, private railway police forces have asserted exclusive jurisdiction over rail disasters, including cases where the police forces' corporate owners were implicated.[1]

Both Teamsters Canada, which represents over 16,000 railway workers in Canada, and the Alberta Federation of Labour have demanded an independent investigation into the deaths of the three workers in the Field derailment and a petition was launched at that time demanding an independent criminal investigation.[2]

Speaking out when the criminal investigation into the 2019 disaster was announced, Teamsters Canada President François Laporte stated, "The union is also reiterating its call for the federal government to abolish corporate police forces. Three of our brothers died in that derailment. If CP has nothing to hide they should welcome an outside investigation for the sake of the families and all those affected by this disaster."

"Moreover, corporate police forces have no place in the modern world. It is absurd that a company should be able to criminally investigate itself. They'll never find themselves guilty of anything. We once again call on the government of Canada to abolish all forms of private policing," Laporte said.

The second petition, "Protect TSB Whistleblowers," calls for changes to the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act to authorize Transportation Safety Board (TSB) investigators to refer potential criminal violations to the RCMP and Canada's attorneys general. The petition also calls for the inclusion of TSB investigators in the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.

The Teamsters report that, "A TSB investigator was punished in 2019 for even suggesting possible criminal negligence in the Field derailment that killed three of our Teamster brothers. Clearly, the law ties the hands of the very public servants who are best qualified to facilitate justice for victims of railway incidents and to protect the public."

The petitions have been posted on the Teamsters Canada website. "After countless deaths, derailments, and injuries, the need for reform has never been more obvious. We ask that you please sign these petitions. Don't forget to share this page with your friends once you are done," the union says.

Workers' Forum calls on everyone to stand with the rail workers and their families in common cause to end workplace injuries and death and to defend the rights of all.

To sign the petitions, click here.


1. Three rail workers were killed on February 4, 2019 when their runaway train derailed and plunged 60 metres from a bridge into the Kicking Horse River in BC, near the town of Field, after its air brake system failed. The mother of Dylan Paradis, one of the workers, filed a complaint with the RCMP in November 2020 demanding an investigation into potential negligence in the crash and obstruction by the railway in investigating the crash. The following month the RCMP's major crimes unit in British Columbia opened a criminal investigation into the crash and allegations of a cover-up at Canadian Pacific Railway.

2. See "Demands for Action in Defence of Rail Workers' Safety: Investigation Launched into 2019 Derailment," Workers' Forum, February 8, 2021.

Haut de page

Hospitality Workers' Job Security

Using the Pandemic to Deprive Workers of
Their Jobs Should be Illegal

Rally outside Pan Pacific Hotel, March 23, 2021.

Hotel workers are persisting in their fight for dignity and respect. The latest in a series of mass rallies was held on March 23 to bring public attention to their demands for job security, specifically that the right of all hotel workers to return to their jobs when hotels reopen must be guaranteed. The action was held at the Pan Pacific Hotel where there have been three rounds of mass firings and 200 more jobs are in danger. The social responsibility to protect the jobs and livelihoods of hotel workers lies with the hotel employers and the provincial government whose labour laws set minimum standards with regard to recall rights of laid-off workers.

It had already become apparent to workers and their defence organizations in the hospitality industry in March 2020 that they were in uncharted territory and that labour law and collective agreement protection of workers' jobs would not be adequate in the situation. Workers and their unions presented their proposals to employers to deal with the extraordinary situation in a manner that protected the jobs and the wages and working conditions of those laid off due to the pandemic. In most cases employers rejected all proposals out of hand. Where contract negotiations were taking place, employers not only rejected union proposals but some, including the Hilton Metrotown, used the "opportunity" of the pandemic to demand concessions, including reductions in wages, benefits, and working conditions such as scheduling and seniority rights.

Workers also immediately brought their demands for protection of their jobs to the attention of the provincial government. Although cabinet ministers repeatedly refused to meet with workers, BC Premier John Horgan responded with a statement to a press conference on June 3, 2020: "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."

UNITE HERE organized a 22-day hunger strike at the provincial legislature from August 10 to September 2, 2020 and actions at the offices of several government ministers in support of their demands for guaranteed recall rights for all workers.

On August 5, 2020 BC Minister of Labour Harry Bains appointed labour lawyer Sandra Banister to conduct a "Review of the Unionized Hotel Sector in Relation to the Impacts of COVID-19." She presented her report on August 24.[1] Her mandate, which specifically prohibited her making any recommendations, was to "determine what steps are being taken by employers and unions in the BC hotel sector to confront the issues raised by recall in the face of the prolonged business impacts of the COVID-19 emergency, and to consult with unions, employers and the relevant sectoral organizations to gauge their reactions to an amendment to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) regulations proposed by UNITE HERE to respond to the impact of COVID-19 on recall rights."

Banister presented the evidence provided by the unions which clearly showed the need to amend the ESA, and reported that the unions "supported government intervention to ensure unionized workers will be returned to their jobs with their seniority intact when the sector recovers and that non-union workers in the sector share that protection." She also reported that the hotel owners and their associations opposed any change to the ESA which would extend workers' recall rights, which they claimed would represent unwarranted government interference with bargaining and create a dangerous precedent for future bargaining disputes.

She reported that with regard to union proposals on pandemic-related recall provisions, "UNITE HERE advises the employers responded by demanding permanent changes to the collective agreement to roll the contract back to non-union Employment Standards levels, particularly with respect to: hours of work, workload protections, scheduling, statutory holidays, vacations, severance pay, and the ability of managers to perform bargaining unit work."

The government's response to the report was contained in a press release issued by Labour Minister Bains on August 31 in which he said, "[...] after careful consideration of all the facts and in light of the complex collective bargaining landscape outlined in the report, I have decided the best course of action is to refrain from interfering in the collective bargaining process. [...] Government will not be overriding existing collective agreements and the bargaining now under way in the hotel sector, including negotiations involving UNITE HERE Local 40 and other unions."

The Minister made no comment on what the report had to say regarding the proposal of UNITE HERE that the ESA should be amended to provide for extended recall rights for all workers, not just those in the hospitality industry, in light of the pandemic.

On September 1, Bains further stated 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 would be up to the employers to "do the right thing." Then, on September 17, the government introduced its "economic recovery" package, which contained no provisions whatsoever to protect workers' job security or conditions of work.

While uttering hollow words of sympathy for the thousands of workers who have been impacted, the government has totally refused to uphold its social responsibility to BC workers. Instead, they have handed over billions to private enterprises in various pay-the-rich schemes and permitted and facilitated the anti-worker actions of the hotel employers which serve only their private interests, showing that the workers cannot rely on the cartel party system to defend their interests, and the need for renewal of the democracy and people's empowerment.

Hotel workers and others, including the teachers at International Language Schools Canada (ILSC)-Vancouver, are persisting in their fight for justice and recall rights, and in doing so are defending the rights and dignity of all workers. Workers' Forum calls on everyone to stand with them in their courageous fight.

It should be illegal for employers to fire workers and deprive them of the benefits and working conditions that they have achieved, just to satisfy the greedy anti-worker aims of their employers. The government must immediately act to amend the ESA to extend recall rights for all workers and make it a criminal offence to use the pandemic to attack workers' rights.


1. A Review of the Unionized Hotel Sector in Relation to the Impacts of COVID-19, Sandra I. Banister, Q.C., August 24, 2020.

Haut de page

More Actions in Support of BC Hotel Workers

The Hilton Metrotown Hotel in Burnaby has for many years been one of the main hotels in the Vancouver area used by BC unions for meetings and conferences and to accommodate out of town members in Vancouver for union activities. The hotel owners have fired dozens of workers who were laid off due to the pandemic. When the pandemic hit UNITE HERE Local 40 and the hotel owners were in negotiations for the renewal of the collective agreement. During the course of the past year the hotel owners have both refused to negotiate extended recall rights for the workers, and introduced new demands for concessions in bargaining, concessions that would reduce wages and benefits and undermine other working conditions previously negotiated.

On April 1, UNITE HERE issued a press release containing messages of support from the leaders of five BC unions representing over 200,000 workers which we are reprinting below:

Teri Mooring, President, BC Teachers' Federation

"The BC Teachers' Federation and our 47,000 members stand in solidarity with UNITE HERE! Local 40 members. Consequently, we have decided to withdraw all Federation business from the Hilton Metrotown Hotel until workers, including those laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic, are guaranteed recall rights and have achieved a fairly negotiated collective agreement. We have no interest in doing business with a corporation that appears to be attempting to use the pandemic to blatantly disregard the rights of unionized employees, who are primarily women and people of colour. Our hope is that our collective action sends a strong message to the Hilton Metrotown."

Stephanie Smith, President, BC Government and
Service Employees' Union

"The BCGEU will refuse to book at the Hilton Metrotown as long as they use the pandemic as an excuse to eliminate the jobs of long-term staff, primarily women and persons of colour. On behalf of our more than 80,000 members, we stand shoulder to shoulder with hotel workers as they stand up to this attack on their livelihoods. We will direct all future bookings to hotels that commit to return workers to their jobs as tourism returns."

Betty Valenzuela, Financial Secretary, Hospital Employees' Union

"These are difficult times for workers and businesses in many parts of the economy -- and the impact on hotel workers has been particularly devastating. But things will get better, and we would have expected that the Hilton Metrotown would plan to return these workers to their jobs once business picks up. I'm disappointed to learn that this is not the case. We value our relationship with the Hilton Metrotown Hotel, but I want to be clear that we will withhold future bookings in the face of unjust treatment of these workers."

Lori Mayhew, Secretary-Treasurer, MoveUP

"This pandemic has reminded us how important it is to stick together. MoveUP is supporting the workers at the Hilton Metrotown who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. If the Hilton Metrotown can't respect their workers and guarantee their rights to return to their jobs, then we will take our business elsewhere."

Jamey Mills, Regional Executive Vice-President of
Public Service Alliance of Canada-BC

"Our union has been a customer of the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown for many years. Our position is clear, we will not use the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown, or consider future bookings at the hotel, until all workers laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic are guaranteed a right to return to their jobs once business returns."

Haut de page

Ending Violence Against Women

Thousands in Quebec Demonstrate to Oppose Violence Against Women and Children

Montreal, April 2, 2021

On Friday, April 2, thousands of women accompanied by their families and allies marched through Quebec streets to oppose violence against women. In the span of eight weeks, eight women have been murdered by their spouses or former spouses, bringing to 15 the number of women who have died as a result of domestic violence since the pandemic began. Refusing to be silent or passive in the face of these horrific tragedies, shelter organizations for women who are victims of violence launched the call for a day of mobilization under the slogans Not One More! Enough Is Enough! Actions were also held in more than 20 cities across Quebec. Women's shelters were at the heart of the mobilization.

In Montreal, at 1:00 pm, thousands of women of all ages and their allies gathered at Lafontaine Park. Immediate demands to prevent and end violence were reiterated: increase resources for women who are victims of domestic violence so that services are available 24/7, offer courses on sexuality worthy of their name, ensure a sustainable minimum wage, guarantee decent living conditions for women with disabilities, guarantee social housing, and fight racism.

The speakers emphasized that violence against women is not a women's issue, but a societal issue. Domestic violence is a reflection of all forms of violence against women that exist in society, such as psychological, verbal, physical, sexual and economic violence, they said.

Women, their organizations and their allies are facing these tragedies together and have been struggling to find solutions for years. The Legault government must implement these solutions to put an end to this national tragedy. Almost all of the speakers emphasized that these demands and proposed solutions are not new and have been known to governments for years. Viviane Michel, speaking on behalf of Quebec Native Women, said: "How many times have you consulted us? How many briefs have we submitted to you? How many solutions have we proposed to you to end domestic violence? And we are always at the bottom of the list when the budgets come out [...] Our shelters need more services, more workers [...] How many times have we held demonstrations? How many times have we had marches?"

"Now is the time for the Legault government to implement these solutions by placing the expertise of women and their anti-violence defence organizations front and centre. Certain organizations have been fighting for 40 years to counter violence against women: the Legault government cannot do without our experience and expertise, we must be part of the solution, not just consulted," they said.

The right to live in safety must be guaranteed by the authorities. Alexandra Pierre, President of League of Rights and Freedoms said that violence against women "undermines the right to prosper, to equality, to physical integrity, even the right to life. The right to housing, to economic security are trampled upon daily. Of course we must act on spousal violence, but we must also look at the negligence and violence of police, judicial and political authorities and condemn them. The Quebec government must start taking these femicides and everything that makes them possible seriously."

Thousands of participants marched along Rachel and Saint-Denis streets and Mont-Royal Avenue to the foot of Mount Royal, with drivers and passers-by honking and waving.

At the end of the demonstration, the speakers said that this struggle is for women in the here and now, and for those who will come after, so that the rights of all are finally respected.

Ending violence against women and their children is a crucial demand that humanizes all of society. The Legault government must be held accountable for its refusal to invest so that in Quebec, violence against women and children is a thing of the past.




Magdalen Islands



Quebec City



(Photos: WF, Maison des femmes de Baie-Comeau, Maison d'aide et d'hébergement l'Accalmie, CAFAL - Comité d'Actions Féministes de l'Agglomération de Longueuil, Passerelle des Hautes-Laurentides, Table de concertation du mouvement des femmes de la Mauricie, Calacs- L'étoile du nord, Maison l'Accalmie, Comité populaire Saint-Jean Baptiste, Jessica Dubé-Bertnier, Leny Mbourou Mu Tang, Andrée Vallée)

Haut de page

(To access articles individually click on the black headline.)



Website:  www.cpcml.ca   Email:  office@cpcml.ca