Labour and education in the news

Below are recent news stories on labour and education related issues.  Click the headline to be taken to the article. Some may require a subscription.

April 9, 2020

Bargaining set to begin this spring
As you know, AUFA’s Bargaining Team and Member Engagement Committee, together with the critical participation of all AUFA members, have been busy preparing for our upcoming round of bargaining this spring.

Letters of Understanding & the Collective Agreements during COVID-19
UWOFA has proposed Letters of Understanding to form part of the Collective Agreement that address changes to the working environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some issues have been agreed with the Administration and are listed below. There are others that are still under discussion.

International Students In Canada Navigate Pandemic Without Their Families
Huffington Post
Sheryl Tak had a decision to make.

‘Billions of dollars are at risk.’ Colleges and universities scramble to protect international student sector amid COVID-19 pandemic
The Star
When Maria Olaifa was accepted into Fanshawe College’s marketing management program for May she was thrilled, eager to pack her belongings and leave her native Philippines.

Province of Manitoba
The province is providing a supplemental online resource for Manitoba families whose children are learning at home during the suspension of in-school classes because of COVID-19, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced today.

Province of Manitoba
A new, $5-million COVID-19 research fund through Research Manitoba was announced today by Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen.

Province of Manitoba
Today, the province is specifically calling for assistance from the garment industry to source non-medical cotton gloves, suits, gowns and other products requiring sewing to be used by social service workers.

Province injects millions into COVID-19 research
Winnipeg Free Press
The provincial government is financing Manitoba’s scientific community to the tune of $5 million as it pursues a treatment for the novel coronavirus and ways to steady the health-care system during the outbreak.

Job losses top one million in March as coronavirus slams Canadian economy
Globe and Mail
More than one million people in Canada lost their jobs in March and the unemployment rate climbed to 7.8 per cent, reflecting the first wave of layoffs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Return to work will be graduated and likely months off, Trudeau says
Globe and Mail
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that any effort to return Canadians to work will be undertaken in a “measured, graduated way” that allows for an expansion of economic activity without provoking further outbreaks.

Postal workers' union raises concerns about safety of Amazon workers
The president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers has written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of cabinet to express concern about the decision to use Amazon Canada to deliver vital medical supplies across the country.

Public services in a global pandemic? Priceless
The Star
With shops and stores shuttered, streets empty, and the country on lockdown, we are living through unprecedented and drastic measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Fast Foods Workers at 30 Restaurants Across California Are Going on Strike
Hundreds of cooks and cashiers at 30 fast food restaurants across California plan to strike on Thursday—demanding that McDonald’s and other fast food chains provide masks, gloves, soap, $3-an-hour hazard pay, and two weeks of paid sick leave to workers exposed to COVID-19.

April 8, 2020

Province of Manitoba
Today, the Manitoba government is seeking the following items to support the province’s response COVID-19:

Province of Manitoba
Today, the Manitoba government is doing a special request for gloves to support its preparation efforts.

Province of Manitoba
The province is suspending repayment of Manitoba Student Aid loans for six months to reduce the financial burden on post-secondary students during the COVID-19 pandemic, Premier Brian Pallister and Economic Development and Training Minister Ralph Eichler announced today.

Students get further loan deferrals
Winnipeg Free Press
Post-secondary students are being given a six-month grace period for both federal and provincial student loans due to financial uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two Winnipeg university students shift summer business to help create PPE
Winnipeg Sun
A pair of Winnipeg university students are helping to fill the need for personal protective equipment in Canada.

Germain: COVID-19 means universities will face a funding crunch in the fall
Ottawa Citizen
Like all public institutions, universities are facing many challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. They have responded by closing their campuses, moving all classes online, asking their faculty and staff to work from home, and postponing convocation ceremonies. It is not business as usual.

Coronavirus: Saskatchewan post-secondary student unions say more emergency funds needed
Global News
Student unions for Saskatchewan’s two largest post-secondary institutions say more emergency supports are needed during the COVID-19 closedown.

What A Likely Recession Means For Higher Education
As the coronavirus sweeps the nation, it’s had a big impact on higher education. Most colleges have made a swift move to shift students to a totally online experience. Many students have been forced out of dorms due to public health concerns." aria-label="Congress recognized these problems">Congress recognized these problems and provided some relief to colleges and students in phase three of its legislative package to provide assistance from the coronavirus." aria-label="Phase three">Phase three focused on schools and students at this moment, but there is likely a different crisis on the horizon for higher education as the economy experiences the fallout from the coronavirus.

Ottawa seeks ways to speed up skills-training programs
The Globe and Mail
The federal government is looking at ways to speed up the introduction of skills-training help for out-of-work Canadians, say groups involved in helping implement the program.

As COVID-19 research gets fast-tracked, other projects shut down
University Affairs
The fast-spreading COVID-19 virus has sparked a burst of innovative research. But this comes at the expense of other crucial health research, as universities and research institutes instruct staff to direct their resources to COVID-19 whenever possible, and to put other work on hold.

Feds fast-tracked citizenship for researcher exploring COVID-19 supply chain
Winnipeg Free Press
The federal government fast-tracked the Canadian citizenship process for a University of Manitoba professor, citing the "urgent need" to facilitate his planned research on COVID-19.

PSE Bargaining in Alberta: Some initial thoughts
Alberta Labour Blog
The vast majority of collective agreements in Alberta’s post-secondary system will be up for renewal by July 1. The bargaining context is not great and includes:

Alberta unemployment to likely surpass 25 per cent because of pandemic, Kenney says
The Globe and Mail
Alberta’s unemployment will likely surpass 25 per cent because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday, and that’s without factoring in the full impact of tanked oil demand and prices. That would be double the worst unemployment rate in the province in the last four decades.

COVID-19 crisis: Opposition ready to work with Liberals on new wage-subsidy bill
National Post
MPs will have to get back to work in Ottawa, before employers will get the funds from a massive $71-billion wage subsidy program the Liberals announced last week, but opposition parties say they’re prepared to work with the government to get the bill through.

April 7, 2020

Coronavirus Pushes Higher Education to the Brink
The coronavirus has already dealt a vicious blow to key sectors of the U.S. economy. If the pandemic drags on into the fall, though, it’s likely to devastate yet another area that has so far escaped with minimal damage: higher education.

Canadian Union of Public Employees describes the front lines of COVID-19 as ‘absolutely dire’
“Absolutely dire” is how one union described the situation Ontario health-care workers face on the front lines of COVID-19.

In the midst of pandemic, P.E.I. group sees the makings of basic income guarantee
When the federal government unveiled its plan to provide Canadians whose employment has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic with a monthly income of $2,000, members of P.E.I.'s Working Group for a Livable Income saw something that looked a lot like what they and others have been trying to bring to P.E.I. for years: a basic guaranteed income.

UFCW and allies secure pay protection, EI eligibility for migrant workers during COVID-19 pandemic
UFCW Canada, the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA), and our community allies have achieved pay protection and Employment Insurance (EI) eligibility for migrant and temporary foreign workers who are laid off, have become ill, or have to quarantine due to COVID-19.

Global labour unions organise for a post-pandemic world
Equal Times
Every night, since the COVID-19 pandemic brought several European countries to a standstill, people confined to their homes have taken to their windows and balconies to cheer and applaud the health workers battling against the virus.

Alberta temporarily changing labour laws
My Grand Prairie Now
Alberta is putting more temporary rules in place to provide job protection for workers and flexibility for employers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now Is the Best and Worst Time for Workers to Go on Strike
Bloomberg Businessweek
On March 28, Chris Smalls felt like giving up. He’d spent days talking with co-workers at the Inc. warehouse in New York City’s Staten Island about how to temporarily shut down the facility, where many say management has been slow to disclose and address cases of Covid-19. They’d tried approaching managers with their concerns as a group, to no avail, he says. That morning, a Saturday, Amazon management told Smalls they were directing him to self-quarantine because of contact with a co-worker who’d tested positive, a move Smalls says was arbitrary and designed to shut him up.

Manitoba education experts throw parents a lifeline to help teach youngest students at home
Winnipeg Free Press
A grassroots group of Manitoba educators has launched a learning tool to help ease parents’ nerves when it comes to teaching numeracy, literacy and wellness lessons at home during the pandemic.

Students raise concerns over CERB qualifications: ‘I see it as a deliberate exclusion’
Global News
Kathleen O’Brien is completing her final year of studies with the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. Her final exam is on April 17 and then she will officially graduate in May.

Jay O'Neal: Lessons from teacher strike apply to pandemic
Charleston Gazette Mail
Schools, government office and businesses across the state have shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many teachers and service personnel, we’re reminded of our strike in 2018. In both instances, a crisis forced change on our state. This time, who will decide what changes are made — all West Virginians, or a powerful few?

German academics revolt over ‘business as usual’ plans
Times Higher Education
German university leaders are at loggerheads with more than 10,000 academics and students over whether to press ahead with mandatory exams in the upcoming summer semester – and over the wider question of how productive academics are expected to be in the middle of a pandemic.

Accessibility Suffers During Pandemic
Inside Higher Ed
In the quick shift by colleges from in-person to online instruction in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the needs of students with disabilities can sometimes be overlooked.

April 6, 2020

Manitoba allows deferral of utility payments without penalty in COVID-19 crisis
Winnipeg Free Press
The Manitoba government is letting people affected by the COVID-19 economic fallout avoid late-payment penalties on some utility bills and property taxes, but a labour organization says the measures fall short.

Science summary: A look at novel coronavirus research around the globe
Winnipeg Free Press
Thousands of scientists around the world are working on problems raised by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a summary of some recent research from peer-reviewed academic journals and scientific agencies:

How many health-care workers are self-isolating due to COVID-19? Unions have no reliable count
Health-care unions say they are struggling to keep track of the number of frontline workers in COVID-19-related isolation in Manitoba but it is possible several hundred are off the job right now.

COVID-19 Health and Safety at Canada Post
Various Local Joint Health and Safety committees have created good initiatives to address the many facets of preventing contagion in the workplace. We’ll doing our best to amplify and spread these ideas, and working on more tools for the committees to share ideas and initiatives and push local management to adopt some better practices.

Responding to COVID-19
The health and safety of nurses and their patients is our top priority.

Federal COVID-19 benefits program portal opens today: Here's how to apply
The federal government is launching an application portal on Monday where Canadians facing unemployment due to the COVID-19 crisis can apply for emergency income support benefits.

Why the 'invisible workers' cleaning up COVID-19 need better labour protection
The message has been loud and clear: everyone needs to do their part to fight the spread of COVID-19, and that means not leaving our homes unless absolutely necessary.

Coronavirus crisis poses risks and opportunities for unions
The Conversation
The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout pose serious challenges for Canada’s workers.

Teamsters Demand Truck Stops, Gas Stations Re-Open Bathrooms and Other Critical Services
Teamsters Canada
Teamsters Canada is demanding that gas stations and highway rest areas fully re-open to transportation workers and asking federal and provincial governments to pressure them into doing so if necessary.

COVID-19: Nine thousand public service employees step forward to help deliver benefits package
The federal government intends to begin accepting applications for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) by April 6. As part of the plan to process this unprecedented volume of work, a great deal of additional staff will be needed to answer calls from Canadians trying to access financial support.

Trump Permits Decertification in 45 days
While most non-essential services are shut down, union elections are suspended, and most of America is working from home worrying about a global pandemic, Trump’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was passing a rule to make it harder to win a union election.

Ontario makes $25-million emergency investment in post-secondary education
Whig Standard
The Ontario government announced Tuesday a major investment of $25 million in emergency funding to help post-secondary students succeed in their studies as the province continues to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

BC announces $1.5 million in funding for Indigenous students amid COVID-19 pandemic
The Ubyssey
Following yesterday's announcement of $3.5 million in funding to support post-secondary students during the COVID-19 pandemic, the BC government has announced an additional $1.5 million in funding to supplement the Indigenous Emergency Assistance Fund to support Indigenous post-secondary students.

How much should parents be sweating homeschooling?
The Globe and Mail
A high-school teacher in Surrey, B.C., has a simple piece of advice for the complex problems that parents across Canada are suddenly facing, with concerns of their children falling behind academically with schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trudeau pledges help as many students shut out of COVID-19 benefits
The Globe and Mail
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday said the government “should have more to say in the coming days” about helping postsecondary students who will soon join a brutal job market, which is ratcheting up pressure on those who need summer income to pay for fall tuition.

April 3, 2020

Daycares asked to reopen for kids of emergency workers
Winnipeg Free Press
The Manitoba government is asking daycares to "do the right thing" and reopen to care for children of emergency workers during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

City staff, school workers reinventing themselves to stave off layoffs due to COVID-19
While government and school workers are losing their jobs nationwide, many of their peers in Manitoba are bucking the trend — at least, for now.

Liquor Mart employees' union pushes for Plexiglas shields after worker tests positive for COVID-19
The union representing about 1,300 Liquor Mart workers wants Plexiglas shields installed at stores to protect employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Winnipeg organization helping families get computers to better access education
CTV News
One Winnipeg-based organization is helping families get computers so they can better access educational tools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CN Rail workers fear risk from lax safety, sanitation on trains, in buildings: union
Winnipeg Free Press
CN Rail staff in Winnipeg claim the railway uses shoddy sanitation measures on trains and company buildings, an issue union stewards are reporting across Canada.

Unifor members step up to provide medical protective gear
Unifor film and television members at NABET 700-M are stepping up to help provide medical protective gear for frontline medical workers, patients and the community. The spread of COVID-19 has resulted in shortages of key Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including surgical caps, masks and protective face shields. 

‘Zoom is malware’: why experts worry about the video conferencing platform
The Guardian
As coronavirus lockdowns have moved many in-person activities online, the use of the video-conferencing platform Zoom has quickly escalated. So, too, have concerns about its security.

U of T researcher and Toronto Public Library form partnership to make face shields with 3D printers
U of T
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and personal protective equipment supplies dwindle, one University of Toronto researcher is working on a novel solution for front-line workers in the city.

Special COVID-19 Income Support Measures: Information for Academic Staff Associations
Some academic staff associations have negotiated letters of understanding to ensure that members do not lose work or income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is particularly important for contract academic staff, who often lack adequate paid sick leave and may be facing job loss or non-renewal. Where the employer is not providing adequate income protection, federal income support measures may provide some relief. Employer-provided and federal benefits may be coordinated to fully protect income.

AAUP Principles and Standards for the COVID-19 Crisis
The coronavirus pandemic has posed serious challenges for faculty members and their institutions. While its scope and severity are unprecedented in recent memory, this crisis is not the first that the Association has had to address in its 105 years. As the authors of the AAUP's 2007 report on mass terminations at five New Orleans universities in the wake of Hurricane Katrina pointed out, “Relevant AAUP-supported policies . . . are sufficiently broad and flexible to accommodate even the inconceivable disaster.” What follows are questions related to the COVID-19 crisis and guidance derived from AAUP policy documents for faculty members as they assert their proper role in institutional governance during this challenging time.

Hundreds of university staff to be made redundant due to coronavirus
The Guardian
Hundreds of university staff on precarious contracts have been dismissed by their employers in a drive to cut costs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

April 2, 2020

U of M to provide pass/fail option for students due to disruption caused by COVID-19
CTV News
University of Manitoba students can choose a pass/fail option for the Winter 2020 semester due to the disruption to classes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

UM's Front and Centre Campaign Makes History
Winnipeg Free Press
These are uncertain times for all of us. The COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented and all-encompassing, means we are facing new challenges accompanied by some uncomfortable unknowns.

Front and Centre realizes $626,260,909 in largest-ever fundraising campaign in Manitoba history
UM Today
The largest-ever fundraising campaign in Manitoba history, launched in 2015, has raised $626,260,909, moving well past its $500 million goal.

University assets available to expand COVID-19 testing
Winnipeg Free Press
A biology professor is urging Manitoba Health to tap into university resources to expand and speed up COVID-19 testing.

Manitoba must boost testing capacity
Winnipeg Free Press
THE rollout of Manitoba’s COVID-19 testing has been slow. So far, relatively few have been diagnosed with the virus. However, Manitoba has largely limited testing to those who’ve travelled, been in contact with someone who has travelled or already been diagnosed with COVID-19, and health-care workers.

Manitoba researchers say they may have found a way to safely reuse N95 masks amid COVID-19 crisis
A group of Manitoba researchers say they've found a way to safely decontaminate and reuse some types of medical masks that are normally thrown away after each use.

School support staff looking for answers
Winnipeg Free Press
Thousands of school support staff are in limbo as they await instruction on how to proceed at a time when remote learning is the indefinite norm.

Province of Manitoba
The Manitoba government is introducing new online resources and supports for victims as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox, minister responsible for status of women, announced today.

Province of Manitoba
April 1 -- Public health officials advise 24 additional cases of COVID-19 have been identified as of 9:30 a.m., bringing the total number of lab-confirmed positive and probable positive cases in Manitoba to 127 at this time.

Wage subsidy plan is full of big problems
Rank and File
Justin Trudeau announced his government’s most significant aid package for Canadians workers on Friday. The Liberals will subsidize wages by 75% to convince employers to stop layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic. The measure will be available to all businesses, and eligibility criteria are slowly being released.

A record 6.6 million seek US jobless aid as layoffs mount
Winnipeg Free Press
More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — doubling a record high set just one week earlier — a sign that layoffs are accelerating in the midst of the coronavirus.

GM turns gutted, shuttered Warren plant into face mask supplier
Detroit Free Press
General Motors is working with the UAW to call in at least two dozen paid volunteers from its hourly workforce to make millions of face masks at its once-shuttered Warren Transmission plant.

“We Can Use This Crisis to Reconceptualize the Economy”
Australian workers are finally being addressed in the government’s rescue packages, but the measures go nowhere near far enough. National Secretary of the United Workers’ Union Tim Kennedy argues that the crisis offers an opportunity for genuine pushback and transformation.