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.

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January 18 2021

Tentative Agreement reached with Maple Leaf Winnipeg
The ratification vote for the collective agreement between UFCW 832 members working at Maple Leaf Winnipeg takes place January 20th and 21 at the plant on Lagimodiere Boulevard.

Manitoba hospitals using PPE linked to overseas factories with forced labour allegations
A CBC Marketplace investigation revealed some personal protective equipment used throughout Manitoba's health-care system has connections to overseas factories accused of forced labour practices.

Not In This Together: Pandemic Widening Gap between the Rich and Poor
We’ve heard about and seen the direct impact of the financial fallout as a result of the pandemic, but it’s not widely reported that some businesses have profited from this disaster. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) issued a study that puts the effect of the pandemic on workers and top paid CEOs in sharp contrast.

New Alberta Law Makes Sweeping Changes to Occupational Health and Safety Act, Amends Workers’ Compensation Act
Ogletree Deakins
On December 9, 2020, Alberta’s Bill 47, the Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020, received Royal Assent. The legislation replaces Alberta’s current Occupational Health and Safety Act in its entirety, and makes significant amendments to the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Act.

UCP has essentially seized control of all public-sector pension plans in the province
The presidents of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) and Alberta’s largest public-sector unions held a news conference today to condemn the latest actions taken by the Kenney government to effectively seize control of pension savings belonging to hundreds of thousands of Albertans.

Globe and Mail Apologizes After Company Linked to Worker Deaths Named to Canada’s ‘Top Employers’ List
Press Progress
Canada’s newspaper of record is admitting that it made a mistake when it published a list of “top employers” that included a company that is currently facing an RCMP criminal investigation into worker deaths.

The Case for Giving Workers Ownership Rights
New Republic
It’s a certainty that we’ll be entering both the new year and a new Democratic administration with the American economy on its knees. We’ll return to something resembling normalcy with time, but communities across the country and the lives of millions have already been irrevocably altered. The lesson of the last financial crisis—that precarity endures for working Americans long after the markets and headline figures rebound—will have to be learned again. And the central truth of our economic system will have to be confronted afresh: Ours is an economy where profits and power accrue almost wholly to a class of owners who, as we’ve seen this year, are willing and able to work their employees quite literally to death. The fact that the Biden administration is unlikely to produce solutions that get to the heart of our national iniquities hasn’t absolved us from the responsibility of devising, discussing, and promoting solutions to them. Many of the most promising ideas in circulation now proceed from a simple principle: Our economy will continue to fail the American people until they are given more control over it.

Major expansion for Brandon University’s Co-op program
Brandon University
Brandon University’s thriving Co-operative Education program has taken another major step forward, with a big expansion in the number of department majors where students can take advantage of work experience as part of their degree.

MacEwan University students accuse administrators of failing to take action on racism
Some MacEwan University students say the school has failed to take action on racism within the department of music.

Alberta teachers, unions 'livid' after province issues ministerial orders changing terms of public sector pensions
Edmonton Journal
Public sector unions plan to launch a legal challenge after Alberta’s finance minister quietly signed ministerial orders at the end of the year that they say give the government-owned investment manager more control over workers’ pensions.

Lecturers warn they will strike if forced to resume 'unsafe' teaching
The Guardian
University lecturers will not resume “unsafe” face-to-face teaching this academic year, and any attempt by the government or vice-chancellors to reopen campuses in February will fail, the UK’s largest academic union has warned.

January 15, 2021

Union alleges 'a climate of fear'
Winnipeg Free Press
After its efforts to form a union at one of three Canada Goose plants in Winnipeg was denied in late 2019, the Workers United union continues to organize and has just launched a public campaign for union recognition highlighting what it says are deteriorating workplace conditions.

Canada Goose Workers Allege Unsafe Working Conditions in Winnipeg Factories
Workers attempting to unionize at three Manitoba factories of the luxury jacket brand allege the company has not provided adequate protections during the COVID-19 pandemic and has attempted to intimidate pro-union employees.

CBC ordered to rehire reporter fired after management read his private messages
Winnipeg Free Press
A CBC Manitoba reporter, fired after information was taken from his private accounts by a co-worker on a shared company computer, has been ordered reinstated.

$1 million payout for vacationing hospital boss but no paid sick days for staff facing COVID “profoundly unfair and disrespectful”
By not announcing paid sick days for all hospital, long-term care and other essential workers, Ontario’s Premier missed a key opportunity this week to tell “this important workforce who are at greater risk of COVID-19 infection that the province has their back for the increased risk they face,” says Michael Hurley the President of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE).

Meatpackers union argues Cargill undermined efforts in outbreak
BNN Bloomberg
Cargill Inc. is facing accusations at a Canadian hearing that it undermined union leaders trying to protect workers at an Alberta beef plant during one of the industry’s worst Covid-19 outbreaks.

2021: International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour
International Labour Organization
The International Labour Organization (ILO), in collaboration with the Alliance 8.7  global partnership, is launching the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour , to encourage legislative and practical actions to eradicate child labour worldwide.

Province launches rapid-testing pilot for school staff
Winnipeg Free Press
Teachers, educational assistants and other school staffers will be able to jump COVID-19 testing lines to receive same-day results starting Monday, when high schoolers resume in-class learning after a month at home.

Post-secondary students consider skipping fall semester amid pandemic
Times Colonist
Josephine DiMaurizio’s third year of geology studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., was meant to be full of hands-on course work, with multiple large field trips and days in the lab.

January 14, 2021

President Michael Benarroch update on Summer Term and supporting our collective success
UM Today
As we embark on 2021, we know that together we will continue to make our community proud. Looking forward with optimism and hope, I want to share an update on Summer Term 2021 as well as some of the innovative ways we are supporting our collective success.

Faculty of Arts introduces Indigenous content requirement
UM Today
New students who are entering the Faculty of Arts starting in Fall 2021 will include at least three credit hours of Indigenous course content in their studies in order to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Rural school division waits, worries as K-12 review looms
Winnipeg Free Press
The unknown release date of Manitoba’s K-12 education review is what one rural superintendent says keeps him up at night.

Cabinet shuffle sees new minister for post-secondary institutions
The Manitoban
In a cabinet shuffle Jan. 5, the provincial government appointed Wayne Ewasko, member of the legislative assembly (MLA) for Lac du Bonnet, to the newly created department of advanced education, skills and immigration. Formerly, provincial government oversight of post-secondary institutions was provided by minister Ralph Eichler and the department of economic development and training.

Alberta considers boards to govern several universities, colleges
The Alberta government is considering the creation of new boards to oversee multiple universities, colleges or polytechnic institutions in the province.

Union calls for Ontario-wide extension of online learning
Globe and Mail
The union that represents teachers in Ontario’s Catholic school boards is calling for a provincewide extension of online learning during the province’s state of emergency.

CAUT signs the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment
The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), an international initiative to address the overreliance on journal-based metrics in hiring, promotion, and funding decisions and to promote and support equity in the academy.

YUFA wins landmark arbitration over loss of Graduate Assistant support
Four years after the University cut over 700 annual graduate assistantship positions, an arbitrator has upheld YUFA’s grievance that these cuts represent a sudden and substantial loss of support for full-time faculty and violate important Employer obligations under the Collective Agreement.

Labour College of Canada announces partnership with Brock University
Canadian Labour Congress
The Labour College of Canada (LCC) is proud to announce a new partnership with Brock University. Under the agreement, successful completion of approved LCC courses may be recognized as transfer credits towards a certificate or undergraduate degree in Labour Studies at Brock.

Rethinking university scholarships to improve equity, diversity and inclusion among winners
University Affairs
Ten years after Michèle Lamont detailed the process by which funding applications are evaluated in the university setting, this topic remains as relevant as ever. As Canadian universities and granting agencies move to increase equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), how can we reconcile these new institutional values with the notion of academic excellence in the evaluation of scholarship applications? How can we define a conception of excellence that is inclusive for everyone? How can we put these intentions into practice? As members of the Quebec Interuniversity Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Network (RIQEDI) and the working group on issues facing the student community, we find that there is a need to highlight certain issues relating to how scholarship applications are evaluated in universities.

U.S. weekly unemployment benefit claims rise more than expected
Globe and Mail
The number of Americans filing first-time applications for unemployment benefits surged last week, confirming a weakening in labor market conditions as a worsening COVID-19 pandemic disrupts operations at restaurants and other businesses.

Google union organizers could face retaliatory action, legal expert says
While labour experts and tech-industry watchers agree that the recently unveiled Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) is a savvy step toward workplace equity and improved accountability at Google, some are nonetheless concerned about retaliatory action aimed at disrupting employees' organizing efforts.

The Workers First Agenda
We urge the Biden administration and Congress to seize this opportunity to transform the lives of working people through bold, structural change, starting with the following five priorities:

January 13, 2021

Harassment in virtual school classroom raises questions
Winnipeg Free Press
A virtual lesson in one Winnipeg classroom was abruptly interrupted last week, when participants entered the video call uninvited and started making misogynistic comments toward the female teacher.

Educational Ojibwe radio drama to hit the airwaves in 2021
University of Winnipeg
A new educational Indigenous language radio show is hitting the airwaves in 2021.

Scotiabank pledges $500M for 'disadvantaged' education, career advancement
BNN Bloomberg
Bank of Nova Scotia will spend $500 million over the next decade on a new program that aims to break down barriers to higher education and career advancement for "disadvantaged" groups.

Hey, Higher Education: You’re On Mute
Higher education has been on the decline in an oddly quiet way. With" aria-label="enrollments down 10 consecutive years">enrollments down 10 consecutive years," aria-label="state funding below 2008 levels">state funding below 2008 levels, and" aria-label="public support">public support eroding considerably, it’s almost as if higher education is on mute. How could it be that such a precious institution – embedded in the American Dream and long the envy of the world – is seemingly shriveling away? One explanation is that – as a collective – higher education has been unable to organize itself in a clear and coherent manner to make the most effective case about its value and to coordinate widespread changes to address the critiques of its constituents. It’s time for higher education to unmute itself.

Winnipeg guilty of unfair labour practice against transit operators, Manitoba Labour Board says
A threat of disciplinary action against transit operators by the City of Winnipeg during a strike nearly two years ago has been found to be an unfair labour practice.

Workplaces were source of 25% of Manitoba's COVID-19 community-linked cases last fall
Manitoba saw hundreds of COVID-19 cases linked to workplaces and stores last fall after the province ordered most businesses shut and barred private gatherings.

Infected bus rider underscores need to vaccinate drivers: union
Winnipeg Free Press
The union that represents Winnipeg Transit drivers says a frightening scenario that unfolded on a bus last week highlights why bus operators should become a priority group to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Human rights panel orders Winnipeg landlord to pay tenant for racist, sexist remarks
Globe and Mail
A human rights commission in Manitoba has ordered a landlord to pay $15,000 to a young mother who was harassed because she was pregnant and had a Black boyfriend.

Federal government moves to seal off Canadian companies from human rights violations in China
The federal government announced a suite of new regulations today meant to ensure that Canadian companies are not complicit in human rights abuses or the use of forced labour in China's Xinjiang province.

ACLU workers are forming a union, the latest in a wave of nonprofit staffs to organize
The Washington Post
The staff of the American Civil Liberties Union has opted to form a union, employees say, making it one of the most high-profile nonprofit organizations to unionize in recent years amid a surge of organizing among younger workers in cities.

Health workers unions see surge in interest amid COVID-19
PBS News Hour
The nurses at Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, declared on March 6 — by filing the official paperwork — that they were ready to vote on the prospect of joining a national union. At the time, they were motivated by the desire for more nurses and support staff, and to have a voice in hospital decisions.

Minority Unions – A Major Concern for Employers in 2021 and Beyond?
Recent media reports have covered the relatively new phenomenon of minority labor unions.  These are not traditional unions in the sense of formal organizing, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) certification, and exclusive collective bargaining rights. Rather, they are organizations made up of groups of individuals (including traditional employees, temporary employees, and even contractors) who seek to advocate for worker rights and social justice issues in the 21st century workplace.

January 12, 2021

Dalhousie, faculty union reach tentative labour agreement
The association that represents about 1,000 teaching and support staff at Dalhousie University in Halifax has reached a tentative contract agreement with university administrators.

Overworked and overwhelmed: UVic faculty and students brace for Round 2 of pandemic university
Students and staff at the University of Victoria are feeling overwhelmed and overworked as they head into the second semester of school under COVID-19, a new internal survey revealed.

Morale at an ‘all-time low’: Post-secondary students grapple with COVID-19 fatigue
Global News
Last year during exam season, Sarah Vereschagin and her friends would book study rooms on campus, do coffee runs and use whiteboards to study.

USC's tuition policy paper seeks transparency on rising tuition
The Gazette
The USC's first policy paper of the school year codifies council's stance on university transparency about rising tuition costs, specifically for international and professional students.

MPI wage-freeze demand sparks furor
Winnipeg Free Press
Two days after Manitoba Public Insurance signed a deal with brokers to give them a cut of online sales — estimated to increase commissions by $23 million over five years — the province demanded a two-year pay freeze for MPI employees.

End-of-year unemployment data shows need for continued support for workers
Canadian Labour Congress
“Even as the vaccine roll-out begins, we can see that the tough times aren’t behind us yet,” said Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff. “The end-of-year unemployment data remind us that strong government support continues to be a vital lifeline for workers and their families who are struggling through the economic shock of the pandemic.” 

Toronto’s Unions call for the retraction of Mike Harris’ Order of Ontario
The Standard
Doug Ford’s Conservative government has shown its true colours with the awarding of the Order of Ontario to disgraced former premier Mike Harris. Reaction has been swift and widespread across civil society as people recall the callous behaviour of the Harris regime.

Essential Voices: Working in the Pandemic
Canada Land
Labour reporting has been a “blind spot for a lot of media organizations,” the
Toronto Star‘s Sara Mojtehedzadeh observes on today’s episode of CANADALAND.

RCMP launch criminal probe into COVID-19 death tied to massive Alberta meat plant outbreak
Ariana Quesada, 16, walked into the RCMP detachment in High River, Alta., on Friday and filed a formal complaint asking police to investigate potential criminal negligence in the death of her father.

Inadequate paid sick leave helping fuel Canada’s spiralling COVID-19 cases, doctors and advocates say
Globe and Mail
As Canadian provinces struggle to contain rising COVID-19 infections, a lack of adequate paid sick leave for front-line workers is fuelling transmission, doctors and advocates say.

Air Canada hires influencers to promote vacation travel even as federal guidelines urge people to stay home
Globe and Mail
Air Canada has hired social-media influencers to encourage Canadians to fly on non-essential vacation travel in spite of federal guidelines that urge people to stay home as cases of COVID-19 spike across the country.

Google wants staffers to stop emailing about unionization efforts
Google is going on the defense following a historic move by employees to form one of big tech's first labor unions. The company is reportedly asking employees running email discussion groups to moderate them for "disruptive" language that could distract from day-to-day work.