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Verbal attacks on journalists not acceptable

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Unifor is concerned after a Newfoundland judge missed an opportunity to send a message that vulgar, verbal attacks on journalists are not acceptable.

“A person wouldn’t get away with yelling obscenities at a traditional workplace, like an office and people yell this phrase at reporters, and it impacts our work,” said Heather Gillis, Unifor local 915M member and reporter at NTV News in St. John’s.

Last week a provincial court judge in St. John’s ruled a man who shouted a sexist slur that humiliated Gillis in 2017 while she was interviewing a politician, did not meet the criteria for a conviction for disturbing the peace.

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Black history month in review

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Every day of the year, Unifor activists of diverse backgrounds organize to improve their workplaces and their communities. Black History Month is a time to reflect on the unique challenges of some of our members and celebrate the ways in which they have and continue to resist.

During the month of February, Unifor highlighted the work of a handful of powerful local activists, including Shereta Bowers from Kitchener, Ontario of Local 1106 who emphasized the importance of future generations in discussions of racial justice. Hopeton Hague from Local 1997 in Prince George, B.C. talked about racialized activists getting involved in the political process and discussed his involvement in the province’s latest election. Both Hague and Margaret Olal, from Local 3000 in New Westminster, B.C are active members of Unifor’s Aboriginal and Workers of Colour Standing Committee in B.C. Christina Ashe from Local 4606 in Halifax talked about her deep roots in activism and about the importance of racialized communities being in solidarity with Indigenous people. And, finally, Marie-France Fleurantin from Local 62 in Montreal recounted how she was the first black woman in every union position she’s had and how that has reminded her of the importance of building a more diverse union.

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School bus strike averted

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Unifor, the union representing school bus drivers at First Student Canada in Owen Sound/Wiarton and Port Elgin/Kincardine has reached a tentative agreement with the company, averting a strike set to begin Thursday morning.

“This is good news for drivers, and good news for parents,” said Debbie Montgomery, President of Unifor Local 4268. “Despite a difficult round of bargaining, the bargaining committees have secured a deal that improves wages and working conditions.”

The bargaining committees, representing members of Unifor Local 4268, will present the deal to members for a vote in the coming days. Full details of the new collective agreement will be released after ratification. Unifor issued a strike notice last Friday, well ahead of the required 72 hours’ notice, for 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

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Western pulp and paper members meet

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More than 50 Unifor members in the pulp and paper sector in Western Canada are meeting from February 27 to March 1 to report on local health and safety work.

Health, Safety, and Environment Director Sari Sairanen was present to welcome the delegates to Vancouver, outline the department’s work over the past year, and discuss recent workplace fatalities and other current issues.

“The Health & Safety Department is committed to advancing safety in pulp and paper mills and Unifor will continue to advocate for positive changes in occupational health and safety legislation across B.C. and Alberta,” said Sairanen. “Pulp and paper mills have their own unique challenges, which is why learning from each other about how to consistently tackle common problems is important.”

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Parq Casino workers sign new collective agreement

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Workers at the Parq Casino represented by Unifor Local 3000 have ratified a new three-year contract that includes securing unionized jobs, making key gains in wages and addressing harassment.

“I’m proud of the bargaining committee for making it a priority to contract work back in to the union and to have negotiated economic gains to help keep pace with Metro Vancouver’s skyrocketing cost of living,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.

Local 3000 has been negotiating with the Parq Casino (formerly the Edgewater Casino) since November 2017.

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Paramedic strike delayed by OLRB decision

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A last minute decision from Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) has delayed a legal strike by paramedics that was to begin at midnight on February 28.

“The city of Sault Ste. Marie would rather spend huge sums of tax-payers money on legal fees trying to delay this strike, rather than bargain with these hard-working paramedics,” said Laurie Lessard-Brown, Unifor Local 1359 President. “It is disappointing that the Mayor and Councilors are wasting so much time and money.”

The employer applied to the OLRB to have the existing Essential Service Agreement declared invalid, even though it was agreed to by the union and employer, in the previous collective agreement. A conciliator has already clarified that these paramedics are not covered by Ontario’s Hospital Labour Disputes Arbitration Act, and were in a legal strike position as of midnight February 28, 2018. While the City has been clear that they would prefer to defer responsibility of a settlement to a third party arbitrator, the union believes bargaining a settlement in good faith is the only path to recognizing the value of the work paramedics perform every single day.

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Unifor ACL members voted 85 % to ratify new agreement

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Bell Aliant workers across Atlantic Canada have voted 85 per cent to ratify a new collective agreement that was achieved after months of challenging bargaining.

“Our bargaining committee is grateful for the support and solidarity of all the hard working members who made this agreement possible,” said Bobby MacDonald, Chair of Unifor ACL which represents locals 506, 401, 410, and 2289.

After eight tough bargaining sessions with an employer that was seeking major concessions, a collective agreement was reached that protects pensions and improves wages for the women and men who proudly built Bell’s first fibre optic network in Canada.

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CLC Disaffiliation Update

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Ontario Members,

I reach out to you today to address Unifor’s recent disaffiliation from the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).

The action impacts both our union and the labour movement as a whole. Like many of you, I’ve been in deep and necessary discussions with fellow Unifor members, members of other unions, and members of the broader community regarding our union’s choice to disaffiliate from the CLC.

I know that many of you have worked shoulder to shoulder with compatriots at the CLC on campaigns that have achieved major gains for the labour movement, such as Bill 148 which resulted in the largest minimum wage increase in Canadian history.

Together we have made a difference in the lives of workers. The decision to disaffiliate does not detract from that work or its achievements.  I know that some of you may feel confused and may be left with questions on where the disaffiliation leaves you in relation to the wider labour movement.  Our commitment to labour, solidarity and activism, and our desire for change to improve conditions for workers and create a better society remain unchanged. These are the very principles behind the bold decision to disaffiliate.

Taking a stand is not always easy and I want to thank all of the members who have defended our union in conversations with fellow Unifor members, other unionists, friends, family and members of the wider community.  As I read posts and tweets on the disaffiliation it was inspiring to see our members counter false claims with vigor, using the facts and the knowledge of who we are as a union.

As we continue through this process, Unifor is committed to complete transparency with membership. To that end, the most recent information can be found on our website at unifor.org/fixtheclcHere you will find the latest news along with an overview of the issue, a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) sheet, and a helpful resource section.

Thank you again for your continued support.

In solidarity,

Naureen Rizvi

Ontario Regional Director

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Ontario Members,

On Saturday millions will take to the streets in cities and towns around the globe as part of the 2018 Women’s March. It is hard to believe that it was just one year ago when outrage at the overt sexism and hate exhibited by a then newly sworn in President Trump galvanized the women of the world to take action. If last year’s march marked the awakening of a movement then this year is surely the birth of a revolution.

What started as the quiet voices of individual women standing up to tell their stories, often in the face of disbelief and ridicule, became a roar that has finally broken the terrible silence that has cloaked harassment and discrimination for too long. As woman after woman came forward to share their experiences the vast scope and insidiousness of harassment was exposed, as were the perpetrators. We’ve witnessed titans of Hollywood and media fall as the truth behind their sometimes not-so-unknown behaviour was brought to light. The time of “open secrets”, as we saw in the Jian Ghomeshi case, is over as those who would take advantage of their positions are called to account.

The #MeToo movement and #TIMESUP initiative have given voice to survivors and opened the eyes, ears and minds of those who previously refused to see, hear, and understand. We know that harassment and discrimination can occur in all sectors of the workforce, from boardrooms to shop floors. I ask any member who is experiencing or witnessing harassment or abuse to please reach out to Unifor, utilize the Women’s Advocate program for assistance. Your union is here to support and stand by you. You are not alone.

On January 20, I will join Unifor members at my local Women’s March to show solidarity with the women of the world and support gender equity for all women, for our friends, co-workers, mothers, sisters and our daughters, who we owe a better future to. The marches and local actions across Ontario are open to everyone and I especially want to encourage male allies to come out. Equality is not a women’s issue – it’s a human right.

You can find information on a Women’s March location near you here. Fly the Unifor flag proudly.

In solidarity,

Naureen Rizvi

Ontario Regional Director

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