May 23, 2018 Latest News

In a case involving the rights of tens of millions of private sector employees, the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, delivered a major blow to workers, ruling for the first time that workers may not band together to challenge violations of federal labor laws.

Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch said that the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act trumps the National Labor Relations Act and that employees who sign employment agreements to arbitrate claims must do so on an individual basis — and may not band together to enforce claims of wage and hour violations.

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May 23, 2018 Latest News

Rightwing activists are launching a nationwide drive to persuade public-sector trade union members to tear up their membership cards and stop paying dues, posing a direct threat to the progressive movement in America.

Documents obtained by the Guardian reveal that a network of radical conservative thinktanks spanning all 50 states is planning direct marketing campaigns targeted personally at union members to encourage them to quit. The secret push, the group hopes, could cost unions up to a fifth of their 7 million members, lead to the loss of millions of dollars in income and undermine a cornerstone of US progressive politics.

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May 17, 2018 Latest News

Election day in Ontario is on June 7, 2018, advance voting starts May 26, and you can vote at your returning office starting May 10. The polls show a tightening of the race but they still are predicting a PC win and that means Doug Ford may become Ontario’s premier. Polls can be wrong, but if we want another outcome, we have to do a lot more than post memes supporting or opposing candidates on social media, and turn out the vote among our friends.

Right now, candidates are out in our communities holding meet and greets, knocking on doors, coming out to debates and stumping for your vote. Organizations across Ontario have been putting together tools to arm voters and organizers with information and questions about the issues that matter to them.

Read and share the questions communities and organizations want to ask candidates, find out about debates in your community and learn about the candidates’ positions. If we don’t want to wake up on June 8 feeling like many of our neighbours to the south did in November 2016, we need to get to work. Get out to debates in your community and ask about these issues and perhaps a few more in the audience will be swayed to support a candidate who is working for the public good.

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May 17, 2018 Latest News

A little over one-third of Peterborough’s workforce deals with the instability of precarious employment.

That’s one of the key findings in the first part of a report by Peterborough Public Health and backed by the City.

Reaching out to 800 Peterborough residents from November to December 2016, the survey finds 33-per cent of workers face precarious work.

According to the Precarious Employment Research Initiative report, precarious work is defined as having “unstable and insecure employment, irregular work hours making time management difficult, unpredictable wages and no other benefits (and) less access to job training.”

The report adds precarious work is “usually characterized as temporary, part-time, limited term and contract work.”

Precarious work falls at the end of a scale which includes other categories such as vulnerable, stable and secure work.

The study found about one-third of residents have precarious work while 29-per cent say their work is vulnerable, 20-per cent say it is secure and 18-per cent say it is stable.

That means 62-per cent of workers defined their jobs as either precarious or vulnerable.

Three work sectors were mentioned in the report, including manufacturing, construction and trades; knowledge and creative industries; and the service sector.

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May 14, 2018 Latest News

People are nurtured through food and that’s exactly what Caroline Smith wants to do at Leta Brownscombe Co-operative Homes in Peterborough.

The non-profit housing provider recently received $5,000 through the United Way of Peterborough and District’s new Neighbourhood Fund to develop a community garden. A centre courtyard at the Milroy Drive housing complex will be transformed into the Wild Eats Courtyard to give residents a chance to grow  their food.

“You nurture people through food. Parents do it with their children and we’re doing it with our community with this garden. We are nurturing our community through food,” says Smith, resident and co-manager of the Wild Eats Courtyard project.

She adds residents of the 80-unit co-operative will take responsibility for planting and caring for the garden. Wooden plant boxes will be created to hold various vegetables, edible flowers and herbs, says Smith.

“We want them to snip some lemon grass or take some echinceia and make a tea. We want them to dry thyme for winter or dry some rosemary or use cilantro for a beautiful chutney for a potluck,” says Smith.

The project is one of 12, grassroots-community endeavours, that recently received money from the United Way’s new Neighbourhood Fund. Lisa Smith, director of philanthropic impact, says $25,000 was made available for groups to apply for.

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May 14, 2018 Latest News

Employees at General Electric in Peterborough have been informed the plant will cease manufacturing Nov. 30 rather than Sept. 30, says a union representative – though a company spokeswoman says there’s been no change in plans.

“They (company officials) have communicated to us that they’ll be going until Nov. 30,” said Bill Corp, a Unifor union rep at GE, on Wednesday.

He said 92 people have been laid off and will be leaving by June 15. It leaves roughly 145 employees at the plant, he said, and of those “a portion” will remain employed by GE until the work tapers off.

The change in date has been suggested before: In January, Mayor Daryl Bennett revealed the plant would stay open roughly until the end of 2018 to complete its work.

GE issued a statement about its plans Thursday morning: “It is still the business’ plan to cease manufacturing and service activity by the end of Q3 2018. Through this period, we are constantly reviewing our operations to ensure we can deliver on our commitments to our customers and business. In order to complete existing backlog, there is a potential for some work to extend into November 2018, but this will not affect most employees. If the business sees a need to extend the date, those potentially affected will be advised accordingly.”

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May 14, 2018 Latest News

George Fawcett, 31, shows up to the same downtown bank office every day on a schedule set by supervisors who trained him and direct his daily activities. But according to the temporary employment agency that placed him there, he is not actually an employee — either of the agency or the bank.

It’s the subject of a recent complaint filed by Fawcett to the Ministry of Labour after realizing he was not receiving public holiday pay and vacation during his temp agency contract at a Toronto-based Scotiabank. And, he believes, it’s a growing problem in a precarious economy.

“I wasn’t sure about the law,” he says. “It wasn’t till I worked on Thanksgiving and someone told me they would just be paying (the) regular hourly rate, not even time-and-a-half that I thought, definitely something’s up here.”

When he approached his agency, he was told he wasn’t entitled to the additional wages because he was an independent contractor, a category of worker that has no protection under Ontario employment legislation.

How a worker is classified has significant implications. Independent contractors are responsible for paying their own taxes, and are not covered by the province’s Employment Standards Act that governs things like minimum wage or overtime.

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May 3, 2018 Latest News

The Trudeau government broke a promise that it would not privatize pay processing to manage the Phoenix crisis with a new contract that turns over the work of public servants to IBM, says the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

PSAC Vice-President Chris Aylward said the union was given assurances that no work done by public servants would be contracted out to stabilize the pay crisis by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. Goodale heads the working group of cabinet ministers assigned by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to oversee the Phoenix fiasco.

He said similar assurances were given by Les Linklater, the associate deputy minister at Public Services Procurement Canada, who is stickhandling the government’s effort to stabilize of Phoenix.

“The government has broken its commitment to the PSAC, a commitment they made they would not outsource any work to stabilize the payroll system,” said Aylward.

“We are opposed to all contracting out…All pay processing should be done by public service workers and if more people are needed, the government should be hiring staff and not contracting out to IBM.”

Aylward said the contract will take over the work of public servants at the Gatineau satellite pay centre, who handle the 24-hour run of pay transactions and flag and fix errors as they crop up. He said that work will be given to 100 IBM employees and public servants will be reassigned to other work processing pay.


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May 3, 2018 Latest News

General Electric workers among participants at National Day of Mourning ceremony at Peterborough City Hall

Each year hundreds of people in Canada die of work-related injuries.

And each of those deaths is preventable.

At a ceremony at City Hall in Peterborough on Friday, advocates said there’s still plenty of work to be done for worker safety

“It’s not about working safely around the hazards, it’s about safe work and how to achieve it,” said Loretta Michaud, director of information services for the Worker Health and Safety Centre.

Many people at the ceremony were former workers of General Electric in Peterborough who claim they got sick from chemical contamination at the plant. Some were family members representing diseased workers.

One of those workers was John Ball, who is in palliative care after a life of working at the plant. He was a major advocate for workers rights and workplace safety who helped ring the alarm on the dangers of toxic substances.

Michaud says conditions are improving and training is increasing. Temporary workers are also seeing more protections than ever before.

“We have a measure of fairness in our workplaces against the growing wave of precarious work,” Michaud said. “If they kill a temporary worker they’re going to pay.”

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May 3, 2018 Latest News

Marion Burton, whose worked in labour and unions for most of her life, is frustrated with progress on former workers’ cases

On this week’s episode of the Peterpodcast she talks about how she got involved in unions when she was 22 and her current involvement in working to get compensation for former General Electric workers who claim chemical contamination made them ill.

“Those chemicals are in the plant, under the plant, in the air, out into the community, out into our water system, into Little Lake, down the Otonabee River… if that’s happening to our environment how on Earth can they say those same chemicals didn’t  harm the workers who were exposed to them day in and day out in a very high quantity?”

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The Peterborough and District Labour Council (PDLC) is the central body of union locals in the Peterborough area (Peterborough County plus Omemee) who are affiliated with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).

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