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 16, 2021

Another Legal Win! Court of Appeal confirms MGEU’s right to Interest Arbitration for Civil Service
The Court of Appeal confirmed this week that the MGEU had a right to have an interest arbitration board appointed to determine the terms and conditions of the next Civil Service collective agreement.

Province of Manitoba
Help is available to Manitobans who must miss work because of a positive COVID-19 result and are not eligible for paid leave through their workplace, Finance Minister Scott Fielding and Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, said today.

Manitoba PCs say law must pass before sending education tax rebate cheques — but opposition unsure about that
Lieutenants from Manitoba's three main political parties sparred Wednesday about whether the Pallister government needs to implement legislation before sending out education property tax rebate cheques to landowners.

Former lobbyist details how privatizers are trying to end public education
The Washington Post
A few years ago I ran a piece by Joanne Barkan about the long history of the movement to privatize public education.

Calculating the cost of e-learning
Winnipeg Free Press
One year after an emergency pivot to remote learning provincewide, a trio of academics at the University of Manitoba wants to find out how teachers have adopted educational technology into classrooms and adjusted their roles in response.

City school division gearing up for hike in COVID variant cases
Winnipeg Free Press
SEVEN Oaks School Division is preparing for a rise in exposures of highly contagious variants of COVID-19 in its schools.

Province of Manitoba
As part of Budget 2021: Protecting Manitobans, Advancing Manitoba, the Manitoba government is providing an additional $100 million for a total of over $260 million in kindergarten to Grade 12 school capital investments to advance school improvement projects and expedite the province’s commitment to build 20 news schools, Education Minister Cliff Cullen announced today.

Education spending in 2021 budget could speed up Manitoba school openings by 5 years, minister says
Money announced last week in Manitoba's 2021 budget could speed up the provincial government's promise to build 20 new schools by as much as five years, Education Minister Cliff Cullen says.

Province earmarks $100M in budget to accelerate new-school construction
Winnipeg Free Press
The education minister says an extra $100 million in the provincial budget will speed up the process of getting 20 new schools built in Manitoba.

Alberta Teachers’ Association demands full rewrite of draft K-6 education curriculum
Toronto Star
The Alberta Teachers’ Association wants the province to immediately scrap its draft education curriculum for young students and to start over.

'Under duress,' Laurentian University faculty ratify new collective agreement
Two days after deep staff and program cuts were announced, the Laurentian University Faculty Association has ratified its collective agreement — but its president says it was done under duress.

Unions at Laurentian University ratify new collective agreements; agree to wage cuts
CTV News
There are two new collective agreements in place at Laurentian University, following a devastating week of staffing and program cuts on campus.

Nearly 850 Dalhousie University Staff Poised To Go On Strike Over Pensions
Nearly 850 Dalhousie University employees could go on strike as early as Thursday after 80 percent of the NSGEU members rejected the latest offer from the university. The potential strike action comes after seven months of failed negotiations between the two sides.

Alberta tables bill that could lead to expanded apprenticeship programs
Edmonton Journal
The Alberta government has introduced new legislation that could pave the way for apprenticeship-style education to expand beyond traditional skilled trades.

Ontario to make two new universities following Laurentian’s financial troubles
Globe and Mail
The Ontario government moved to grant independence to a medical school and a francophone university in Northern Ontario on Thursday, just days after more than 100 faculty positions and nearly 70 programs were eliminated at Laurentian University.

Sudbury column: The time for universal post-secondary education has arrived
Sudbury Star
One of the best things any government can do during a downturn (or for that matter in the middle of a global pandemic) is to invest in people – in their health, their safety on the job, as well as their security and their education.

April 14, 2021

Tories plan to make road map for public school reform
Winnipeg Free Press
Parents will have an opportunity to weigh in on how the province can improve local voice and engagement amid sweeping reforms to the K-12 public school system.

Manitoba seeks feedback on education reform, but NDP says go back to drawing board
The Manitoba government has new plans to consult with teachers, parents and guardians about a major overhaul to the province's education system.

Around 73,000 Quebec teachers stage early-morning strike over contract dispute
Globe and Mail
Some 73,000 Quebec teachers are holding an unusual strike today that began just after midnight and is set to last until 9:30 a.m.

CICan launches new report and environmental scan on microcredentials
Colleges and Institutes Canada
In order to help understand the latest trends in lifelong learning, Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) has released a new study on the status of microcredentials. Based on an environmental scan and a survey of colleges and institutes, the report shows how these flexible and accessible learning options are gaining ground across the country.

Concerns raised over proposed 45-per-cent tuition increase to University of Alberta law program
Edmonton Journal
University of Alberta students are raising concerns over a proposed 45-per-cent increase to tuition for the Faculty of Law’s Juris Doctor program.

UNB faces class-action lawsuit for 'systemic failure' to protect students from alleged sexual assault
A Fredericton law firm has filed a class-action application against the University of New Brunswick after multiple students said a psychiatrist at the student health centre sexually assaulted them.

Tories on side with $600K child-care report
Winnipeg Free Press
FAMILIES Minister Rochelle Squires says the government agrees with a new consultant’s report that advocates for a more flexible child-care system to meet the varying needs of Manitoba parents.

Manitoba will hold off on boosting child-care fees for now, despite consultant's proposal
Manitoba's families minister said she doesn't agree with a nearly $600,000 report her government commissioned that recommends higher-income families pay more for child care.

Province of Manitoba
The province is supporting accessibility and greater protection for Manitobans living with disabilities through a new $20-million endowment fund that will provide grants to municipalities, businesses and organizations to help eliminate barriers to their services, Families Minister Rochelle Squires announced today.

New book returns disabled narratives to history
The Manitoban
A book co-edited by University of Manitoba associate professor Nancy Hansen was recently released in paperback. Titled The Routledge History of Disability, the book discusses the ways disabilities and people with disabilities have been represented and treated across the world from the age of antiquity up to the modern day.

Pallister's ex-communications boss sues for wrongful dismissal
Winnipeg Free Press
The former head of Premier Brian Pallister's communications staff, who was let go last summer, is suing for wrongful dismissal.

Manitoba civil servant loses title after premier learns he travelled to Las Vegas to referee UFC match
A senior Manitoba civil servant was stripped of his assistant deputy minister title after Premier Brian Pallister learned he travelled to Las Vegas to referee a UFC match, but the government refuses to say whether the employee had been granted permission for the travel.

Federal aid package fails workers at Air Canada: CUPE
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the union representing roughly 10,000 flight attendants at Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge, says the federal government’s $5.9 billion aid package for Air Canada announced Monday evening breaks the government’s commitments to workers.

Canadian Pension Plan dollars are being used to fund Bolsonaro’s water privatization in Brazil
Public Services International
The Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board CPPIB is in the process of acquiring a 45% stake in a Brazilian sanitation company called Igua Saneamento for $266 million. Igua Saneamento is seeking this capital to participate in the privatization and auctioning of public water services in the state of Rio de Janeiro scheduled to take place on April 30st.

Labor After Bessemer
The American Prospect
When was the last time a union had a major victory at a large private-sector workplace? I guess it was at the Smithfield Foods slaughterhouse in 2008, and before then, at the Fieldcrest Cannon textile mills in 1999—both in North Carolina. The victory at Smithfield was the third such election there, the union having lost the previous two, and at Fieldcrest Cannon, the fourth, the union there having lost the previous three. By dint of never leaving, those unions had become a permanent part of their respective communities, which was one reason why they finally prevailed.

April 13, 2021

Basic-income model is already here
Winnipeg Free Press
My colleague Evelyn Forget has argued forcefully that the time is right for a basic income ("Canada can afford a basic income," March 3) and draws a parallel with our universal health-care plan developed a half-century ago.

Make higher-income families pay more for child-care spaces, Manitoba government told in review
Manitoba should rely on higher-income families to pay more for child care so the provincial government can further subsidize the costs for families of lesser means, an independent report recommends.

Alberta doctors say trust must be rebuilt after proposed new labour deal rejected
Globe and Mail
The head of the Alberta Medical Association says many factors led to the recent collapse of a proposed master agreement with the province, but he says a key one was lack of trust.

City of Calgary employee charged nearly $95K in overtime
A document obtained by CBC News shows a City of Calgary employee worked nearly 714 hours of overtime during the pandemic last year, charging the city $94,818.

'The right thing to do:' Sobeys reinstates lockdown bonus for front-line workers
CTV News
Canada's second-largest grocery retailer is reinstating a lockdown bonus for workers in areas with renewed stay-at-home orders, yet it's unclear whether competitors will follow suit.

Maybe Amazon workers just don’t like unions
Yahoo! Finance

Was it rigged? Labor leaders insist they lost the closely watched unionization vote at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., on April 9 because Amazon played dirty. The retail giant lobbied hard against unionization and held worker “training” sessions where managers insisted Amazon’s pay and benefits were better than a union deal. Some workers felt Amazon tried to intimidate them or identify union supporters for possible retaliation.

US unions not fazed by Amazon setback and vow to keep up the organizing fight
The Guardian
he coronavirus has spurred worker organizing efforts around the United States, as the spread of the virus created a sense of urgency in improving working conditions, safety protections and job security.

He Tried To Organize Workers In China's Gig Economy. Now He Faces 5 Years In Jail
Zipping along Beijing's streets on an electric scooter with sometimes death-defying speed, Chen Guojiang delivered hundreds of take-out food orders a day.

Laurentian fires professors, slashes programs
Globe and Mail
Laurentian University fired dozens of professors and slashed its program offerings in an unprecedented round of cuts on Monday aimed at tackling the university’s insolvency.

CAUT condemns job losses at Laurentian University
Today’s lay-offs could have been avoided and will undermine Laurentian University’s chances of recovery, charges the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). At least 80 members of Laurentian University Faculty Association (LUFA) are said to have received termination notices today.

Academics in Support of Laurentian University
Google Docs
We, the undersigned students, professors, researchers, and other academics, are writing to you to urgently request that you take action to save the future of Laurentian University.

'An ugly stain for years to come': Laurentian University students, staff reeling from cuts
Monday was one of the worst days on record for the Laurentian University community, with the news roughly 100 faculty members lost their jobs and dozens of programs were cancelled, leaving students, staff and other interests reeling.

Faculty association files complaints against Medicine Hat College over contract talk tactics
Medicine Hat News
The faculty association at Medicine Hat College has filed labour board complaints stating the institution’s board of governors is attempting to undermine its authority as the two sides discuss a new contract.

Several school boards moving to online learning due to Wednesday's teacher's strike
CTV News
Several Quebec school boards have announced plans to proceed with onlining learning on Wednesday, as teachers will engage in a strike.

Ontario universities seek $500-million additional aid to deal with pandemic pressures
Globe and Mail
Ontario universities are asking the provincial government for an additional $500-million this year to deal with financial pressures brought on by the pandemic.

Universities, colleges and COVID-19: Lessons learned?
Globe and Mail
For over a year, COVID-19 has re-shaped our social and economic priorities, and tested the resilience of our public institutions. The critical importance of healthcare workers and public health decision-making has never been more clear. The pandemic has also shown us gaps: the technological divides that make it difficult for many children to learn, for people to work remotely, and for many adults to find and book vaccine appointments; the inequities that continue to put frontline workers, and their communities, in more danger; and our reliance on international supply chains, including for PPE and vaccines.

Joint Statement: Over 415 Orgs Call on President Biden to Cancel Federal Student Debt Immediately using Executive Action
Today, over 415 organizations sent an updated letter to President Biden and Vice President Harris, calling on them to use executive authority to cancel federal student debt immediately.

April 12, 2021

Blowout in Bessemer: A Postmortem on the Amazon Campaign
The Nation
arlier today the National Labor Relations Board announced the results of the vote on whether workers at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., would join a union. The vote was 738 in favor to 1,798 against. It’s bad news, but it doesn’t mean workers in future Amazon campaigns won’t or can’t win. They can. The results were not surprising, however, for reasons that have more to do with the approach used in the campaign itself than any other factor.

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?
Organizing Work
The RWDSU campaign against Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama was a media frenzy from the beginning. Not all of that may have been RWDSU’s intention, although they constantly promoted and responded to the coverage. Like many unions, they have often used the “corporate campaign” strategy of beating an employer up in the press.

Amazon workers in Alabama vote against forming union
Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., handed the online retail giant a decisive victory when they voted against forming a union and cut off a path that labour activists had hoped would lead to similar efforts throughout the company and beyond.

THE ‘U-WORD’  Firing worker for saying union out loud sparks union drive
Canadian Labour Institute for Social and Economic Fairness
FIRING TAVIN CRAWFORD BACKFIRED. It was supposed to stop any talk of unions at Wynn Park Villa Ltd., a long-term care residence in Truro, Nova Scotia. It didn’t. Instead, the workers at the private operation got themselves a union certification vote.

Expiration of Memorandum of Agreement pausing bargaining means employers are no longer obligated to offer some protections for employees
United Nurses of Alberta
The memorandum of agreement that paused bargaining expired on March 31, meaning employers party to the Provincial Collective Agreement are no longer required to offer provisions designed to protect employees from COVID-19 infection and other impacts of the pandemic.

Op-ed: Labour unions will be key to forging the post-pandemic recovery
Now Toronto
“We are all in this together.” That was the slogan repeated by Doug Ford last March as the COVID-19 pandemic turned our lives upside down.

Students, faculty, call on Pallister to put more money on the kitchen table
The Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations (MOFA) and the Canadian Federation of Students Manitoba (CFS-MB) are calling on the Pallister government to use unspent funds from the 2020 fiscal year to prevent unnecessary tuition fee hikes and funding cuts in this year’s budget. Last year, the Pallister government announced a $120 million dollar student support program; however only $18.7 million was ever spent. In this year’s budget, the province slashed funding to universities and colleges by $8.7 million, which caused tuition fees to increase by 3.75% at the University of Manitoba.

Amendment coming to exclude post-secondary student union fees from Manitoba Bill 33
Student union fees levied on post-secondary students in Manitoba will be excluded from new legislation that allows the provincial government to guide tuition and student fees charged by post-secondary institutions.

Manitoba adjusts Bill 33 to exempt student union fees
Winnipeg Sun
Students Union fees will be officially exempt from the Advanced Education Administration Amendment Act.

Laurentian University is in peril, and it’s not alone. Governments have systematically underfunded universities and colleges across the country for decades
Toronto Star
There was a heated volley in the House of Commons recently over the fate of French post-secondary education in the country. “The official languages in education program has been frozen for years,” noted opposition MP Alexandre Boulerice. “In Alberta, Campus Saint-Jean is under attack from the Kenney government. In Ontario, Laurentian University is fighting to survive.”

Appeal court green-lights professor’s case against a New Brunswick university
Global News
New Brunswick’s Court of Appeal has rejected Mount Allison University’s effort to block a lawsuit by a prominent professor who says the school failed to abide by promises made to recruit him.

'Too little, too late': Feds freeze student loan interest, but monthly repayments continue
CTV News
Starting April 1, the interest rate has been set to zero per cent for the federal portion of student loans, but activists say that's not enough to support recent graduates, many of whom continue to struggle to find jobs as the pandemic persists.​

School custodian refuses to download phone app that monitors location, says it got her fired
Michelle Dionne was excited about her new job, helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by doing extra cleaning in an elementary school in Darwell, Alta. — about 85 kilometres west of Edmonton.

Staff, students 'stressed and uncertain' as Laurentian University job terminations set for today
The pace of change at Laurentian University, which is in the midst of insolvency negotiations, is speeding up as termination notices for faculty and staff at the Sudbury, Ont., school are expected to go out today.

April 9, 2021

Pallister Tells Teachers to Pay for Cuts (Petition)
Manitoba's NDP
After years of cutting and underfunding schools, the Premier is demanding teachers cover the cost of school supplies. Not only does he see nothing wrong with teachers covering the cost of his cuts he hopes to see more teachers be forced to pay out of pocket for essential classroom supplies. Pallister doesn’t pay out of pocket for his essential supplies - but he thinks teachers should.

Premier schooled for encouraging teachers to spend own money on supplies
Winnipeg Free Press
Teachers were taken aback this week when the premier encouraged them to spend their own money on school supplies, following the announcement of a new tax credit for such expenses.

Teachers insulted by Pallister's suggestion they shell out for school supplies
Some Manitoba teachers say they are angry and insulted that Premier Brian Pallister thinks it's fair for teachers to pay out-of-pocket for supplies they need to do their jobs.

Students, faculty give university funding cuts an “F”
City News
Students and faculty are giving the Manitoba government a failing grade on its new budget that cuts funding to post-secondary institutions by $8.7 million.

LUFA says termination notices at Laurentian University go out Monday, April 12
Faculty at Laurentian University will find out Monday, April 12 whether they'll have jobs after the institution is re-structured.

Black professor claims York University pushed to fire him for speaking out against racism
A tenured Black professor is speaking out against what he says is York University's push to fire him for speaking out against anti-Black racism on campus. Aimé Avolonto also rejects a third-party investigation confirming bullying allegations against him.

She accused a university prof of sexual assault. Now he’s suing for defamation. Some fear the ‘landmark’ case could have a chilling effect
Toronto Star
A defamation lawsuit by a novelist and former university professor against a woman who accused him of rape could have a chilling effect on future victims of sexualized violence, and the #MeToo movement more broadly, a B.C. court heard this week.

UNBC faculty signs collective agreement ending lengthy labour dispute with university
The faculty association of the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) has reached its first collective agreement with the university administration since 2014, putting an end to unrest that has led to two strikes and closed classrooms.

Pallister's tax rebate puts $4,000 into his own pocket
Winnipeg Free Press
Premier Brian Pallister promised that the 2021 provincial budget would leave more money on the kitchen tables of Manitobans, and it will — including more than $4,000 on his own.

Manitoba stands apart in tax cuts stance
Winnipeg Free Press
The Pallister government is taking the unusual step of cutting taxes — a move other provinces led by conservatives have avoided as they try to craft a COVID-19 pandemic recovery.

Why billions in federal sick-leave benefits have gone untapped
Globe and Mail
Billions of dollars in federal sick-leave benefits have gone unclaimed and unspent since the program was launched in the fall, even as coronavirus cases have surged across the country.

Many Canadian workers do not see a full return to normal until 2022
Globe and Mail
Almost half of Canadians don’t expect the workplace to return to normal this year amid concerns about the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and uncertainty about safety on the job.

Amazon takes early lead as union vote count gets underway
Winnipeg Free Press
Vote counting in the union push at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, is underway but a winner may not be determined until Friday.

Amazon Bullied and Bribed Their Way to Anti-Union Votes, But It’s Not Over Yet
Left Voice
|At the end of the first day of counting, votes against unionizing at Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama lead the yes votes by a nearly 2-1 margin. With almost half the votes counted, that lead will be almost impossible to overcome. Vote counting resumes tomorrow morning.

In the US, Joe Biden is backing the unions. Britain can only look on in envy
The Guardian
ast week, Joe Biden unveiled a $2tn infrastructure renewal plan whose boldness and scale caught the attention of the world. He began his launch speech in Pittsburgh with a particularly striking affirmation. “I’m a union guy,” the president said. “I support unions. Unions built the middle class. It’s about time they start to get a piece of the action.”

President Joe Biden continues to take an ax to former President Donald Trump’s labor policies, removing all 10 of his predecessor’s appointees to the Federal Service Impasses Panel.