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 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.

April 1, 2020

COVID-19 UM Student Emergency Fund will provide financial support to students
UM Today
We know this time has been difficult for everyone, especially our students. Because of this, the university and its donors are here to offer you some financial relief during this unprecedented disruption in your lives.

Province of Manitoba
At the advice of the chief provincial public health officer, Manitoba is suspending classroom learning for kindergarten to Grade 12 students indefinitely for this school year to help ‘flatten the curve’ and reduce the impact of COVID-19 throughout the province, Premier Brian Pallister and Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced today.

Manitoba K-12 schools close indefinitely due to COVID-19
Classes for kindergarten to Grade 12 students in Manitoba are suspended indefinitely for this school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced Tuesday morning.

Alberta education minister will not reverse decision on layoffs amid COVID-19 pandemic
Global News
Alberta’s education minister, in her first public comments since laying off more than 20,000 people in an email on the weekend, resisted Opposition calls to reverse her decision.

Virus safety remarks put union boss in hot water
Winnipeg Free Press
The head of Winnipeg’s firefighters union will soon face a disciplinary hearing after calling for substantial changes to cope with COVID-19, according to a document obtained by the Free Press.

Union seeks easier compensation for workers on COVID-19 front
Winnipeg Free Press
A union leader is lobbying the province to make compensation easier to obtain for those who suspect they were infected with COVID-19 on the job.

Province deems construction essential; trade unions call for clarity on safety
Winnipeg Free Press
The industrial, commercial, institutional and residential construction sectors are allowed to keep working past April 1. But a pair of trade organizations say the province hasn't given clear instructions for trades to do their job safely while dealing with COVID-19.

Liberals delay release of wage subsidy details
Winnipeg Free Press
Canadian businesses desperate for details about the federal government's promised wage subsidy program will have to wait a little longer for answers.

Unifor recommends membership reject Co-op refinery's 'best and final offer'
The Co-op Refinery Complex (CRC) has made a new offer to their locked-out Unifor members and has applied to force a vote on the proposal. The union's leadership is recommending its membership reject the offer.

Unifor unable to accept the Co-op Refinery final offer
After carefully analyzing the final offer tabled on March 30, 2020 by Co-op Refinery, the Unifor Local 594 Bargaining Committee is recommending the membership reject the offer when the forced final vote is conducted by the Saskatchewan Labour Board.

U.S. businesses cut 27,000 jobs in March, before virus hit
Winnipeg Free Press
U.S. companies shed 27,000 jobs in March, according to a private survey, a figure that mostly reflected the economy as it stood before the full impact of the viral outbreak.

Citing coronavirus, construction unions urge a statewide halt to building projects
The Boston Globe
Leaders of the state’s largest construction labor group on Tuesday called for a monthlong halt to nearly all building projects across Massachusetts.

March 31, 2020

Manitoba to close non-critical businesses starting Wednesday
CTV News
The Manitoba government has issued a new public health order, to come into effect April 1, which will require all non-critical businesses to close until April 14.

Manitoba's finances in for a hard fall
Winnipeg Free Press
The look on Premier Brian Pallister’s face last week said it all. The scale of the financial disaster that will hit individuals, businesses, not-for-profits and all levels of government this year from the COVID-19 outbreak is almost impossible to measure. But it will be catastrophic.

Hospitality workers' union says 90% of members have lost their jobs in past 2 weeks
The union that represents more than 60,000 hospitality workers in B.C. says its members — many of them single mothers, immigrants and people of colour — are reeling from the fallout of COVID-19 layoffs and slowdowns.

General Electric Workers Walk Off the Job, Demand to Make Ventilators
On Monday, General Electric factory workers walked off the job and demanded that the company convert its jet engine factories to make ventilators. Workers protested at GE's Lynn, Massachusetts aviation facility held a silent protest, standing six feet apart. Union members at the company’s Boston headquarters also marched six feet apart, calling on the company to use its factories to help the country close its ventilator shortage amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Whole Foods Employees Are Staging a Nationwide 'Sick-Out'
Whole Foods employees are planning to strike on Tuesday to protest the lack of protections offered to workers during the coronavirus pandemic—the first national collective action led by workers at the company since it was founded in 1980.

‘The Strike Wave Is in Full Swing’: Amazon, Whole Foods Workers Walk Off Job to Protest Unjust and Unsafe Labor Practices
Citizen Truth
Labor rights advocates on Monday urged the public to show support and solidarity with Amazon employees who walked off the job at a Staten Island warehouse following what the workers said was an unacceptable response by the company to at least one case of coronavirus at the facility.

Jobs Aren’t Being Destroyed This Fast Elsewhere. Why Is That?

The New York Times

The coronavirus pandemic is laying bare structural deficiencies in America’s social programs. The relief package passed by Congress last week provides emergency fixes for some of these issues, but it also leaves critical problems untouched. To avoid a Great Depression, Congress must quickly design a more forceful response to the crisis.

COVID-19: We Should Have Been Listening to Healthcare Workers
Rank and File
Denyse Joseph is helping to manage a crisis team for her union. “We’re looking at everything that comes out each day, each hour, regarding this pandemic crisis,” she tells “What are the measures the government is putting in place? Is it respecting the safety and security of our members?”

Carleton students looking out for homeless during pandemic
Two students from Carleton University are making it their mission to help Ottawa's homeless through the COVID-19 crisis.

Waterloo region's universities, college gather up supplies to donate to healthcare workers
'It's uplifting to see some of the efforts being made to help out across campus,' @WaterlooSci says

Alberta college and university performance-based funding changes delayed by pandemic
The Alberta government has pushed back the start date for a new post-secondary funding model.

Ranking Academic Freedom Globally
Inside Higher Ed
Comparative data on academic freedom has been hard to come by, but a new index released Thursday assigns ratings to countries based on how free scholars are to teach and research.

March 30, 2020

'A new hazard': Union representing federal meat inspectors want safety guarantee
Winnipeg Free Press
The union representing federal meat inspectors says its members will be back at work Monday at a meatpacking plant just north of Calgary if the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is reassured that it's safe.

Manitoba unions hear from scared workers during pandemic
Winnipeg Free Press
Manitoba workers who fear the spread of COVID-19 while on the job, including postal workers who are deemed essential, are bombarding unions and labour groups with their concerns.

'Please pay attention': unions issue public plea to protect front-line workers
Winnipeg Free Press
Union leaders representing workers in the grocery store and essential service sectors are pleading with the public to respect policies meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Province of Manitoba
The Manitoba government is adding a temporary exception to employment standards regulations to give employers more time to recall employees laid off as a result of COVID-19, Finance Minister Scott Fielding announced today.

Knowledge can be contagious
Winnipeg Free Press
Xiaojian Yao recalls watching with shock as a new contagion swept across mainland China in late January; the number of infections grew each day, so too did the death count.

Working from home during this pandemic could provide tax savings
The Globe and Mail
Here I am, working from home – like many of you. I’ve never had so many video conference calls in a week – but they’re going well. I try to look good – from the waist up. As a general rule, working from home means pants are optional (well, dress pants anyway).

USW COVID-19 Demands to Federal and Provincial Governments
The United Steelworkers union calls on the federal and provincial governments to immediately enact the following reforms to support workers and retirees during these uncertain times.

UCP's decision to axe 20,000 education jobs during a crisis will set families adrift and further damage the economy, says AFL
Alberta Federation of Labour
“Cowardly, cold-hearted, dishonest and irresponsible.”

Order Waiving Contract Protections for Hospital Staff Is “Unnecessary, Disrespectful and Coercive”: OCHU
It is profoundly unfair to a dedicated mostly female hospital workforce who due to the lack of protective masks, face shields and other equipment are already in harms way and greater risk of COVID-19 infection that the Ontario government gives itself broad powers to take away their workplace rights, says Michael Hurley president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE).

New York Nurses Are Living a Heartbreaking Nightmare
Labor Notes
Last Sunday I worked in the Montefiore Medical Center Moses Division Emergency Department and I want to share with you the real-life story—and most certainly not the worst story.

Co-op refinery revels in repeated refusals to co-operate
Canadian Labour Institute for Social and Economic Fairness
THE IRONY IS STUNNING AND INFURIATING. No co-op does that. No company that calls itself a “co-operative” absolutely, categorically, adamantly, perversely refuses to co-operate. But the Federated Co-operatives Limited in Regina did, and does.

US lawmakers press Amazon to do more to protect its workers
A group of 14 US lawmakers on Friday urged Amazon to boost its efforts to protect its employees during the coronavirus outbreak, adding to a long list of groups raising concerns about Amazon workers' health during the crisis.

Post-COVID-19 classrooms: What if 'keeping your distance' becomes the new school normal?
National Post
Keeping your distance may prove to be habit forming. Following the strict advice of our chief medical officers of health, the vast majority of citizens and organizations are practising physical distancing to contain the spread of COVID-19. If the new public health conventions become ingrained and persist beyond the immediate crisis, the fundamental change in social norms will profoundly alter life in public settings, particularly in schools and classrooms.

New literacy and numeracy tool released amid COVID-19
Parents now have access to a new tool to help them improve their children’s numeracy and literary skills while schools are closed.

March 27, 2020

COVID-19 and the Academic Workplace: Questions & Answers
Canada’s public health agencies are continuously monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and providing infection control guidance. That advice is changing rapidly. In the meantime, academic staff associations and their members are facing many workplace issues arising from the spread of COVID-19.

Coronavirus Information for Higher Ed
We are monitoring the outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and will be regularly updating this page of resources for AAUP members and others in the higher education community. The AAUP emphasizes the need for governmental responses to COVID-19 to be guided by expert knowledge and stresses the importance of faculty participation in the development of institutional responses to the coronavirus. As our Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities observes, the faculty has primary responsibility in areas such as curriculum, methods of instruction, and aspects of student life that relate to the educational process.

Educators in Morocco and Palestine donate wages to COVID-19 solidarity fund
Education International
As the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19) spreads across the world, paralysing entire countries, underprivileged families bear the brunt of the crisis, with parents unable to work and support their children. Educators in Palestine and Morocco have decided to donate part of their wages to help the most vulnerable and the fight against the virus.

U-Pass saved in City of Winnipeg’s budget
UM Today
A number of proposed cuts to the City of Winnipeg’s budget have recently been reconsidered, based on the city’s executive policy committee vote this past Wednesday.

PST cut crushed under financial weight of COVID-19
Winnipeg Free Press
A week ago, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister bragged his government would still deliver on a promised PST cut, and spoke confidently about its financial preparedness to withstand a pandemic.

Province not intervening in Regina refinery labour dispute
The provincial government says it will not intervene in the bitter, 112-day labour dispute between the Co-op Refinery Complex in Regina and Unifor 594.

Workers to stay 'bunkered in' at water treatment plant in Brandon, Man., to ensure service during pandemic
Nine workers will stay indefinitely at the City of Brandon's water treatment facility, to ensure the city's water supply keeps flowing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city announced Thursday.

Ottawa shuts Service Canada centres after employees refuse to work
Globe and Mail
The federal government is shutting the doors to all of its 317 Service Canada Centres – where people can apply in person for employment insurance, Old Age Security, pension benefits and passports – on Friday after employees en masse refused to work.

As online orders surge, what about the Amazon workers?
The Star
Crowded work spaces, limited access to paid sick days, and confusion over quarantine leave.

Jobs may not return after COVID-19 pandemic, agencies fear
The London Free Press
Workers may return to a very changed job market or no job at all, when the COVID-19 pandemic ends, said some working in London’s employment sector.