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 21, 2021

Search for a Provost and Vice-President (Academic)
UM Today
As announced this Fall, Dr. Janice Ristock, after an acclaimed three-decade career at the University of Manitoba in a variety of academic and administrative roles, is not seeking an extension or renewal of her term as Provost and Vice-President (Academic) when it ends in June, 2021.

Fees may double as Manitoba's new funding model pits nursery schools against each other, administrator says
Hundreds of Manitoba parents could end up paying twice as much to send their children to nursery school starting this summer, under a new funding formula.

McGill students anxious for update in sexual misconduct investigation
Some students at McGill University say they're anxious for an update into an investigation that began before the holidays, looking into sexual misconduct allegations against a student.

Western University faculty, students slam chancellor over holiday trip
The London Free Press
A holiday trip out of the country by Western University’s chancellor is “insulting” to the school’s staff and students, says the head of the union representing 1,500 faculty members.

CTU delegates approve walkout, send vote to full union membership
Chicago Sun Times
The Chicago Teachers Union has moved one step closer to defying Chicago Public Schools’ reopening plan, passing a resolution through its governing body that would see all union members refuse to work in-person until an agreement is reached with the district on health and safety protocols.

Recruitment for Manitoba's vaccination team a 'gong show'
Winnipeg Free Press
Retired and practising nurses who responded to a government plea for help to administer COVID-19 vaccinations are calling the recruitment process a "gong show" and a case of the "left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing."

Province has financial room to stop the suffering
Winnipeg Free Press
The Manitoba Fiscal and Economic Update released just before the holidays shows Manitoba has much more fiscal room to respond to the COVID-19  crisis. The provincial government needs to rethink its single-minded commitment to austerity and privatization. Otherwise we are in for a long, hard recovery. 

Ford Government must protect frontline workers and stop letting employers off the hook for workplace COVID-19 outbreaks
Region of Waterloo paramedics are being denied Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) claims after contracting COVID-19, a move CUPE believes is being enabled by the Ford Government’s unwillingness to hold employers accountable for workplace outbreaks.

Corrupt UAW boss wore wire while playing golf with union brothers
The Detroit News
Prosecutors on Wednesday said a United Auto Workers official caught in a years-long corruption scandal deserves probation because he helped prosecutors convict two former presidents and secure federal oversight of the belabored union.

1,400 Workers in the Bronx Are on Strike for a Livable Wage
More than a thousand workers at Hunts Point Produce Market in the Bronx are striking for a dollar-an-hour raise. They risked their health to feed New York City throughout the pandemic — they deserve the city’s solidarity.

January 20, 2021

Post-secondary schools offer support, but is it reaching students?
Toronto Star
Aníbal Martens arrived in Canada months before the pandemic hit and immediately asked staff at Seneca College about opportunities to engage with others in his new school’s 2SLGBTQ+ community.

Crisis messaging: how universities are communicating the pandemic
University Affairs
Almost exactly a year ago, on January 21, 2020, a university in Southern China issued new health guidelines to protect students and teachers from a strange new virus that was rapidly spreading. The message was sent via the school’s official WeChat social media channel just hours after China’s National Health Commission confirmed the human-to-human transmission of the new disease. Forty-eight hours later and some 9,500 km away, a university in Saskatchewan issued a notice about a novel coronavirus and urged its faculty and staff to avoid travel to Hubei province, China, the center of the outbreak. Four days later, a public research university in Tennessee updated students about an ongoing coronavirus outbreak in China but assured them there were no reports of cases on campus. By the end of the month there would be almost 10,000 confirmed cases worldwide and over 200 dead.

Beyond Tenure Clock Management
Inside Higer Ed
As we begin the spring semester, the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage and worsen. It’s thus time for higher education to stop treating COVID-19’s impact on faculty careers as primarily a time-management problem, one that can be handled through clock extensions and other short-term interventions. Especially at research-oriented universities, responding effectively to the upheaval resulting from COVID-19 will instead require both institutions and faculty members to reimagine long-term policies and structures that define productivity, tenure and promotion. How institutions of higher education respond to this upheaval is crucial for their futures.

The pandemic has shown us why we must restore a margin of safety in our public institutions
Globe and Mail
A fundamental principle of design is the margin of safety – extra capacity or strength that is built in order to protect against the unexpected, or wear and tear. As we assess Canada’s response to the pandemic, we need to think urgently about that safety margin in our public infrastructure. For too long, short-term thinking has taken priority over the long-term planning that should include bracing our public institutions for emergencies.

Facing aggressive pushback, Amazon workers to vote on forming the company’s first American union
The Counter
The company has a long, documented history of anti-union efforts. If successful, this new campaign could galvanize workers across the country, as well as at Whole Foods.

January 19, 2021

COVID-19 worsening Canadian students' diets, inactivity, alcohol consumption: study
CTV News
A new Canadian study has found that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased unhealthy behaviour in post-secondary students.

Lethbridge post-secondary institutions report steady enrolment despite COVID-19 pandemic
Global News
Post-secondary students have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with some choosing to postpone classes or drop out altogether due to financial strain or difficulty with virtual learning.

Education for all webinar
The Education for All campaign is a joint initiative of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and the Public Service Alliance of Canada. Together, our combined memberships of more than one million students and workers are putting forward a vision of a more affordable, accessible, high quality, publicly-funded post-secondary education system in Canada; a system that is ready to take on the challenges of today and tomorrow.

University profs call for careful approach to future of online learning
Saskatoon Star Phoenix
Martin Gaal is no stranger to online learning.

USask reported cases of cheating have increased with online learning
Global News
The University of Saskatchewan says there has been an increase in reports of academic misconduct during the fall term. This, after the switch to online learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Faculty are altering their methods of teaching to combat any cheating.

Teachers voice concerns over parents interfering during online classes
Globe and Mail
In the early days of the country’s unplanned foray into online learning last spring, Toronto mother Zabrina Rego got chastised by her child’s teacher for blurting out the answer to a question.

Brian Pallister’s long war on workers must mark a new era for labour in Manitoba
Canadian Dimension
In 1944, Karl Polanyi published his seminal book, The Great Transformation. In it, he outlined the fundamental importance of reining in out-of-control capital. Polanyi paints unfettered laissez-faire capitalism as a libertarian hellscape—employers exploiting labourers as they desire, leaving them to the immiseration of poverty. Polanyi famously noted that if labour was continually subject to the dictates of a self-regulating market, “human beings would perish from the effects of social exposure… [and] would die as victims of acute social dislocation through vice, perversion, crime, and starvation.”

Gig Workers, Unite! Inside the Foodora union drive
Rank and File
The “gig economy” and the spread of app-based work have become prominent topics of conversation, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Foodora, an app-based food delivery company, has become particularly notorious in Canada for its response to labour organizing by Toronto-based food couriers.

Stellantis warns Unifor blockade could halt operations at Windsor factory
Stellantis is warning that a union blockade at its Windsor Assembly Plant will soon lead to a shutdown of operations.

EU gender pay gap still significant, warn trade unions
TriCity News
Women in Europe doing jobs requiring the same skills as jobs done by men are still being paid significantly less, according to a study by the the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).

The Challenges Posed By COVID-19 Pushed Many Workers to Strike. Will the Labor Movement See Sustained Interest?
erue Cotton never expected to find herself on a picket line. As a forklift operator for Cash-Wa, a regional food distributor in Fargo, North Dakota, she enjoyed the physical challenges and responsibility of her job, and was used to working overnight hours. But this fall, everything changed.

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.