Labour says No More! Solidarity! Union members from Canada and around the world were represented on a Regina picket line Wednesday as leaders from the nation’s largest unions came to the city to show support for locked-out Unifor Local 594 workers.

'Stand together and fight together:' National union leaders join Unifor on picket line

Union members from Canada and around the world were represented on a Regina picket line Wednesday as leaders from the nation’s largest unions came to the city to show support for locked-out Unifor Local 594 workers.

Representatives from more than a dozen unions joined the picket line/barricade outside the Co-op Refinery Complex on Wednesday afternoon, flying flags and holding placards. Local labour, including the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU) and the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) were in attendance, but so too were national and international unions such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Canada Labour Congress (CLC), and even the Seafarers’ International Union of Canada.

James Given, president of Seafarers’ International Union of Canada, speaks during a Unifor rally at a gate to the Co-op Refinery Complex on Fleet Street in Regina, Saskatchewan on Jan 22, 2020. BRANDON HARDER / Regina Leader-Post

Seafarers’ president Jim Given came to landlocked Regina to throw his union’s weight into the dispute. Before heading here, Given got a text from the general secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITWF) Steven Cotton. The ITWF represents 667 unions around the world.

“He said, ‘well you bring a message from me, and you bring a message for our 12 million members of the ITF. We know what’s going on here,’” said Given. “11 and a half million union members are now focused on Regina.”

Hassan Yussuff, president of CLC which represents more than three million Canadian workers, spoke of the need for solidarity.

Hassan Yussuff, Canadian Labour Congress president, speaks during a Unifor rally at a gate to the Co-op Refinery Complex on Fleet Street in Regina, Saskatchewan on Jan 22, 2020. BRANDON HARDER / Regina Leader-Post

“As working people we understand that fundamental gains have been made when we stand together and fight together,” he said.

On Monday night when police arrested 14 people at Gate 7, three City of Regina trucks and a front-end loader came to the CRC’s Fleet Street entrance. During the rally Lana Payne, Unifor’s national secretary-treasurer, said the city workers refused to take part in any action that would disrupt the picket line, prompting a chant of “solidarity,” with English and French inflection heard throughout the crowd.

“Those workers are members of CUPE,” said Payne.

Mark Hancock is president of CUPE, Canada’s largest union representing more than 700,000 people.

He said he heard Monday night that “shit had hit the fan here in Regina,” adding the police had done something horrible, creating a powder keg. “Arresting Jerry (Dias, Unifor’s national president) and all of those Unifor leaders, activists, was incredibly stupid,” he said, calling on the Regina Police Service (RPS) to apologize.

Dias and 13 others were charged with mischief and set to make their first appearances in a Regina courtroom on Feb. 26.

Mark Hancock, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) president, speaks during a Unifor rally at a gate to the Co-op Refinery Complex on Fleet Street in Regina, Saskatchewan on Jan 22, 2020. BRANDON HARDER / Regina Leader-Post

Speaking earlier this week, RPS Chief Evan Bray defended the move, saying the police must ensure public safety and uphold the law. “Is it legal to completely barricade a business in our community?” he asked. A judge’s contempt of court decision released Wednesday as the rally was underway answered that question with a no.

During Wednesday’s rally, Payne described police as being on scene with “SWAT teams and tear gas.”

RPS spokeswoman Elizabeth Popowich said members of the crowd control unit were on scene and while they did bring riot gear (like a shield), that equipment was left in the vehicles.

“The embellishments that have been offered are simply not true. There was no SWAT present. There was no tear gas anywhere in the vicinity,” Popowich said.

She said this is not the first time people have “exaggerated or deliberately misled people with respect to what we do.”

Unifor National President Jerry Dias is arrested by the Regina Police Service on the picket line on day 46 of the lock out by Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) in Regina on Monday, January 20, 2020. TROY FLEECE / Regina Leader-Post

Payne led the rally in-lieu of Dias, who is barred from attending the picket line under his release conditions.

“Free Jerry!” shouted a Quebec Unifor member, eliciting laughs from the crowd of hundreds gathered.

“He faces two years in jail if he was to show up here today, that is the conditions of his release,” said Payne, prompting the pickets to cry out “shame” and “welcome to Canada.”

On Tuesday evening, following the hostilities of Monday, the barricade felt more like a party than a fight. Police were not present on Fleet Street as pickets danced, ate hotdogs and set up a small badminton net near cars with flattened, or no tires at all.

To Yussef and Hancock the struggle at Regina’s CRC — where the key sticking point is pensions — has become a symbol for working people across Canada fighting for “dignity,” as Yussef put it.

“This fundamental fight about pensions is going on across this country, especially with private sector unions and public sector unions,” said Hancock. “If they take away pensions in the private sector, we in the public sector know they’re coming after ours next. This is a fight for the whole labour movement”

Yussuf said the provincial government has a legal and moral responsibility to get the two sides back to the bargaining table. Premier Scott Moe and Opposition leader Ryan Meili, who attended the rally, sent letters this week urging as much.

— with files from Austin Davis

alsalloum@postmedia.com

Twitter/@AlecJSalloum

For Immediate Release-Grey Bruce Labour Council Union Members lost in Plane Crash January 9, 2020

For Immediate Release-Grey Bruce Labour Council

Union Members lost in Plane Crash

January 9, 2020

Families, friends and loved ones across Canada and in so many places around the world are in mourning today as they experience the unspeakable loss of the lives of those lost in the recent plane crash in Iran.

Words pale in light of such tragic events and the pain of loss is everlasting. From the desk of Grey Bruce Labour Council President and OSSTF Member, Kevin Smith, “the delegates and the affiliated unions of the Council want to express publicly our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to all who must endure this profound loss. In addition, the family of labour mourns not only for all the loss of the life, but we have learned that this crash ended the lives of several members and staff of unions across Canada. Yes, our labour family also is enduring and sharing in the pain and loss through the loss of our union brothers and sisters”.

On behalf of the delegates and affiliated unions of the Grey Bruce Labour Council “we stand by all those who must endure, and to our labour family, we stand in sympathy and in solidarity. It is our deepest desire that everyone will find their strength and through the love of others remember and cherish their memories and their work.

Condolences and Solidarity

Kevin Smith, President

Grey Bruce Labour Council

OPSEU to launch Charter challenge on Bill 124

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Doug Ford rammed through Bill 124 last year. This legislation amounts to unacceptable interference with our collective bargaining rights enshrined in the constitution. OPSEU will not allow it to stand unchallenged.

Bill 124 is a violation of section 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, undermining our rights to free collective bargaining. By pushing this legislation through, Doug Ford is telling working people that he can call the shots as he pleases and ignore the fundamental laws and principles of our country.

He is dead wrong and we will stop him dead in his tracks.

As such, OPSEU is mounting our own legal challenge. Every time OPSEU members face this kind of bullying behavior, we stare down the bully and become stronger as a union. In 2016 the Ontario courts ruled that the previous Liberal government violated the constitutional right to free collective bargaining with legislation that set rules for school boards to negotiate contracts with their workers.

The courts were clear that the government was out of line then, and this time will be no different. OPSEU will fight this legislation in the court of law and the court of public opinion. It won’t be easy work, but in the end we are going to win.

OPSEU’s Executive Board has voted in favour of launching and funding our Charter challenge. It will be filed with the courts in the coming weeks.

Information Pickets at both Lisa Thompson and Bill Walkers Offices on Wednesday January 8th beginning at 3:40 until 4:20. If you are able to join them for these pickets please do, if you are unable to join them at a picket, please join their members that are unable to travel and arrive to the MPP offices to flood the phones ( filling voicemails), send emails and post on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)

Greetings Sisters and Brothers,
As you are likely aware OSSTF and the Ford government are continuing to struggle to come to an agreement. As such OSSTF is continuing with a Full withdrawal of service in some school boards while the others are continuing information pickets. OSSTF Bluewater is NOT part of the strikes happening on January 8th, but will be holding Information Pickets at both Lisa Thompson and Bill Walkers Offices on Wednesday January 8th beginning at 3:40 until 4:20. If you are able to join them for these pickets please do, if you are unable to join them at a picket, please join their members that are unable to travel and arrive to the MPP offices to flood the phones ( filling voicemails), send emails and post on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)

Below is the message that has been sent to all OSSTF Bluewater members,

OSSTF has announced that the next phase of their plan will be a one-day, full withdrawal of services in selected locations across Ontario on Wednesday, January 8, 2020.

District 7 (Bluewater) is NOT one of the districts that have been selected to strike on January 8; instead, we will participate in information actions on that day to support the full withdrawal of services in other districts. The goals are still to get our message out and to draw attention to the issues. This time, we are focusing on actions that target local MPPs.

Bill Walker’s office in Owen Sound from 3:40 until 4:20
Lisa Thompson’s office in Kincardine from 3:40 until 4:20

OSSTF District 8 – Avon Maitland is one of the Districts that will be participating in a full withdrawal of services, they cover both Huron and Perth Counties, (Schools are located in Atwood, Brucefield, Clinton, Dashwood, Ethel, Exeter, Goderich, Gorrie, Hensell, Londesborough, Milverton, Mitchell, Newton, Sebringville, Seaforth, Shakespeare, Stratford, St. Mary’s, St. Pauls, Wingham) if you happen to be in those communities on Wednesday I know they would appreciated your support as well.
In Solidarity,
Kevin

Kevin Smith, President
Grey Bruce Labour Council

gblcpresident@live.ca

Grey Bruce Labour Council Christmas Message, 2019

People of all ethnicities and faiths celebrate special times of the year. For many this time of the year is one of those times. It is so far reaching that many people that may not necessarily note Christmas as a holiday still take time to be kind and to become involved with the Christmas spirit. It is perhaps the magic of the season.

No matter your faith, traditions or ethnicity, the Grey Bruce Labour Council wishes everyone a safe and happy Christmas period.

Delegates to Labour Council know only too well that many in our community will endure this season rather than partake. Many of those able to partake will look to 2020 with fear and trepidation. How in a Province as rich as Ontario or in a country as rich as Canada do we find suffering and fear at this time of year, or anytime of year for that matter? Specifically in Ontario we are subject to government policy that does little to address the roots of poverty, precarious work, abuse of injured workers, health and safety of workplaces, sustaining and retention of manufacturing and many other items that hurt and push workers deeper and deeper into poverty and alienation. The failure of the Ontario government to adequately address these issues often pushes people into despair and deeper into poverty. Not a very good Christmas present.

Not all people experience the planned or negligent actions of the Ford government noted above in the same way. Some live in fear each day of seeing public services underfunded and removed or left in such a way that failure of the service is guaranteed. Some fear that healthcare will be less accessible as the Ford government defunds services and makes very obvious initiatives designed to move the healthcare model in Ontario to be less universal and more of a private “pay as you go”. It may be poorly researched and politically dogmatic choices in the education system. Changes that endanger students, educators and support staff both physically and ways that will prevent the best learning possible. Worrying about whether you can graduate from secondary school or if you will be physically harmed in your workplace is hardly the present any compassionate person wants, or for that matter should stand behind as an elected representative of the Ontario government.

Yes, challenges are part of life and certainly each of us feel them more keenly at this time of year. However, the profoundly desperate, negligent and mean spirited Ontario government of the Doug Ford caucus takes it to a new level as with each move they set the set the clock back on decades of social progress.

All of the thousands of workers represented by the Grey Bruce Labour Council would like nothing more than to simply wish one and all the safety and love of the season, but we must call out the worst government in a generation in Ontario.