Prosperous Post COVID-19

Dear Editor

The path to a prosperous and inclusive post COVID-19 world will not be found or navigated without the full engagement of the Labour Movement and Organized Labour. This means full engagement with Labour at the federal, provincial and, most importantly, the municipal level.

Often noted by pundits addressing the social issues in the midst of this global pandemic, “the pandemic is not creating new problems in as much as it has turned a magnifying glass on the cracks in the social fabric of society”. Labour has never been silent or passive in speaking truth to power. This means that Labour gives no level of government gets a free pass when, as governments have done for so long, undermined and underfund valued public services like education and healthcare.

Being active on the federal and provincial fronts will always be part of Labour’s work, but no where is it more possible to actually influence decisions than at the municipal level of politics. Economies at all levels have been put under profound stress since the first days of COVID-19 lockdown. Government revenues have been adversely affected due to vast numbers of businesses being closed down or numbers of employees being reduced due to the COVID-19 lockdown. After decades of underfunding public services by successive Conservative and Neo-Liberal governments in Canada Labour fully anticipates that the same failed policies of austerity will be perversely used to excuse even more repugnant attacks on public services in the name of recouping the money spent to get people through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Labour has no intention of sitting back and permitting governments to pay for COVID-19 relief on the backs of workers in public services. In fact, the opposite is true, and Labour will be advocating for more spending by  advocating to federal and provincial governments to support of municipalities through urgent and immediate emergency funding to prevent degradation of public services  and staff lay offs. Furthermore, Labour is insisting that all levels of government take a hard look at taxation and “stop being afraid to make corporations and the most affluent of Canadians pay the taxes that they should and the taxes that will support a sustainable Canada for all and not disproportionately ask Canadian workers to pay for COVID-19 relief”.

Emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic will eventually take place. We see all too plainly each day the choices being made by people that will make this emergence more challenging. Missteps individually and in groups, such as neglecting simple acts of ignoring social distancing and putting others at risk by not wearing a face covering are the daily grist of the news and the fuel for a longer pandemic. Commitment to good behaviors in this context represent one facet of an expedient and successful emergence.

There is much more to this successful emergence. The resurrection of the economy is not a return to normal. Our most recent “so called” normal was a planned and deliberate attack by Conservatives and Neo-Liberals and their corporate enablers on social democratic institutions, the rights of workers, public services, and the environment.

The pandemic is forcing a dissection of all the failings of recent decades, but more importantly it is showing us the path to getting better. The Grey Bruce Labour Council, as the voice of Labour in our region, will be part of the setting the agenda for emergence and economic recovery in our region. The Council will look for a collaborative approach with government and business to ensure that no aspect of a society that cares for everyone is overlooked. Local economic development and government will hear from the Labour Council and will be put on notice that the “old” normal is unacceptable to Labour, working people and all those marginalized in the last forty plus years.

These voices of socially responsible change are looking for collaboration, but there must be no mistake. The pandemic is providing opportunities not witnessed in over one hundred years. A world reset is here and destruction of the institutionalized underfunding of public services and the intentional abandonment of our most vulnerable people must be left behind with our pre-pandemic world. Should collaboration by local governments and local economic development not be forthcoming, the voices working for socially responsible change will be heard by whatever means are necessary.

Grey Bruce Labour Council

Huge crowd marches in solidarity with Black Lives Matter in Owen Sound

Huge crowd marches in solidarity with Black Lives Matter in Owen Sound

Huge crowd marches in solidarity with Black Lives Matter in Owen Sound

Participants of Wednesday’s Owen Sound Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter kneel together at the Owen Sound Black History Cairn in honour of George Floyd. DENIS LANGLOIS

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Hundreds of people marched between city hall and Owen Sound’s Black History Cairn on a sweltering Wednesday afternoon as part of a rally against racism and injustice and in solidarity with the international Black Lives Matter movement.

After arriving at the cairn, unveiled in 2004 as a memorial to the city’s first Black settlers, participants knelt together for eight minutes and 46 seconds – the amount of time George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was pinned to the ground May 25 by a white Minneapolis police officer before he died.

Rally organizer Jill Lyman, one of the people who spoke to the crowd at Harrison Park, said taking a knee at the cairn as a group was an emotional experience.

She urged participants to continue the work to fight racism and inequity.

“This is not where it ends. This is the beginning. This doesn’t stop here. I’m glad that you all came out to march today, but put your signs on your lawn, put them in your window. Educate yourself on this. Donate. Share with your friends, have a conversation,” she said.

Pat Lorenzo, who also spoke to the crowd while standing in front of the cairn, said there has been a Black community in Owen Sound for at least the past 158 years when the annual Emancipation Day picnic was first held.

“All we’re asking is to treat us just like you,” she said. “Every doctor in here knows the only difference with us and you is the colour of our skin.”

She said she is tired of fighting just to be recognized.

The march began at 4 p.m. at city hall and wrapped up just after 5 p.m., before heavy rain started to fall on Owen Sound.

Temperatures during the march surpassed 32 C and Environment Canada had a heat warning in effect. Thunder could be heard from Harrison Park as the crowd knelt near the cairn.

Participants of the march wore masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic and most carried signs with slogans like “Enough is Enough” and “Canada is Racist Too.”

At points in the march, the line of participants stretched from the entrance to Harrison Park to city hall.

The march took place a day after the funeral of Floyd, the unarmed Black man who died while a white police officer had his knee pressed onto Floyd’s neck as a handcuffed Floyd begged for his life.

Floyd’s death has triggered widespread protests, rallies, marches and other events against racism and police brutality.

Another local march in support of Black Lives Matter is set for Saturday at 10 a.m. in Wiarton.

Earlier this month, Owen Sound Mayor Ian Boddy and city police Chief Craig Ambrose took a knee at the cairn in response to Floyd’s death and to show support for the local Black community. Participants of that event also encouraged people to take a knee at the cairn and post photos doing so on Facebook. People have been posting their images on the OS Take A Knee Facebook page.

The Owen Sound Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter was organized by Lyman, a local university student.

She said her goal was to raise awareness of the Black community in Owen Sound and that racism happens everywhere.

“People believe that since we’re a small town things like that don’t happen here, but racism happens online, it happens in small towns like ours, it happens in the workplace. And people need to acknowledge that,” she said.

Lyman said it was “truly amazing” to see the massive turnout for the event.

Marcus Duffy said growing up in Owen Sound, he’s been accepted for the most part by the people around him, but noted there have been times when he has been discriminated against because he’s Black.

He provided examples to the crowd of what that discrimination has looked and felt like so people who have not experienced it can put themselves in his shoes.

“Racism is a feeling of not wanting to pull up next to a cop because you feel like they’re going to pull you over because of the colour of your skin. Or walking into a store and having everybody turn and look at you or feel like you’re being followed around the store because of the colour of your skin,” he said.

“It’s the feeling of not feeling like you’re going to get a job because of the colour of your skin.

“I would like to think Owen Sound is a really positive place. It shows here (by the support for the march) just how positive this place is and I love it; I love Owen Sound. It’s an amazing place. I’ve had people ask me – where does change start? And change starts right here. Change starts with people like you. It’s in the middle of a pandemic and everyone is out here on the hottest day of the summer.”

Hanna Meili said she’s saddened by what brought people together for the march – the death of Floyd and unjust treatment of Black people.

“But, at the same time, seeing you all here relieves that sadness because I see the eyes of conviction and commitment. Of people who are individually and collectively working towards a more just, equitable and inclusive society and that gives me hope for the future,” she told the crowd.

Robbin McGregor said she took part in the march to stand in support of her family as well as other people of colour in the community, including Indigenous and Asian residents and the growing number of immigrants in the region.

McGregor said as a white-presenting woman with Black heritage, she has never experienced racism because of the colour of her skin.

“So I’m marching for everybody, but I will stand back because my role is not to be in the forefront, but to support the people who are dealing with this daily simply because of the colour of their skin,” she said in an interview.

Pat Lorenzo speaks to the crowd at Harrison Park during Wednesday’s Owen Sound Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter. DENIS LANGLOIS

Participants of Wednesday’s Owen Sound Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter depart city hall for Harrison Park. DENIS LANGLOIS

A panorama of people waiting to take part in Wednesday’s Owen Sound Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter. DENIS LANGLOIS

About 500 people join Kincardine anti-racism event

https://www.kincardinerecord.com/story.php?id=9289&fbclid=IwAR1V5jK1pWQT9jgPlDAtfN2r15GWMumG3JnVhpCfc_2WIJbxAH8-fUXU1CU

About 500 people join Kincardine anti-racism event

June 9, 2020
 

It was a quiet show of solidarity Monday night in Kincardine, as about 500 people knelt or sat on their front lawns, holding signs indicating their support for the fight against racism.

The thrust of the event was to show support for free speech and human rights, particularly in the United States, but also globally, and to rebuke leaders encouraging events to escalate through the use of divisive rhetoric and excessive shows of force.

Organizers were thrilled with the turn-out, as participants posted photos of themselves on the “Kincardine Kneels” Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/events/283964819652624/. People in Point Clark, Inverhuron and Tiverton, as well as the Town of Kincardine, took part.

Appreciation to Dave Trumble for the support of the Grey Bruce Labour Council, and to Knox Presbyterian Church in Kincardine where the church bells rang 25 times at the start (7 p.m.) and the end (7:08:46 p.m.) of the event.

A march also took place from Victoria Park to the Davidson Centre.

“Overall, I’m really pleased and touched by the participation in this and other events around town Monday night,” said Christina Bandomir, one of the organizers of the ‘Kincardine Kneels’ event. “I’m thankful to all who supported the effort.

“We are very lucky to live in a relatively peaceful and prosperous community and country, but unfortunately, we know that racism and injustice still exist here and around the world. If these events have raised awareness and have prompted positive conversations, that makes me very happy. We need to continue to have these conversations regularly and push for positive progressive changes to elevate marginalized groups and, at the very least, examine our own prejudices and biases.”

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Ruling that allows intoxication defence in sexual assault cases must be appealed, says Ontario Federation of Labour

Ruling that allows intoxication defence in sexual assault cases must be appealed, says Ontario Federation of Labour

une 4, 2020

The Ontario Federation of Labour joins the Ontario NDP MPP Jill Andrew’s call for Premier Doug Ford and Attorney-General Douglas Downey to appeal the Ontario Court of Appeal decision making voluntary intoxication a legitimate defence in sexual assault cases.

Wednesday, Ontario’s top court ruled that section 33.1 of the Criminal Code violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The provision was enacted in 1995 specifically to stop voluntary intoxication from being used as a defence in sexual assault cases.

“Intoxication must never be a defence for violent crime and sexual assault,” said Ontario Federation of Labour President Patty Coates. “The Court of Appeal decision must be challenged, and we join the ONDP in calling for the Ontario government to do the right thing and challenge this decision.”

“This decision will have a dangerous and toxic impact on the lives of women, trans women, sex workers, and other complainants in cases of sexual assault,” said Coates. “This ruling takes sexual assault law back two decades. Shame on our courts for opening the door for anyone to explain away sexual assault.”

The OFL encourages all Ontarians to call for action by writing to Premier Doug Ford premier@ontario.ca and Attorney General of Ontario Douglas Downey doug.downey@pc.ola.org to demand they appeal this decision.

“Survivors of sexual assault and violence who go to court face an uphill battle at every step,” said Coates. “This decision will leave them with one more thing stacked against them, and their right to a fair trial and justice. It must be appealed immediately.”

The Ontario Federation of Labour represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow @OFLabour on Facebook and Twitter.

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For more information, please contact:
Meagan Perry
Director of Communications
Ontario Federation of Labour
mperry@ofl.ca l 416-894-3456

COPE 343

 

Statement from OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas on claims from Premier Doug Ford that OPSEU blocked government inspectors from visiting long-term care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Premier tired of taking Bullet? OPSEU helped Premier dodge bullet in long-term care crisis

Warren (Smokey) Thomas speaking

Statement from OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas on claims from Premier Doug Ford that OPSEU blocked government inspectors from visiting long-term care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic:

It’s unbelievable how government managers are keeping the Premier in the dark about what has happened in long-term care homes.  Today they inserted their collective foot in the Premier’s mouth.

The Premier’s claim that OPSEU told occupational health and safety inspectors and long-term care inspectors to not go into the facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic is utterly untrue.

Managers in the Ministry of Health and Long-Term care are purposely misleading the Premier to cover up their own incompetence that covers decades of inaction.  Inaction that has cost thousands of lives of our most vulnerable citizens. People who helped build this province and make it what it is today.

We never told our members not to go into long-term homes. There was never one work refusal. Managers gave direction not to enter the long term care homes.

In a letter I sent to the Premier and Minister of Long Term Care on April 22, a letter that has still gone unanswered, we advised them not to send inspectors into the facilities because there was no Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), no infection control protocol, no policies, no training and no pandemic planning in place.  We were concerned that inspectors could have potentially and unknowingly spread COVID from home to home. Imagine the scenario had all 626 homes been impacted.

In the letter I also pointed out that: “Residents are not receiving the care that they need in some of these homes.  We know that private long-term care home providers never had a plan for this level of illness within their facilities and that’s the inherent issue with privatization.”

In essence we raised some of the same concerns the military did, about long-term care albeit a month earlier.

In the same vein, further evidence of our warning is where I go on to point out that “Senior ministry staff have also stated inspectors need to physically see if residents are being treated properly.  We already know they are not.  Senior bureaucrats know it too.”

OPSEU flagged the problem for the government in this April 22 letter. We spent weeks trying to get PPE for our inspectors.  Now that they have limited access to PPE, they are carrying out inspections in those homes where it is available.

Imagine for a second the terrible tragedy that could have happened had the inspectors gone into the homes without proper safeguards, especially given what we now know about asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission.  The death toll could have been even worse than it already is.

The Premier says he is tired of taking bullets for the union, but in this case our prudence helped him dodge one.

At one point this spring, inspectors were asked to volunteer to go into the homes, even though they were concerned for their own health and the welfare of residents because they didn’t have the appropriate equipment.  Some 60 of the 164 inspectors responded. Further evidence of their commitment.

The real problem is that there are only 164 inspectors to cover some 626 long-term care homes.  Inadequate staffing is yet another area where ministry managers have failed to give the Premier and the Minister of Long Term Care the real facts. We have consistently pointed out that shortcoming as well.

Sun Media columnist Brian Lilley recently said heads need to roll in the ministry and we agree with him.  This latest bureaucratic smokescreen covering up bad management is further proof of that.

The Premier has a choice:  If he listens to front-line workers through their union, OPSEU, he can get the truth about what is going on in long-term care and what he needs to do to make things right.

Or he can listen to this dreadful gang of blundering, incompetent and dishonest ministerial managers who care more about looking out for their careers than looking out for seniors in long-term care homes who have given us so much and have been failed by bureaucratic self-interest. Many of these managers have presided aimlessly for years, even decades during this disaster in the making.

I want to reiterate that we never tried to stop our members from onsite inspections, the only thing we wanted to do was to ensure the inspections were done safely.  We wanted a cautious and prudent plan in place before our inspectors were sent in.  Lives counted on it. Because of our approach, lives were saved.

If the Premier is interested in the truth and solutions, OPSEU is ready to meet with him anytime.

In fact, I look forward to further shining a light on this travesty as a witness at the upcoming inquiry.

A lot of players aren’t going to like what I have to say.

For more information:  Warren (Smokey) Thomas: 613-329-1931

Unions Will Lead the COVID-19 Recovery

 

May 25, 2020

Unions Will Lead the COVID-19 Recovery

Dear Editor;

Forty years ago Canada’s labour movement warned of the dangers of unfettered corporate power and political influence. Along with partners in social responsibility such as the Council of Canadians and progressive politicians, the labour movement mobilized against the very first free trade agreement (FTA) between Canada and the USA in 1988. As clear as the warnings delivered were, the Conservative government of the day embraced free trade. Unfortunately, the reality of that first FTA far out stripped the warnings.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs in manufacturing were lost as employers, without penalty or conscience, shipped Canadian jobs to American States with lower wages, less stringent health and safety laws, weaker employment and labour laws and looser environmental laws. In no time at all the loss of jobs manifested into government revenue issues and tempted employers to push harder for a further loosening of trade restrictions to permit even easier routes to the shipping of more and more work out of country and offshore as the trade agreements expanded.

All done in the name of acquiring cheaper goods, the trade agreements forced more and more work offshore and dug deeper and into government revenues as fewer and fewer companies and workers fed tax revenues into the provincial and national coffers. These coffers are the source of revenue to properly fund public services. Governments negotiate the deals, but the empowerment of the corporate world to drive this agenda has left us a legacy of underfunded public services.

The tragedy of this legacy, well known for years due to underfunded public healthcare and the rape of public services through corporate influence and the drive to privatization, could be witnessed across the board before COVID-19. The policies of austerity were already a death sentence for key pieces of public infrastructure and healthcare. The weakened and underfunded public system could not help but fall into almost immediate duress when COVID-19 arrived. To be completely fair, the workers in the system are of such a character that even in a system weakened out of government and corporate world complicity, these workers stepped up and saved lives, eased pain and diminished tragedy throughout each and every minute of their work.

Pointing out so much of the obvious is not the intention of this letter. It is intended to lay claim to one message of clarity in all this. The Canadian labour movement, for its decades of advocacy on behalf of workers and adequately funded public services while calling for more Canadian manufacturing is better equipped than perhaps any other enterprise to be a leader in putting Canada on a post COVID-19 footing that sets us up for success. The corporate leadership of the last forty years along with their corporate friendly governments are not without the talents to move us forward, but there is no ultimate success without labour leading the way with solid plans for made in Canada solutions and properly funded public services and eradication of any form of the austerity agenda.

Dave Trumble

VP, Bruce

Grey-Bruce Labour Council

Grey Bruce Labour Council May Meeting

Given our continued need to ensure everyone is safe and healthy during this time of unprecedented events, the May meeting of the Grey Bruce Labour Council is cancelled.  The executive will continue to meet remotely and will continue to work on behalf of all affiliates and a report of our activities will be provided following our next executive meeting.

We will keep you posted regarding the June meeting. If possible we would like to establish a virtual meeting for all delegates if in fact we are still unable to meet in June. 

To educate members on key issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Unifor’s Education Department will host a series of webinars on health and safety, the government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit, mental health and other issues.

To educate members on key issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Unifor’s Education Department will host a series of webinars on health and safety, the government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit, mental health and other issues. Unifor remains committed to providing members with assistance and support as information and circumstances change by the hour. By participating in the Education Department’s webinar sessions, members can engage with experts and get answers to urgent questions as quickly and effectively as possible.

 

https://onlineeducation.unifor.org/?fbclid=IwAR3ljBLv39b56VJw6OGz7ZEvDxExp2PIuYtnWEjvJKXRTuxtKRi6DYhGerE&utm_campaign=mh_0513&utm_medium=email&utm_source=uniforeducation