Northwestel to be sold to Indigenous consortium from the 3 territories


CBC News ·

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Bell to transfer ownership of northern telecoms giant later this year, in deal worth close to $1B

The biggest telecommunications company in the North will be sold to a group of Indigenous development companies from Yukon, N.W.T. and Nunavut.

Northwestel, which is owned by Bell Canada, called its sale to a consortium of Indigenous communities a “landmark partnership.”



Unifor sounds alarm over Enbridge Gas cuts to emergency response


TORONTO—Enbridge Gas’ proposal to eliminate the evening and overnight emergency response shift will jeopardize the lives of customers and nearby residents, says Unifor.

“The disregard for public safety is breath-taking,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne. “If the company does not have enough workers to fulfil critical emergency roles, it is because it has laid off too many workers in pursuit of returns for shareholders.”

The evening (after 4 p.m.) shift is almost entirely an emergency response shift staffed by four workers for the evening. The overnight (after 8 p.m.) shift is only staffed by two positions to respond to critical gas leaks or broken infrastructure.

Enbridge has also internally announced a plan to reduce or eliminate compliance work because the company is not employing enough workers to do the inspections and fix problems.

“Enbridge has cut staffing to the bone already—it is unfathomable that they are seeking to lay-off more shift workers,” said Doug Carter, president of Unifor Local 975. “Gas line incidents are no joke. Enbridge must take emergencies seriously and enhance their response measures.”

Compliance work involves checking and inspecting valves and other parts of gas infrastructure for defects. Increasing the time between compliance inspections increases the risk of undetected faults.
Unifor members at Enbridge Gas are the only workers trained in emergency response for most gas leaks. Currently, Enbridge evening and overnight processes has a normal response time within one hour. However, gas workers are concerned the continued reduction of in-house staff, cutting shifts, and contracting-out will increase the time to respond to leaks.

Increasing Enbridge’s response time also increases the time that municipal emergency services must also be onsite securing the location, increasing risk of a serious incident and the costs to municipalities.

Unifor is calling on the City of Toronto to review contracts between the city and Enbridge Gas regarding the safety of natural gas lines. Unifor’s Health and Safety Department has responded with a statement of concern about the hazards introduced by Enbridge’s attempts to cut corners on emergency response readiness. A letter has also been sent to the Government of Ontario.

VIA’s new baggage policy: Prioritizing efficiency over accessibility

June 11, 2024


VIA Rail’s recent changes to its baggage policy highlight a shift in priorities, making eco-friendly travel more challenging in Canada.

Passenger rail travel remains the most environmentally-friendly mode of intercity transport, crucial for many remote and isolated communities. VIA Rail serves as a vital link for those needing to travel for family, work, school, and health care.

Passengers often carry significant luggage: a young doctor relocating to a remote community, a student returning home for the summer, a family of new immigrants starting their lives in Canada. These scenarios reflect the diverse needs of VIA Rail’s passengers.

However, under VIA’s stringent new baggage policy, these passengers face hefty fees or outright travel denial.

Historically, VIA Rail had a generous baggage policy, balancing capacity with the needs of Canadian travellers.

So, how did we stray so far?

The reasons are two-fold.

First, the federal government has instructed VIA to prepare for the privatization of the Corridor in Ontario and Québec. Starting June 10, passengers must pay for baggage and parking at some stations. And brace yourselves—more fees are coming.

Secondly, despite advice from both unionized and non-unionized employees, as well as passenger advocates, VIA executives chose not to include adequate baggage space in the new Siemens trains.

This decision underscores a disconnect between VIA’s executives and the needs of their passengers.

Take bicycles, for instance. Rail and bicycle travel are a perfect match for promoting green travel. Yet, VIA’s bicycle policy is now more restrictive than ever, banning bikes from the Corridor despite them being accepted on transcontinental and remote trains.

This means a passenger traveling from Ottawa to Winnipeg with a bike will be forced to drive or fly between Ottawa and Toronto, increasing carbon emissions. Students wanting to take their bikes from London to Kingston are also out of luck, left to emit carbon on Highway 401.

VIA’s restrictive baggage policy has driven students back to cars, planes, and unregulated bus companies with questionable safety standards.

The time for action is now.

The Get Back On Track campaign advocates for reinstating baggage cars in the Corridor, connecting seamlessly with transcontinental trains, and abolishing the draconian baggage policy.

Unifor believes that VIA Rail and the federal government should foster adaptive and innovative ways to promote rail travel—the greenest mode of intercity transport. This includes creating baggage policies that cater to Canadians’ needs and making travel more affordable.

Take action and help get Canada back on track.

Strike at MDA Space ends after workers ratify agreement

June 6, 2024


BRAMPTON—Workers at MDA Space ratified a new collective agreement today, bringing a nine-week strike at the aerospace manufacturer’s global headquarters in Brampton to an end.

“I am proud of the determination our members showed, fighting for their rights on the picket line for nine long weeks to achieve a strong collective agreement at MDA Space,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne. “Thanks to the support of Unifor members throughout the GTA and the tenacity of our bargaining team, we have made significant improvements that ensure a better future for all.”

Unifor Local 112 and 673 members at MDA Space initiated strike action on April 8. The collective agreement expired in October 2023 with bargaining taking place over a 9-month period to allow for the relocation of work to a newly built facility.

Over the life of the agreement workers will receive a total minimum wage increase of 9% plus Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) payments adjusted quarterly, up to a maximum of $0.80 per hour. During the dispute, the union successfully fought employer proposals to eliminate COLA. On ratification, workers will receive a minimum 7% wage increase and the existing $0.80 per hour COLA folded into existing wage rates. Workers will receive retroactive pay for all hours worked between October 2023 and May 2024, totalling a minimum of 3.2% which includes $0.34 per hour in COLA payments. The employer will also increase contributions to the employee Defined Benefit pension plan retroactive to August 5 2020 by $3.

“Our members made this agreement happen with their solidarity on the picket line and the diligent work of our negotiating team to make several key gains,” said Unifor Local 112 President John Turner. “From higher wages to improvements in health and dental benefits, this agreement will serve our members well at a time of increasing economic uncertainty and rising living costs.”

In addition, Unifor members gained a new paid holiday for the first Monday in August and will receive two paid personal emergency days. Job classifications were also expanded to provide new career growth and training opportunities for workers, and new work was secured for the bargaining unit to operate the facility’s testing equipment. Language for the Skilled Trades was also improved to provide seniority protection and wage growth to apprentices as they progress through the program, and a guaranteed wage premium for machinists who complete their certification.

“Our members love what they do and are eager to return to work,” said Unifor Local 673 President Maryellen McIlmoyle. “I am incredibly proud of everyone who held the line rain or shine to secure a fair deal, including a long-overdue pension contribution increase that was a key element in resolving this dispute.”

There are 45 members of Unifor Local 112 and 673 at the MDA Space facility in Brampton which is the home of the Canadarm and several important space robotics, satellite and defense projects.

The new collective agreement expires October 1, 2026.

Atlantic Regional Council aims for provincial anti-scab legislation and increased health and safety protections

June 13, 2024


Unifor members in the Atlantic region marked a decade of fightbacks and victories as the Atlantic Regional Council convened in Halifax, Nova Scotia from June 10-12.

Longtime friend of the council and Elder at the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre Debbie Eisen welcomed attendees to Mi’kmaqi. Unifor Indigenous Relations Officer Gina Smoke spoke about smudging and the smudging kits delegates received.

Atlantic Regional Director Jennifer Murray delivered the opening address, celebrating the strength of the CN Autoport workers who took a bold stand against one of Canada’s most powerful corporations.

“I am forever changed because of these members,” said Murray. “These folks took on one of Canada’s biggest and richest employers and stood their ground when it became obvious the company had no intention of bargaining fairly.”

Murray personally thanked the Local 100 members in attendance, who later shared their own thoughts on the six-week long strike that saw CN Autoport use scab labour within minutes of the legal picket line beginning.

Unifor National President Lana Payne celebrated the union-building of Local unions in the Atlantic Region in the past year, giving a special nod to workers at Local 597 in Dominion stores in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Local 1971 Sobeys workers in Cape Breton who won record-breaking wage gains.

“Something magical did happen in the retail sector this year, and I’m very proud of what we’ve done and accomplished as a union, because our members were brave and courageous,” said Payne. “Because when we work together, when we build solidarity, when we set our sights on something – there is no power greater anywhere beneath the sun.”

National Secretary-Treasurer Len Poirier told delegates about the leadership team’s approach to a few high-profile campaigns, including the CN Autoport strike and holding Bell Canada to account for their dismissive treatment of their workers.

“We are taking on Bell Canada for their despicable cuts to jobs and for the way they have treated our members throughout this process,” said Poirier. “We are serious about demanding respect and job security for our members in the telecom and media sector, and we’re serious about holding them accountable.”

Guest to the Council Nova Scotia NDP Leader Claudia Chender spoke about the importance of anti-scab legislation and her caucus’ commitment to pushing for card check and other worker supporting legislation to make life better and more affordable.

Unifor’s Director of Organizing Justin Gniposky and National Representative in the Organizing Department for the Atlantic Patrick Murray invited three members to talk about their recent organizing experiences. For Luan Tafic, whose workplace on PEI is in the midst of an organizing drive, the organizing process feels like running his first marathon.

“There are bumps in the road along the way – it goes up and down up and down – but the thing is, same as with running, I don’t give up,” said Tafic.

The panel also celebrated the success of organizing drives at CHEP Canada and O’Regan’s BMW.

There were also deep-dives into how local unions and individual members can improve health and safety protections in the workplace.

Director of the Health, Safety and Environment Department Joanne Hay led a panel discussion with worker safety professionals from each of the four Atlantic provinces, plus an expert in the federal jurisdiction.

Everyone on the panel agreed they have an ‘open door’ policy and love to hear from workers with questions about health and safety to help arm workers with the knowledge they need.

The Council approved the Regional Director’s Recommendations to prioritize health and safety education and training, fight for anti-scab legislation, mobilize members to vote in the upcoming New Brunswick election, and to grow Unifor in the Atlantic region by supporting organizing efforts.