Kenney’s attack on unions makes corporate bosses even more powerful

March for What Matters rally in Edmonton, AB, on Thursday, February 27, 2020. (Codie McLachlan for Unifor)


July 7, 2020

EDMONTON—Premier Jason Kenney’s Bill 32 attempts to undermine the voice of Alberta’s working people while ensuring corporations remain as powerful and unaccountable as ever, says Unifor.

“When unions use free speech rights to speak out against injustice, we’re standing up for all workers,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Combined with criminalizing protest under the new Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, Jason Kenney is using the power of big government to silence the voices of working people.”

Bill 32 proposes to limit unions’ public advocacy campaigns with a government-imposed “free-loader” union dues model that lets union members benefit from union advocacy without paying for it, says Unifor. The union also says that Bill 32 would hamstring Kenney’s most effective critics and consolidate his own power.

“In this new attack on working peoples’ rights, Jason Kenney is using government regulations to benefit his friends in big business,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director. “Fixing the rules to give even greater power to the rich and powerful will only hurt Alberta’s economic recovery. Working people must be heard if we’re going to build a more fair and sustainable society.”

Unifor says that, much like is expected with the undemocratic Critical Infrastructure Defense Act, Bill 32 will eventually be ruled unconstitutional by courts.

“Rather than admitting that his weak economic plan has made matters worse, Kenney would rather pick ideological fights using bad laws that will be thrown out by courts,” said McGarrigle.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

Widespread VIA Rail layoffs reveal deep failure of CERB program rules

July 8, 2020

OTTAWA – More than 1000 VIA Rail workers received layoff notice today, along with news that Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s CERB rules still deny them employer-paid income top up.

“The CERB rules step all over longstanding income security practices that workers and employers have held for decades,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Many rail workers showed up throughout the early weeks of the pandemic, and continue to deliver service despite the risk to their own health. The least that workers deserve from the federal government is to honour their hard fought collective agreement benefits.”

VIA Rail, as a crown corporation, is unfairly barred from accessing the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy for its workers, despite a massive downturn in passenger rail service. The corporation paid its employees who did not have work due to the pandemic 70 per cent of wages until this point.

While on temporary layoff, the affected members will be able to apply for the CERB, but are denied the negotiated supplemental income plan (SUB plan) that is in their collective agreements.

“Instead of allowing employers to hold up contractual obligations that are negotiated specifically for situations like this – the federal government prohibits it,” said Renaud Gagné, Unifor Quebec Director.

“More than 4000 Unifor members have already emailed Morneau and Minister Qualtrough demanding that this policy be revoked. How many thousands of workers need to lose their income and benefits before the government corrects this awful policy?” continued Gagné.

Unifor alone has negotiated SUB plans for about 50,000 members in many sectors. SUB plans are no cost to the public treasury, and are part of a contract that a worker, or their union, makes directly with an employer.

Unifor has a member-driven petition to ministers Morneau and Qualtrough, demanding that they stop denying SUB plans. Visit for more information.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

#BuildBackBetter with an accessible income security system

Governments have been active throughout the COVID-19 crisis in order to quickly try to fill the many gaps in Canada’s income security programs.

This scramble left many workers with questions. Why were so many workers unable to access employment insurance (EI) when they were suddenly laid-off?

Why did we not have programs for workers to be able to take sick leave during the pandemic?

Who is still falling through the cracks?

Unifor’s #BuildBackBetter road map sets out the answers to these questions with a plan to rebuild employment security for all of Canada’s workers.

James Griffin outlined some of these solutions in a June media conference.

“We want to see EI eligibility expanded, to reflect the type of jobs people are working in today,” said James Griffin, President of Local 4276 at the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria. “We want the benefits increased, so unemployed workers can make ends meet and support their families. Waiting periods should be eliminated to ensure people get support immediately.”

No worker should live in poverty. Government can and must build a robust income security system that repairs Employment Insurance, strengthens employment standards and increases employment security.

“Canada’s workers deserve better from their government in times of trouble, and we must be ready to fight for a better future,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “While the tried and proven solution to build back our economy is to invest in workers, Conservative governments like Jason Kenney’s are already running to the right with deep cuts and draconian attacks on workers rights.”

The pandemic has exposed the fact that our social safety net was inadequate long before this crisis, and the importance of unions in advocating for workers’ income security and health and safety.

Unifor has seven recommendations to improve the income security system. 

They include: 

  • a minimum wage of at least $15 and tied to 60% of the median hourly wage for full-time workers;
  • stronger employment standards and labour legislation to provide stability for workers to ensure everyone is covered;
  • permanent changes to the EI program to expand eligibility, access and benefits;
  • facilitating more leisure time and work life balance in the lives of workers;
  • rolling out the Canada Housing Benefit across the country;
  • promoting retirement security; and
  • designing an income security system, using the CERB as the new income floor, that ensures no individual or family lives with an income under this benchmark.

Canada’s telecom workers urge Bell to bring the work home

July 1, 2020

OTTAWA– On this Canada Day, Unifor demands that Bell follow the example set by Rogers, and bring all offshore customer service work back to Canada permanently.

“Yesterday’s announcement by Rogers along with our experience with Bell during the past several months has shown that Canada’s telecom workers are able not only to step in and do the work, but can provide better and more reliable service to customers in Canada,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “This crisis has caused many Canadians to rethink their priorities, and I urge Bell Canada leadership to do the same today. Bring the work home, and help rebuild our economy that better supports workers in Canada.”

Unifor commends Roger’s decision yesterday to bring all remaining customer service jobs back to Canada, and set a path that others should follow.

At Bell, work was brought home on a temporary basis during the pandemic as a result of low wage call centres in the Philippines, India, and Tunisia that were forced to close, while workers in Canada stepped up to do work here.

Bell and BTS technicians quickly retrained to handle the massive increase in customer support calls and they continue to provide service to customers today.

“After COVID-19, Canadian companies will have to help rebuild our capacity to not only manufacture in Canada, but fix the damage that’s been done to telecom and customer service by decades of outsourcing,” said Renaud Gagné, Unifor Quebec Director. “Unifor members have fought back against years of decline in the industry and it’s time for Bell to refocus on workers in Canada and stop the race to the bottom.”

On June 24, Unifor released its Road Map for a Fair, Inclusive and Resilient Economic Recovery. Our bold plan focuses on five key economic areas to not only rebuild the economy, but also to support Canada’s workers.

Employees of Bell Canada and Bell subsidiaries have long campaigned against contracting out and other forms of job erosion and will continue to do so.  For current updates about this campaign, visit

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.


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