Letter from the President of Teamsters Canada to AMI Members

Dear brothers and sisters,

Teamsters have always been an ally of workers in the construction industry. This is why I am writing to you today.

The strike mandate that you have given your union reflects a generalized feeling of exasperation among workers. Together with the 125,000 Teamster members across Canada, I would like to say that we are totally behind you in your struggles.

Please know that Teamsters Canada wholeheartedly supports all your demands and backs you in your fight to be treated fairly.

There’s strength in numbers! In order to win this battle, I know that you will remain committed and steadfast for as long as it takes. The Teamsters union will be by your side throughout the negotiations and in the event of a strike, if it comes to that.

In Solidarity,

François Laporte
President
Teamsters Canada

Laval, May 16, 2017 — School bus company Autobus La Prairie is cruelly closing its doors following what appear to be intimidation tactics against its employees, who belong to Teamsters Local Union 106. The Company also appears to be pressuring school boards to renegotiate agreements reached with them.

The result: some 29 workers will lose their job.

Threat of closure

Autobus La Prairie Management met with the union recently, aiming to reopen the collective agreement a year earlier than expected and negotiate a five-year contract. After consulting with members, Teamsters Union Representative Sylvie Duval informed the company that workers did not wish to renegotiate the collective agreement before it expired, since they saw no advantage in doing so.

On the contrary: the employer wanted to renegotiate a number of clauses of the agreement to reduce working conditions. The only benefit proposed by the company was to maintain jobs.

Senior management at Autobus La Prairie then threatened to shut down the company if employees did not agree to reopen the collective agreement. They even sought to relinquish the 19 routes of the Marie-Victorin and Grande Seigneurie school boards.

In response to the Teamsters’ refusal to give in, the employer ultimately made good on its threat.

“We feel the employer is playing a game of chicken because it is unhappy with its contracts with the school boards,” explained the president of Local Union 106, Jean Chartrand. “I don’t think the school boards will fall for this ploy.”

This might also be an unfair labour tactic aimed at getting rid of the union and picking up the contract through other non-unionized companies that belong to the same owner.

“The workers of non-unionized companies do not enjoy the same conditions as those who belong to the Teamsters,” noted the union leader. “But it’s also a huge blow for our members, since they don’t earn high wages.”

Difficult labour relations

Save the difficult labour relations and poor management of the collective agreement by the employer, Autobus La Prairie could be as profitable as other school bus companies. The company, which once belonged to the giant Transdev, was founded over 50 years ago as Autobus C. Monette et fils.

Autobus La Prairie busses students from the Marie-Victorin and Grande Seigneurie school boards on Montreal’s South Shore. On average, its drivers, who have belonged to the Teamsters since the ’90s, earn $18 to $19 an hour and work 22 to 25 hours a week. Many of them are retired or work part-time because they need extra money. For others, it is their main source of income. With an average annual salary of $22,000, these drivers are far from rich, which makes the company’s announcement all the more shocking.

The school boards demand that carriers guarantee labour peace, which means having a collective agreement of the same duration as their contract with the transport company.

“It’s a brutal and unjustified closure,” concluded Jean Chartrand. We’re looking at all legal options to fight the company’s union-busting tactic.”

Teamsters Québec represents some 1,000 members in the school transportation industry. The company will close its doors in June after decades in business.

The Teamsters represent 120,000 members in Canada in all industries. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with which Teamsters Canada is affiliated, has 1.4 million members in North America.

– 30 –

Information:
Stéphane Lacroix, Director of Public Relations
Cell: 514-609-5101
slacroix@teamsters.ca

Toronto, May 16, 2017 – The Teamsters Union, which represents hundreds of registered practical nurses at Toronto’s Humber River Hospital, is concerned about the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) demands to change the ratio of RPNs in acute care.

We think that individual patients require different types of care and both registered nurses and registered practical nurses have useful roles to play in multiple care contexts.

As a matter of fact, an article published in the Windsor Star sheds light on the RNAO’s intent. Indeed, it appears that the Association’s president, Doris Grinspun, is worried by the 10% reduction of Ontario hospitals’ nursing staff.

“It [Mrs. Grinspun’s public statement] resembles a political manoeuvre to cut down the number of registered practical nurses on duty,” fears the president of Teamsters Local Union 419, Brian Lawrence. “In my opinion, her association should focus its attention on teamwork instead of producing studies that seem to be biased. The situation has greatly evolved in this sector of activity in the last decades.”

However, the Teamsters Union agrees that effective skill mix decisions are essential to optimize the quality of care in Ontario’s hospitals. Furthermore, the government should not make any decision on budgetary constraints because patients well-being should always be the priority.

It should be pointed out that Ontario’s education system trains highly competent registered practical nurses who are in demand throughout North America. Consequently, they are capable of dealing with all sorts of situations and seeing to patients’ well-being. If necessary, they can call upon physicians and other hospital staff members, as is the case of registered nurses for that matter.

“A hospital centre is an ecosystem in which every worker without exception has a role to play,” reminds the union leader. “Registered practical nurses are essential care workers in any hospital setting and they deserve to be treated with respect by registered nurses.”

Teamsters represent 125,000 workers in Canada in all industries, including approximately a thousand in hospitals. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with which Teamsters Canada is affiliated, has 1.4 million members in North America.

-30-

Information:

Stéphane Lacroix, Director of Public Relations
Cell: 514-609-5101
slacroix@teamsters.ca

 

Laval, May 16, 2017 – Teamsters are demanding that Transport Minister Marc Garneau explain how workers’ rights are protected under Bill C-49, which places railway workers under the constant video and voice surveillance of their employers.

“Marc Garneau’s proposal is an unprecedented violation of Canadians’ privacy,” said Doug Finnson, President of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference. “How can he possibly think that workers aren’t getting the short end of the stick?”

The proposed legislation would see locomotive video and voice recorders (LVVRs) installed on all trains – a device which allows companies to record and observe workers in realtime from a remote location.

Contrary to a backgrounder on LVVRs published today by Transport Canada, unions were not consulted on today’s announcement, which took Teamster representatives by complete surprise.

Moreover, Transport Canada’s assertion that it was “generally determined that the safety benefits of LVVR would be maximized if the recording could be used by railway companies” wrongly and unethically alludes to a consensus on the proper use of LVVRs.

Teamsters believe that TSB agents conducting accident investigations should be the only ones allowed access to LVVR recordings. The union does not trust rail companies like CP, which lobbied in favour of today’s announcement and has a track record of systematically violating workers’ rights.

“Today was a complete surprise and a total disappointment,” added Finnson. “For a government that can’t stop talking about the middle class, they sure love listening to corporate lobbyists.”

Teamsters represent 125,000 workers in Canada in all industries, including 12,000 in the rail industry. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with which Teamsters Canada is affiliated, has 1.4 million members in North America.

-30-

Information:

Christopher Monette
Director of Communications, Web and Social Media
514-226-6002
cmonette@teamsters.ca

Laval, May 11 2017 — The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference – Maintenance of Way Employees Division (TCRC-MWED) would like to announce that it has reached a tentative agreement with Canadian Pacific (CP). The details will be released to our members for ratification and the bargaining committee will be recommending adoption of what we believe is a fair deal, providing stability for our members over the next five years.

The TCRC-MWED represents 2000 workers at this rail carrier.

Teamsters represent 125,000 workers in Canada in all industries, including 12,000 in the rail industry. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with which Teamsters Canada is affiliated, has 1.4 million members in North America.

-30-

Information:

Stéphane Lacroix, Director of Public Relations
Cell: 514-609-5101
slacroix@teamsters.ca

Laval, May 10, 2017 – Teamsters Canada will donate $30,000 to the Red Cross to help those affected by the historic flooding in Québec and Ontario.

Teamster members are hard at work helping flood victims. Truckers are figuring out ways to do the impossible and deliver food to supermarkets in flooded areas. Municipal blue collar workers in cities like Pontiac are doing everything they can to limit damages. And members from local unions in affected areas are volunteering to help their respective communities.

Like during the Fort McMurray wildfires and the flooding in Calgary, Teamsters are on the front lines of this natural disaster to show their solidarity.

However, despite the best efforts of rescue workers, the flooding will have a considerable impact on hundreds or even thousands of families. Moving forward, they will need financial help.

“I’d like to invite all Canadians, particularly Teamster members, to give generously to the Red Cross,” stated François Laporte, President of Teamsters Canada. “We have, and always will, stand in solidarity with the victims of natural disasters. They need our help because they might lose everything.”

Teamsters and members of the public can click here to donate to the Red Cross.

The current situation

At the moment, thousands of people have been evacuated and thousands of homes have been flooded. In Québec, 171 municipalities are affected and 486 roads are flooded. Five cities have declared a state of emergency, including Montréal. In Gatineau, 443 buildings and 794 people have been evacuated. Close to 1650 soldiers have been deployed to assist police and emergency workers.

Hundreds of thousands of sand bags have been handed out in Eastern Ontario. Hundreds of homes have been flooded in the Ottawa area, while in Toronto, close to 200 houses have been affected.

While things are worrisome in New Brunswick and British Columbia, the situation is much less critical than in Québec and Ontario.

Teamsters represent 125,000 workers in Canada in all industries. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with which Teamsters Canada is affiliated, has 1.4 million members in North America.

-30-

Information:

Stéphane Lacroix, Director of Public Relations
Cell: 514-609-5101
slacroix@teamsters.ca

 

This week, we’re attending the 28th convention of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) in Toronto. The CLC is an umbrella group for Canada’s unions, and their affiliates represent over 3.3 million workers.

We’ll be putting forward a resolution on an issue we’ve been championing for years – mental health in the workplace. Resolutions are essentially a formal call to action or statement of opinion.

One in five Canadians experience a mental illness in their lifetime. But while the issue is surprisingly common, it also comes with a massive stigma.

According to a 2008 survey, 42% of Canadians aren’t sure they would socialize with a friend who has a mental illness. Moreover, 46% think people use the term mental illness as an excuse for bad behaviour.

That means people hesitate to ask for help, making the problem even worse.

Today, three out of every four short-term disability claims stem from mental health problems. This week, 500,000 workers will miss work because of a mental health issue. This year, 51 billion dollars will be lost due to mental illness.

The human consequences are also well documented. In 2015, we launched a social media campaign to highlight the struggles of young workers facing mental health issues. You can watch their stories at MakeItMandatory.ca

We need to do a better job at addressing these issues. That’s why our resolution calls for more mental health support and awareness in the workplace.

You can read our full resolution here:

RESOLUTION No. GEN-120

WHEREAS one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime which may affect significantly every aspect of this person’s life, including the workplace; and

WHEREAS even in some workplaces that support mental health, there is still stigma associated with opening up about mental illness; and

WHEREAS the cost of mental illness in Canada is estimated at $51 billion per year, including absenteeism, medication and healthcare; and

WHEREAS now is the time to speak up, make noise and affect positive changes to bring support for mental health in all workplaces;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and its affiliates will make mental health awareness and support in the workplace a priority;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the CLC and its affiliates will lobby governments to make mental health awareness and support mandatory in workplaces.

The Alberta government is revising the legislation that governs your workplace. Teamsters Local Union 987 thinks Albertans deserve a say.

Right now, the laws put up unnecessary barriers before workers can join a union. This buys time for employers to influence the decision of workers through coercion, threats and other means.

 
The simple, honest solution is automatic certification. If a majority of workers sign up to join a union, they should be certified. Provinces like Québec, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario and Nova Scotia already use this system. It’s time Alberta does the same.

But even when workers opt to join a union, many employers refuse to negotiate a fair contract. In some cases, employers will lock their workers out or force employees to strike just to get a fair deal. The solution to these challenges is first contract arbitration.

With first contract arbitration, an independent party sets the terms of a contract when employers refuse to bargain. Then, both sides must abide by the terms.

 
It’s time to bring fairness and honesty back to Alberta’s labour market.

To learn more and have your say, visit teamsters987.com/honestpolicy

A visit to Accueil Bonneau, an organization that helps the homeless

 
I was waiting for three Teamsters brothers on De La Commune Street in Old Montréal and watching the comings and goings around me: angry drivers stuck in a small traffic jam, w going about their day-to-day business, and a freight train chugging along slowly on the other side of the street, by the Old Port. The sky was grey and the clouds were low. Even though it was May, it felt more like fall.

I had this strange sense of being in a bubble where time was going by more slowly.

Passersby could easily miss the small sign on the building I was standing in front of, the Accueil Bonneau building. Accueil Bonneau is an iconic organization that has been helping the homeless – most of them men – for nearly 140 years now. Looking around, I could see no homeless people, no line-up for breakfast. There is no indication that the grey stone building welcomes more than 600 people every day… 600 people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and who come here for their first– and in some cases their only – meal of the day.

This year, for Quebec’s Homelessness Awareness Week (Semaine de l’itinérance), Teamster representatives decided to make a donation to Accueil Bonneau. The General Manager of the Fondation Accueil Bonneau, François Rondeau, welcomed us and gave us a tour of the building.

Gratitude

We walked into a large room where every seat was taken. Men were sitting in front of their meals, not moving, waiting for the nun to finish the morning prayer. Even though Accueil Bonneau is no longer a religious organization, it has maintained its tradition of praying before the morning meal.

Today, they’ll be having meatball stew with potatoes and vegetables. And for dessert: a big, beautiful brioche. After the prayer, the men all dig into their meals at the same time and eat with gusto.

We continued our tour and chatted with a few volunteers and “clients.” I saw in their eyes something distinctive, yet hard to define. Life has taken its toll on them. Some have lived through a multitude of trials and tribulations. But they all have one thing in common: gratitude. Some of them feel lucky to be helped and others feel lucky to be able to help.

One of them told us that he feels less “nervous” thanks to the Accueil. He thanked Mr. Rondeau for the good meal and for the work of the employees and volunteers.

A Variety of Services

Besides breakfast – or a snack later on in the day –, the homeless also have access to a variety of services: help with making a budget, art workshops, computer literacy, podiatry and chiropractic care, toilets, showers, changing room, etc. In a nutshell, Accueil Bonneau provides almost all of the services these men need.

Some come here to find a suit so they can attend a son’s graduation or a daughter’s wedding. Others will come for a shower and shave. The needs are great, but Accueil Bonneau’s resources are vast.

General Manager François Rondeau, explained the mission and the origins of the organization, and shared some moving stories with us, such as the one about two volunteers who found their father here, a father they thought they had lost for good.

Mr. Rondeau also told us that more and more low-income workers are coming to the Accueil for breakfast or to get clothes. This comforted me in our support for the $15 per hour minimum wage campaign that FTQ-affiliated unions, including the Teamsters, have been leading for months now.

“Over the past few years, we’ve noticed an increase in the number of workers that come here,” he said sadly. “People have jobs, but they’re having a hard time making ends meet. We’re no longer just dealing with the homeless now.”

Just imagine: Accueil Bonneau, which we thought was only helping the disenfranchised, is now helping workers!

A Disturbing Reality

When we asked him about some of the problems the homeless have to deal with, Mr. Rondeau mentioned weather, of course, but he also added the following disturbing comment:

“The homeless don’t mind if people don’t give them money when they run into them on the street,” he explained. “What hurts them is when people look away from them, as if they didn’t even exist.”

It’s as if people don’t even want to see them.

Over the past few decades, deinstitutionalization and governments’ withdrawal from helping the less fortunate has put thousands of men and women out on the streets. Add to this the indifference of a portion of the population and you can see how day-to-day life can be difficult for them.

The homeless who visit the Accueil struggle with a variety of problems ranging from drug abuse, alcoholism and mental health problems, to reversals of fortune, loss of work and rejection by their family. Some hit rock bottom. Many get back up on their feet thanks to the help of the hundreds of volunteers and employees at Accueil Bonneau.

This is why Gerry Boutin, of Local Union 931, Eric Laramée and Michel Héroux, of Local Union 1999, as well as yours truly presented the General Manager of the Fondation Accueil Bonneau with cheques from their respective local unions, as well as from Local Union 106, for a total of $1,500.

Because the Teamsters Union protects workers from arbitrary employer decisions and employer greed, and because it is fighting to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour and also leading a campaign to make mental health a priority in the workplace, it’s only natural that we would want to help people who are down on their luck.

After the tour, I took the time to reflect on one of François Rondeau’s comments: “We are two steps away from being on the streets.”

No one is immune to misfortune. The more resilient among us will make it through. For those who don’t, Accueil Bonneau and a handful of similar organizations are there to help.

I will never look at homeless people the same way. These men and I have far more in common than I thought before I met them and spoke with them. Who is to say if I won’t be dealing with the same hardships one day? All it takes is a single misfortune, a simple twist of fate…

This could happen to me. This could also happen to you.

A post by Stephane Lacroix
Director of Public Relations, Teamsters Canada

The goal of Accueil Bonneau is to help homeless people or people at risk of becoming homeless reintegrate into society and secure a stable residence. We meet their basic needs for food and shelter and support their efforts to improve their quality of life and well-being. But we need your help! If you would like to make a financial contribution, become a volunteer or donate perishable or nonperishable goods and clothing, please contact them at: https://www.accueilbonneau.com/english/

This article originally appeared in the Teamsters Canada annual report. We’re posting it here to mark the first anniversary of the Fort McMurray wildfire. Pictured: a Teamster member and Diversified Transportation bus driver who shuttled evacuees to safety.

 
Last year, Teamsters members were on the frontlines, providing relief during one of the most devastating and expensive natural disasters in Canadian history. The Fort McMurray wildfires forced almost 90,000 people to flee the Fort McMurray area and destroyed thousands of homes.

Disasters have a strange way of bringing out the best in everyone. For hundreds of Teamsters, that meant bravely working through the catastrophe, helping in whatever way possible: bussing evacuees to safety, hauling clean water to work camps crowded with displaced residents, moving trains packed with oil away from the inferno to avoid an even greater disaster, and more still.

“The guys that stayed behind were there just for water hauling purposes,” explained Jordan Dow, Chief Steward at Clean Harbors, a company that provides a variety of services in the oil sands region.

“These camps were overcrowded, with hundreds of evacuees on top of the workers who stayed behind, trying to keep production going,” he continued.

“Shout out to members at Diversified Transportation, who stayed behind to safety shuttle plant, city, and emergency personnel along with evacuees,” added Richard Eichel, Secretary-Treasurer of Local Union 362 in Alberta.

Despite the best efforts of these oil sands workers, the fire crippled oil production. Output fell by a million barrels a day in May and 700,000 barrels a day in June. The effects on the Canadian economy can still be felt today.

Solidarity from coast to coast

To assist with immediate recovery efforts, local unions across the country raised close to $150,000 during the crisis for the Canadian Red Cross. In the aftermath of the disaster, Local Union 362, Teamsters Canada, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (Running Trades), and individual members raised another $110,700 to help the community.

Teamsters have since used that money to purchase an ATV for the local fire department, filling a crucial need. The rest of the money was split between the fire depart, the Wood Buffalo food bank and two school divisions.

Together with the General Presidents’ Maintenance Committee for Canada, the Teamsters helped raise $300,000 to support the Northern Lights Health Foundation, local hospitals and clinics.

“I’m having difficulty finding the words to share how this large, unrestricted gift gave our operations the financial wherewithal to rise from our difficult summer,” wrote Cindy Amerongen, from the Northern Lights Health Foundation.

The destruction bought on by the wildfires and ensuing downturn in Alberta means that help from unions has never been more important. Even if Fort McMurray isn’t making national headlines anymore, Teamsters from coast to coast are committed to helping the region pull through.