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Tory government cancels $100 million school repair fund

Ontario’s new Tory government has cancelled a $100-million fund earmarked for school repairs this year, a cut that comes as a result of Doug Ford’s campaign promise to scrap the province’s cap-and-trade system.

School boards were notified on July 3 that the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund would be eliminated and that only work contracted on or before that date would be covered.

The memo, obtained by The Canadian Press, advises school boards to stop spending the cash that was allocated in April immediately.

“Please maintain detailed records of the contracts that have been signed as ministry staff will contact boards to collect information on the scope of the work underway,” the memo said.

Toronto District School Board chair Robin Pilkey said the move is disappointing because that board has a $4 billion repair backlog.

The TDSB had budgeted $300 million for upkeep this fiscal year, including the $25 million it was awarded specifically from this fund, and now faces difficult choices, Pilkey said.

“Losing $25 million is a big deal to us,” she said. “Our repair backlog is so large that every piece counts. We’ll have to make decisions in the next few weeks whether we don’t do those projects or we take the money out of … other funds and scrap something else.”

The board had planned to use the funding to repair windows, lighting and complete other mechanical work in its schools, she said.

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CUPE president seeks Township school board seat

A special education assistant and CUPE local president has announced she will run for Township school district trustee in this fall’s civic elections.

Marnie Wilson said she sees the district through the lens of both an employee and a parent, with two children that have gone through the district.

She has been involved with the Inclusive Education Committee and the Human Dignity Coalition, aimed at fostering includsion in schools and in the wider community, Wilson said.

“Inclusion must be meaningful and intentional in order for every student to reach their full learning potential,” said Wilson.

Issues such as safety, public engagement, and a need for more resources in schools will be among her issues, she said.

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How to lead a workplace discussion on climate change

Do you want to foster a workplace discussion on climate change? Wondering how to start one? CUPE’s climate change action workshop is the perfect tool to get that conversation started.

Learn about the science behind climate change and how unions can respond. This self-hosted workshop includes labour-focused information and interactive discussion tools on how climate change is affecting our planet, our communities and our economy.

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CUPE’s Workplace Violence and Harassment Prevention kit available online

Workplace violence is a serious hazard that many CUPE members face every day. The purpose of the kit is to provide members with resources to help protect them against violence and harassment in the workplace. Far too often, employers develop policies and procedures that only react to violence and harassment. This approach is not good enough. CUPE’s new kit focuses primarily on preventing violence and harassment in the workplace before it happens.

The kit is available for order to CUPE locals or downloaded here:

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Black History Month Statement

Every February, CUPE Ontario urges all its members to acknowledge and celebrate Black History Month. We also invite our members to reflect on the many contributions Black people of African and Caribbean heritage have made to Canada and our union movement.

Black workers have a long history of building the Canadian labour movement and fighting for social change. Through their activism and leadership, Black trade unionists in Canada have organized to pass laws and win collective agreement language that fights racism and promotes equality in our workplaces and communities. This fight is far from over.

Studies show that Black Canadians still face disproportionate barriers in our society. Black Canadian workers remain over-represented in precarious, temporary and low-wage employment. The average Black Canadian worker currently earns 75.7 cents for every dollar a non-racialized worker earns, with racialized women facing an even higher wage gap of 36.8%. Black people in Canada also continue to face racial profiling by police.

At CUPE Ontario, we are committed to fighting against anti-Black racism experienced by our members and for the communities we serve. At the 2017 Racial Justice Conference, CUPE Ontario announced the beginning of a comprehensive Campaign to Counter rising hate and white supremacy in Ontario, as a major part of our collective work. We’re so proud of the activism demonstrated by CUPE members across the province every day in our workplaces and communities. It’s thanks to their hard work that we have seen the creation of an Anti-Black Racism Strategy, a commitment outlined in A Better Way Forward: Ontario’s 3-Year Anti-Racism Strategic Plan, released last year.

We support the work of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU). CUPE Ontario’s Second Vice-President Sister Yolanda McClean, does a lot of great work as the President of the CBTU’s Canadian chapter, and we are very proud that she was the recent recipient of the Cliff Pilkey award for outstanding contribution to the labour movement at the Ontario Federation of Labour Convention.

Together with community organizations and coalitions, the CUPE Ontario Racial Justice Committee continues to fight for equity and to challenge racism, including organizing a strong annual presence at Toronto’s Carnival. The annual festival, which began on Canada’s 100th Birthday, is an emancipation tradition with roots of struggle and resistance.

During Black History Month and all year long, CUPE Ontario remains dedicated celebrating the essential and fundamentally important contributions of black Canadians to the social fabric of our country, and to fighting social and systemic discrimination in our communities, our workplaces, in CUPE and the rest of the labour movement.

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Workers’ rights prevail once again in the Supreme Court

On February 1, 2018, the nation’s highest court endorsed the union position that the duty to accommodate is applicable in the case of workplace injury. CUPE was an intervenor in the case.

That means unions must now ensure that the rights set out in both the Workers’ Compensation Act and the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms are respected.

Employers are now required to accommodate workers with functional limitations due to a work-related injury. If they fail to fulfil this duty, unions may challenge the matter before Québec’s Administrative Labour Tribunal.

“The legislation provides a broad range of options for adapting workstations,” stated CUPE-Québec president Denis Bolduc. “We are going to ensure that no one who is able to work is unjustly excluded from their workplace. This is a major victory for injured workers and all workers across Quebec.”

Changes to EI

Changes to Canada’s Employment Insurance program have important implications for many collective bargaining agreements. CUPE locals have bargaining power here, and time is on their side.

The waiting period to begin receiving benefits has been reduced from two weeks to one week. This change came into effect on January 1, 2017. Previously, many locals negotiated payments during the two-week period for workers taking sick leave, compassionate care leave, or maternity or parental leave. Employers and labour unions have a four-year transition period to adjust their collective agreements without facing any penalties for overpayments. Take the time to review the options and make the right choice for your local.

Changes to parental leave, maternity leave, and compassionate care leave took effect on December 3, 2017. These changes allow women to take maternity leave earlier, allow parents to take a longer parental leave at a lower benefit rate, and expand eligibility for leave to care for a critically ill or injured family member. (Note, the changes do not apply in Quebec, where workers are covered by the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan.)

CUPE locals are responding to these changes. For example, CUPE Local 3261, service workers at the University of Toronto, bargained a one-week paid “Parental Transition Week.” This replaces one week at the beginning of maternity, parental or caregiving leave with a week of paid leave at the end (once EI benefits have ended). Other locals may want to consider similar language.

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CUPE calls for solidarity against Islamophobia

On January 29, 2017, six Muslim men were murdered at a Quebec City mosque while they prayed. This terrorist attack affected many families, friends, neighbours and communities across Canada, leaving us all with a sense of horror and overwhelming sadness.

With the one-year anniversary of this Islamophobic attack quickly approaching, it is important to take the time to reflect on why the massacre took place. As difficult as this may be, we must recognize the reality that Canada today includes hate, division and racism.

Ignoring the threat of Islamophobia only lets the problem grow, says Mark Hancock, CUPE National President.

“But our solidarity also grows,” he says. “At our 2017 National Convention, CUPE members committed our union to fight the rising tide of racism and hatred we see in the world. We continue to empower members and allies to speak out against all forms of racism and discrimination – including Islamophobia.”

Muslim communities in Canada need to know that we stand beside them, says Charles Fleury, CUPE National Secretary Treasurer.

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CUPE Calls For Relief in Long-Term Care

The president of CUPE Ontario is asking the provincial government to provide more help to Ontario’s seniors.

Fred Hahn provided a presentation to a legislative finance committee during pre-budget hearings held Friday at the St. Clair Centre for the Arts in Windsor. The discussion was one of several held across the province as the process of completing Ontario’s next budget gets underway at Queen’s Park.

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