Workers’ Compensation workers from across Canada meet to discuss crushing workloads and the need for sweeping reforms for mental health injuries

Niagara Falls, ON – Representatives of the major unions representing Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) workers in Canada met to discuss issues that impact injured workers, employers and employees of workers compensation boards.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) represent Workers’ Compensation employees in Canada’s ten provinces and three territories.

The conference focused on two primary issues affecting employees of WCB’s and injured workers alike. Sadly, unreasonable workloads are experienced by workers in multiple sectors across Canada. No one is immune from the negative health impacts of heavy workloads.

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Premier Ford must not use new fiscal forecast to break promises of no service cuts or job losses

TORONTO, ON – Today’s release of the Ontario government’s new fiscal forecast must not be used as an excuse for the Premier to break his election promises that he will not make any cuts to public services or make job cuts, says CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn.

“There is no question that the previous Liberal government tried to cook the books in their favour, but we also know Premier Ford played fast and loose with the financial numbers at the municipal level to create a phony fiscal crisis in a failed attempt to justify substantial service cuts,” says Hahn. “What we have in this province is a revenue problem. Fixing the issues we have in long-term care, in our schools, hospitals and other public services, is going to require more money, not less – that’s just a fact. And that means it’s time for large corporations to start paying their fair share in taxes again.”

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Ontario students to walk out of class in protest of sex-ed curriculum changes

Students at more than a hundred schools across Ontario pledged to walk out of class on Friday to show the provincial government they disagree with its decision to repeal a modernized version of the sex-ed curriculum.

The walkouts — called “We the students do not consent” — are set to take place in schools from Niagara Falls to Ottawa. The protests also aim to voice opposition to the cancellation of curriculum writing sessions designed to fulfil findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“A lot of adults have been saying you don’t know what you’re talking about, about these issues, or you don’t have to get to have an opinion,” said Indygo Arscott, 16, a co-organizer of the protests. “But it’s going to affect us and it’s going to affect the children younger than us.”

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Distressing day for democracy in Ontario as Premier Ford threatens to invoke the Notwithstanding Clause

TORONTO (September 10, 2018) – All Ontarians should be very concerned by Premier Ford’s threat to invoke the Notwithstanding Clause in response to today’s ruling that his Bill to interfere in municipal election is unconstitutional, says CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn.

“Our constitution was created for a reason – to protect all Canadians and our fundamental democracy. Invoking the Notwithstanding Clause to override local democracy, when those actions violate our constitution, is a terrifying precedent for a government to set,” says Hahn. “We need a moment of sober second thought here. We need to ask all our MPPs to set partisanship aside and stop this from going ahead.”

In response to today’s ruling that Bill 5 unequivocally violates the constitution, Premier Ford announced his intent to recall the legislature Wednesday, to bring in legislation that would allow him to enact the Notwithstanding Clause to override the decision. If the Premier were to be successful, this would be the first time the Notwithstanding Clause is used in the history of Ontario.

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Some Ontario students will still learn the 2015 sex-ed curriculum

As kids across Ontario prepare to head back to class, with some even opening the school door this week, parents are left scratching their head over just what will be taught to their child when it comes to the Health and Physical Education Curriculum (HPE).

To alleviate some confusion, both the Toronto District School Board and the Peel District School Board have released statements on what to expect in both elementary school and high school.

According to the statements, both TDSB and PDSB high school teachers will continue to teach the 2015 secondary school curriculum — including the revised sex-ed curriculum.

However, when it comes to elementary schools, the TDSB said it will be teaching the 2010 curriculum — which is really the 1998 curriculum.

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Educators slam Ford’s ‘snitch line’ for teachers who defy sex ed rollback

The Ontario government is creating what critics are calling a “snitch line” for parents to report teachers who refuse to stop using the repealed 2015 sexual education curriculum.

And Doug Ford warned that educators caught breaking the rules will face consequences.

“We will not tolerate anybody using our children as pawns for grandstanding and political games,” the premier said Wednesday. “Make no mistake, if we find somebody failing to do their job, we will act.”

The warning was issued during Ford’s announcement that public consultations on a new sexual education curriculum, and other key issues, will start next month. Elementary school teachers are to abandon the curriculum introduced in 2015, which has been largely supported by educators and health groups, and revert back to old lesson plans.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Education issued a revised interim Health and Physical Education curriculum for Grades 1 to 8, which was used between 1998 and 2014. High school students, however, will be taught the 2015 curriculum, which was introduced by the Liberals to address current issues such as same-sex marriage, gender and cyberbullying.

The government also unveiled a new website called Fortheparents.ca that is “designed to give parents a portal to provide feedback about concerns related to the curriculum.” And, if parents feel like a teacher is deliberately ignoring the curriculum, they were advised to call the Ontario College of Teachers’ Investigations and Hearing’s Department or file a complaint online.

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Omers Proposed Changes

The OMERS Sponsors Board is proposing to make the following change that will hurt your pension:

1. Changes to early retirement provisions.
As it stands today, OMERS members can retire early if:

They have worked for 30 years; or
They reach their 90 factor where your age and years of service add up to 90
OMERS wants to require members to wait until you are no more than 5 years away from the normal age of retirement before you can apply for early retirement.

In other words, despite years of service and paying in to the pension plan, no CUPE member would be able to retire before the age of 60 without taking a reduced pension.

2. Changes to how your pension is calculated, which for some would mean a substantial loss in benefits.
Right now, calculating your pension is done by multiplying years of service by an accrual rate of 1.325% for salaries up to the current $55,300 [the current Year’s Maximum Pensionable Earnings (YMPE)] and a 2 % accrual rate on wages above that amount.

OMERS is proposing to raise the base salary by 14 % before increasing the accrual calculation from 1.35 to 2 %. This would mean a lower pension for those making above the YMPE.

OMERS will claim that this loss will be made up for by an increase in CPP that kicks in years from now, but this means that OMERS pensioners will not fully benefit from the expansion of CPP which the Canadian government agreed to for all workers.

3. And worse than the previously proposed modified indexing, OMERS is now proposing “conditional inflation protection” or conditional indexing.
This proposal would remove indexing as of 2025 until the pension plan meets specific conditions – some of which will be decided at a later date, behind closed doors and based on a financial management strategy that has not even been created yet.

Though they have yet to clearly define the specific conditions, some of what they seem to be proposing is:

Indexing would continue only when OMERS is above 105% fully funded AND that the implementation of indexing wouldn’t cause the plan to go below 105% fully funded.
In other words, the plan would have to be approximately 108-109% funded for plan members to receive indexing.
Today OMERS is funded at 94 % and given that the plan is on target to be fully funded in 2025, it will likely take several more years to reach the 109% mark – if that is even possible.

This means that after 2025 it will be impossible for members to know when or if they will receive indexing, which is a huge loss of pension security.

Taken together, all three of these proposed changes represent a significant financial loss to OMERS pensioners. We have people working on the exact calculations of what this will mean for you and your fellow members, but based on what we know so far, it would be somewhere in the ball park of 20% overall loss in guaranteed benefits going forward.

It is important to note that these are all employer-friendly changes. They have chosen to propose cuts to your benefits rather than look at the possibility of a small increase to employer contribution rates.


Toronto Mourns, Violence Demands Action

Two lives have been lost, and many more are seriously injured, after a gunman shot into crowds of people enjoying a summer evening on Toronto’s Danforth Ave. This shocking event naturally brings sorrow and grieving to the entire city. The ripple effects of this kind of horror can be deep and lasting – for those directly effected and those part of the surrounding community.

CUPE Ontario sends our deep gratitude to our paramedics and all first responders who attended the scene Sunday night. They were there in minutes, making sure that all the victims received the emergency care they needed. Lives were saved thanks to their work.

We also deeply appreciate and recognize the skills of the hospital workers who are providing ongoing care and support to all those injured. We thank them along with all the community social services workers who are, and will be, providing support to help with the individual and collective healing that is so clearly needed.

The value these public service workers provide to our lives and our communities is immeasurable, and we are enormously proud that many of these heroes are members of our union.

Sunday’s tragedy was not the first shooting in Toronto this summer, but it is by far the largest. Families in communities all across the city have faced traumatic losses over the past few months. And some communities have known this type of tragedy for far too long. We can’t let this continue. We need collective solutions to the city’s gun violence. More police on our streets cannot be proposed as the only solution. We must address the root causes of the violence, in particular the need for more community based mental health supports.

Toronto is dealing with a serious lack of funding for critical community services. We know that programs created while David Miller was mayor, that worked to reduce gun violence, were cut by both the Ford and Tory administrations. These cuts were a tragic mistake that the people of Toronto are now paying the collective price for years later.

While there are no easy solutions, we cannot be overcome by fear. We cannot let fear be used to divide us from each other and destroy our inclusive way of life.

All levels of government must come together to ensure funding is provided to truly address the root causes that lead to gun violence. That includes stronger gun control measures. We need real political leadership that deals immediately with the realities communities are facing across our city.

This is a tragedy that should never have happened. We all need to take care of each other. Together we must demand more from our governments and ensure we move forward together, united in the diverse city we love.


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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