LATEST: Crown Dispute: Ontario Appoints Expert To Investigate Strike

Strike-Rally-at-Carnival-HQ-Crown-Aluminum-Dist.-4-Canada-NYC-April-17Ontario, Canada: Ontario Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn is appointing Morton Mitchnick to conduct an Industrial Inquiry Commission to facilitate a resolution in the dispute involving the United Steelworkers and Crown Metal Packaging Canada LP.

On rare occasions the Minister may find it necessary to use additional powers granted to him under the Labour Relations Act, 1995 to examine labour disputes.

For example, Section 37 of the Act gives the Minister of Labour authority to appoint a Commission “to inquire into and report to the Minister on any industrial matter or dispute that the Minister considers advisable.”

The strike began on September 6th, 2013, and involves 133 employees at the Crown Metal facility in Toronto.

At the request of Crown Metal, under section 42 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995, the Minister of Labour directed a “last offer” vote on March 24, 2014. The employees voted overwhelmingly to reject the employer’s offer.

Morton Mitchnick, an experienced mediator-arbitrator, has been appointed as the commission’s sole member.

He will be responsible for examining the relationship between the parties, identifying key issues in the dispute, investigating the dispute’s underlying causes and assessing prospects of settlement.

Following the inquiry, the Commissioner will report to back to the Minister of Labour within 14 days on any remaining issues in dispute and advise on next steps.

The United Steelworkers has welcomed the Ontario government’s decision to appoint an Industrial Inquiry Commission into an 18-month dispute.

“Crown has demanded concessions even though it is profitable and Crown does not want to allow all striking employees to return to work. This is unacceptable in Ontario and we hope that the commission leads Crown to finally understand that,” said USW Ontario Director Marty Warren.

“In the meantime, we will continue our fight against Crown’s U.S.-style union-busting tactics on all available fronts,” Warren said.

Philadelphia-based Crown, one of the world’s largest manufacturer’s of food and beverage containers, provoked a strike at its Toronto beer can factory in September 2013 by demanding massive concessions from workers. Crown has refused to negotiate a fair settlement with its Toronto employees in the ensuing 18 months, instead recruiting replacement workers to prolong the dispute and try to break the strike.

Opposition politicians at Queen’s Park and Steelworkers allies such as Unifor have joined the USW in calling on the Ontario government to help end the labour dispute by compelling Crown to negotiate a fair settlement.

“Most of the Crown strikers are long service employees who have given their working lives to build Crown into the huge and profitable company it is today,” Warren said.

“This 18-month strike has caused untold financial and personal tragedies for our members. Today’s announcement of an industrial inquiry must lead to an end to this long and tragic refusal by Crown to deal fairly with its dedicated employees.”

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USW Reaches Tentative Agreement To Settle Oil Industry Strikes

b83ex06cyaewf7v*600xx600-399-0-13The United Steelworkers (USW) has announced that it has reached a ‘tentative agreement’ on a new four-year contract with Shell Oil as a pattern agreement for the rest of the industry. 7000 oil workers have been on strike across the USA for the past two months.

The agreement accomplishes the major goals as directed by the USW’s Oil Conference in October 2014, and has been approved by union’s lead negotiators and National Oil Bargaining Policy (NOBP) Committee.

“We salute the solidarity exhibited by our membership,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. “There was no way we would have won vast improvements in safety and staffing without it.”

Safety issues were central to the negotiations, and the proposed agreement calls for the immediate review of staffing and workload assessments, with USW safety personnel involved at every facility. Daily maintenance and repair work in the plants was another critical issue that, too, was addressed.

“The new agreement calls for joint review on the local level of future, craft worker staffing- needs,” said USW International Vice President Tom Conway. “Included are hiring plans to be developed in conjunction with recruitment and training programs.”

The tentative agreement calls for yearly wages increases as well as maintaining the current health care plan cost-sharing ratio.

“Preserving “retrogression” clauses in our agreements was also an objective established by our policy conference and we accomplished that, too,” said USW International Vice President Gary Beevers, who oversees the union’s oil sector. “There was no way we could turn our backs to the accomplishments of prior contract negotiations.”

The next step in the bargaining process is for the company to put the terms of the settlement agreement on all of the Shell and Motiva bargaining tables. Our expectation is that other employers will offer the same terms at their local bargaining tables.

The local unions will then review the employers’ proposals with Vice President Beevers. Approved settlement agreements are then submitted to the local membership for explanation and ratification votes.

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Unite Delegation Support USW Sherwin Alumina Lock Out

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Why Britain badly needs more women engineers and scientists

Pages from Job 6842 A5 WOMEN APPRENTICES11-22104By Siobhan Endean, Unite National Officer for Equalities

This week the UKs biggest trade union, Unite, is launching its guide to encourage more young women to take up skilled apprenticeships in engineering and science at a series of events including the Voices Of Apprentices conference at Solihull; at the TUC Women’s Conference in London and at Unite’s head office in Central London.

So why do Unite, with 500,000 members working in manufacturing, think we needed to do this?

Well, as things stand only a small amount of engineers in this country are women, a paltry 7%. That’s the lowest in the entire European Union, a galling statistic in 2015 and one manufacturers need to be concerned about.

Three times the size of our retail sector, whether it is transport, factories, hospitals, offices, white goods or communications – engineering and science skills are essential to our everyday lives.

The plain fact is the British economy needs another 87,000 new skilled apprentices every single year for the next decade in order to make sure we are able to meet the global challenges of the future – energy, climate change, food and water supplies and an ageing population.

Unite believes we need to get more women engineers and scientists into the workplace. Currently only 3% of engineering apprentices are female so there is a long road to travel.

For far too long women have been held back by an unconscious bias from teachers, parents and employers which has reinforced outdated gender stereo-typing when it comes to engineering and science apprenticeships.

Unite’s new guide – called ‘Thinking About An Apprenticeship?‘ – specifically for women considering engineering and science.

The key point of the guide is to get young women talking to others just like them about what the reality of working in engineering and science, and that includes going into schools and colleges and taking part in events such as Big Bang where Unite will be an exhibitor and talking about STEM subjects and the skills needs for the future.

There is a major difference here between these conversations and the one-dimensional aspect of some official company adverts.

This is part of an ongoing campaign by Unite to bust myths about engineering being unsafe, dirty work which women aren’t strong enough to do. Such old-fashioned notions belong firmly in the past. Or that science based apprenticeships are not for women.

We are talking about vast reserves of untapped potential among the nation’s young women and the best people to inspire the women engineers and scientists of the future are those doing this kind of work today.

Take Natalie Murray, a maintenance apprentice at the BMW Mini plant in Oxford. “My male counterparts treat me exactly the same as the male apprentices” she told me. “We should try to step away from the ‘stereo-type’ given to women so we don’t assume they want to do a clean, office type role, but a practical hands-on role.”

Amy Ensor, an engineering apprentice at Brush in Loughborough explained that it’s a “standing joke” that her dad started her career off. “I was one of those females who believed engineering was solely for males…my dad had to ring Brush to confirm they would even consider taking on a female. “One of my main concerns is that there are plenty of other females out there that have the ability and skill required to perform such engineering tasks.”

Emma Brown an apprentice at Unilever told us: “An apprenticeship is certainly not an easy option, but I really enjoyed it. After four years of hard work I now have a first class degree in Chemistry and a permanent position at Unilever.”

Such testimonies show that apprenticeships are a brilliant opportunity with a real, decent and secure job at the end of it.

On offer is qualification gained via a high quality work-based programme with the opportunity to earn a real wage, work in decent conditions and gain practical and portable skills.

In addition Unite will always work hard with employers and the sector skills councils COGENT and SEMTA (where the union is represented on the main boards) to help ensure that apprenticeships being offered are top quality, Gold Standard and meaningful – never bogus, low quality apprenticeships.

I’d say to all women interested in taking an apprenticeship in engineering and science – don’t be put off by outdated sexism. Britain doesn’t need it, but Britain certainly needs you.

You can get a free printed copy of the guide by emailing

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Blacklisted – The Secret War Between Big Business & Union Activists

‘Blacklisted – The Secret War between Big Business and Union Activists’ by Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlin tells the story of the illegal strategies that transnational construction companies resorted to in their attempt to keep union activists away from their places of work.

This is a story of a bitter struggle, in which collusion with the police and security services resulted in victimization, violence and unemployment, with terrible effects on families and communities.

Drawing on first-hand accounts of the workers, the book reveals how, when major construction projects were unionized, those involved were unlawfully victimized.

From the building sites to the High Court, this is a story of ordinary working people taking on some of the most powerful transnational companies in the world.

With a full inquiry promised by the Labour Party, the practice of blacklisting is set to become a hot topic in the May general election. The book also reveals how blacklisting extended beyond construction activists to environmental campaigners, journalists, politicians and academics.

And it adds an international perspective with related stories from America and Europe.

Read the abstract of the book that appeared in The Guardian.

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US Oil Workers – It’s All About Safety

USW oil workers have been forced into an unfair labor practice strike. The workers are fighting to secure fair contracts that will protect the health and safety of workers and communities. The oil industry is the richest in the world, but their greed and their bad faith bargaining has stalled efforts to improve conditions in their workplaces. The industry has refused to address serious health and safety issues.

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An Open Letter To Socialist Party Members In Unite

The following is an open and public letter from members of Unite’s United Left grouping to members of the Socialist Party who are  standing candidates against Labour candidates in marginal seats in the forthcoming General Election.

“Dear Comrades,

This Coalition government has been responsible for attacks on our class  that go far beyond anything Thatcher would have dreamed of. Their austerity  policies have been targeted on the poor and vulnerable in our society. They  have lined the pockets of their Hedge Fund backers and speculators in the City with billions of public money.

They have been responsible for attacks on the organised labour movement and have been open in their support for  even more draconian legislation if re-elected. New proposed laws which would make effective trade union action virtually illegal.

The Tories are  not campaigning in this election as the ‘Hug-A-Hoodie’, party that can be  trusted with the NHS, they are back as The Nasty Party fighting on a class  war programme.

While Unite policy is to support Labour, in fact to do all we can to elect a Labour Government, your organisation has decided to stand candidates in  the forthcoming general election. Of course that is your right; we are a  trade union not a political party, we do not have any disciplinary means to  force you to support union policy and rightly so.

Within the UL there is then a clear political difference; on the one hand  the majority, working for a Labour victory who are also intent on developing the left within the Party and your goal, of standing candidates in the election as part of becoming the political alternative to Labour. In our view a big claim for some 1,000 – 2,000 people, whose track record in elections is derisory.

While we know we can’t dissuade you from standing candidates we consider you have crossed a line by standing candidates in marginals. We would ask you to withdraw your candidates from the 100 Labour must win marginals. In our view standing in these seats is a breach in a working class front against the Tories.

You are not a rival to Labour. While Labour are standing to win every seat and form a Government, you know very well you will not win one seat let alone form a government. Rather your goal is to recruit to, and make propaganda for your organisation.

By standing in marginals you are not just ‘building the party’ you are also taking votes from Labour – those who vote for you, and those you influence not to vote Labour. While the numbers you convince will be small, in such a tight election where every vote counts you must realise it may mean Labour losing seats, in effect allowing seats to be won by the Tories or their partners in crime the Lib Dems.

The logic of your position goes further; it is to argue, where there is no SP candidate, workers should abstain. If of course we have misunderstood your position then why are you fielding candidates in marginals Labour can win?

The only rationale for this cavalier attitude is because you believe there is no difference between Labour and the other capitalist parties. This is blind sectarianism, yet Labour is supported by nearly every union, and unions are the mass organisations of workers, do the unions not count for anything?

We urge you then as fellow UL members to reconsider standing in marginals and so not breaking the front against the Tories.


Tony Woodhouse UL, Chair Unite Executive Council

Mark Lyons UL, Vice Chair Unite Executive Council

Martin Mayer Chair Unite UL

Terry Abbott UL, Chair North-West Regional Committee

Dick Banks UL, Chair North-East Regional Committee

Liam Gallagher UL, Chair Unite Ireland

Mike Jenkins UL, Chair Unite Wales

Jim Kelly UL, Chair London & Eastern Regional Committee

Gordon Lean UL, Chair South-East Regional Committee

Kev Terry UL, Chair South-West Regional Committee

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International Unions Support Locked Out Glencore Workers.

gencore-groupOne Hundred USW members and allies from trade unions from Texas and around the world visited the Houston offices of multinational corporation Glencore on February 26th to present the company with a silver medal in in recognition of its second-place finish in the 2015 Public Eye Lifetime Awards for corporate irresponsibility.

The delegation, led by members of USW Local 235A in Gregory, Texas, included USW oil workers, members of the Service Employees International Union, and union reps from Unite in the UK (USW’s sister union in Workers Uniting),  Australia and South Africa.

Click here for link to TV News report.

Sherwin Alumina, a subsidiary of Glencore, illegally locked out 450 members of Local 235A on Oct. 11 after the membership overwhelmingly rejected a contract proposal that demanded steep cuts in benefits for both active employees and retirees.

“This company’s bad behavior doesn’t begin and end at Sherwin. Glencore has mistreated workers and harmed communities on nearly every continent. When a company that generates hundreds of billions in revenue each year consistently engages in this kind of reckless behavior, there must be consequences,” said USW District 13 Director Ruben Garza.

SherwinGlobalAfter presenting the Glencore “award,” the group joined striking USW oil workers on picket lines at refineries in Houston, Deer Park and Texas City.

Unite activist Charlotte Upton, who is an electrician at Tata Steel in Scunthorpe, England, has taken part in labour solidarity events in Cuba, Palestine and Mexico on her first visit to the United States she said: “The way that our brothers and sisters are treated is disgusting. It’s important that we recognize that we have the same struggles. We need to stand together.”

Patrick Mathebane, of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in South Africa, said that the only way to win against global corporations is to fight them on a global scale.

Mathebane said Glencore recently announced its decision to close the Optimum Coal Mine in Mpumalanga, a move that shocked union members and could put more than 1,000 people out of work.

“We are aware of what Glencore’s approach is around the world,” Mathebane said.

Alan Scott, a member of Australia’s Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), works at Glencore’s Clermont coal mine in north-eastern Australia, and is currently in a battle with the company over his illegal discharge.

“It’s important that we come together and gain a better understanding of what’s going on around the world,” Scott said.

Glencore, the 10th-largest company in the world with net income of $4.6 billion in 2013, finished ahead of Wal-Mart and behind only Chevron in the Public Eye online vote. Allegations of firings, anti-union intimidation and tax evasion have followed Glencore to work sites all over the world, from the United States to Australia, South Africa and South America.

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US Oil Strike – More Refineries Walk Out

10855012_777872678947558_6027490742054471957_oAccording to reports on the negotiation front, it is being reported that “it’s been a quiet week for striking oil workers and energy executives”.

The United Steelworkers added three more refineries, including the USA’s largest refinery and one chemical plant to the strikes.

Workers at Shell and Motiva refineries in Norco, Louisiana, about 30 miles west of New Orleans joined the strike.

Click here to read excellent reports on the strike in Louisiana

However Shell have issued a statement stating that: “We can confirm that Shell and USW have agreed to speak next Wednesday (March 4th) as both parties continue efforts to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement,”

- Shell spokesman Ray Fisher said in a written statement Friday afternoon.

Shell is the lead negotiator in the oil industry in the bargaining talks with the United Steelworkers union.

Fifteen refineries and chemical plants are on strike and the USW reports excellent support from its members and from unions worldwide.

In the U.S., the union represents more than 230 refineries, oil terminals, pipelines and petrochemical facilities in the U.S. Of those, 65 are refineries that process nearly two-thirds of the crude oil in the nation.

While the union called strikes, members continue to work as usual at the other plants that are operating under rolling 24-hour contract extensions.

For updates, photos and events visit the Facebook page.

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Germany: IG Metall Wins 3.4% Pay Deal

c9f2f2f25733f8d484584ba1407ffd14cda85ed7Germany’s largest union IG Metall which cover engineering, automotive, aerospace, electrical and other skilled metalworking trades has agreed a 3.4% pay rise for 12 months from April.

The union, which represents 3.7 million workers across Germany had originally demanded a rise of 5.5%, with employers offering 2.2%. This lead to warning strikes by 850,000 IG Metall members.

The deal also includes a one-off payment of 150 Euros and also includes a new collective agreement on flexible transition to retirement.

IG Metall traditionally sets the pace for wage agreements across Germany and expectations are that remaining pay deals will be around 3% to 4%.

The deal was struck in the Baden-Württemberg region and is expected to be implemented across the country. Roman Zitzelsberger, the IG Metall union leader in the region said the agreement will assure that the economy’s main engine at the moment, private consumption, will keep running and described the deal as a “satisfactory compromise.”

The deal shows that in Germany unions are benefitting from strong demand for skilled labour, with unemployment now at a post-reunification low and vacancy rates running ahead of the supply of new skilled workers.

Germany will also begin the the in phasing of a national minimum wage of €8.50 an hour by January 2017.

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