NS Federation of Labour Monthly Update

This is my monthly president's report for May 2020. Please share this with your co-workers and have them sign up to receive our updates.  Sign up here  

The labour movement is devastated by the loss of Sister Megan Whitfield, who passed away suddenly on May 24. Sister Whitfield was the first black president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers’ (CUPW) Toronto Local, the largest local of CUPW. She played a key role at the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), where she was a core member of the Executive Board, Executive Committee and the Workers of Colour Committee. We offer our condolences to her family and friends, many here in NS. 

Sadly, another NS worker has died in a workplace accident. Greg Bell, a truck driver and business owner, was pinned between a truck and a trailer while on the job in Exhibition Park. Our condolences to his family and friends.

We have been working to push back on opening things too quickly and we are afraid that doing so will only mean another shut down with the spread of COVID – 19. Just look at how quickly that happened in New Brunswick. We are thankful that opening will see employers meet strict health and safety protocols, distancing rules and other protections in place limiting people in stores and restaurants. It seems to me the government was on track with opening in phases and quickly switched because of pressure from business. 

Long-term care

What we are seeing in long term care in Ontario shouldn't surprise anyone. The graphic to the left is a social media post we ran in April of 2017. Our unions have been raising many issues within the health care system for a long time and no one has listened. In Nova Scotia, we all know it is a crisis. The systemic failure over the years, like underfunding and the poor treatment of staff with poor wages, benefits, and understaffing to achieve profits, led us to where we are today. When our unions raised concerns to officials, both government and bureaucrats, over the years, it all fell on deaf ears. I am confident that many reports that our unions presented to officials were tossed in the dust-collection bin. When we have systems that put profit over people, this is where you will often end up. It's time to dust off those reports and take an in-depth look at what we need to do to right the system. It's time to adequately fund the system. The graphic from 2017 says it all. We need action and many unions are doing campaigns on long-term care. We encourage that you join those campaigns. In a surprise move, the government is trying to mitigate the narrative of the fact no beds have been added to our long-term care system when they announced a few new long-term beds. We need a public inquiry into long-term care - now.

The Liberal government has moved and named the corporation that will build and operate the new P3 Highway between Antigonish and Cape Breton. The extra debt servicing and cost make me wonder why are we doing it this way? Why will we as taxpayers pay so much more through higher interest payments and other costs to the tune of some $66 million more to finance a P3 highway. That raises a bigger question, why would we turn over the maintenance and snow clearing to a private company? The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) last year estimated it could cost up to $66.6 million more the finance the P3 Highway. We know the government can borrow money more cheaply than a private corporation and as NS NDP Leader Gary Burrill pointed out, why are taxpayers taking on the risk? A contract is supposed to protect the government and taxpayers from risk, not create more financial risk. As Steve Joy from local 1867 the high way workers say's: If public infrastructure were built as it always was, and our roads and highway remained in public hands, we would have that $66 million in our pocket.

That’s a lot of money that could be going to providing better services, like health care and or fixing roads. Instead, it's going into a corporate bank account. The same people building the highway would be the same builders by public procurement and could do the job just as quickly and save tax-payers big time.

We have been raising the fact that big corporations who hide money and avoid paying their fair share of taxes will get a Federal government bailout. It makes me angry when we see bank profits still on the increase, as they continue to charge high fees and interest rates. Media reports it by saying things like this headline “Royal Bank reports lower fourth-quarter profit; misses estimates” Their net income is down to $3.21 billion from $3.25 billion in the same quarter last year. RBC made a record profit of $12.9 billion in 2019.

All the banks are in the same boat and I just used RBC to make the point. They are doing very well when many others are suffering. That’s just over a billion dollars a month.

On another front, we must ask, who are the real cheats morally speaking? Canadian companies avoided paying up to $11.4 billion worth of taxes they should have paid in the single tax year of 2014. The Canada Revenue Agency released its fifth and final report on the tax gap, this one focusing on corporate taxes. The report estimates that in the 2014 tax year, Canadian corporations managed to pay somewhere between $9.4 billion and $11.4 billion less than they should have in taxes.

It makes me angry when big business representative organizations talk about the CERB and workers as being cheats? Really. Imagine how much was squandered in tax heavens since 2014. 

Every Nova Scotia worker deserves paid sick leave. No one should ever have to choose between their job, their health and the public interest. Our federal and provincial governments must work together to implement a uniform policy of 14 paid, job-protected sick days for all workers. Sign the petition and send a letter Here. We need you to get a friend to sign, send it to your list and ask people to sign. 

Politicians keep saying workers should be protected during COVID-19, but we don't see much action. Heroes deserve sick leave. It's time for our government to act now.

Our good friends at the CCPA Nova Scotia call for the transformation of Nova Scotia's social safety net. In a new report released recently, Are you with us? Covid-19 confirms the need to transform Nova Scotia’s social safety net, authors Tammy Findlay, Christine Saulnier and Alec Stratford provide evidence that the pandemic has proven just how fragile our current social systems are and why we must fundamentally shift our political and economic system to become a sustainable, fair, and just province.

Thank you to our firefighters at the Department of Lands and Forest and the volunteer and paid fire brigades as we seem to be battling a number of fires early in the year.

Below are the things we have raised or statements we have done. It’s all on our website. We have provided them here for your convenience:

NSFL President Danny Cavanagh is urging Prime Minister Trudeau to support municipalities Read it Here

Statement May 1 International Workers’ Day read it Here

Statement May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada read it Here

Statement May is celebrated as Jewish Heritage Month in Canada read it Here

Statement on May 9, we mark the grim anniversary of the Westray Disaster Read it Here

NSFL Westray Memorial Education Fund now includes children of NS union members who die as a result of an injury at work Read it Here

Westray May 9th, 2020. Laying a wreath at the Westray Memorial Park. Read it Here

A new normal after COVID-19  - What have we Learned? Read it Here

Presumptive Workers' Compensation coverage for workers who get COVID-19 Read it Here

Reopen the Economy with a Health and Safety Lens Read it Here  

NSFL urging the provincial government to extend health care coverage for residents in Nova Scotia who are uninsured Read it Here

The CERB is a drop in the bucket compared to the money we have lost through tax avoidance rules for Canadian corporations Here  What employers are saying that when workers have a choice to make more money there are taking it.

Our open letter to Premier McNeil on the Nova Scotia recovery from COVID-19 Read it Here

Our statement on Paramedic Services Week | May 24 – 30 Read our statement Here

Federation praises NDP for securing a commitment from Federal Government to push provinces for 10 days of paid sick leave - read it Here 

Danny Cavanagh

The Nova Scotia Federation of Labour

Our office is located in Halifax on the land of the Mi'kma'ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi'kmaq People. We are the Nova Scotia provincial labour organization representing some 70,000 unionized workers in our province and we were founded in 1956. 

Remember that Together We Are Stronger



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