FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – NOVEMBER 2016
YUKON – Election day on November 7th, 2016 resulted in a majority government for the Yukon Liberal Party. It also marked the end of a 14 year run for the Yukon Party, which replaced the NDP as the Official Opposition. The Yukon Federation of Labour (YFL) would like to congratulate Premier-Elect Sandy Silver and all the candidates who ran in the territorial election.
The YFL looks forward to working with the new Territorial Government and will announce details of the swearing in ceremony when they are available.
For more information please contact:
Justin Lemphers, YFL President – 867.667.6682
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – NOVEMBER 2016
WHITEHORSE – Delegates at the 10th Convention of the Yukon Federation of Labour (YFL) chose a new leadership team on October 29th. The event, held at the organized Coast High Country Inn, had the highest number of registered delegates to date. In attendance were members from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, UNIFOR, the United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters, Sheet Metal and Hospitality Workers, United Steelworkers, and the Yukon Employees’ Union.
Justin Lemphers, from Local Y010 of Yukon Employees’ Union, was acclaimed as the new YFL President. Justin has a diverse background in the labour movement, having served as an elected member on numerous committees, boards and executives. He is excited to work with the new YFL leadership and looks forward to embracing the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
The new Executive Board is joined by Richard Wagner, Lee Tanguay, Anton Berger and Sue Christianson. Linda Moen is the Equity Representative and Jamie Webber is the Youth Representative. Mark Bowers, Driss Adrao and Paul Davis take on the role of trustee.
• President – Justin Lemphers
• 1st Vice-President – Richard Wagner
• 2nd Vice-President – Lee Tanguay
• Secretary – Anton Berger
• Treasurer – Sue Christianson
• Linda Moen
• Jamie Webber
• Mark Bowers
• Driss Adrao
• Paul Davis
For more information please contact:
Justin Lemphers, YFL President – 867.667.6682
Check to see if you belong to one of the following locals and ask your local executive how you can be a part of the exciting change for the future of labour in the Yukon. Submit resolutions that will guide the direction of labour for the next three years. Cut off for Delegate/Alternate Credentials is October 14th, 2016.
The following are the affiliate membership and are entitled to delegate credentials. Contact your local executive for more information.
Cut offs for submissions for resolutions are as follows:
Constitutional Changes: September 28th, 2016.
Regular Resolutions: October 14th, 2016.
Greed is a problem for humanity. Employers have become rich off the backs of the working populace. Workers, on the other hand, have being forced into long working hours by bosses in unsafe working conditions and for little pay. Unions exist to equalize the imbalance of wealth. The Government of Canada has recognized that and proclaimed the first Monday in September to be a stat holiday for workers.
The world of bosses has changed, with some Corporations becoming the most oppressive group of employers this world has yet seen. Mass unemployment, human rights abuses, ignoring health and safety laws and moving companies to a different country for a cheaper workforce show blatant disregard for the working person.
Corporations have seen an unprecedented rise in power through globalization with more economic status than most of the world’s countries. In the US, in 1886, a court ruled that Corporations are, under the 14th amendment, a natural person with all rights and free voice of a true person. This gave them access to lobbying, controlling educational institutions, and to convince the public of their charitable nature through creating non-profit organisations. Many unions, churches and charitable organisations still fight for these same rights.
Since then, Corporations have convinced governments and political parties-in-waiting that cheap labour and globalization is the only way that the economy will survive, an idea created and supported by neoliberal think tanks. Corporations influence elections by providing money to political parties, which can be seen to take control of governments. In Canada, when listening to the corporations lobbyist efforts, Governments are giving the public less of a dedicated input on the services they are provided by promoting privatization, fighting back on a decent minimum wage, not ensuring affordable housing, and not signing our healthcare/pharmacare accords to keep it affordable. Trade agreements are being negotiated that cut job availability for Canadians, while bringing in a foreign working class who will work for much less, no given proper health and safety training, and often be sent home when no longer useful or have been whistle blowing on their employers.
Unions are more important than ever before. As the voice of the workers, we are a major player in the checks and balances of government decisions and legislative actions. We have the power to cull the work of the oppressive corporations by boycotting, unionizing workplaces and educating the public about the truth. Our voice must be heard not only in our local meetings but in the streets, in our meetings with government officials, on the boards we hold positions on and in public information pickets and gatherings.
Yes, we still need Labour Day to remember past struggles and spread the message of solidarity.
Happy Labour Day to all and the struggle continues.
Yukon Federation of Labour
On Sunday, August 21st, the Yukon Federation of Labour President Vikki Quocksister will host the reveal of the Yukon Workers Memorial.
The monument is the product of years of committed workers and employers wishing to create a permanent space to remember workers killed at their job. The site will become the permament spot for the annual Day Of Mourning Ceremony.
Whilw the original concept for this project began over 13 years ago, the Memorial has become a project of caring and respect and will be a spot for healing and rememberance.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 25, 2016
(Whitehorse, YT) – Federation of Labour presidents congratulate the premiers on Canada Pension Plan (CPP) expansion, are encouraged by the support for a new health accord, and are concerned about how sweeping trade deals may impact local communities, economies, and working people.
“The labour movement in this country has been advocating for an expanded CPP for many years. We are confident the CPP deal will be ratified shortly,” said Vikki Quocksister, president of the Yukon Federation of Labour, “the expansion means future retirees will not have to live in poverty,” she added.
During the Council of the Federation meetings many labour organizations and advocates for properly funded Medicare reached out to the premiers for their support of a new health accord and national pharmacare program.
“We heard this week support for a new health accord, which is very heartening,” said Quocksister, “publicly-funded and administered healthcare is a fundamental social program in Canada; it must be protected and enhanced – the best way to do that is to ensure the federal government is paying its fair share,” she added.
Before and during the premiers’ meetings trade deals occupied much of the conversation.
“Fair trade is good and should be encouraged, but many times trade deals – whether international or internal – force a race to the bottom when it comes to labour standards and protecting local communities and economies,” said Quocksister, “federation of labour presidents are unified in their stance that any trade deal must prioritize workers and their families, must enhance working and safety standards, and protect governments from being sued by corporations when they invest in their own communities and local economies,” she added.
In addition to CPP, healthcare funding, and trade deals, federation of labour presidents raised issues and put forward recommendations that would make life better for vulnerable workers.
“We spent much of our time building relationships with the premiers and raised the issues of a $15 an hour minimum wage, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and Employment Insurance,” said Quocksister, “while there are several positives coming from the premiers’ meeting, we remain very concerned about the internal trade agreement that was announced and will have to read the fine print and see the exemptions list to make a further analysis of its impacts,” she added.
Together, Canada’s provincial and territorial labour federations give voice to over three million workers.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 14, 2016
(Whitehorse, YT) – Ahead of the Council of the Federation meeting, Canada’s labour leaders are calling on the provincial and territorial premiers to make Canada’s most vulnerable workers the focus of their talks.
“This is the first time the premiers have met in Yukon – and we certainly welcome them this beautiful part of Canada,” said Vikki Quocksister, president of the Yukon Federation of Labour (YFL), “it is the hope of workers here and workers from all of the provinces and territories that the premiers will use this historic meeting as a chance to make history for the country’s most vulnerable workers,” she added.
While the premiers gather for their annual Council of the Federation meeting in Whitehorse, Yukon, the presidents of Canada’s provincial and territorial federations of labour are hosting parallel meetings where a $15/hour minimum wage, migrant workers, and Employment Insurance (EI) will be the main priorities.
“No one should have to go to the food bank at the end of the work week just to feed their family. It’s time to end poverty wages in Canada, and that means lifting the minimum wage to $15 an hour,” said Irene Lanzinger, president of the BC Federation of Labour. “Poverty has a long-term cost on families, on communities and on the economy. By setting the minimum wage at $15 an hour we are ensuring that a person working full-time is living above the poverty line and able to support their families and invest back into the local economy.”
It is time to raise the minimum wage across Canada – it’s only fair. Currently, most full-time minimum-wage workers are living below the poverty line as measured by Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut Off (LICO). The federation of labour presidents believe the minimum wage should bring people working 35 hours per week above the poverty line, so they can support themselves and their families.
“Using every standard measure of poverty, $15 an hour would bring workers’ wages above the poverty line,” said Irene Lanzinger, president of the BC Federation of Labour, “it will also benefit local businesses and support the local economy by putting money in workers’ pockets to spend in their community,” she added.
The federation of labour presidents are requesting that the premiers review the minimum wage in their respective provinces, and consider the following recommendations:
• Pledge to increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour;
• Implement rapid, yet reasonable, phase-in periods such as the province of Alberta, and;
• Once implemented, make plans to convert from a minimum wage to a living wage.
Launched in the early 1970s, and originally intended for limited high-skilled, high-paying jobs, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) has grown into an economy-destroying nightmare that is putting Canadians out of work and enabling the exploitation of vulnerable migrant workers.
“Since 2006, the number of Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada has more than tripled. And Alberta is ground zero for the abuse of the program – and of Temporary Foreign workers,” said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, “because Temporary Foreign Workers are dependent on the whims of their employers for their right to stay in Canada, they are at a disadvantage in terms of negotiating for fair wages, safe workplaces and respectful treatment. They face higher rates of wage theft, higher rates of workplace abuse, and often work for lower wages,” he added.
The federation of labour presidents are seeking the premiers’ support on the following TFWP recommendations:
• Phase-out the TFWP, especially in low-wage sectors;
• Workers who are in Canada as a result of the TFWP should be granted permanent resident status, and;
• Consult broadly with stakeholders, including migrant worker justice groups and organized labour, to develop stringent safeguards and strict rules for any program that may replace the TFWP for highly-skilled sectors.
With regards to EI, there are a number of recommendations the federations of labour will be raising with the premiers and canvassing them for support.
“Only 40 per cent of workers now qualify for regular EI benefits – the system is broken,” said Carl Pursey, president of the PEI Federation of Labour, “precarious working conditions, failures in the Automated Claims Processing system, public service job cuts, the elimination of zones in PEI and other northern parts of the country, and inadequately recognizing the challenges of seasonal employment are just a few of the areas that need fixing,” he added.
The federation of labour presidents are seeking the premiers’ support on EI recommendations that include, but are not limited to:
• Hire more staff in Service Canada Centres and train them in all aspects of a claim;
• Review the automated process to identify and address failures and delays;
• Reinstate the Board of Referees appeal process, and;
• Apply EI surpluses to benefit expansion as opposed to premium reduction.
“Our priorities at this meeting of the Council of the Federation are to fight for vulnerable workers, do what’s right for working families, and strengthen the economy,” said Quocksister, “this is a tremendous opportunity for the premiers to work with labour leaders from across the country and put forward-thinking, progressive solutions into action,” she added.
Together, Canada’s provincial and territorial labour federations give voice to over three million workers, represented by the Alberta Federation of Labour, British Columbia Federation of Labour, Canadian Labour Congress, Manitoba Federation of Labour, New Brunswick Federation of Labour, Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, Northern Territories Federation of Labour, Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, Ontario Federation of Labour, Prince Edward Island Federation of Labour, Fédération des travailleurs et travailleises du Québec, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and Yukon Federation of Labour.
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The Yukon’s Minimum Wage today stands at $11.07. If you are wondering – how is that a living wage? – the answer is it’s not.
The Yukon Federation of Labour is one of many voices around the country calling for a raise in the minimum wage to $15. The Minimum Wage is the lowest amount employers must pay by law. “Minimum wage jobs are not just filled by teenagers looking for pocket money, or by seniors hoping to help support their pensions,” says YFL President Vikki Quocksister. “With the downturn in Yukon’s mining sector, many families are looking for any work they can get, some taking two or even three jobs. Factor in the high costs of housing, childcare, food and supplies, the Yukon is quickly becoming un-livable for many.”
If a couple with two kids is each earning the living wage, the family can afford food and rent, clothes and bus passes, and some recreational activities for the kids, so long as Mom and Dad don’t drink or smoke or spend money on their own recreation. If they have no debt to service, no expensive health problems, and don’t take vacations, one of the parents can afford to take night classes to improve their situation. Currently, they have no chance of owning a home.
According to the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, based on a set of guidelines for a very modest lifestyle outlined in the Living Wage Framework, the 2016 living wage for Whitehorse is $19.12.
Though there is no direct connection to the Living Wage, it’s clear that the $11.07 minimum wage is woefully inadequate. It’s barely over half what it costs to live a decent life here. Still more than four bucks behind the living wage, $15 is seen by many as a bare minimum for even a single worker.
The Living Wage Framework was first released in 2013 by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Vibrant Communities Canada. It can be used anywhere in Canada to calculate the local living wage, an amount a family of four can get by on, though they’ll still be a long way from Easy Street. The Living Wage is a guideline for employers, and isn’t meant to be a substitute for the minimum wage. Employers are asked to sign on voluntarily to the Living Wage Certification Program. They do it because it benefits them in a number of ways: in fewer lost hours because better-paid employees are healthier and happier, in a rise in productivity and a reduction in turnover, and in public recognition of their decision to do the right thing by their workers. One by one, employers around the country are seeing the value of the Living Wage, and agreeing to sign on.
The movement toward a $15 minimum wage, known as the “Fight For Fifteen”, began in the US in 2013. Thousands of workers in more than a hundred cities walked off the job to protest a federal minimum wage of only $7.25. Since then California and New York have passed laws that will gradually raise the minimum wage to $15. So has the City of Seattle, and several other municipalities. When President Obama spoke of a gradual rise in the federal minimum wage in his 2013 State of the Union Address, New York Times economist Paul Krugman called it a “good policy” that would have “overwhelmingly positive effects”.
In 2014, the Federal NDP proposed a motion to gradually raise the federal minimum wage in Canada to $15. Since most workers fall under provincial and territorial wage laws, the move would have affected only a small portion of the workforce. The Liberals, then the third party, ridiculed the idea, and the Harper government defeated the motion. Alberta’s NDP government has announced a plan to reach $15 by 2018. Ontario is considering similar changes, and labour organizations across the country are pressing the rest of the provinces to do the same.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses strongly opposes the $15 minimum wage, and is campaigning against the Notley plan. Here in the Yukon, the Chamber of Commerce hasn’t taken a position for or against the $15 minimum, but acknowledges that some workers here are struggling. “We have concerns about affordable housing,” said YCC president Peter Turner, “we believe that affordable housing may help lower-wage workers as much as a higher minimum, or the living wage, would do.”
While opponents of the $15 movement point to studies claiming that a rise in the minimum wage would cause job losses and business closures, the latest review of information on the subject, conducted by Unifor economist Jim Stanford, found that the minimum wage is “virtually statistically irrelevant as a determinant of employment levels.” This applies even in industries where workers commonly earn minimum wage.
Lower income workers need to earn a decent living, and there is no evidence to support the claim that the economy can’t afford to pay it to them. The Yukon Federation of Labour supports the movement for a $15 an hour minimum wage. It’s a bare living at best, but it’s a place to start.
Each year on April 28 we mourn our brothers and sisters lost on the job. On May 1, we put away our mourning and celebrate the contribution of workers around the world, and their struggles for good jobs and fair pay.
On May 1, 1886, 40,000 Chicago workers walked off the job, striking for an eight-hour day. On May 3 a steelworkers picket line was attacked by police, and at least two people were killed. The next day, as police moved in to disperse what had been a peaceful demonstration in Haymarket Square, someone threw a bomb. Between the blast and the rioting that followed, four citizens and seven police were killed. In 1889, in memory of the Chicago General Strike and the Haymarket Riot, the Second International, the organization of labour and socialist parties, declared May 1 International Labour Day.
From the eight-hour day to the minimum wage, from the right to unionize to worker’s compensation, everything that makes our jobs decent was won in blood and sacrifice and political struggle by workers before us. Let’s take time on May 1 to celebrate those workers, and commit ourselves to that struggle.
- Canadian Union of Postal Workers Local 852
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1574
- PSAC North
- United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters and Sheet Metal Workers Local 310
- United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 2499
- United Steelworkers District 3
- Yukon Employees' Union/PSAC
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