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CFU signs Canada to support UN Special Representative for the Safety of Journalists

The CFU executive voted unanimously to sign the letter below, an initiative of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. To learn more about CJFE, you can visit their website here: http://www.cjfe.org/

The letter is addressed to Prime Minister Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion

Dear Prime Minister and Minister,

We, the undersigned organizations and supporters, urge the Canadian government to publicly endorse the campaign to appoint a Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for the safety of journalists. Around the world, journalists are being targeted in unprecedented ways, from kidnappings to cyber-attacks and even public killings, and these crimes too often go unpunished. By endorsing the creation a concrete mechanism to coordinate and give real political weight to UN efforts on the safety of journalists, Canada can become a global leader in the fight to end impunity and ensure the protection of journalists.

There has never been a more dangerous time for journalists. They are being killed and imprisoned worldwide in record numbers. Whether covering conflict, crime or corruption, journalists often have to put themselves at great risk in order to do their job effectively; and when they are threatened, attacked or killed, the crimes against them too often are committed with impunity. According to CJFE’s research, 787 journalists and media personnel were killed while exercising their profession over the last 10 years, including 77 in 2015 alone. In 9 out of 10 cases these crimes remain uninvestigated and unpunished. With their loss, the right to information for hundreds of millions of citizens is shattered.

There have been various resolutions adopted in the past decade, including by the Security Council and the General Assembly, dedicated to this issue. Despite this, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in his August 2015 report on the safety of journalists, acknowledges the world’s “failure to reduce the frequency and scale of targeted violence that journalists face and the near absolute impunity for such crimes.” These strong resolutions will continue to be little more than empty words without a concrete mechanism to assure the compliance of member states with their obligations.  Only a Special Representative, working closely with the UN Secretary General, will have the political weight, the capacity to act quickly, and the legitimacy to coordinate with all UN bodies to implement change.

Giving the Special Representative a central and permanent position under the UN Secretary General aegis would significantly empower the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity and all UN efforts lead by UNESCO, the Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, as well as reinforce the regional actions of the Council of Europe or the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Organization of American States).

Progress has been made, but more needs to be done. Canada is a global haven for persecuted journalists; it can be a world leader in helping to end impunity. We call on you to endorse the appointment of a Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for the safety of journalists as soon as possible. It is time for concrete action.

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A Freelance Proud Pride

This year marked the first time that the Canadian Freelance Union (CFU) had an official contingent in the Halifax Pride Parade and members represented their union with fierce pride. The CFU has so many talented members and we were lucky to have member Jonathan Rotsztain of ALLCAPS Design (http://www.allcapsdesign.com/) create some stunning pink triangle graphics for Halifax Pride. 

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Picture credit: Foundry Photography, CFU members

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I’ll Tell You What They Want, What They Really, Really Want.

An analysis of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Submissions  to the Changing Workplaces Review.

By Jamie Parkinson

On July 27, 2016, the Special Advisors to the Ontario Changing Workplaces Review issued their interim report which outlined the range of issues they had been asked to consider as part of their review.

The Canadian Freelance Union represents many Ontarians, indeed many Canadians, who find themselves in a precarious work situation. That is, work where contracts (if they exist at all) are short-term, relatively low-paid, without benefits or job security and with little control over their own scheduling.

As a result, the Canadian Freelance Union undertook an analysis of the submissions of employers organizations in order to critique these submissions and provide precarious workers with an insight into what these proposals would mean to them if they were adopted by the Government of Ontario following the Changing Workplaces Review process.

Employers organizations, such as the Ontario Chambers of Commerce, have proposed a number of measures designed to limit the ability of individuals and unions to organize both inside and outside the workplace. For example, Employers have asked that the Labour Relations Act be amended as follows:

  1. That lists of employees provided in response to a union certification application only be used for that application.

  2. That construction workers need to be employed with a company for at least three months before they have the right to vote in a certification application.

Both of these provisions are aimed squarely at the right of employees and unions to organize in the workplace. Freedom of association, the right to join a union, the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike are constitutionally-protected rights that have been upheld time and again by the Supreme Court of Canada. Changing the Labour Relations Act in the way that the employers want would almost certainly be ruled unconstitutional by the courts and would face the prospect of being struck out or set aside until legislation is amended to comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, employers also know that a legal challenge would take time and it is very likely that they would use the time to engage in wholesale union-busting activity - blocking certification applications, amending contracts, laying off known union troublemakers and so on.

The Employers have also made submissions around scheduling that are worth looking into:

  1. That changes to the Employment Standards Act do not include specific provisions regarding employers scheduling obligations.

  2. Maintaining the working time limits of 8 hours a day, or 48 hours a week with overtime paid after 44 hours.

A 48 hour work week means that an employee is away from their home and families for more than nine hours a day each work day. This limits their ability to participate in family life, for example by attending parent-teacher conferences and also limits an employee’s ability to access education or other opportunities that enable them to improve their employment and career prospects.

In addition, zero hours contracts with little or no notice of changes to schedules effectively place employees on call even at times when they are not working. Contracts that require employees to be available for work for a set number of days or hours per week prevent people from working two jobs to make ends meet and instead force people onto social assistance.

The combined effect of these provisions traps people in precarious work situations. This is, of course, entirely acceptable to employers who use words like ‘flexibility’ to mask the fact that these proposals deny people social mobility and a chance to pursue their own careers and family lives.

Indeed, the Employers also propose that the Ontario Government also explore the Guaranteed Annual Income program to provide people in precarious work situations with a social safety net. This is not an altruistic proposal from employers but a shifting of their social responsibility to pay pension and healthcare benefits onto the shoulders of taxpayers.

The Employers also propose that changes to the Employment Standards Act do not include a provision whereby a worker is considered an employee unless the employer shows otherwise. This is a direct attack on precarious workers who are often classified as independent contractors by employers in order to avoid paying EI, healthcare or pension benefits and as a means of avoiding the working time limits set out in the Act.

Employers also want to reign in the unpaid leave provisions in the Employment Standards Act - so that instead of an employee having 10 unpaid leave days, these days would be sub-divided into three categories with three or four days of leave allocated to each. For example, three days for personal illness, three days for the death of a relative and four days for unspecified urgent matters that affect unspecified certain relatives.

Of course what this really means is that employers want to force you into work even when you are sick. The average adult in Canada has a cold six times a year - so these proposals will mean that you’re coughing and spluttering all over your colleagues at least three times a year. And what of the provision for unspecified emergencies concerning anonymous relatives? Who gets to pick the emergency and the relative? Will adoptive parents and half-siblings count or will employers limit leave to biological relatives?

The one thing that really sticks out in the employer’s submissions is their whiny insistence that employees and unions are abusing the system and disrespecting the spirit of the Labour Relations Act and Employment Standards Act. That’s rich, coming from the tax-avoiding elites, but like the playground bully sniveling to the teacher that little Johnny hurt his fist by putting his face in the way of it, it’s nonsense.

Improving benefits to employees, giving them a chance to schedule their own lives, plan their own careers and participate in the education of their children bring nothing but benefits to society as a whole. Likewise, increasing trade union membership doesn’t kill off an economy, it enhances it. Wages rise for everyone (except the top 10%), income inequality drops, democratic participation increases, kids do better in schools, crime drops, life expectancy goes up. Studies (such as Card et al, 2004; the International Labour Organization’s World of Work Report, 2008 and Weston and Rosenfeld, 2011) all show that increasing union participation benefits society across the board.

The Employer’s position in unconstitutional, anti-social, regressive and just plain wrong. They rely on anecdotes from unnamed companies who are being held hostage by workers who are apparently abusing the system and unions who are apparently disrespecting the spirit of the law. It is time that the Employers were called out on this rhetoric and it is encouraging to see that the Special Advisors have indeed highlighted the fact that the Employers submissions have “...little appreciation of - and perhaps little sympathy for - the Constitutional right of Canadians…”

The Canadian Freelance Union calls on members and workers in freelance, temporary or contract jobs to make a submission to the Changing Workplaces Review Committee to let them know that it is employees, and not employers, who are in need of legal protection from exploitation.

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Changes needed for Ontario's freelancers and independent contractors

The Canadian Freelance Union (CFU) is encouraged to see many options that would improve working conditions for freelance workers and independent contractors included in the interim report of the Changing Workplaces Review.

"The report widely acknowledges that today's Employment Standards Acts and Labour Relations Act leave many workers behind, including freelancers and independent contractors,” said Canadian Freelance Union Vice-President, Ethan Clarke. "We hope that the Government of Ontario will seize the opportunity to make real improvements for a growing portion of workers who rely on contract work as their livelihood."

The Canadian Freelance Union is a community chapter of Unifor, representing freelance workers in the media sector nationwide. As part of the consultation process, Unifor made a comprehensive submission outlining measures that would address specific work-related problems faced by freelancers and independent contractors, including:

  • sector-wide minimum standards
  • changes to the misclassification of employees as independent contractors
  • the ability for freelance workers and independent contractors to organize and have a collective voice.


Proposals made by Unifor to allow freelancers and independent contractors to organize and negotiate minimum standards with contractors and employers have been included in the interim report as options.

“As freelancers and independent contractors our members routinely encounter many of the issues that the Ontario Changing Workplaces Review was created to address, including precarious work, outdated employment standards, lack of access to benefits and barriers to joining a union and achieving collective bargaining rights,” said Clarke.

As a national organization, we are pressing for these changes in jurisdictions across the country. Time and again studies from around the world have shown that the entire province benefits greatly by making sure its most precarious workers are not left behind. 

"The Canadian Freelance Union will continue to work to represent members in the process to modernize Ontario's labour law, and to make sure that precarious workers aren't left behind.”

In advance of their final report, the Special Advisers to the Ontario government have called for further consultations. CFU looks forward to further participation to ensure that the voices of freelances and independent contractors are heard and included.

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The Canadian Freelance Union (CFU) is a community chapter of Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union. Membership in the CFU is open to freelance workers in the media sector. We represent some of the best freelance communicators in the country as well as those just getting started in their careers.

For more information please visit www.canadianfreelanceunion.ca.

For more information contact:

Nora Loreto, Canadian Freelance Union at 581-983- 4397

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Media workers share solutions for a sector in crisis

Full-time jobs are disappearing. Freelance work and wages are diminishing. Perhaps it’s time for media workers to put forward solutions to a sector in crisis.

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Report on Press Access to the Alberta Legislature.

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State of the unions (Canadaland)

In this fast-paced podcast, Nora Loreto (author, union activist, and CFU director) talks about what place organized labour might have in today's media. Do media unions protect journalists at the expense of journalism? Do they make it impossible for struggling news orgs to survive? Do they protect older workers at the expense of the younger generation?  Canadaland, Episode #117, Jan. 17, 2016

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How do we protect gig workers?

(Leslie) Dyson also envisions the “community chapter” model “being really effective for other people who don’t have any protection, maybe even Uber drivers,” since it combines the organizational strength of a big union like UNIFOR with the familiarity of chapter officials with specific conditions in their own industry. Reprinted with permission, CCPA Monitor, Jan/Feb 2016

 

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Bylaw changes

Bylaw motions for consideration at next general meeting in 2016

 

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6 reasons freelancers should refuse work from the Chronicle Herald during the strike

The union representing journalists and photographers at the Chronicle Herald (the Halifax Typographical Union) and Herald management have reached an impasse in labour negotiations. Herald management recently filed a notice that gives them the option to lock out its unionized newsroom staff and it has recently come to light that the Herald is soliciting freelancers and journalism students to act as replacement labour. The HTU has asked freelancers not to accept work from the Herald during a lockout. 

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