LabourNEWS Apr. 3, 2020 – More on COVID-19; Email Your MLA

Greetings, everyone. From time to time we’ll be adding information to the CUPE Local 46 website that you may find relevant. This post comes to us from Alberta Federation of Labour via one of our members.

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Email your MLA

Jason Kenney fired 25,000 workers last weekend. Laying people off during a global pandemic is heartless, reckless and cruel. We can’t let it happen.

Please add your voice by emailing your MLA using our email tool here.

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News

Opinion: UCP fixation on cutting will crash Alberta’s economy

“If we don’t push back hard, this will only be the beginning. It’s becoming apparent the UCP is not going to let a global pandemic and oil price crash get in the way of their ideological campaign to shrink public services and slash taxes for corporations”

AFL President, Gil McGowan, authored an op-ed today where he discusses the impacts of Jason Kenney’s decisions to cut jobs and services during this health pandemic.

Read the op-ed here.

Blog Series: Public Education During a Crisis – An in-depth look at public education in Alberta

The AFL has created a new blog series that takes an in-depth look at how COVID-19 is impacting education in Alberta. This week, we launched Part 1 of the series which features a timeline of COVID-19 reaching Alberta and how the government responded along the way.

You can read Part 1: COVID-19 Arrives in Alberta by clicking here.

UCP’s decision to axe over 20,000 education jobs during a crisis will set families adrift and further damage the economy.

“Cowardly, cold-hearted, dishonest and irresponsible.”

That’s how the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour described the decision by the Kenney government to cut more than 20,000 jobs in K-12 education in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis and economic recession.

Read the release here.

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Labour’s Plan for Alberta

Last month, Premier Kenney rammed through a budget that will result in job losses and further cuts. We are facing a global health pandemic while also suffering from a massive drop in the price of oil. At a time like this, Albertans need our government to step up with support, not step on us with austerity.

See Labour’s response and proposed approach here.

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Resources

Directory of COVID-19 Resources

For a helpful directory of COVID-19 resources from the Government of Alberta, Government of Canada, and various municipal governments in Alberta, as well as, a list of information and resource pages on COVID-19 that unions have created for their members, please go to: https://www.afl.org/covid19

AFL: COVID-19

To find all of our news updates, press releases, and blogs relating to COVID-19 in one place head to: https://www.afl.org/afl_covid_19

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Events

Today, the Friends of Medicare are hosting a virtual rally to show public support for our health care system, and to ensure the government doesn’t use this health pandemic as a means to move towards health care privatization.

Get involved by clicking here.

 

On Tuesday, April 7, 2020, join Gil McGowan, AFL President on Facebook Live at 1:30 p.m. MST.  He will discuss the impact of the UCP’s austerity policies during a crisis and ask the question: Is enough being done to protect the health of people still working during the pandemic?

You will find the Facebook Live on our Facebook page here.

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Take Action

Add your voice! Help the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) pressure federal government to crack down on sky-high credit card interest rates.

Sign the petition here.

Follow Us Online

Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more regular updates as issues unfold. We encourage you to share relevant information with your networks.

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Alberta Federation of Labour
10408 124 St, #300, Edmonton, AB T5N 1R5, Canada
Twitter Facebook AFL logo

North99 Newsletter for April 3

Greetings, everyone. From time to time we’ll be adding information to the CUPE Local 46 website that you may find relevant. This post comes to us from North99.

If you enjoy this content, please consider visiting their website at: North99.

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The News This Week

Massive Cracks in the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. The flagship income support program of the federal government was revealed last week to much acclaim. However, closer analysis shows that the benefit’s eligibility criteria will do nothing for many Canadians. Those who have lost most, but not all, of their income, will not be eligible, alongside many “gig” workers and recent graduates. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimates that roughly 860,000 unemployed Canadians will receive nothing from CERB or EI. Join our campaign and urge the federal government to make the COVID-19 Emergency Benefit universal for everyone.

Turbulent Week for Kenney’s Alberta. It has been a chaotic week in Alberta politics. Over the weekend, the Kenney government announced plans to lay off 25,000 education workers to save $128 million, then days later announced that his government would be spending $1.5 billion to bail out the Keystone XL pipeline project. Alberta’s health minister, Tyler Shandro, was also outed for intimidating a doctor at his house and in front of his family. On Wednesday Kenney went ahead with plans to rip up Alberta’s master agreement with doctors, introducing massive uncertainty and disruption into the health system during the middle of a pandemic. Join us as we fight against any corporate bailout of energy companies.

Massive layoffs at Air Canada. The country’s largest airline announced that 16,500 workers would be temporarily laid off. This is despite the fact that the company has $7.3 billion in cash holdings to fall back on. The company expects to save $500 million from the layoffs. The newest announcement does not include the 5,149 cabin crew that were previously let go.

Big Banks Refuse To Cut Credit Card Interest Despite Making $46B Profit. The pressure is growing for the federal government to act on credit card debt. However, Canada’s biggest banks have so far done nothing to decrease sky-high interest rates, despite the Bank of Canada cutting it’s key interest rate down to 0.25%. The so-called Big Six made more than $46.5 billion in profits last year, but have so far signalled that profitability will not be sacrificed for relief to Canadians. Join our campaign to lower cut interest rates and stop banks from profiting off COVID-19 mortgage deferrals.

Trump orders key medical supplier to stop selling N95 masks to Canada. The U.S. President has asked 3M, a key supplier of N95 masks, to stop selling to Canada. The American company revealed Friday that the Trump administration had asked them to cease exporting these respirators. However, in a press release, 3M noted that the move raises serious “humanitarian” concerns.

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Opinions

Nationalize The Telcos. COVID-19 has exposed telecommunications to be what many already knew – an essential service for today’s society. Paris Marx argues that Canada’s uncompetitive telecom market, dominated by a few giants, consistently fails the needs of Canadians. The author makes the case that what we need (and deserve) is a nationalization of “the Telcos.”

To Avoid Shortages, We Need To Urgently Nationalize Drug Manufacturing.

In places hardest his by the pandemic, the supply of key medications have reached scarce levels. The outsourcing of key medical equipment and drugs has left Canada vulnerable to shortages at a time when those things are needed most. The author advocates for a return to Canada’s nationalized drug manufacturing to ensure that does not happen.

COVID-19 May Limit Access To Abortions Throughout Canada. The COVID-19 crisis has forced much of our healthcare system to put off non-essential surgeries. Amidst all this, Nora Loreto argues that we musn’t allow abortion access to fall through the cracks. We must remain vigilant not to allow a precedent that a dismisses women’s reproductive rights, even during a pandemic.

Trudeau’s Deal With Amazon Is A Dangerous Mistake. On Friday, Prime Minister Trudeau revealed that the federal government had inked a deal for Amazon to handle distribution of essential medical equipment. Many were perplexed why the deal did not go to our own Canada Post. This decision, the author argues, will be a dangerous and costly mistake.

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Policy Corner

Analysis of Canada’s COVID-19 Supports. 

New analysis from David MacDonald, the chief economist at the CCPA, shows that Canada’s new unemployment supports will let many Canadians down. A third of unemployed Canadians (862,000) receive nothing from either EI or CERB. See the full report here.

PBO’s COVID-19 Economic Scenario Analysis

Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer has released a report highlighting the possible economic scenarios Canada could face in the coming year. The PBO analysis estimates that Canada will experience negative GDP growth and forecasts that low oil prices are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Updates on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and EI Emergency Response Benefit (EI-ERB)

Greetings, everyone. We’re pleased to bring you this update on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and EI Emergency Response Benefit (EI-ERB) via the Research Branch through the CUPE National Office.

Update_CERB_2020_04_01

 

Original Post from March 30, 2020

Hi, everyone. Today’s post comes to us from Alejandro Pachon, a Senior Research Officer with CUPE Research in Alberta.

The research branch has compiled the following Q&A document on the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit that the federal government adopted on Wednesday. Alejandro hopes that our members find the information useful

Income_supports_workers_coronavirus_updated_2020_03_26_EN

Progress Alberta: Progress Report #211 (March 31, 2020)

Greetings, everyone. From time to time we’ll be adding information to the CUPE Local 46 website that you may find relevant. This post comes to us from Progress Alberta via one of our members.

If you enjoy this content and would like to receive it in your inbox, please click on this link to subscribe: https://www.theprogressreport.ca/progress-report-newsletter.

 

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Progress Report #211
Your weekly update on Alberta politics for March 31, 2020

Late Saturday afternoon education minister Adriana LaGrange delivered–by surprise Tweet–a bigger bundle of pink slips than I’ve ever seen.

The UCP will be slashing $128 million from K-12 public school budgets, putting as many as 26,000 education workers on the street in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Economist Trevor Tombe estimates the job losses will amount to about 1% of Alberta’s entire workforce: for every one hundred Albertans out there, LaGrange and Kenney just fired one of us.

Seizing on the opportunity to spin, the UCP are claiming that the money ‘saved’ by short-changing our schools will be redirected to fighting the coronavirus. Never mind that that’s not really how government budgets work–that the government could raise revenue, cancel corporate tax cuts, or any other painless route to finding some money to spend. And never mind that they’re propping up a budget that they were squeezing in the first place.

Edmonton public school board trustee Bridget Stirling joins us on an emergency episode of the Progress Report podcast to discuss the layoffs in full.

Outside of education UCP layoffs continue apace. For example here in Edmonton, at the Chartwell Griesbach seniors living facility, eight health care aides are being shown the door this week and nurses’ hours are being cut. The Alberta Union of Public Employees is estimating that already-announced UCP policies will amount to another 16,000 job losses in the public sector over the next four years.

Sundries


This Subway down in Calgary really got into the disaster capitalism spirit

That’s all for this week. Please share our newsletter with any friends or family who you think would like political news and commentary from a progressive point of view. If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, you can sign up for it here.

If you like what we do and if you want to see more wins against this UCP government donations to support our ongoing work are always welcome and if you’re interested in volunteering with us, just reply to this email.

Jim Storrie
http://www.progressalberta.ca/

North99 Newsletter for March 27

Greetings, everyone. From time to time we’ll be adding information to the CUPE Local 46 website that you may find relevant. This post comes to us from North99.

If you enjoy this content, please consider visiting their website at: North99.

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A New Benefit

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced some changes to the already-announced $15 billion relief package, and they are positive — though the benefits still include some glaring omissions.

Let’s start with the good news for a change. Gone are the separate Emergency Support Benefit and Emergency Sickness Benefit. These have been merged into a single Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The government appears to have realized what we pointed out last week: the two benefits were going to open up too many cracks through which people could slip, and the Support Benefit in particular was insufficiently resourced.

The new Emergency Response Benefit fixes many of these issues:

  1. It includes a flat transfer of $2,000 per month for a four month period. This is an improvement on the previously announced benefits which were structured like Employment Insurance (with benefit amounts tied to past earnings).
  2. It covers far more people, with anyone who has lost all their income eligible regardless of their status as a full-time employee, part-time employee, contractor, or freelancer. Everyone who has lost their income qualifies.
  3. The projected budget for the CERB is up substantially to $52 billion.

The upshot of these changes is that most workers — 84% according to one report — will be better off with the CERB than with EI, either because they would not have been covered with EI or EI would have paid them less.

However, the CERB does not cover everyone who is going to need support soon. In particular, the following groups will find little relief from the benefit:

  • Recent graduates who have not yet entered the job market. Only those with at least $5,000 of income in the 12 months preceding their application date are eligible.
  • Workers with severely reduced wages. Only those who have lost all their income are eligible. Workers who have lost a substantial share of their income could still be worse off than they would be had they lost all their hours.

There are a number of ways to solve these problems.

The government could expand eligibility by eliminating the $5,000 income requirement and allowing workers to top-up their wages to $2,000 per month if they have seen their income reduced.

A simpler solution would be to make the CERB a universal cash benefit available to everyone. This would be more expensive, of course, but the government could use tax measures to claw back the benefit from higher-income earners next year.

The objective of this program should be to get cash into people’s hands as quickly as possible, without introducing unnecessary complexity. More complexity means more delays and more people inadvertently excluded from relief.

The CERB does a better job at achieving this goal than the previously announced supports, but we still see layers of eligibility criteria. This is going to slow down the distribution of cash and exclude people who really do need support (like the groups mentioned above).

I’m more optimistic about the government’s response than I was last week because the CERB indicates they are moving toward direct and simple cash transfers for everyone. But there is still more work to do and people who are left behind by the latest iteration of the relief package. I’ll be looking in the coming days to see whether or not the Federal government continues to move in the right direction, or whether we get more complicated, means-tested benefits that are less helpful.

Note: After this was written the Federal government announced a dramatic expansion of its wage subsidy for small and medium-sized businesses from 10% to 75% of wages for the next three months. This is a massively important announcement as it will allow businesses who would otherwise be forced to lay off workers to keep them on payroll during the crisis. The logic of this measure is that it is better to limit bankruptcies, layoffs, and business closures now so that the economy can restart with less friction once the pandemic has passed. Economist Armine Yalnizyan shared a useful write-up of today’s announcements on Twitter.

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The Curve

We are tracking daily changes in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Italy, the United States, and Canada. The chart below shows the number of cases reported in each country, beginning from the day at least 150 cases were confirmed (March 13th, in Canada’s case).

Confirmed cases in Canada ticked up significantly today, with Ontario reporting 837 active cases (with 170 new cases), the single largest per-day increase yet. Quebec’s numbers also jumped, due in part to a change in how they are counting (now including probable cases in their total case count).

We will have to see how these numbers evolve in the coming days as stricter distancing measures have time to show their impact.

Data is current as of 9:30AM EDT on March 26th, and is sourced from the New York Times and Health Canada.

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The Provinces

British Columbia has banned evictions, frozen rents as of April 1st, and will be distributing $500 per month for the next three months to assist with rent payments for those facing financial hardship due to COVID-19. Tenants will have to apply for the benefit, and if successful the rent assistance will be sent directly to the landlords.

B.C. has also imposed penalties including fines or jail time for people who disobey public health orders.

Ontario announced a $17 billion relief package, $10 billion of which represents tax deferrals and exemptions for businesses. The other $7 billion includes $3 billion in new healthcare funding (a welcome influx, but which comes just months after Premier Doug Ford cut healthcare funding), an additional one-time payment of $200 per child to parents, and a doubling of the Guaranteed Annual Income System benefit for low-income seniors.

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South of the Border

The death toll from COVID-19 in the United States crossed 1,000 and the country is now reporting over 68,000 cases.

New York reported 385 of those deaths, and harrowing stories out of New York City hospitals paint a picture of a healthcare system becoming rapidly overwhelmed by the influx of patients. A FEMA briefing obtained by the New York Times indicated the city’s hospitals would run out of ICU beds by Friday.

Meanwhile, 3 million Americans have filed unemployment claims in the past week, the most ever recorded. But don’t worry: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin called this fact “not relevant”.

And in other news, President Donald Trump floated plans to station 1,000 U.S. soldiers along the Canadian border, apparently to limit border crossings.

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Around the World

As China attempts to avert a second wave of infections, the country is shutting its borders to all foreign nationals (including those with visas and residency permits). Elsewhere in the country, Wuhan has announced its quarantine will be lifted on April 8th.

Meanwhile, Europe continues to struggle to contain the spread of the virus, with 74,000+ cases in Italy and 56,000+ cases in Spain. That Italian figure includes over 5,000 medical workers.

India, a country which has received little coverage but has a population of 1.3 billion, might be the next big battleground in the fight against the coronavirus. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ordered a nation-wide lockdown, but many believe the state’s capacity to cope with a pandemic is limited. There are not reliable estimates of cases, but some models project India could have nearly 160,000 cases within the next two weeks.

That’s it for this edition of The Coronavirus Report. If you want to forward this to a friend, they can sign up for future editions on our website. I’ll be back next Tuesday with more updates.

Best wishes,

Taylor

Co-Founder, Passage

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Want to continue reading? Here’s the latest stories touching on the coronavirus outbreak from Passage.

COVID-19 Hasn’t Stopped Postmedia From Publishing Bullshit

Postmedia is still giving a platform to columnists to say dangerous things that fly in the face of science.

The Nordics Show Us How To Protect Workers During COVID-19

Nordic states are boosting already generous paid sick leave and employment insurance benefits during the coronavirus pandemic. Canada should follow their lead.

Canada Should Nationalize Oil Companies, Not Bail Them Out

Alberta’s profound exposure to both deadly viruses and commodity price crashes is a result of our economic system that favours the 1%, and austerity.

Income supports for workers during the Coronavirus pandemic

Hi, everyone. Today’s post comes to us from Alejandro Pachon, a Senior Research Officer with CUPE Research in Alberta.

The research branch has compiled the following Q&A document on the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit that the federal government adopted on Wednesday. Alejandro hopes that our members find the information useful

Income_supports_workers_coronavirus_updated_2020_03_26_EN

Progress Alberta: Progress Report #208 (March 19, 2020)

Greetings, everyone. From time to time we’ll be adding information to the CUPE Local 46 website that you may find relevant. This post comes to us from Progress Alberta via one of our members.

If you enjoy this content and would like to receive it in your inbox, please click on this link to subscribe: https://www.theprogressreport.ca/progress-report-newsletter.

 

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Progress Report #208
Your weekly update on Alberta politics for March 10, 2020

To spite all the stress and anxiety that the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak is putting on us, I want to open this edition of the newsletter with a story that fired me back up a little.

Last Friday, Sammy Hudes with the Calgary Herald reported that CSEC, the corporation that owns the Calgary Flames, was not going to pay any of its event staff or part-time workers whose jobs were being cut because of the pandemic.

CSEC is owned by a group of extremely rich men–including CNRL chairman Murray Edwards, former CNRL chairman Allan Markin, and Alvin Libin, founder of Extendicare (a private senior-care operator recently in the news after the absolutely inhumane death of one of its residents in Viking, Alberta.)

These are some of the richest men in Canada. They enjoyed quite the windfall thanks to UCP’s recent gigantic corporate tax cuts, and CSEC itself only a few months ago received nearly $290 million from the city of Calgary to build a new arena. But when it came time for them to pay it forward, they were happy to turn hundreds of struggling and precarious workers out into the cold in the middle of a pandemic that is shutting down the entire country.

People pay a lot of attention to news about their favorite sports teams and word of CSEC’s cruelty got out quickly. By Sunday morning a massive backlash was spreading online under the #ShameTheFlames hashtag. And after getting absolutely thrashed online and in the media by public figures, officials, and thousands of working-class folks, CSEC blinked. They announced yesterday that yes, they would pay their workers.

If you think that no amount of pressure or outrage will be enough to drive back Jason Kenney and the UCP, you should think again. I guarantee you that the billionaire ghouls behind CSEC don’t have any more empathy for humankind than Mr. Kenney does. But they blinked. They caved. And the UCP will cave too.

There’s no shortage of things we need to push back against.

Yesterday the UCP announced–in the middle of a global pandemic!–that they were ending the contracts of roughly half of Alberta’s radiologists. These folks just three months ago had been forced to eat a 12% cut, but Minister of Health Tyler Shandro directed AHS to tear up those contracts anyway. As of March 2021, they’re fired.

Yesterday it was revealed that the UCP are selling off Crown land around Taber–land that they have no right to sell. All of Alberta is treaty land, and the free and informed consent of Treaty 7 people must be given before the province can sell Crown land in that area.

And the UCP are still rushing to ram through a budget that makes per-capita cuts to healthcare, education, and public services.

They’ll tell you that now “isn’t the time for politics,” all while they’re doing the politics to you. Meanwhile, even their response to the pandemic itself is deceitful. Did you hear in the news last week that the UCP were bringing in 14 days of paid sick leave for workers impacted by the coronavirus? You might even have seen the press release online where they promised to amend the Employment Standards Code to do it. All signs point now to that being a flat lie: the CBC’s Janet French, reporting on the budget yesterday, found that in fact there were no changes to the ESC coming, and that really this was just the 14 days of EI that the federal government–Trudeau, not Kenney–was giving to us.

It’s outrageous and I know that with all of us cooped up to avoid spreading the virus, it can seem like just another thing that’s out of our control.

But remember how quickly the billionaire owners of the Flames, some of Canada’s most powerful men, were forced to back down. All it took was us standing up as one. So even if all you’ve got to fight with for the next couple of weeks is your keyboard, fight. Don’t let up. We can win!

Sundries

That’s all for this week. Please share our newsletter with any friends or family who you think would like political news and commentary from a progressive point of view. If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, you can sign up for it here.

If you like what we do and if you want to see more wins against this UCP government donations to support our ongoing work are always welcome and if you’re interested in volunteering with us, just reply to this email.

Jim Storrie
http://www.progressalberta.ca/