Friday, December 11, 2009

For almost 3 months workers at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum, represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) have been on strike. While the union has expressed its desire for arbitration management has balked at any good faith bargaining. Here's a potpourri of items from the PSAC about the issues at stake.
Women Stand in Solidarity with the Ottawa Museum Workers:
The vast majority of low-paid, part-time, contract and temporary workers in this country are women. As a result, women working full-time all year earn only 70% of what men earn working under the same conditions. Those who cannot find full year employment, are often ineligible for Employment Insurance since they cannot accumulate enough hours of work to qualify. And, when it comes time to retire, women's retirement income is only 60% of men's.

Workers at the Museum of Civilization and the War Museum in Ottawa have been on strike since September to challenge these conditions. The majority are women, who find themselves trapped in insecure employment. Many are long-term employees who live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether or not their yearly contracts will be renewed.

The underlying issues of this strike should be of concern to us all. Over the past decade, there has been a growing trend for employers, including the federal government and its agencies, to contract out work to individuals who have little security and few benefits.

Statistics Canada data indicate that all workers in non-standard employment have significantly lower earnings, fewer benefits, and are at higher risk of unemployment.

After 11 weeks on strike, the employer presented the workers with a final offer – which failed to address the central issue of contract jobs. The workers voted 96% to reject the offer.
Here's what they said:
"We love our jobs and the work that we do. We want to go back to work, but not at any price.

We are resolved, all of us, to see this process through to its conclusion. We seek to protect our jobs. Given that the Corporation's offer was final, given the response of our co-workers and given that we are in the eleventh week of our strike, we are fully prepared to turn our dispute over to an arbitrator for resolution.

We remain hopeful that the Corporation will do the right thing and agree to this, so that we might finally bring an end to the on-going labour strife between us and our employer.

Yet, the federal government has done nothing to help resolve this dispute. The federal Minister of Labour, Rona Ambrose, offered to appoint an arbitrator to settle the strike. The Union agreed to arbitration, the employer refused – and the Minister backed down at the employer's insistence. There is not even a pretense of impartiality here.

The striking PSAC workers have taken a courageous stand against the insidious practice of cheap temporary work. Women who care about women's equality stand in solidarity with them. We fully support their demand to the federal government to appoint an independent arbitrator to settle the issue and to get the Museum workers back to work.
Here also from the PSAC is an announcement of a solidarity rally and concert coming up this Sunday.
Rally and concert to support striking museum workers:
Musicians, federal politicians and labour leaders call for end to 84-day strike
Ottawa – Prominent politicians, musicians, artists and community leaders will gather on Sunday to show support and solidarity for the 420 workers from the Canadian Museum of Civilization and War Museum, who have been on strike for 84 days.

Workers from the two museums have been walking picket lines since September 21st. Several attempts at a mediated settlement resulted in weeks-long delays and a final offer from the museum, which the workers rejected by a margin of 96 per cent. Negotiations will resume this afternoon, after federal mediators called the two parties back to the bargaining table.
Our Country, Our Culture: A rally in support of Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation employees
Sunday, December 13, 2009, 1:00 pm
March from the War Museum to the Bronson Centre (211 Bronson Ave.). Rally and concert at the Bronson Centre starts at 2:00 pm.
*Marcel Proulx, MP Hull-Aylmer, Liberal Party of Canada
*Paul Dewar, MP Ottawa-Centre, New Democratic Party of Canada
*Barry Blake, National Director ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists)
*Musicians: Ian Tamblyn, Ana Miura, The Mighty Popo, Marcel Aymar
*A few surprise guests to be confirmed.

For more information:
Joselito Calugay, PSAC Communications, 613-293-9324 (cell)
One thing about the above announcement strikes Molly. While the Liberal Party and the NDP have been invited to speechify the assembled there is no representative from the Bloc Québecois. This is not because the Bloc has been remiss is support of the workers. Neither is it because this labour conflict has nothing to do with Québec. The Canadian Museum of Civilization, after all, is in Gatineau Québec , across the river from the City of Ottawa. I hope it is not true, but there is a certain odour of "political favouritism" here. Not that I personally have any sympathy for the nationalist delusions of the Bloc, but it seems that there is some unwarranted exclusion happening here.
In any case the PSAC has called for arbitration in this dispute. Unlike the situation with the CN strike where the Conservative government moved with all due speed to order the workers back to the job and institute compulsory arbitration the government has decided to drag its feet on this one and hide behind the refusal of management to agree to such a solution. Interesting and, I guess, not unexpected. Here's a final item from the PSAC about their request to have the dispute sent to arbitration, and the rather hypocritical response of the Senate government leader on this matter. The government, of course, has the power to order binding arbitration at any second, but they have so far stonewalled against demands to do so.
See also the following for a link whereby you can email Museum management to demand they relent and agree to arbitration.
Senate government leader hopes for arbitration in Museum strike:
Conservative senator and government leader Marjory Lebreton yesterday expressed hope that the twelve week strike by museum workers in Ottawa would be sent to arbitration.
**Email Museums CEO Victor Rabinovich
**Visit the museum workers on Facebook

Questioned by Liberal senator Sharon Carstairs, Lebreton told the senate "it is to be hoped that both parties will come to the table and resolve this matter because, as the honourable senator states, valuable work and access are being denied to Canadians who wish to use the facilities of the museums."

Carstairs said "The arbitrator has not been appointed because the employer is not willing to come to the table. The employer — us ( emphasis on this, the first person plural objective pronoun. The government, after all, has the power to end this strike available but chooses not to use it-Molly )— is unwilling to come to the table," adding that the Minister had been willing to lean on the union of CN engineers to get them to agree to arbitration.

No comments: