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Library workers protest “food for fines” rap

Victoria library management sparked a one-day walkout at all of its branches this week when they suspended a CUPE 410 member for taking part in a “food for fines” action.

The local - which has been in a legal strike position since July - announced its members would accept food bank donations in lieu of late fines as part of its job action.

And despite library management endorsing the program as part of a “joint campaign”, management suspended one worker and has disciplined others.

Food for fines is a legitimate strike action,” says CUPE 410 president Ed Seedhouse. “Disciplining our members for such activity violates the collective agreement between the parties and the Labour Relations Code.”

In a dispute between Farwest Handydart Services Inc. and Local 3 of the Independent Canadian Transit Union, an arbitrator found that bus drivers’ refusal to collect fares was lawful strike activity - for which employers are not entitled to discipline employees.

P3s for Alberta schools don’t add up

CUPE Alberta released a major report this week challenging the province’s plan to build new schools with public private partnerships.

The study, titled “Doing The Math: Why P3s for Alberta Schools Don’t Add Up” written by researcher Hugh Mackenzie, says what the provincial government will be spending on P3 schools could build ten more elementary schools; or eight additional K-9 or junior high schools; or six additional high schools, if the government builds the schools itself.

Montreal winter festival goes ahead

Montreal media was awash this week with stories of the impending cancellation of the Fête des Neiges at Parc Jean Drapeau.

Park management insisted they would have to cancel the festival if CUPE 301 did not renounce any plans it had to disrupt the festival.

The local, which represents the park’s 220 employees, is in a legal strike position, though they have not announced any plans to walk off the job.  The workers at the park have been without a contract since December 2005.

CUPE 301 president Michel Parent said the local had done nothing to imperil the festival in either 2006 or 2007 and that they would announce a truce if Montréal Mayor Gérald Tremblay announced publicly that he was in favour of fairness.

New CRTC rules on media ownership do not impress

Canada’s broadcasting regulator released what the media touted as stringent new rules on media concentration, but Jean Chabot was not impressed.

The president of CUPE Québec’s communications sector pointed out that the regulations at best entrench the status quo and at worst pave the way for convergence.

The new rules declare that a company cannot own more than two types of media (TV, radio or newspaper) in one market.

This solves nothing,” said Chabot.  “Our members live daily with the difficulties that come from the convergence of companies that run two news rooms in a market.”

Chabot added that the new rules also open the way to newsroom mergers.

The loss of diversity of news voices is at risk of disappearing to the detriment of our democratic health,” he said.

Tumbler Ridge, BC workers get “healthy living” allowance

Members of CUPE 2979 have voted to accept a contract that includes a $300 “Healthy Living Allowance”.

The 40 employees of the district of Tumbler Ridge - 400km north of Prince George in Northern BC - will be able to use the allowance to help pay for memberships/tuition in local health, exercise or recreation facilities and programs.

A strong and positive working relationship with the District has ensured that we get a fair share of the prosperity around us and a commitment to the health and well-being of our members,” said CUPE 2979 president Chris Homister.

:te/cope 491