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Found 36 results

  1. Provinces to clear way for workers MARIANNE WHITE, Canwest News Service Published: 7 hours ago Canada's premiers and territorial leaders reached a deal yesterday to remove labour mobility barriers across Canada beginning next year. The agreement, inked at the Council of the Federation meeting in Quebec City, will make it easier for workers trained in one province to do their job in another province. "We believe working people and their families want to have a situation where they do not have to go through 13 separate accreditation processes, but rather one accreditation process," Manitoba Premier Gary Doer said at a news conference. "We believe that a nurse is a nurse, a teacher is a teacher, a welder is a welder," he added. Quebec Premier Jean Charest said it is important for professional qualifications to be recognized across the country as provinces face worker shortages. "There are serious mobility constraints in about 25 per cent of jobs in Canada, so our task is to smooth away those last difficulties to create the most stimulating market," said Charest, who hosted the meeting. The provinces expect full labour mobility to be effective on April 1, 2009, but will still have to work out how to harmonize professional credentials among provinces at a future meeting. And certain professions will be exempted. Provincial labour ministers are to meet at a later date to develop a list of the exempted professions. It could, for example, include pharmacists, who are allowed to write prescriptions in Alberta but not in other provinces. "We're very pleased with the significant progress we made this morning on labour mobility," said Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach. "This is a bold step forward." Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said the agreement makes the country more competitive. "I'm not worried about Alberta and B.C., I'm worried about China, India, the U.S. and Europe," he said. "Also, I've got 100,000 jobs in Ontario that I can't fill." The premiers and territorial leaders also expressed worries about the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). "We feel it's very important as provinces and territories to do our share to nurture this relationship (NAFTA) and defend what is the most important trade relationship in the world," Charest said on behalf of his counterparts. "There is a shared concern about the future of NAFTA, and we feel the federal government needs to be very vigilant in defending NAFTA and making it very clear that if Americans choose to question this trade agreement, everything will be on the table." Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has said he might want to renegotiate NAFTA if he is elected Also yesterday, the premiers approved a new mechanism to resolve internal trade disputes that will include an enforcement tool. The old dispute system is based on consensus and contains no binding settlement mechanism or penalties. "The former mechanism was weak, anemic and without effects," Charest said. The new formula also provides for penalties of up to $5 million for failure to comply with the terms of the agreement. The dispute mechanism will be implemented as of Jan. 1.
  2. Montreal urged to attract more skilled migrants 27 September 2007 • Media Center » Video Immigration News Montreal International (MI), an organization devoted to promoted the economic well-being of the Montreal, Canada, presented a paper recommending that measures be implemented aimed at attracting and retaining skilled migrants from abroad. The paper was presented as part of the National Assembly's Committee in Culture on planning immigration levels between 2008 and 2010. "The presence of skilled, talented and creative workers is the primary success factor for urban centres with knowledge-based economies, and these workers allow a region like Greater Montréal to increase its competitiveness and ability to attract foreign companies and investment," said Pierre Brunet, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Montreal International. "Given the intensified global competition and the resulting challenges in attracting 'brains,' it is imperative for our current and future prosperity that governments adopt measures that encourage the most qualified candidates to move, work and live here," he added. Latest news To facilitate this goal, MI proposed a series of initiatives to attract and retain skilled foreign labor in the Metropolitan Montreal region. The region has a particular need for high-technology workers, including people skilled in Information and Communications Technology, Aerospace, and Life Sciences. The initiatives include simplifying procedures in obtaining work permits, getting help from the government of Quebec in recruiting overseas workers, and promoting permanent residency over temporary migration. They would also like to see Quebec simplify its selection procedures for temporary workers. Currently, candidates from abroad are asked to hand in the same documents as candidates who live in Quebec, even if they have already handed in the documents required to obtain a work permit. MI also proposed an immigration agreement with France to promote maintaining the "francophone nature of Quebec". It suggested that the Quebec and Canadian governments initiate dialog with the French government to reach an agreement on the free movement of professionals.
  3. New York City fears return to 1970s Tue Jan 27, 2009 By Joan Gralla http://www.reuters.com/article/newsO...50Q6IH20090127
  4. https://blog.cogecopeer1.com/why-montreal-is-fast-emerging-as-canadas-cloud-hub?utm_campaign=FY16%20Inbound%20GLOBAL%20Mar%20Colocation%20Digital&utm_content=31021264&utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin So, what makes Montreal attractive for tech startups and cloud providers? The city has low power and real estate costs, making Canada’s second largest financial center more attractive to Canadian organizations. The city’s cold climate is a big advantage. One of the largest costs of running a data center is providing cooling for hardware, and having a supply of freezing cold air for much of the year helps. Montreal, with a population of a million and a half, has a plentiful supply of engineers, and is home to the largest concentration of research complexes in Canada, so is not short of skilled workers. Then there is the abundant supply of green power. It is one of the most inexpensive means of generating electricity, and for organizations requiring power hungry SANs and scaled out storage, cheap power is more attractive than the cheap connectivity offered by a city with a peering exchange.
  5. Am I the only one that would pay more for electronics to improve these poor people's working conditions? BTW, This is proof that it is NOT an apple issue. (Like some of you believe) http://kotaku.com/5874706/report-mass-suicide-threats-at-xbox-360-plant Report: Mass Suicide Threats at Xbox 360 Plant On Jan. 2, over 300 employees at a Foxconn plan in Wuhan, China threatened to throw themselves off a building in a mass suicide. Foxconn makes Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony products. These workers manufacture Xbox 360s. According to Chinese anti-government website China Jasmine Revolution (via Watch China Times), the workers were protesting denied compensation they were promised. On Jan. 2, the workers asked for a raise. Foxconn told them they could either keep their jobs with no pay increase or quit and get compensation. Most decided to quit with compensation. However, the agreement was supposedly terminated, and the workers never received their payments. Website Record China reported that the uproar the incident actually caused Xbox 360 production to be temporarily suspended. The mayor of Wuhan intervened to talk down the group down, and on Jan. 3 at 9pm, the group of 300 decided not to jump, ending what could have been a deadly game of chicken. Suicides at Foxconn made major news in 2010 when over a dozen employees committed suicide, leading to Foxconn installing suicide prevention nets at some of its facilities. In 2010, Kotaku asked Microsoft about Foxconn and the reported abuses. Microsoft's Phil Spencer said at the time, "Foxconn has been an important partner of ours and remains an important partner. I trust them as a responsible company to continue to evolve their process and work relationships. That is something we remain committed to—the safe and ethical treatment of people who build our products. That's a core value of our company." Kotaku is following up with Microsoft over this latest incident.
  6. http://spacingmontreal.ca/2010/05/25/parc-lahaie-transformation-underway/ Résultat du parc Lahaie: C'est très laid ! deux tables dans le milieu, c'est le seul truc qu'ils ont trouvé à installer ? Je crois qu'il serait mieux de détruire la rue si ont veut vraiment la transformer en place publique. Je laisse Étienne vous présenter ses rendus qui sont extra !
  7. Many cities bum rush towards bankruptcy, raising taxes instead of cutting spending, but one city – Colorado Springs – has drawn the line. When sales tax revenues dropped, voters were asked to make up the shortfall by tripling their property taxes. Voters emphatically said no, despite the threat of reduced services. Those cuts have now arrived. More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark Monday. The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops — dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled. The parks department removed trash cans last week, replacing them with signs urging users to pack out their own litter. Neighbors are encouraged to bring their own lawn mowers to local green spaces, because parks workers will mow them only once every two weeks… City recreation centers, indoor and outdoor pools, and a handful of museums will close for good March 31 unless they find private funding to stay open. I bet they do find private funding. That and community involvement is a better solution than throwing more money to government bureaucrats. A private enterprise task force is focusing on the real problem; the city’s soaring pension and health care costs for city employees. Broadmoor luxury resort chief executive Steve Bartolin wrote an open letter asking why the city spends $89,000 per employee, when his enterprise has a similar number of workers and spends only $24,000 on each. Good question, and also the subject of my Fox Business Network show tonight. Government employee unions are a big reason cities spend themselves into bankruptcy. Some union workers in Colorado Springs make it clear that they are not volunteering to help solve the budget problems. (A) small fraction of city employees have made perfectly clear they won’t stand for pay cuts, no matter what happens to the people who pay their wages. The attitude of a loud minority of employees, toward local taxpayers, sometimes sounds like “(expletive) them.” Maybe those workers should sense change in the air. Colorado Springs residents understand that if you can’t pay for it, you can’t have it. And if a rec center has to be closed, or the cops lose their helicopters, or government workers get a pay cut, so be it. Read more: http://stossel.blogs.foxbusiness.com/2010/02/11/colorado-springs-walks-the-walk/#ixzz0fH4d5Mpd
  8. http://montreal.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100505/mtl_building_100505/20100505/?hub=MontrealHome Surprise surprise.
  9. La Presse threatens union with closure By Mike King, The Gazette September 4, 2009 La Presse newspaper employees talk during preparations for a meeting for employees at the Palais des congrès in June 2009. La Presse newspaper employees talk during preparations for a meeting for employees at the Palais des congrès in June 2009. Photograph by: Phil Carpenter, Gazette file photo MONTREAL – La Presse, North America’s largest French-language broadsheet, will stop publication Dec. 1 if its 700 employees don’t give up $13 million in concessions between now and that date. Caroline Jamet, the 125-year-old newspaper’s vice-president of communications, confirmed publisher Guy Crevier sent the staff an email yesterday informing the workers they have three months to reach an agreement to avoid suspension of both the paper and its website, cyberpresse.ca. In acknowledging La Presse’s current business model “has no chance of surviving,” Crevier noted how management has cut its share of the $26 million needed to be reduced this year to continue operations and that contract negotiations must be sped up to get the other half from the 600 unionized workers. “We have to reduce our cost structure and the only missing link is the contribution of the employees,” Jamet told The Gazette. She said the main issue is the 32-hour, four-day work week that the company wants changed to 35 hours over five days because of the expense of extra staff for that fifth day. That move would likely result in the loss of about 100 jobs, but Jamet added retirements and voluntary departures could reduce the number of layoffs. Crevier, also president of Gesca Ltée – the Power Corp. of Canada subsidiary that owns and publishes La Presse and other French-language papers in the province and Ontario – listed what was done to cut $13 million: • Ceased publication of its Sunday paper June 28 • Reduced the size of the paper to reduce paper costs • Put a voluntary departure program in place • Concluded agreements with financial institutions for new financing, including to cover the “seriously underfunded” pension plan. He first announced to employees in June that, facing an anticipated $215 million deficit by 2013, the paper was seeking to cut costs by $26 million annually over the next five years. It was at that meeting the decision on the Sunday paper was made known. Union leader Hélène De Guise said the longer work week is one of the items being negotiated as well as the possibility of trimming employees’ vacation time. But she added the bargaining team wants to further analyze Crevier’s pronouncement before making any further comments. The last collective agreement expired Dec. 31. Crevier ended his missive stating: “The future of La Presse, your future, is in your hands. It’s up to you to decide.” Jamet, also spokesperson for Gesca, said the measures being taken at La Presse presently have no effect on the chain’s other dailies: Le Soleil in Quebec City, La Tribune in Sherbrooke, Le Nouvelliste in Trois-Rivières, La Voix de l’Est in Granby, Le Quotidien in Saguenay and Le Droit in Ottawa. It is up to the publishers at each of those papers to identify how to cut their costs, she added. In July, the Boston Globe’s union approved a package of $10 million in wage and benefits cuts after owner The New York Times had threatened earliler this year to close New England’s biggest paper unless major concessions were made. The same thing happened at the San Francisco Chronicle in March in order to avoid being closed by the Hearst Corp. [email protected] © Copyright © The Montreal Gazette
  10. http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/op-ed/Economics+lefties/1633305/story.html
  11. Job Losses Show Breadth of Recession Article Tools Sponsored By By DAVID LEONHARDT Published: March 3, 2009 It is both deep and broad. Every state in the country, with the exception of a band stretching from the Dakotas down to Texas, is now shedding jobs at a rapid pace. And even that band has recently begun to suffer, because of the sharp fall in both oil and crop prices. Unlike the last two recessions — earlier this decade and in the early 1990s — this one is causing much more job loss among the less educated than among college graduates. Those earlier recessions introduced the country to the concept of mass white-collar layoffs. The brunt of the layoffs in this recession is falling on construction workers, hotel workers, retail workers and others without a four-year degree. The Great Recession of 2008 (and beyond) is hurting men more than women. It is hurting homeowners and investors more than renters or retirees who rely on Social Security checks. It is hurting Latinos more than any other ethnic group. A year ago, a greater share of Latinos held jobs than whites. Today, the two have switched places. If the Great Recession, as some have called it, has a capital city, it is El Centro, Calif., due east of San Diego, in the desert of California’s Inland Valley. El Centro has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, a depressionlike 22.6 percent. It’s an agricultural area — because of water pumped in from the Colorado River, which allows lettuce, broccoli and the like to grow — and unemployment is in double digits even in good times. But El Centro has lately been hit by the brutal combination of a drought, a housing bust and a falling peso, which cuts into the buying power of Mexicans who cross the border to shop. Until recently, El Centro was one of those relatively cheap inland California areas where construction and home sales were booming. Today, it is pockmarked with “bank-owned” for sale signs. A wallboard factory in nearby Plaster City — its actual name — has laid off workers once kept busy by the housing boom. Even Wal-Mart has cut jobs, Sam Couchman, who runs the county’s work force development office, told me. You often hear that recessions exact the biggest price on the most vulnerable workers. And that’s true about this recession, at least for the moment. But it isn’t the whole story. Just look at Wall Street, where a generation-long bubble seems to lose a bit more air every day. In the long run, this Great Recession may end up afflicting the comfortable more than the afflicted. The main reason that recessions tend to increase inequality is that lower-income workers are concentrated in boom-and-bust industries. Agriculture is the classic example. In recent years, construction has become the most important one. By the start of this decade, the construction sector employed more men without a college education than the manufacturing sector did, Lawrence Katz, the Harvard labor economist, points out. (As recently as 1980, three times as many such men worked in manufacturing as construction.) The housing boom was like a giant jobs program for many workers who otherwise would have struggled to find decent paying work. The housing bust has forced many of them into precisely that struggle and helps explain the recession’s outsize toll on Latinos and men. In the summer of 2005, just as the real estate market was peaking, I spent a day visiting home construction sites in Frederick, Md., something of a Washington exurb, interviewing the workers. They were almost exclusively Latino. At the time, the national unemployment rate for Latino men was 3.6 percent. Today, when there aren’t many homes being built in Frederick or anywhere else, that unemployment rate is 11 percent. And this number understates the damage, since it excludes a considerable number of immigrants who have returned home. Frederick was typical of the boom in another way, too. It wasn’t nearly as affluent as some closer suburbs. Now the bust is widening that gap. If you look at the interactive map with this column, you will see the places that already had high unemployment before the recession have also had some of the largest increases. Some are victims of the housing bust, like inland California. Others are manufacturing centers, as in Michigan and North Carolina, whose long-term decline is accelerating. Rhode Island, home to both factories and Boston exurbs, has one of the highest jobless rates in the nation. All of these trends will serve to increase inequality. Yet I still think the Great Recession will eventually end up compressing the rungs on the nation’s economic ladder. Why? For the same three fundamental reasons that the Great Depression did. The first is the stock market crash. Clearly, it has hurt wealthy and upper middle-class families, who own the bulk of stock, more than others. In addition, thousands of high-paying Wall Street jobs — jobs that have helped the share of income flowing to the top 1 percent of earners soar in recent decades — will disappear. Hard as it may be to believe, the crash will also help a lot of young families. The stocks that they buy in coming years are likely to appreciate far more than they would have if the Dow were still above 14,000. The same is true of future house purchases for the one in three families still renting a home. The second reason is government policy. The Obama administration plans to raise taxes on the affluent, cut them for everyone else (so long as the government can afford it, that is) and take other steps to reduce inequality. Franklin D. Roosevelt did something similar and it had a huge effect. Of course, these two factors both boil down to redistribution. One group is benefiting at the expense of another. Yes, many of the people on the losing end of that shift have done quite well in recent years, far better than most Americans. Still, the shift isn’t making the economic pie any bigger. It is simply being divided differently. Which is why the third factor — education — is the most important of all. It can make the pie larger and divide it more evenly. That was the legacy of the great surge in school enrollment during the Great Depression. Teenagers who once would have dropped out to do factory work instead stayed in high school, notes Claudia Goldin, an economist who recently wrote a history of education with Mr. Katz. In the manufacturing-heavy mid-Atlantic states, the high school graduation rate was just above 20 percent in the late 1920s. By 1940, it was almost 60 percent. These graduates then became the skilled workers and teachers who helped build the great post-World War II American economy. Nothing would benefit tomorrow’s economy more than a similar surge. And there is some evidence that it’s starting to happen. In El Centro, enrollment at Imperial Valley Community College jumped 11 percent this semester. Ed Gould, the college president, said he expected applications to keep rising next year. Unfortunately, California — one of the states hit hardest by the Great Recession — is in the midst of a fiscal crisis. So Imperial Valley’s budget is being capped. Next year, Mr. Gould expects he will have to tell some students that they can’t take a full load of classes, just when they most need help. The Geography of a Recession http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/03/03/us/20090303_LEONHARDT.html
  12. ArcelorMittal To Shut Down Montreal Plant On June 30 March 26, 2008 12:21 p.m. EST Montreal, Canada (AHN) - The largest steel manufacturer will shut down its wire factory in Montreal on June 30. Around 100 Canadian workers employed by ArcelorMittal at the Lachine plant are expected to lose their jobs. ArcelorMittal said it had to close the Montreal facility because of high production cost, oversupply of products and the strong Canadian currency. The plant has 153 employees, but only 53 of the workers will be transferred to ArcelorMittal's steel wire mill at Saint Patrick. Alain Robitaille, general manager of ArcelorMittal's wire division, said demand for steel wire among carmakers had declined in the U.S. over the past six years. At the same time, the Canadian dollar had appreciated vis-a-vis the greenback, making it more expensive for American buyers to purchase their steel requirements from Canada. "ArcelorMittal cannot continue operating two wire mills in a context where it is more advisable to operate only one plant," Robitaille told the Associated Press. On March 14, the company petitioned an Ontario court to require its partners in Wabush Mines to sell to the firm their majority share in an iron ore joint venture in Labrador and Quebec. Prior to ArcelorMittal's court petition, U.S. Steel Canada and Cleveland-Cliffs withdrew from negotiations with ArcelorMittal to sell their combined 71 percent share, but did not explain why. http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7010446071
  13. Canada falls behind in basic worker benefits: McGill study Doesn't measure up to other countries on sick leave, vacation time and breastfeeding breaks MIKE KING, The Gazette Published: 6 hours ago mike king the gazette Canada is perennially a top-10 finisher in United Nations rankings as one of the best countries in the world to live in. But a new McGill University study indicates that Canada lags behind many other countries on some basic worker benefits. The school's Institute for Health and Social Policy conducted recently an international survey that is the first research of its type to measure Canadian laws and practices vs. those of 180 other countries in such areas as maternity leave, annual paid vacations, sick leave and breaks for breastfeeding mothers. The Work Equity Canada (WECan) index, conducted by the institute's Jody Heymann, Martine Chaussard and Megan Gerecke, found Canada scores well for having policies that guarantee paid leave to care for dependents with serious illnesses. But Canada fared worse in other areas. The 78-page report notes: - In nearly 90 other countries, workers are guaranteed three weeks or more of paid leave a year, while most Canadian workers with a year's tenure are guaranteed only two. In Ontario, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon, even workers with long service are guaranteed just two weeks of vacation. - At least 156 countries provide leave for sick workers, 81 of them offering full wage replacement. Canada guarantees just more than half as much, 55 per cent of insurable income, with most provinces and territories not guaranteeing job protection during leaves of more than 12 days. - More than 100 countries officially provide new mothers in the formal workforce with complete wage replacement during maternity leave. Most women in Canada are only guaranteed 55 per cent of their insurable income during maternity leave. Quebec is the exception, with women receiving 70 to 75 per cent of their insured income. - Since breastfeeding has been proven to dramatically reduce illness and death among infants and toddlers, 114 countries have laws guaranteeing women the right to a break to breastfeed at work. Not a single province guarantees the same benefit. On leave for dependents with serious illnesses, Canada is one of 39 countries with such leaves with pay and among them one of only 16 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development members making the guarantee. Institute director Heymann notes there's a wide variation in laws and practices from province to province, especially when it comes to helping parents handle pregnancy and childbirth. "Quebec offers parents more choice, higher wage replacement rates and five weeks paternity leave for men's exclusive use," Heymann said. "In addition, Quebec allows self-employed workers to opt out into parental benefits," she added. "No such provisions exist for self-employed workers in the rest of Canada" - a group that makes up 15 per cent of the employed workforce. René Roy, secretary-general of the Quebec Federation of Labour, said he's studying the McGill report and isn't ready yet to comment on it. To view the full report, visit http://www.mcgill.ca/ihsp [email protected]
  14. Montreal shopkeepers told to put brooms away Graeme Hamilton, National Post Published: Saturday, July 19, 2008 A labour arbitrator has ruled that sweeping sidewalks in Montreal is the exclusive domain of the city's blue-collar unionized employees. The arbitrator found a bylaw on keeping Montreal tidy violates the city's collective agreement.Dave Sidaway, Canwest News Service File PhotoA labour arbitrator has ruled that sweeping sidewalks in Montreal is the exclusive domain of the city's blue-collar unionized employees. The arbitrator found a bylaw on keeping Montreal tidy violates ... MONTREAL - A bylaw adopted last year obliging shopkeepers and apartment owners in downtown Montreal to sweep in front of their properties has spruced up the city. Fewer cigarette butts and fast-food wrappers litter the sidewalks, and garbage bags are no longer left out for days before the trucks pass. But acting on a complaint from the union representing Montreal's blue-collar employees, a labour arbitrator has ruled that the bylaw violates the city's collective agreement with its workers. Sidewalkcleaning is the exclusive domain of the blue-collars, arbitrator Andre Rousseau concluded, and the city has no business enlisting "volunteers" to do the work. The decision effectively means that city sidewalks and streets are a closed union shop, so anyone taking a broom in hand had better watch out. The blue-collars are notoriously jealous of their turf. In 2003, workers waged a campaign of intimidation against private contractors who had been hired by the city for such jobs as cutting grass and repairing sidewalks. Jean-Yves Hinse, Montreal's director of professional relations, said the city will appeal the ruling to Quebec Superior Court. "If it is interpreted broadly, not a minute goes by that we are not breaking the collective agreement," Mr. Hinse said. "Someone is picking up some paper, someone is sweeping his balcony." Mr. Hinse also worried that the ruling undermines efforts to foster a sense of civic responsibility in Montrealers. "We don't want Montreal to become a dump," he said. "Everyone has their responsibilities. We want citizens to have the responsibility of keeping their surroundings clean and safe. It's an appeal to their civic virtues." The cleanliness bylaw was introduced in 2007 after city officials despaired that Montreal was becoming overrun with garbage. Fines range from $125 to $2,000 for individuals, depending on the seriousness of the offence. Companies can be fined up to $4,000. Benoit Labonte, Mayor of the downtown borough of Ville-Marie, boasted last month that 2,700 tickets had been issued in the first year of the bylaw's application, with fines totalling more than $1-million. "I congratulate all citizens, because during the past year we have seen a clear improvement in the cleanliness of the borough," he said. But the bylaw had been in force less than a month when Michel Parent, president of the blue-collar union, filed a grievance complaining the city was assigning blue-collar work to "volunteers or non-profit groups," which is not permitted under the collective agreement. The city countered that it was simply imposing duties on property owners, who are not volunteers in the sense of the collective agreement. Mr. Rousseau concluded that sweeping the streets and sidewalks customarily falls under the blue-collars' jurisdiction. The bylaw, he said, "patently aims to give citizens responsibilities similar to those that are usually given to blue-collar employees." He ordered the city to ensure cleaning of sidewalks, roads and laneways was done by its employees. Mr. Parent said the city should hire more workers if it wants a tidy city. "If this is work that was done by blue-collar employees, it should continue to be done by blue-collar employees," he told Radio-Canada. "We are fighting to save those jobs." Peter Sergakis, an outspoken property owner who was initially critical of the bylaw, acknowledged that the city is now cleaner. "The blue-collar workers wouldn't bend to pick up a cigarette butt. They're spoiled," he said. "I don't have much faith that they're going to clean the sidewalk. I think we're going to go back to the dirt." The case is unlikely to help the union's image problem. Union members were suspected of vandalizing private contractors' equipment during a labour dispute and dumping pig manure in the apartment building of an elected city official. In the winter of 2006, as potholes cratered Montreal streets, an internal city investigation secretly followed three work crews. The 10 workers enjoyed marathon lunch breaks but only managed to fill nine potholes over three days. [email protected]
  15. Daimler to close St. Thomas, Ont., plant The Canadian Press October 14, 2008 at 1:30 PM EDT ST. THOMAS, Ont. — Daimler AG is ending truck production at plants in southwestern Ontario and Oregon and cutting 2,300 jobs as the German automaker tries to cope with depressed demand for its heavy vehicles. The closure of the St. Thomas assembly plant, announced Tuesday, will see the loss of another 700 jobs and is the latest blow to hit Canada's manufacturing sector, centred in Ontario and Quebec. A local business leader in St. Thomas said people are “just reeling” from the planned shutdown in the community, which has already seen cuts at a local Ford Canada auto assembly plant and recent layoffs at Magna-owned Formet Industries and 3M in London. “It spins through the entire region,” said Bob Hammersley, general manager of the St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce. Videos 00:01:42 GM closes plants in Wisconsin, Michigan General Motors Corp.'s efforts to hoard cash and outlast a prolonged economic slump claimed the jobs of more than 2,700 workers Monday “About 700 workers are directly affected,” but a “lot of suppliers will be affected by the news. The jobs that are going to be lost are not just jobs that are in the city of St. Thomas, but they extend through the entire region.” Blue-collar industries in Canada have seen thousands of jobs wiped out because of the restructuring auto industry, the high value of the loonie in the last two years and the slump in the United States economy, which has cut demand for Canadian-built cars and trucks. In recent months, General Motors, Deere & Co., Volvo and other industrial companies have cut jobs and announced plans to shut down plants in southern Ontario. Earlier Tuesday, Daimler announced in Germany that its North American truck division will drop its Sterling brand and end truck production in St. Thomas next March, when the company's current agreement with the Canadian Auto Workers union expires. However, the German company said it will make additions to its Freightliner and Western Star truck operations to cover the markets for those brands. Daimler Trucks North America will also close its Portland, Ore. truck plant in June 2010, when current contracts there expire. The company said Western Star production will shift to a plant in Santiago, Mexico, while Freightliner-brand military vehicles will be produced at one of its factories in the Carolinas by mid-2010. Daimler said about 2,300 workers at St. Thomas and Portland will be affected by mid-2010.That includes previously announced layoffs of 720 workers at the Ontario plant, whose jobs will go next month. The company also plans to cut its administrative workforce by about 1,200 — with more than half of those directly related to the Sterling brand. A voluntary separation program will be offered. Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers union, said the plant closure will mean the loss of 1,300 jobs, including workers who will be laid off Nov. 4, and will deal a huge blow to St. Thomas. “This is another example of the loss of hundreds of highly skilled, family supporting jobs which cannot be replaced by the slew of recently created part-time jobs,” said Mr. Lewenza. Last week, Statistics Canada reported creation of 107,000 jobs in the economy in September, but nine in 10 of those were part time. Daimler said in a statement that the truck restructuring plans were drawn up “in response to continuing depressed demand across the industry and structural changes in the company's core markets.” “We are confident that this forward-looking strategy for (Daimler Trucks North America) is the right measure to address the challenges in the North American market,” said Andreas Renschler, the Daimler board member responsible for the truck operation. During a telephone conference call, Mr. Renschler stressed that “we can't wait for a government bailout with taxpayer money.” “We have to act now,” he said. “And that's exactly what we're doing.” The St. Thomas cuts are in addition to the 720 workers already scheduled to be laid off next month with the elimination of one of the plant's last two shifts. Daimler laid off 600 people at the St. Thomas plant last year when the first of three shifts was cut. The plant produces a range of medium- and heavy-duty trucks and once employed more than 2,200 people. With the U.S. economy headed towards recession, demand for heavy trucks used for shipping and other purposes has dropped sharply. Mr. Hammersley said despite the bad layoff news, there are “other dimensions of transportation employment” that St. Thomas could pursue. “We could look at aerospace, we could look at aircraft manufacturing, rail car manufacturing — not just things that are on rubber tires.” Daimler said the truck unit expects to strengthen its position on the North American commercial vehicle market by “concentrating the company's considerable technical and marketing resources on a more focused model lineup.” The company said it expects the changes to improve the truck unit's earnings by $900-million (U.S.) a year by 2011. Daimler shares rose 4.9 per cent at €27.49 euros in trading on the Frankfurt stock market.
  16. GE Hydro to close Montreal plant in 2008, affecting 450 workers 1 hour ago MONTREAL - The GE Hydro plant in the Montreal suburb of Lachine will close next June, eliminating 450 jobs. The subsidiary of American giant General Electric has made more than half of the Hydro-Quebec turbines installed at the James Bay dams. The plant's activities will end with the completion of these contracts, employees were told. The company said it is restructuring its activities, adding that its hydroelectric division has been losing money. The laid-off workers are mostly welders, machinists and warehouse workers. The closure of the 89-year-old facility is another blow to Montreal's manufacturing sector, which has been struck hard by the appreciation of the Canadian dollar and growing competition from emerging countries, particularly China. At its peak production in the 1970s, GE Hydro employed more than 3,500 workers
  17. Stockton’s bankruptcy California’s Greece A city of nearly 300,000 goes bust. How many more will follow? Jun 30th 2012 | LOS ANGELES | from the print edition IN 2010 the demoralised police of Stockton mounted a roadside sign warning visitors that they were entering the state’s second most dangerous city. “Stop laying off cops!” the billboard urged. The fiscally troubled city of 290,000, in California’s depressed Central Valley, was slashing spending and cutting services in order to meet pension and health-care obligations. Violent crime had soared. Two years later, with crime still sky-high and city services even leaner, Stockton has given up. On June 26th, after months of closed-door negotiations with its creditors failed, the city council endorsed a budget plan to file for bankruptcy. The biggest municipal insolvency in American history will hit bondholders as well as former public workers whose health-care costs the city had covered. At the budget meeting former city workers with chronic medical conditions made heartfelt pleas to find another way out. But there were no more options. “Stockton is a cautionary tale about what happens if you don’t make dramatic fiscal changes to react to the broader economic picture,” says Chris Hoene of the National League of Cities, a think-tank in Washington DC. In the mid-1990s house prices soared and taxes flooded in. The city accumulated obligations to its workers and made rash spending pledges. When the market went sour in 2007-08 Stockton was left more exposed than most. Revenues dried up. As unemployment climbed above 20%, its foreclosure rate became one of the highest in the nation, where it remains. How many more Stocktons will America see? Perhaps fewer than some expect. “A great untold story is that a lot of cities are making dramatic decisions to bring their long-term fiscal solvency into line”, says Mr Hoene. Most municipalities were not as badly hit as Stockton, and so have more time to act on employee and retirement costs. Recent votes to cut pension benefits in San Jose and San Diego point to a growing reformist mood among some citizens. But in some respects Stockton is not alone. Like many Californian cities, notes Kevin Klowden of the Milken Institute in Los Angeles, it handed management of its pensions to CalPERS, a statewide fund. This locked it into obligations that reduced its budgetary autonomy. Even now it has no plans to cut pensions, for fear of incurring costly lawsuits. Other cities face similar difficulties, and demography is not on their side. Like Greece in the euro zone, Stockton represents a difference of degree, not of kind. http://www.economist.com/node/21557768
  18. s McGill University becoming the Donald Trump of higher education? First the school purchased the Renaissance Hotel on Park Ave. in 2003 to turn it into a dormitory, and now it’s apparently in the market to buy the Four Points Sheraton on Sherbrooke St. W., two blocks east of the downtown campus. Science student Billi Wun, vice-president of the First Year Council, told the students’ society newspaper The McGill Tribune this week that FYC president Sean Husband confirmed the news. Husband, whom Wun described as the liaison with the First Year Office, informed the council there are negotiations between McGill and the hotel. Spokespeople for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., parent company of the 196-room Four Points, didn’t return calls to headquarters in White Plains, N.Y. “McGill has a policy of not discussing real estate transactions in public,” university spokesman Doug Sweet said on Thursday. Maintaining that no-comment rule, the executive director of residences and student housing did acknowledge that McGill operates at a 97.5 per cent occupancy rate. “We’re generally full and over at the beginning of the year,” Michael Porritt said, referring to the approximately 2,800 mostly first-year students housed annually. Porritt said the former Renaissance Hotel that McGill transformed into a 700-bed dorm in the the fall of 2003 is regularly at 99 per cent occupancy. There is other off-campus housing at McGill-owned Selwyn Hall in St. Henri as well as property leased at the Presbyterian College on University St. and an apartment building on Ste. Catherine St. W. Jean Lortie, president of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux’s commercial wing that represents hotel workers, said he is skeptical about such a deal. A search by the union found no proof of a transaction or request with the city for a zoning change. Instead, he suggested it’s an employer pressure tactic to end a labour conflict at the Four Points – where about 90 workers have been on strike since last Aug. 25. Lortie recalled that when there was a walkout at the Hotel Omni Mont-Royal further west on Sherbrooke in 2005, “there were rumours it was being sold to McGill.” The university never disclosed what it paid for the Renaissance, but it did cash in a $150-million, 40-year bond for the acquisition. [email protected]
  19. Ontario's economic engine sputters RICHARD FOOT, Canwest News Service Published: 7 hours ago As Canada's industrial heartland struggles with a reeling automotive sector, high dollar and foreign competition, innovative value-added manufacturers - like Kitchener's Christie Digital - have found a way to thrive in the global economy When Barack Obama accepts his party's nomination for the U.S. presidency at the Democratic convention in Denver next month, his image will be displayed on giant screens at Mile High Stadium by digital projectors made in Kitchener, Ont. Christie Digital's projectors - highly engineered cubes of optical technology that sell from $20,000 to $100,000 apiece - also have been used at the Academy Awards, and are exported from Canada to cinema chains around the world as movie theatres discard their traditional projectors in favour of new digital equipment. Christie and its 400 employees are a manufacturing success story in a province, and a country, where factories are closing and Canadian-made products are steadily being killed off by foreign competition, a high dollar, soaring energy costs and a stagnant U.S. economy. "These are anxious times," Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty declared during an economic speech in May. Ontario's most severe manufacturing losses have come from the auto sector, which once fuelled the province's economic wealth but has shed more than 25,000 jobs over the past five years, according to the Canadian Auto Workers union. This summer, in particular, has brought an avalanche of bad news for the cities across southern Ontario whose fortunes are tied to those of the big North American automakers and their suppliers: S Three thousand jobs cut at General Motors' plants in both Windsor and Oshawa. S Two thousand jobs cut at Progressive Moulded Products plants near Toronto. S Another 400 jobs lost at the Magna International plant in St. Thomas and 720 at the city's Sterling Trucks. As the Ontario economy bleeds, Canada's resource-rich provinces - including two traditional have-not players, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland - are growing rich off the global commodities boom and surging exports of oil, potash, uranium and grain. Consider their sudden affluence relative to Ontario: In 2002, according to the TD Bank, Ontario had Canada's second- highest nominal GDP per capita, after Alberta, including a seven-per-cent advantage over the national average. By 2007, Ontario's per capita GDP had dropped to fourth among the provinces and was two per cent below the national average. This year, it's expected to fall to four per cent below the average. The TD Bank also predicts Ontario could become an equalization-receiving province as early as 2010. Despite the hardships facing the Ontario economy, there are enclaves of economic strength and good news, where innovative companies such as Christie Digital offer a way forward for manufacturers and resource-rich economies as well. "Selling resources during a commodities boom is great while it lasts," said Ihor Stech, vice-president (operations) at Christie. "But we need to be more intelligent about how we use our resources. Selling more value-added products would create a more permanent, global force out of our economy." Stech works at an old factory in the heart of Kitchener that was once filled with low-skilled workers churning out small electric motors, television sets and other consumer appliances for Electrohome, once one of Canada's most famous companies. While the Electrohome name still hangs on the outside of the building, and company CEO John Pollock keeps an office inside, globalization and low-wage Asian competition have pushed it to the sidelines. Pollock, whose grandfather founded the firm 100 years ago, is winding up Electrohome's affairs. "I have three employees today," he said, "compared to 4,300 in the 1980s." In 1999, Electrohome was a major player in the commercial-projection business, but lacked the cash necessary to purchase new technology, update its assembly line system and compete in the emerging digital-projection market. Rather than watch the business die a slow death, Pollock sold the projection arm, one of Electrohome's last operations, to U.S.-based Christie Digital, whose Japanese parent, Ushio Inc., had the deep pockets to renovate the Kitchener plant and pursue the necessary technology that would allow the operation to survive. "At the time (of the sale), this factory was very tired," Stech said. "It was a dark place - an old, historical building that required a lot of investment. The infrastructure of the plant is now almost completely changed." Today, the inside looks more like a modern surgical unit than a manufacturing plant. Workers in lab coats, hair nets and slippers circulate quietly around the clinically clean, brightly lit assembly floor, where high-tech projectors are pieced together by technicians following blueprints on computer screens. While a high school certificate was enough for most of Electrohome's former workers, many of Christie's employees have college diplomas in electronics, material sciences, plastics and optics. The company also employs 150 engineers on site, who design the projectors and discuss technical changes directly with the production staff. In the eight years since Christie took over, sales at the Kitchener plant have grown from roughly $100 million a year to $280 million and are expected to rise as markets for the company's product continue to expand. Christie's successful formula - a sophisticated, high-end product on the cutting edge of technology, built by a relatively small but well educated workforce - cannot be easily duplicated in the low-cost industrial factories of China or India, a fact that insulates Christie somewhat from cheap overseas competition. It's a business strategy shared by a handful of other thriving, high-tech manufacturers in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, including Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry wireless device. David Johnston, president of the University of Waterloo, which supplies many of the young engineers at both companies and fosters a climate of innovation in the local business community, said manufacturers can thrive in Canada in the face of overwhelming global pressures, as long as they remember the lessons of RIM and Christie: relentless innovation and investment, plus a focus on technology as a path to prosperity. "It's not just a challenge for manufacturing centres like Ontario, but for the whole country," Johnston said. "Resource booms come and go. Even in provinces like Saskatchewan, Alberta and Newfoundland, we have to work smarter." Said John Pollock: "The products made in our future factories will require little labour, but they will also require sophisticated components and be assembled in very sophisticated ways. The technology will make it successful, as opposed to low labour rates." Stech agrees that brains and technology are the keys to surviving low-wage foreign competition, but said competing merely with the developing world is not enough. "The threat from low-cost countries is only half the story. Canada also needs to be mindful of competition from countries just like us. A lot of our competitors come from Japan and Norway - not exactly the cheapest markets. "Is Canada really prepared to succeed against the most developed countries? I think we have a long way to go, specifically in terms of government policies." For example, Stech said southern Ontario's transportation infrastructure pales in comparison to what's available in Europe or Japan. He said a fellow executive at Christie's parent company in Japan, who lives in Kobe and works in Osaka, commutes by train every morning, working on his email or catching up on the newspaper, "and comes into the office fully prepared for his day." Stech, who lives in Mississauga and commutes a similar distance each morning, faces only one choice, an hour-long drive on a crowded highway. Stech said Canada's manufacturing heartland is undergoing a similar process of change and adaptation that shook England during the industrial revolution. "Steam engines were putting people out of work, and people said it's the end of living standards because no one will be able to make money. Well, that didn't happen," he said. "Industries and labour reapplied themselves to new technologies. "I believe we are going through that same stage as well. The key to industry in Canada is to keep in mind that we are competing on all fronts - against cheap-labour countries, but also against higher-labour-cost countries, developed countries with secure infrastructure. We need to be mindful of that competition as well."
  20. On the job, on solid ground The road to finding full-time employment in Quebec has many twists and turns. It also has lots of rotten bridges and overpasses. And that's good news if you're in the construction and engineering business. JEFF HEINRICH, The Gazette Published: 6 hours ago Shoring up all those massive old structures of rusted steel and cracked concrete is keeping many qualified workers on the job this summer. In fact, 2008 is the costliest year ever for infrastructure renewal in the province. How costly? Just look out your car window. Ottawa and Quebec are spending $3.2 billion to fix bridges and overpasses and repair roads at 1,800 sites across Quebec, including several major projects around Montreal. What began with a tragedy - the September 2005 collapse of the de la Concorde Blvd. overpass in Laval, which killed five people - has turned into a massive, government-financed job boom. Motorists may curse, but the boom has been a godsend for those who, it might be said, need a break the most: new immigrants trying to snag a first job in their adopted land. Since January, The Gazette has been following the progress of six of them, all enrolled in an intensive civil-engineering diploma program of 17 students at CEGEP du Vieux Montréal, their costs covered by Emploi-Québec. They wrote their final exams in mid-July and started apprenticing at Montreal-area companies soon after. The unpaid "stages," as they're known in French, last four weeks. The students are keeping a daily log of the 120 hours they're on the job and will return to class at the end of the month to give a PowerPoint presentation summing up their experience. After that, by the end of September or early October, it'll be graduation time. And diploma in hand, the eager engineers will hit the job market, finally getting off government assistance and earning a decent salary. One of the most energetic of the bunch is Agaton Oba-Buya, a Congolese man who spent half his life in Russia before starting a new life here in the spring of 2006 with his Russian wife and their two children. These days the 44-year-old PhD in technical science - who also had an engineering company in his hometown, Brazzaville - wears the hard hat and workboots of Demix Construction, a Longueuil general contractor. He was hired as an apprentice at the firm's Laval office two weeks ago. For Oba-Buya, Quebec's infrastructure woes spell one word: Opportunity. "Le malheur des uns fait le bonheur des autres," he said with a grin this week, quoting Voltaire's famous maxim. It was Tuesday and Oba-Buya had just spent the morning observing repairs to the 55th Ave. overpass of Highway 520, in Dorval, on behalf of his employer, a unit of Ciment Saint-Laurent. There's plenty of good fortune to be made out of Quebec's antiquated infrastructure, and if Oba-Buya keeps up the good work - and the repair contracts keep coming, which no one doubts - there's a good chance he'll turn his apprenticeship into a full-time job. "There's been a great deal of demand for workers because of all these private-public partnerships, projects like Highway 25 (between Montreal and Laval) and Highway 30 (on the South Shore)," said his boss, Dominic Martel, who also took on three others from the CEGEP program this month. "Usually we make do with apprentices out of the university programs, but this summer that wasn't enough, so we jumped at the chance for more workers when the CEGEP called us," he said. "Agaton has an advantage. He has a driver's licence and a car, which means he can easily get to the sites we're working on," he added. "I'm very satisfied with him so far. He expresses himself well, knows the technical terms we use, speaks several languages. He's autonomous, this gentleman, and that's what we're looking for." Getting his foot in the door wasn't easy for Oba-Buya. He sent his CV to close to 80 companies before his apprenticeship supervisor at the college stepped in to help land him an interview at Demix. It was in the interview that he began to practise the fine art of being accommodating. "They told me what projects they're involved in, such as overpasses, aqueducts, asphalt, sewers and drainage, and they asked me which one I felt most qualified to work on. I had experience with dams in Russia, so maybe a drainage project would have been a good choice," recalled Oba-Buya. "But in the end, I just told them to put me wherever I could be useful to the company, and that's what they did." His first day, he got a 45-minute seminar on health-and-safety procedures - essential to the job. (Three years ago, Demix was fined for negligence by the CSST after one of its superintendents was struck by a dump truck and killed at a job along Highway 40 on the West Island. The site is not far from the Dorval site Oba-Buya visited this week.) After the safety course, the budding apprentice was given a mound of documentation to wade through: details of projects, client profiles, bids from subcontractors, cement specifications, ISO norms - "everything so he wouldn't be thrown into a work site and feel like a tourist," Martel said. But what struck Oba-Buya the most was how his boss made a point of introducing him to everyone in the building. To him, that meant he was welcome - something every immigrant dreams of but doesn't always get. "It impressed me a lot - the kindness, the smiles - from everyone, too. It made an important step - leaving my studies, starting a new phase - all that much easier." Then, at the end of the week, he was taken out into the field, to three sites, including the 55th Ave. site. The overpass is so decrepit, it is slated for demolition in 2010. In the meantime it needs to be properly repaired and supported so that traffic, as well as companies like Bell Canada and Vidéotron that have cables to tend to down there, can circulate safely. To that end, Demix and its subcontractors are installing 64 foundation pylons to prop up the overpass. Behind concrete barriers last Tuesday, the site appeared muddy and noisy, its workers' clothing smeared with dust and grime amid the din of generators and drilling machines. Later in the week, Oba-Buya had a choice of revisiting a project on Highway 25, dealing by phone and fax with an electrician subcontracted for a project on Highway 55, and learning billing techniques using Excel software - all tasks he looked forward to with optimism and good cheer. And why not? He's got a whole new life to look forward to. Fall is coming, a big season in Demix's business. The company's human-resources department will likely offer one-year contracts to some of its summer apprentices, Martel said - salaries for management jobs like the one Oba-Buya has his eye on being non-union and strictly negotiable. Now comes Step 2 in the art of being accommodating: Don't ask for too much. As a permanent resident to Canada, not yet a full citizen, Oba-Buya feels the humility of being a newcomer. From his Moscow days, he retains his Russian citizenship and passport (and speaks only Russian at home in Villeray), and that gives him pride. And he remembers being his own boss in Brazzaville, one more thing to be proud of. In this country, he's not holding out for a barrel of gold. He just hopes that come graduation, Demix will hire him as a technician in civil engineering, whatever the salary. "I'll take what they want to pay me," he said. "The money isn't important. The important thing is to get the work." [email protected] THE QUEBEC DREAM: SIX STORIES. Look for Part 4 of this occasional series at the end of August, when reporter Jeff Heinrich checks back in with the students when they return to class to make a presentation about their apprenticeship experience - the final step before graduation. - - - Where they are now Since July 28, the 17 students in the CEGEP du Vieux Montréal's civil-engineering diploma program have been working as apprentices in various sectors. An asterisk (*) appears in front of the names of the six being followed by The Gazette: Real estate and buildings Le Groupe GENINOV Inc., Montreal: *Mohammed Tazi Mezalek, *Marie-Juline Jean-Baptiste and one other student. Construction EBC Inc., Brossard: *Hocine Merzouk, *Lady Alexandra Vega Contreras. Civil engineering Demix Construction (Ciment St-Laurent Inc.), Laval and Longueuil: *Agaton Oba-Buya and three other students. Geotechnical / materials / environment Groupe Qualitas Inc., Montreal: *Ahmed Gherbi. ABS Environnement Inc., Anjou: one student. Labo SM Inc., Longueuil: one student. Solmatech Inc., Repentigny: two students. Industrial engineering GCM Consultants Inc., Anjou: one student. Municipal City of Verdun: one student. Electricity distribution networks Transelec Common Inc.: one student. CEGEP du Vieux Montréal
  21. STRIKE BANS In Montreal, a civilizing effect INGRID PERITZ April 29, 2008 MONTREAL -- Once upon a time in Montreal, public-transit strikes seemed as common as Stanley Cup parades. They occurred almost annually, with devastating results. There was a month-long walkout during Expo 67; another in 1974 that dragged on for 44 days. In 1977, workers walked off the job for four days, then walked out again during Grey Cup festivities. Each time, Montrealers fumed. These days, strikes have become almost as rare as hockey playoff victories and when conflicts arise, the effects are diminished, thanks to Quebec's Essential Services law. Basic transit service is guaranteed in Montreal during strikes, a fact that brings a measure of civility to the city's turbulent labour relations. "The Montreal system, with predictable essential-services rules, has been a good system," said Allan Ponak, professor emeritus at the University of Calgary who has co-authored a book on the subject. "Predictable rules like you have in Montreal are better than ad hoc rules created in an urgent situation." The justification used by the Quebec government for declaring public transit an essential service in 1982 went like this: If everyone drove cars during a strike, traffic jams would threaten the safe passage of emergency vehicles. The law not only had a dissuasive effect on strikes - there have been only two in the past two decades - but it softened their impact when they did occur. Last May, for example, 2,200 maintenance workers went on strike to press for a new contract. The Essential Services Council ordered full bus and subway service during morning and afternoon peak hours, as well as late at night. "There's no question that public transit is an essential service just like hospitals," said Reynald Bourque, director of the School of Labour Relations at the University of Montreal. "The system is beneficial because it balances the rights of the striking workers with the rights of users." Unions have also come around to realizing they need public opinion on their side during conflicts - Quebec has floated the idea of restricting or abolishing the right to strike for public transit unions. So unions, too, have come to live with essential-services rules, a specialist says. "We really have succeeded in civilizing the right to strike in public transit," said Michel Grant a professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal. "It's a model, and if they'd had had it in Toronto there wouldn't have been a problem and they wouldn't have needed a special law." Maintenance employees and drivers in Montreal belong to separate unions. Montreal's bus and subway drivers, who belong to the Canadian Union of Public Employees, voted overwhelmingly in February for a new five-year contract. As for maintenance workers, their strike last May ended in only four days. They voted to return to work to dodge the threat of a government-imposed settlement, but remain without a contract. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20080429.TTCMONTREAL29/TPStory/TPNational/Ontario/
  22. MONTREAL - A battle is brewing for Quebec arts and crafts shoppers as North American giant Michaels prepares to enter the province Friday with the opening of seven stores. The move by the Texas-based retailer will put it in closer competition with homegrown DeSerres, which is opening its 18 location in the province and 28th across Canada. After three years of planning, Michaels will open stores in suburban locations in Gatineau, LaSalle, Lachenaie, St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, St-Jerome, Vaudreuil-Dorion, and Laval. The move comes 17 years after it expanded into English Canada. "We wanted to make sure we were 100 per cent compliant to the rules and regulations of the Quebec government and we wanted to make sure that we were going to provide an unbelievable shopping experience to our customer," Tom Making, president of Michaels Canada, said in an interview from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu. He said Michaels translated 2.5 million words to ensure that its packaging and signage was trilingual in English, French and Spanish to service customers in Quebec and the United States. Michaels has invested $20 million in the Quebec stores, hired 500 workers and developed a new store prototype that includes better lighting, wall graphics and wider aisles. It has also signed up four Quebec vendors to supply books, stamping and scrapbooking materials. The Quebec stores will offer the same merchandising as its 92 other stores in Canada, but it will target the Quebec consumer with a larger yarn department, beading area and expanded framing section. "The Quebec public is a very creative customer in crafts, in fine arts and we offer that unique shopping experience in all of our stores." Making said the arrival of Michaels will "enhance" the market along side the 104-year-old DeSerres chain. "We offer a different product line. Our objective is to bring a whole new crafting experience to the Quebec consumer and I think we will enhance one another." DeSerres president Marc DeSerres said Michaels will only have a short-term impact on a few of its nearby stores. "You always have to be concerned when someone with large means comes in your territory but I feel we are prepared," he said in an interview from Paris where he was shopping for new products. "We have a different offer, we're based here, we're Canadian-owned, we know the market and we adjust our stores based on the market." As a smaller company, DeSerres said it can bring in new products and follow trends much quicker than Michaels. While Michaels is strong in crafts, DeSerres said his stores excel at fine arts. They sell canvases made in Montreal, notebooks manufactured in Toronto and artist paints made in Canada. "(Michaels is) putting themselves close to Walmart so the selection is probably close to Walmart's and they will probably compete more with Walmart and the dollar store than us." Michaels operates more than 1,070 big box stores averaging 1,800 square metres and plans to add more stores in Quebec in the next five years. About nine per cent of its more than US$4.2 billion of sales in fiscal 2011 came from Canada. The stores carry more than 35,000 products. Nearly half its sales are in general products and children's crafts, according to its 2011 annual report. The rest is divided among home decor and seasonal, framed and scrapbooking goods. Opened in 1983, it was purchased in 2006 by private equity firms Bain Capital, founded by U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and The Blackstone Group. Michaels employs about 45,300 workers, including 34,600 who are part-time and nearly 5,000 in Canada. Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said Michaels had 89 other stores in Canada Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/all/Arts+crafts+retailer+entering+Quebec+market+with+seven/7229361/story.html#ixzz26J95n6OG
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