Protection of Worker’s Right in Unionized Workplace
How do you know you belong to a union
A union is organized by workers voluntarily in a particular workplace such as a factory, restaurant, hotel or office to protect rights of their workers – their members. Usually all the workers working in the workplace are members of the union except those working on management duties. Union members should receive copies of their union membership card, collective agreement with employer. On your payroll record you can also see union dues are also deducted from your wage. Union should also told you the name and telephone number of your union steward and union representative. You may also find this information in the union bulletin board in the common area such as lunch room.
What should you do if you have issues or grievance in workplace
It is best to speak up with your union. Union steward is a volunteer, elected by workers at the workplace. A union representative is a staff member of the union. You can raise your workplace issue and concerns such as unfairly treated or disciplined by your supervisor or you were facing with harassment or discrimination. Union members can also ask for a Grievance Form from the union and file the grievance to union directly. The union should follow up the grievance and to help the worker to address those issue with employer according to the grievance procedure that are set out in the collective agreement.
If no resolution could be achieved, the union can bring the grievance to arbitration – the next level to resolve the issue with the arbitrator. But how far a grievance should be processed, and whether or not a grievance should go to arbitration is a decision to be made by the union and not the worker. Usually at the arbitration level, lawyer of the union will be involved and who will take up the case for the worker. If your union refused to take up your grievance to the arbitration level, there is usually an internal appeal process in the union.
What kind of decision can be made from arbitration
If union win the case, there can be a wide range of decision coming from arbitration such as reinstatement of your job, reducing discipline penalty, damage in loss wage or pain and suffering or declaration in workplace.
If my union is not properly representing my case
Union has a duty of fair representation in representing workers in connection with worker’s employer. If you think your union act in a manner that is arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith you can file your complain to Ontario Labour Relations Board to address the issue.
CHANGES TO THE CPP
Changes to the Canada Pension Plan (“CPP”) will start to be implemented in January 1, 2011. The implementation process will be gradual, with full implementation expected by 2016. These amendments will provide greater flexibility for older workers to combine pension and work income, slightly expand pension coverage, and improve fairness in the CPP’s flexible retirement provisions.
The CPP replaces up to 25% of pre-retirement income up to a maximum amount. This pension amount is based on the number of years a person has worked and contributed to the Plan, as well as the salary/wages earned. The contribution rate is divided equally between employees and employers, unless the individual is self-employed.
Removal of the Work Cessation Test
Before 2012, The Work Cessation Test requires those who apply for early (ages 60- 64) CPP pensions to either stop working or reduce their earnings for the month prior to collecting the pension. Starting in 2012, contributors can receive early retirement pensions without any work interruptions and no reduction in earnings required. The elimination of the Test makes it easier for Canadians to phase into retirement before the age of 65.
Increase in the General Low Earnings Drop-Out
The CPP pension amount is calculated as 25% of an individual’s average career earnings between the age of 18 and retirement. Before 2012, 15% of the years where earnings were low or nil were dropped from the calculation. This gives a person who retires at age 65 almost 7 years of low or zero earnings to be dropped from the calculation. Starting in 2012, the drop-out rate will increase to 16% in 2012, allowing a maximum drop-out of almost 7.5 years, 17% in 2014 allowing a maximum drop-out of 8 years. This is helpful particularly to those whose careers have been interrupted or started later. This change will also increase the average CPP disability and survivor pensions, which are based on the retirement benefit calculation.
Introduction of the Post-Retirement Benefit
Currently, working beneficiaries (those who receive a CPP pension and return to work) do not make CPP contributions and as a result, do not continue to build their CPP pension.
Effective January 1, 2012 – CPP retirement benefit recipients will be required to continue to make CPP contributions until age 65. Those age 65 to 70 will have option to elect not to continue contributing to the CPP or continue to contributing through the new Post-Retirement Benefit (“PRB”) and may begin to receive the PRB the following year.
However, if the employee chooses to contribute, the contribution will be slipt half and half between the employee and the employer. The additional PRB will be earned at a rate of 1/40 of the maximum pension amount per year ($10,905 in 2009) of the additional contribution. The exact amount will depend on the earnings of the contributor, and the resulting pension could be above the maximum. This change will allow working beneficiaries to continue to build their CPP pension, even after taking up early pension.
This will affect those people collecting CPP retirement pension prior to 2012, if they continue to earn pensionable earnings after 2011. These contributions will increase retirement benefits, including for persons already receiving the maximum pension amounts.
Improved Fairness in Adjustments for Early and Late CPP Take-Up
Actuarial adjustments to the pension amount that would be provided at age 65 are required when individuals take up CPP pensions before or after that age. This is to ensure that there are no unfair advantages or disadvantages to early or late receipt of CPP benefits. Pensions will be higher if taken after age 65 and lower if taken before then.
Before 2012, when the CPP retirement pensions is taken early, it is reduced by 0.5% per month for each month that the pension taken before age 65. The pension is reduced by 30% (60 months x 0.5%) for a person who starts collecting it at age 60. The same adjustment rate applied for late CPP take-up, the late pension is increased by 0.5 per month (up to age 70) the pension amount will be 30% more than if taken at age 65 (0.5% x 60 months).
Under the new changes, there will be 2 different retirement pensions adjustment rate for taking it early or late. From 2011 to 2013, the adjustment rate for the late up-takes after age 65, will gradually increase from 0.5% to 0.7% per month. This means that by 2013, if contributors start receiving CPP pension at the age of 70, their pension amounts will be 42% more than if taken at age 65. For the early up-takes before age 65, From 2012 to 2016, the adjustment rate will gradually increase from 0.5% to 0.6% per month. This also means that by 2016, if contributors receive early retirement benefits at age 60, their pension amounts will be 36% less than if taken at age 65.
The impact of these changes is to gradually restore the pension adjustments to fairer levels that reflect individual’s contributions to the plan, while maintaining the flexible nature of the CPP retirement provisions.
Who will be affected?
- Employees who contribute to the CPP, whether just starting out career or retiring soon
- Self-employed persons who contributes to the CPP
- Individuals between the ages of 60-70 who work while receiving CPP retirement benefits or;
- Employers who contributes to the CPP on behalf of employees
Individuals who started receiving CPP retirement benefits before December 31, 2010 and stayed out of the work force
Family Law Service Centres in the GTA
Changes on Legal Aid in Ontario
Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) has restructured the way it delivers its services. In the past, if you wanted to apply for a legal certificate, you could go in person to the local Legal Aid area office closest to where you live to apply for a certificate. If you were issued a certificate, you could hire a lawyer who takes legal aid funded cases to represent you. If you were issued a certificate for a family or refugee/immigration matter, you could also have the option of seeking legal representation of the Family Law Office (FLO) or the Refugee Law Office (RLO). The FLO and RLO are Legal Aid funded law offices staffed with lawyers and legal workers who represent people who have legal aid certificates.
However, since October, 2009, major restructuring has taken place. One of the main reasons for this change was to save money on how legal aid certificates were issued so that this money could be used to expand family law services by establishing four Family Law Service Centres (FLSC) in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) near the four main family courts in the GTA.
Now, if you want to apply for a legal aid certificate, you have to contact the newly established Client Service Centre by phone at 416-979-1446. When you call in at first, there will be a automated message in English which tells you your choices – if you do not speak English and do not understand the automated message, press “0” and you will be directed to a customer service representative. There is an approximately 10-15 minute wait to speak to a representative. Priority will be given to domestic violence victims. If you cannot wait on the line, you can use the “call back” feature which enables you to get a call back from the centre. Once you do speak to someone, you can say you do not speak English and say the language you speak and the phone staff will connect you with an interpreter. The phone line staff will then direct you through the application process and tell you what documents you need to provide to them. Also, representatives can give you up to 20 minutes of summary legal advice on family and criminal matters.
Why were the FLSCs established ? – to bridge the gap between the services offered by duty counsel/ advice lawyers on one hand and certificate lawyers who provide full representation on the other by increased use of legal workers ( law clerks). Legal workers assist unrepresented clients with the preparation of court documents under the supervision of a staff lawyer. They are mostly former Legal Aid application assessment officers who worked in the area offices. After the relevant documents have been compiled, the FLSCs will then refer clients back to duty counsel on the day of their hearing.
For more complicated cases, the staff lawyers of the FLSCs will accept clients with legal aid certificates and will if necessary represent clients throughout the trial and appeal process. Mediators will also be available at select Centres to assist clients. Each of the four FLSCs is unique in its staff composition and range of services offered.
In order to be eligible for FLSC services, clients must either:
- Meet the duty counsel financial eligibility test or;
- Meet the test for a (non-contribution) certificate for document preparation services
FLSC staff lawyers will represent clients with both contribution and non-contribution legal aid certificates.
Services provided at the FLSCs include:
- Drafting and organization of documents
- Legal information and advice
- Referrals for other services
- Some applications for legal aid certificates
Full representation for clients with legal aid certificates at FLSCs with staff lawyers accepting certificate cases (subject to availability). Staff lawyers represent clients in family law and child protection proceedings and conduct trials and appeals. For financially eligible and unrepresented clients with complex cases, legal workers and their supervising lawyers will make referrals to the Legal Aid Ontario certificate program. In most other instances, duty counsel will handle the case in court. Where available, advice lawyers will provide continuing support.
The FLSCs will rely primarily on referrals from duty counsels or advice lawyers at the courts who have already met with and assessed the needs of clients. The Centres will also assist eligible walk-in clients after assessing their financial status and legal issues.
APPLICATION FOR LEGAL AID CERTIFICATES AT FLSCs
The FLSCs will only accept and process family law applications for legal aid certificates in limited and urgent cases. The Centres will take applications only in the following circumstances:
- Client requires immediate legal assistance (child abduction, child apprehension, and child protection cases)
- Client is a victim of abuse and domestic violence or;
- Client faces barriers to applying by telephone through the Client Service Centre (e.g. linguistic or physical difficulties)
Priority will be given to persons with written referrals from duty counsel or domestic violence agencies.
FAMILY LAW SERVICE CENTRE LOCATIONS
The Toronto North FLSC is located at 45 Sheppard Avenue East, Suite106 in North York, Ontario. Reception can be reached at: (416) 730-0936 (ext. 28). The Centre’s hours of operation are: 8:30 am. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. This FLSC serves clients who are financially eligible and require assistance for hearings held at the North York Family Court at 47 Sheppard Avenue East.
The Centre’s staff consists of a managing lawyer, two staff lawyers, two family law clerks, and three family legal workers. One of the family legal workers, is fluent in Cantonese. The two staff lawyers continue to provide services to clients with legal aid certificates, as they did under the old Family Law Office model.
The Toronto Central FLSC is located at 20 Dundas Street West, Suite 201 in Toronto, Ontario. The main phone number is: (416) 348-0001. The Centre is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. This FLSC serves clients who are financially eligible and require assistance for hearings held at 311 Jarvis Street (Ontario Court of Justice Family Court “OCJ”) and 393 University Avenue (Superior Court of Justice Family Court “SCJ”).
The Centre’s staff consists of a managing lawyer, two staff lawyers, two law clerks, two family legal workers, and a mediator. One of the staff lawyers is fluent in Cantonese. The two staff lawyers continue to provide services to clients with legal aid certificates, as they did under the old Family Law Office model.
The Peel FLSC is located at 205 County Court Boulevard, Suite 200 in Brampton, Ontario. The Centre’s contact number is: (905) 453-1723. This FLSC is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. It serves clients who are financially eligible and require assistance for hearings held at the Brampton Family Court (both the OCJ and SCJ).
The Centre’s full-time staff consists of a managing lawyer and three legal workers. There are no staff lawyers accepting legal aid certificates at this location. This FLSC will hire a mediator in the future and currently employs one advice lawyer, who works at the Centre three times a week.
The Newmarket FLSC is located at 17070 Yonge Street, Suite 102 in Newmarket, Ontario. The Centre’s reception can be reached at: (905) 898-3943. Its hours of operations are: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This FLSC serves clients who are financially eligible and require assistance for hearings at the Newmarket Family Court at 50 Eagle Street West.
Specialty Clinic: Advocacy Centre for the Elderly
There are about 79 Legal Clinics throughout Ontario. While most of these clinics are general clinics, in that they serve the neighbourhood area in which they are located, there are a few “specialty” clinics that only focus on a certain area of law or provide legal services to communities which speak a certain language. Our Clinic is an example of a specialty clinic because we serve people from the Chinese and Southeast Asian (Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laos) communities who cannot access other legal services because of an inability to speak English.
The Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE) is another specialty clinic located in Toronto which serves low income seniors across the province. They provide direct services to seniors free of charge who are over 60 years of age and live in the Greater Toronto Area. They also work on systemic issues which impact many older adults. ACE is the first and the oldest legal clinic in Canada to specialize in the legal problems of seniors. ACE is staffed by lawyers as well as legal support workers and managed by a volunteer Board of Directors at least half of whom are seniors. Areas of service include advance care planning, consent and capacity, consumer protection, elder abuse, home care, long-term care homes, pensions and income and retirement homes. Examples of cases they handle are:
1. poor care in long-term care home or other senior’s residences,
2. problems with hospital admission, detention or discharge,
3. denial of government pension benefits or services
4. problems with other community services,
5. abuse or threats of abuse
6. inappropriate use of the Power of Attorney given to a relative or friend.
ACE’s phone number is 416-598-2656 and their website address is www.acelaw.ca. While their summary intake is done in English, if ACE does represent you, they can arrange for an interpreter. Their hours of operation are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesdays and Friday from 9-5 and Thursdays from 1-5.