February 23, 2017
Quebec Steelworkers Resist Attacks on
Their Pension Plans
Defend the Unity and Dignity of
the Working Class
Workers at CEZinc in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield take strike
action against attacks on pensions
and retirement rules, February 12, 2017.
• Defend the Unity and Dignity of the Working
• Uniting in the Fight to Defend the Rights of
• The Strike at CEZinc - K.C. Adams
Expands Use of Office Workers to Drive Trains
• Hold CP and Federal Government to Account for
Attacks on Workers and Rail Communities - Pierre
Nova Scotia Government
Legislates Contracts for Teachers
• Working People of Nova Scotia Reject
Violation of Rights
Meetings on Future of Forestry in BC
• Stand Up for Our Jobs, Forests and
Quebec Steelworkers Resist Attacks on
Their Pension Plans
Defend the Unity and Dignity of the Working Class
Striking workers at Samuel et Fils in Laval, February 12, 2017.
Quebec steelworkers are waging two strikes at this time
main issue is defence of their pension plans. Eighty workers of the
steel distributor Samuel et Fils in Laval began a strike on
against the company's attempt to impose a defined-contribution plan on
new hires. Eight days later, the 371 unionized
workers at the CEZinc zinc refinery (Canadian Electrolytic Zinc) took
action in a strike against the company's attacks on their pension plan
and retirement rules. CEZinc is jointly owned by the Noranda Income
Fund and the Glencore oligopoly.
The strike at Samuel et
Fils forms part of the United Steelworkers'
campaign against the disparity in treatment of workers, commonly called
orphan clauses. These clauses impose two-tiered conditions in pension
and insurance benefits on workers who are doing the same job.
Steelworkers are demanding the Quebec government pass a law to
prohibit orphan clauses.
Steelworkers are waging this struggle to defend the
unity and dignity of the working class as part of the resistance
movement against the deterioration of living and working conditions and
in defence of their organizations and the unity of workers of all ages.
Workers have waged several struggles in recent years to
block the imposition of two-tiered conditions and the deliberate
attempt by owners and management to split the working class and weaken
the organized defence of its rights. Lafarge Cement workers in
Saint-Constant went on strike for more than three months in 2016 to
resist such attacks. The cement workers' staunch resistance defeated
the company's attempt to impose a defined-contribution plan on future
employees instead of enrolling them in the existing defined-benefit
plan, without any concessions. During their struggle they journeyed to
several cities in Quebec, participated in demonstrations with their
giant banner calling for the banning of orphan clauses, and mobilized
many workers to support and join the fight for the rights of all.
Workers at U.S.-owned refractory brick manufacturer
Resco, in the Outaouais, also waged a three-month successful strike
blocking the imposition of an inferior pension plan for new hires.
were not able to fend off wage concessions as the owners threatened to
close the plant. They brought their message of defence of the rights
of all to the World Social Forum this summer in Montreal and to several
Uniting in the Fight to Defend the Rights of All
Picket at Samuel et Fils in Laval, February 12, 2017 (FTQ)
Workers across Quebec are determined to join and support
another in defence of their rights. Workers from Lafarge Cement and
Resco came to the picket line at Samuel et Fils on February 12, to
express their unity in the fight to defend their rights. In a gesture
displaying the unity and determination of the working class, the
visiting workers handed over to the striking workers the Lafarge Cement
workers' giant banner against orphan clauses.
Vice-President of United Steelworkers Local 6658 representing the
Lafarge Cement workers told Workers' Forum:
"We came here with our leadership, and the workers were happy to see us
and to receive accurate information about the battles we have fought.
We must stop this trend of imposing
inferior conditions on young workers. We must stop the disparity of
treatment for young people. All it does is undermine our solidarity,
and solidarity is our strength as unions. When you look at my employer,
or you look at Resco or Samuel, you realize that their pension funds
are in good shape. Why are they attacking them, if not to undermine
Alain Desjardins, President of USW Local 6213
workers said, "We want all employees to work as equals. We do not want
a two-tiered workforce. We're better off standing up outside than being
on our knees inside."
Alain Paiement, President of USW Local 9441 on
at Samuel et Fils
said, "We are out to defend the next generation. We have the same fight
[across Quebec and Canada]. That's why we're here together."
The Strike at CEZinc
Workers picket CEZinc in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, February 12, 2017.
Workers at CEZinc are facing two demands for concessions
pension plan. They point out that their plan at this time is fully
solvent and even overfunded at 114 per cent yet the company wants
concessions. CEZinc is demanding the introduction of a system of
gradually reducing their wages and transferring that amount into the
pension fund. The company would then reduce by the same amount the
value it puts into the plans. Presently the company funds the pension
plan directly from the realized value the workers produce. The
concession the company demands is a direct attack on the workers' wages.
A further company demand is to postpone the age when
workers can go
on preretirement. This particularly affects workers who through age and
wear and tear on their bodies or for other personal reasons could
benefit from an earlier retirement.
The workers are saying no to these concessions, no to
the attack on
their wages and deterioration of their working and living conditions.
They underline the fact that the company is similar to a predator who
once it smells blood will go for more and more.
begin a downward slide leading to other demands especially on
pensions at this time. Their placards on the picket lines read, among
other things, "We will not back down!"
Capital-Centred Versus Human-Centred Economics and
CEZinc is jointly owned by
Noranda Income Fund and Glencore, and
the plant is operated by the global Glencore empire. Spokespeople of
the Income Fund say in a typical capital-centred way that workers
refining zinc concentrate and making it more valuable are not producing
new value through their work-time from which both workers
and owners claim an amount. The fund spokespeople imply that the value
workers reproduce as wages, benefits and funds for pensions are somehow
"operating costs" of the company. This self-serving capital-centred
line declares any amount of the new value workers produce that goes to
wages, benefits or pensions reduces the amount that the
owners can claim as added-value and therefore must be a "cost" to them.
Equating wages in relation to profits as a cost to ownership is
self-serving indeed. Workers could just as easily declare the relation
results in profit being a "cost" to themselves.
Ownership insisting that wages, benefits and pensions
cost obscures the reality that workers through their work-time
reproduce the value they claim called reproduced-value, and produce the
value the owners (and governments) claim called added-value. Neither is
a cost to the company or economy as it represents new value the workers
create. The relation between the workers and their employers is a
contradictory social relation usually called capital. This
contradiction results in a class struggle over the new value workers
produce or the ratio between reproduced-value, which workers claim, and
added-value, which owners and governments claim.
The outdated and anti-worker capital-centred economics
belongs to workers by right, their claim for wages, benefits and
pensions on the new value they reproduce at a level determined by
themselves. The modern working class is developing its social
consciousness of itself as the essential human factor in production,
the value the economy, people and society need for their existence. The
historic problem workers face is how to transform themselves, the
actual producers, into the social class that controls production and
the socialized economy with a human-centred aim to serve the well-being
and security of the people and society.
A Conflict of Outlooks
The spokesperson of the Noranda Income Fund recently
summed up the
outmoded anti-worker consciousness and outlook saying: "These pension
plans have become an expensive part of our labour costs, which account
for one-third of our total operating costs. Therefore, we must reduce
these costs in the context in which CEZinc must manage
a major change in its contractual terms regarding its income."
She was referring to the internal agreement signed
Noranda Income Fund and Glencore at the end of January 2017 called
"Supply and Processing Agreement." This is viewed by many as an insider
agreement essentially within a single oligopoly, as Glencore already
controls 25 per cent of the Fund putting it into a
position of control. Under the insider agreement, Glencore Canada is
committed to supply the Fund with all its zinc concentrate requirements
and purchase all the plant's zinc metal and by-products for the 12
month period ending April 30, 2018. This is similar to most
that move product from one division to another
and account for the movement in a manner that best suits those in
control for tax and other purposes.
Noranda Fund's purchase of zinc concentrate from
Glencore for the
year will no longer be done at fixed rates established in a contract
but at prevailing market prices. The exact terms regarding movement and
price of the zinc concentrate into the plant for refining and the
subsequent Glencore purchase of the zinc metal are termed commercial
secrets and not subject to scrutiny.
The supply of zinc concentrate generally has been
the closure of several zinc mines by the mining oligopolies, destroying
the working and living conditions of miners and communities in several
countries. The Noranda Fund infers when speaking to workers and the
media that it may pay more for the Glencore zinc concentrate
now that the tariffs are going to be "set by the market," and that the
subsequent transfer of zinc metal back to Glencore may not be as
lucrative. All this manipulation and palaver are being used to attack
the CEZinc workers and their claim on the new value they produce.
Workers are being asked to
bear an ever increasing burden for
issues and problems that stem from the outmoded system of private
control of the modern forces of production that are fully socialized.
The refusal to recognize the fundamental contradiction ripping apart
the socialized economy is obscured by presenting problems and the
recurring economic crises as natural phenomena, the so-called invisible
hand of the market that will eventually sort everything out once it has
driven down the working and living conditions of the working class and
wrecked entire sectors, economies and communities. Meanwhile, the
collusion and contention amongst the global oligopolies for
profit, domination and empire is driving the world towards a
catastrophic economic crisis and another world war.
The retrogressive schemes for concessions from workers
and elsewhere to put more social wealth into the coffers of the owners
and those in control of the oligopolies will not solve any problem that
affects the mining and refining sector because they are not meant to
solve the real problems plaguing the economy, which emerge
from its social nature but private control. It should be pointed out
here that one of the main problems of this contradiction between the
social forces of production and their private competing control is the
realization (sale) of the social product workers produce. The fight
amongst the oligopolies to realize their privately owned and controlled
product is a devastating battle, which plays a large role in causing
the recurring economic crises of the current imperialist system.
Within the situation, the struggle of the steelworkers
unity and dignity of themselves and all the working class is a
necessary just struggle that must be supported and waged by all. At the
same time, the working class is organizing its forces, building its
institutions, and advancing its social consciousness to meet its
historic obligations to
bring into being a new direction for the economy that resolves the
basic contradiction between its social nature and private control.
Canadian Pacific Expands Use of Office
Workers to Drive Trains
Hold CP and Federal Government to Account for Attacks
on Workers and Rail Communities
Railway workers and communities
crossed by railways face unsafe company practices that threaten their
well-being and security
The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference has revealed that
Pacific Railway (CP) is steadily increasing its practice of forcing
clerical workers to become locomotive engineers and conductors. The
practice is said to have exploded in recent times. One employee, on
condition of anonymity, told the media how CP forced him to become a
locomotive engineer and work shifts of more than twelve hours with only
eight hours off between shifts. CP admits using this practice
increasingly. The company tries to justify the practice as a way to
force office staff to understand the reality of rail transportation but
also as a response to a situation whereby it is "difficult to recruit
and retain unionized crews."
fact, the stated policy of CP is to reduce its staff, both unionized
and non-unionized, to expand profits for its private owners. Under the
four and a half year dictate of its U.S. CEO Hunter Harrison, CP has
reduced the number of its employees by 40 per cent
to 11,700, eliminating about 1,500 unionized
jobs yet hauling a similar amount of freight.
"CP management brags about getting rid of people and
their success by how many people they can get rid of and then complains
that they have a hard time keeping people here. It is a fact that there
are workers who are quitting because of CP's heavy handed management,"
Doug Finnson, President of the Teamsters Canada Rail
Conference told Workers' Forum.
Previously, the training of office workers as
and conductors was to prepare a scab workforce to attack rail workers'
struggles in defence of their rights. The practice has now become
something permanent to lower industry standards, reduce union
membership, smash trade unions and generally lower the claim of rail
workers as a collective on the value they produce. This raises the
claim of the private rail owners on the produced value, which is the
stated aim of the rail oligopoly.
Training and Safety are Compromised
Office workers receive much less training than
unionized locomotive engineers and conductors. The Transportation
Safety Board (TSB) reports that an office worker requires only 20
training trips to become a conductor, while approximately 70
trips are required for a unionized worker working on trains full time.
Once qualified to be a conductor, the unionized worker must work for a
minimum of two years before undertaking locomotive engineer training
while there are no such requirements for office workers.
In addition, locomotive engineers and conductors must
preliminary trips with local crews before embarking on a new route in
order to know its particularities. Office workers are not required to
take preliminary trips and are allowed to assess themselves and decide
whether they are capable and willing to take on new routes. These
regressive practices expand the scope of the policy of self-regulation
of the railways, implemented in Canada since the days of the
Importantly, the office workers who operate the trains,
steadily becoming longer and faster, find themselves in a situation
dealing one-on-one with their superiors. CP wants workers to fend for
themselves without organizational defence and union norms, as this
allows the company to cut corners and lower the sector's operating
practices. If office workers want to raise issues concerning unsafe
conditions for themselves and the communities they travel through and
refuse work because of their concerns, they are on their own versus
their company superiors.
The organizational ties that bind workers in a common
defend their rights, which are vital to their ability to take a stand,
have been greatly weakened and in many cases do not exist. Office
workers in particular must fend for themselves deprived of the strength
of a collective that is determined to defend the rights of all and
forces the company to adhere to accepted practices and norms.
This has been allowed to happen because the federal
negating its responsibility to ensure the safety of workers and the
rail communities. The state has become an instrument of CP's dangerous
anti-social restructuring. The government turns a blind eye to all the
warning signs, claiming with typical liberal hypocrisy that things are
going well and are balanced, and how could they not be when the profits
are rolling in for the private owners and the stock market value is
approaching record levels. And then a catastrophe occurs such as the
Lac-Mégantic disaster and they all scurry to cover themselves
Reports say Canadian Pacific
submitted to Transport
training program for clerical employees to become conductors. CP argued
that the practice does not constitute a change of an operational nature
and subsequently does not need an official risk assessment. Transport
Canada agreed! After all, the railway oligopolies are permitted to
self-regulate. They know what is best for workers and rail communities,
they argue. They know best how to improve profits for their private
owners, which is the aim of running a railway according to their
The working class movement finds it unacceptable that
government has not intervened to prohibit CP's unsafe practices while
pretending that rail safety is its primary concern. One can only
conclude that private profit for the financial oligarchy is the
government's real concern and that the aim of the oligarchs for
profit without restrictions has seized direct control of the reins of
CP's practices and Transport Canada's acquiescence
under the banner of company self-regulation creates situations where
accidents -- if such events can even be called that -- or even greater
disasters will inevitably recur. In opposition to this, workers demand
that all locomotive engineers and conductors must be trained to the
highest professional standards and represented by an organized defence
collective that defends their interests in opposition to the narrow
private interests of those in control whose aim is focussed on greater
and greater profit.
Blaming Workers and Not the Imperialist Aim in
CP is at the forefront of the demand of all
the railway oligopolies to have onboard video and voice recorders to
spy on workers' every move and utterance. CP has even offered to help
pay to install the devices if the state allows it unrestricted access
to the recordings. Currently, under the law, only the TSB can access
recordings in the case of accidents. Of course, CP wants these
instruments to spy on workers and criminalize them. The oligopolies
want to blame worker behaviour for accidents and not their anti-social
and irresponsible drive for imperialist profit at the expense of safety.
Using company funds, CP has launched an anti-worker
campaign to promote spying on workers and to suggest their bad
behaviour is the cause of accidents. CP says:
"Our industry and regulators have an obligation to take
available measures that enhance the safety and security of the
communities surrounding our railways. Effective use of inward-facing
camera technology would include the ability for it to be used for
investigation after an incident, as well as allowing railways and
opportunity to proactively reduce unsafe behaviours such as tampering,
cell phone use, sleeping and noncompliance with other safety-critical
rules and regulations before incidents occur."
Contrary to CP's vicious anti-worker suggestion of
irresponsible behaviour on the part of workers as the cause of
accidents, no example exists where a worker's behavior is to blame for
an accident in the multiple investigative reports of the TSB on railway
accidents. Not only does CP blame worker behavior to excuse itself, it
suggests that workers engage in fraudulent practices that lead to
accidents. This anti-worker slander coming from a large employer whose
aim is not safety but imperialist profit is truly disgusting.
The federal government in the most hypocritical manner
denounced this anti-worker campaign and apparently accepts the fraud
that CP is using the slander in a proactive way to avoid accidents.
Proactive indeed! Proactive criminalization, fear-mongering spying and
invasive supervision, with disciplinary action hanging over the heads
of workers for their every deed, word and thought while at work. Words
and even gestures will be open to interpretation especially against any
workers raising concerns about unsafe company practices or even yawning
because of fatigue. Working life would become unbearable for crews who
are already subjected to disciplinary action when they
raise safety issues and are often working in conditions of exhaustion.
CP's attack to deflect attention away from its unsafe
imperialist profit without restrictions is an attack on the dignity of
workers, their security and working conditions, which are the
conditions for the security of the population in the rail communities.
Railway workers have solemnly warned the Transport Ministry not to
change the law
to provide yet more "legal" ways for companies to harass and
criminalize railway workers.
Workers' Forum considers these attacks on the
working conditions of railway workers to be attacks on all workers, the
rail communities and society. Working people must step up their
organizing and resistance and not allow this to pass.
Nova Scotia Government Legislates
Contracts for Teachers
Working People of Nova Scotia Reject Government Dictate
and Violation of Rights
Teachers rally outside Legislature in Halifax during one day teachers'
strike, February 17, 2017.
On Tuesday February 21 the Liberal government of
Nova Scotia passed Bill 75 the Teachers' Professional
Agreement and Classroom Improvements Act
imposing a contract onto 9,300 teachers in the province without
consent. The legislation will be challenged in the courts by the Nova
Scotia Teachers Union. In the most cynical fashion the Premier of Nova
Scotia Stephen McNeil stated during debate on the legislation that
"This piece of legislation will allow classroom teachers to have their
Teachers rejected three tentative agreements in 14
months -- all under the threat of imposed contracts -- because the
agreements did not address key matters relating to class sizes,
composition and salaries. Teachers and education workers joined by
parents and students refused to submit to threats to close schools and
lock out students, instead rallying together to affirm their right to
say No! This shows clearly that the working people of Nova Scotia will
not be blackmailed.
Nor will they accept the councils and commissions the government says
it will establish under the imposed contracts to "improve classroom
conditions," meant to divert from the specific demands of working
people to decrease and cap class sizes and improve support for students
with special needs. The fact that the government followed through on
threats to impose contracts only shows its refusal to address the
actual problems which real life is bringing forward. By resorting to
dictate to impose an anti-social austerity agenda, the McNeil
government has once again shown it is unfit to govern.
The move to impose contracts is vindictive and
unacceptable and is being met with widespread opposition. On Friday,
February 17, teachers and education workers held the first
province-wide strike action in the history of Nova Scotia, to defend
public education and to protest the Nova Scotia Liberal government's
decision to legislate contracts.
10,000 Rally in Halifax
The biggest convergence was in Halifax where
some 10,000 people
marched at the Nova Scotia legislature as Members of the Legislative
Assembly at the Law Amendments Committee heard from witnesses.
Four hundred people
including parents, professors, teachers and
many others also signed up to speak at the Committee while the
government only permitted 80 to speak. Nova Scotia has a unique
tradition in its legislation whereby citizens can speak and propose
amendments directly to legislation at the Law Amendments Committee.
When they tried to do so en masse, the government used its
majority to limit this mechanism. During presentations witnesses spoke
eloquently about the improvements required for the actual learning
conditions of children and their firm stand in support of the teachers.
Others opposed the attack on workers' rights and spoke about the
hypocrisy of the Liberal government who criticized the NDP government
of eliminating the right to strike of paramedics while it does the same
Halifax Rally Against Passage of Bill 75, February 20
salutes the ongoing resistance of the working people of Nova Scotia. It
joins working people across the country in demanding the Nova Scotia
government withdraw its imposed contracts on teachers and education
workers and end its attempts to dictate to wages and working conditions
on public sector workers who provide the vital services Nova Scotians
rely on for their well-being.
Meetings on Future of Forestry in BC
Stand Up for Our Jobs, Forests and Communities!
Community Forum organized by Stand Up for the North Committee in Prince
April 12, 2014.
Workers and their allies are organizing community
discussions at a
time when jobs, forests and communities are facing threats from
mill closures, lack of forest oversight, runaway forest companies,
timber shortages, ramped up raw log exports, an unreliable U.S. export
market and other problems.
A major focus of the discussion will be how to move
things forward so that the economy is more diversified, added value
stays right here in Canada where it is produced, and workers,
communities, First Nations, and small and medium-sized
companies/contractors have more say and more control over the future of
forestry in BC.
Meetings on the Softwood Lumber Agreement, Trade,
and the Future of Forestry in BC
Monday, March 13
-- 7:00 pm
1-306, College of New Caledonia
Tuesday, March 14
-- 7:00 pm
Mackenzie Recreation Centre
March 15 -- 7:00 pm
Arts and Recreation Centre, 500 N. Star Road
Parfitt, forestry analyst, Canadian Centre for Policy
Alternatives; Stand Up for the North Committee; Indigenous
representatives; forestry union representatives.
Meetings in Prince George, Mackenzie, & Quesnel
organized by Stand Up for the North Committee.
Meeting in Williams Lake organized by Cariboo Chilcotin
Conservation Society; Council of Canadians; USW 1-425.
PPWC -- National; Professional Employees Association;
Unifor; USW 1-424.
ISSUES | HOME