March 23, 2017
Algoma Steelworkers Confront Kangaroo
Bankruptcy Court Judge
Drunk with Police Power
• Bankruptcy Court Judge
• Essar Global Letter
• No Means No!
Finding a Way Forward
for the Forestry Sector
• Successful Meetings on Forestry in Central
and Northern British Columbia
Strike of Quebec
• Support Paramedics' Just Demands!
Algoma Steelworkers Confront Kangaroo
Bankruptcy Court Judge Drunk with Police Power
The abuse of rights and the
arbitrariness within the CCAA court expose
the dangers of governments of police powers rather than governments of
Bankruptcy court Justice Frank Newbould is raging
the world from his perch on a Superior Court bench in Toronto. He
issues order after order dictating what Algoma steelworkers and
salaried employees should and should not do. He orders their USW Local
negotiating committees sequestered in Toronto until they consent to
concessions under the police powers of the Companies' Creditors
Arrangement Act (CCAA). He tells them not to speak to anyone
especially the press and their own members, and stop any preparations
to defend themselves through job actions.
"Leave public discussion of
the negotiations or threats of action out of it," he warned Algoma
steelworkers. Just to make his order clear he added, "The mediation is
to be held in private without any public pronouncements or discussion
of any nature or kind by any person." The entire negotiating committees
of both Algoma USW Locals are to
be held in Toronto from March 22 until negotiations are complete
with concessions in place including a 10 per cent across the board
wage cut for their 2,650 members.
After an uproar in the North that could be heard all
the way to Toronto, Newbould demanded the CCAA lawyers change his order
somewhat by drawing up their own sworn statement, which included the
following: "4. The mediation was to be held in private with no public
announcements or discussions by anyone. There was no requirement
that the negotiating committees of Locals 2724 or 2251 could
not discuss the negotiations with their membership."
Curiously, even the lawyers for the USW Locals involved
had to sign Newbould's revised statement. Did the USW Locals have to
pay for the time involved for their lawyers to do so, many wonder. For
Local 2251 alone, lawyers' fees to be present during this fourth
go-around in a CCAA inquisition will soon reach one million dollars! If
you do not agree to go along with a CCAA kangaroo court then you pay
through the nose.
Someone reminded this autocrat
that the lawyers'
statement does not amend a judge's order. Some think this autocrat is
losing it because his self-declared retirement in June is
approaching. Who will he order around after that? Others believe he
wants to make a big splash before his possible removal from the bench
for illegally using his influence and privilege against the Saugeen
First Nation and its land claim, which would
bring the reserve too close to his summer cottage on Lake Huron. Heaven
forbid that happening!
Do this! Don't do that! The
work of a CCAA autocrat is
very taxing. After ordering workers against practicing their right to
free speech and conscience, and talking openly to the press, Newbould
unleashed his ire against the imperialists of Essar Global from India.
denounced them for being "oppressive" against certain other friendlier
imperialists, especially the U.S. and German main secured creditors and
debtors-in-possession in the Algoma CCAA bankruptcy process.
Taking sides arbitrarily in an inter-imperialist
squabble routinely occurs under CCAA. Justice Newbould in collaboration
with the bankruptcy monitor (Ernst & Young), the two largest
secured creditors (Golden Tree and Bain Capital), and the
debtors-in-possession led by Deutsche Bank have denied Essar Global,
the legal owner of Algoma
Steel, from making a bid to bring the company out of CCAA. A bitter
imperialist competitor of Essar Global in Minnesota, Cliffs Natural
Resources, also joined the fray saying it would refuse to supply Algoma
Steel with iron ore pellets if the CCAA court accepted Essar Global as
a legitimate contender. Interestingly, Essar Global is the only
applicant that has said publicly it would not seek concessions from the
workforce. Working people and the socialized economy are forced to
suffer in silence this disruption to their lives from the recurring
economic crises and imperialist infighting while the real problems in
the economy are never addressed and fixed.
Essar Global Letter
Regarding Essar Global's bid to repurchase the company
it owned, Justice Newbould reacted strongly against SooToday.com,
provides some background to Newbould's ire:
"A letter, purportedly written by
Essar Global Fund on
January 28 and filed the following day as part of a court
affidavit by a lawyer representing Essar Capital, was published by SooToday
on February 2.
"The letter is the only known document from Essar
Global indicating an interest in re-acquiring Essar Steel Algoma, but
Judge Newbould points out that it was never sent directly to the
monitor and he's questioning the curious signature (see illustration at
"[Newbould speaking in court says,] 'While the
Essar Global letter appears to have been signed, there is no
information on the face of it as to who executed the letter or what
position the person executing the letter holds with Essar Global....
The monitor has no record of having received the letter other than as
an exhibit to the...
'The letter, however, was quoted on
January 28, 2017 in the SooToday, a local newspaper in Sault
Ste. Marie.... Who provided the letter to the SooToday is not in the
record but it is passing strange that the letter on Essar Global
letterhead with a Cayman Island address and signed by an indecipherable
signature was dated the
same day that the letter appeared in the local newspaper. 'If it truly
was a letter from Essar Global and Essar Global was honestly trying to
engage the monitor, it was not any kind of way to do that.
'I find it hard to give any kind of bona fide credit
to the letter.'
"SooToday has advised the court that it is
misinformed as to the date we published the letter. It was not
January 28, but February 2, after we found it in a court
Justice Newbould's hostile
characterization of the letter from Essar Global and his refusal to
have the monitor authenticate the sender could be called
disingenuous. The letter clearly states that talk by those in control
in the CCAA court of possibly liquidating the 115-year-old Algoma
Steel facility prompted Essar Global to become
more vocal and prepare a plan to repurchase the company. Justice
Newbould, the monitor and the bidding consortium, which wants to seize
the company and block any competing offer, seem to be talking of
liquidation as a tactic to scare Algoma Steel workers and salaried
employees into quickly agreeing to concessions. The imperialist elite
control of the police powers of the CCAA appear upset that Essar Global
suggests that concessions are not necessary and even counterproductive
to a successful restructuring. Just prior to Essar Global sending its
letter to the monitor, Newbould agreed with the insertion of a
requirement for refinancing of debtor-in-possession funds that insists
Algoma Steel must prepare "a comprehensive liquidation plan by the end
of this month."
Justice Newbould and the monitor are playing with facts
in saying, "The monitor has no record of having received the
letter" when the Essar Global letter is a matter of public record
in the court documents. What is the motivation for denying something
that is a public fact and to dismiss with such contempt the letter and
its writer, if
not the pursuit of the private interests of others who want to profit
from Algoma Steel's restructuring?
Essar Global's January 28 letter to the monitor
Ernst & Young reads in part:
We have been ESAI's owner for nearly a decade and, as
such, are familiar with that company's operations, properties,
employees and local interests.
We invested a great amount of time and resources in
pursuing a possible acquisition of ESAI's (Algoma Steel) assets and
businesses last year.
Essar participated in ESAI's sale and investment
solicitation process (SISP) and, even after being pre-emptively
disqualified at the initial stage, Essar followed up with a second
unsolicited purchase offer.
That offer was also quickly rejected and, since that
time, Essar has been blocked from advancing any further purchase
Essar repeatedly attempted to engage with
representatives of ESAI, only to be actively discouraged from moving
We understand further from court filings that it has
been inferred that a liquidation of ESAI may be necessary or otherwise
considered should the bidding consortium's troubled bid not proceed.
Such a motion: fails to consider that there are other viable options
not being pursued by ESAI; and ignores the considerable improvement in
conditions and the circumstances of the company since the inception of
the SISP, including that ESAI is cash-flow positive.
It makes little sense to raise the spectre of
liquidation given market conditions and the company's recent financial
performance, and such tactics are both feeble and transparent.
Accordingly, Essar is again considering its interest in
ESAI. We are writing to you to ask that you: advise the court of
Essar's continuing interest in a possible acquisition of ESAI's assets
and businesses, either alone or in partnership with others.
We believe that a wholesale reconsideration of ESAI's
restructuring and sales process is warranted, and we are hopeful that
the court-appointed monitor and the court will enable this to occur
with a view to fairness and the best interests of all of ESAI's
Thank you, Yours truly, Essar Global Fund Ltd.
No Means No!
The Canadian working class
faces a serious dilemma. Workers must have a way to hold their
employers to account on basic issues that arise from the sale of their
capacity to work to those who buy it. A great effort and step forward
was made with the organizing of unions and the demand for legally
accepted agreements on certain relations
of production or terms of employment, commonly called collective
agreements. However, without the power of a government of laws giving
legal standing to collective agreements and other arrangements such as
pensions with severe penalties for abusing those arrangements, and with
the increasing use of police powers to deprive organized
workers of an effective means to hold employers to account through
actions such as strikes, the agreements on wages, benefits, pensions
and working conditions become unenforceable.
The oligopolies with their massive supranational
arrangements and structures and the social wealth they control through
dollar funds are using their private power along with governments of
police powers and their institutions such as the CCAA to pursue and
satisfy their narrow private interests and deprive the working people
of their rights.
They routinely negate collective agreements and other legal
arrangements, and deprive workers of their ability to hold their
private and public employers and rulers to account.
Relations at the place of
work have become arbitrary. Abuse of rights through police powers is
now commonplace. Workers are regularly denied Canadian standard
pensions, benefits and wages, which are theirs by right in exchange for
their capacity to work. The oligopolies use their power of size and
governments of police powers to force
anti-worker concessions, deny pensions and benefits, and wreck
production and the broad economy whenever it suits their narrow private
For the working class a new
pro-social direction for
the economy within a government of laws is not only necessary but
possible. The working class is determined to have relations of
production wherein workers can hold their employers to account for
Canadian standard wages, benefits, pensions and working conditions. The
working class is
determined to have a government of laws wherein working people can hold
the rulers to account for a pro-social direction of the economy and a
guarantee of the rights of all, rights which they hold by virtue of
The abuse of rights and the arbitrariness within the
CCAA court expose the dangers of governments of police
powers rather than governments of laws. Organized, united and
determined, the working people can open a new pro-social direction for
themselves and the economy within a government of laws.
Finding a Way Forward for the Forestry
Successful Meetings on Forestry in Central and Northern
Prince George, March 13, 2017
A tour of forestry meetings across Central and Northern
BC, organized by the Stand Up for the North Committee in partnership
with other groups and sponsors (see below), concluded on
March 17th. Successful meetings were held in Prince George (75
people), Mackenzie (45 people), Quesnel (30 people), Williams Lake (70
and Fort St. James (30 people).
Audience members included 3 mayors, 7 town
councilors and regional district directors, forestry workers,
Indigenous people, professional foresters, community activists,
environmentalists, Chamber of Commerce members, small and medium
forestry businesses, and value-added wood producers. Peter Ewart,
spokesperson for the
Stand Up for the North Committee, made a presentation to introduce the
meetings and Ben Parfitt, forestry analyst for the Canadian Centre for
Policy Alternatives, was the keynote speaker.
One of the most striking things about the comments and
questions from the audience was the deep concern expressed about the
multitude of problems forestry workers and communities face today.
There is a strong feeling that, under current government and corporate
structures and policies, people are deprived of any say or meaningful
decision-making regarding the future of forestry in their communities.
Because of huge cuts to forest service oversight, community members are
even deprived of elementary knowledge about forest inventory in their
region, as well as the flow of logs in and out of their communities.
Many people believe (and this has been supported by evidence
from governmental bodies) that massive over-harvesting by the big
companies has taken place and continues on today.
Particularly disturbing for audiences in all five
communities was the cancellation of the provincial government's
appurtenancy policy back in 2003. That policy required logs to be
processed in the communities where they were harvested. As a result of
this cancellation, forestry companies, as in Merritt, Fort Nelson and
closed down operations but are still allowed to hold onto the timber
rights -- either sitting on these timber rights or shipping raw logs
out of the communities, thus acting as a block to industrial
diversification and development.
Also disturbing is the big forestry companies setting
up operations in the U.S. south, while closing mills in BC and refusing
to re-invest in BC operations, despite gathering huge profits from the
BC workforce and forests over many years.
Mackenzie, March 14, 2017
In the course of the five town meetings, various
mechanisms and proposals were put forward by audience members to move
things ahead, including more community control of forestry, increased
oversight, a new form of appurtenancy that would require local
processing, a requirement for the big companies to re-invest in BC
wood marketing board for value-added producers, and regional log
markets that would get the right logs to the right users.
One thing is clear. The domination of the big forest
companies over provincial forest policy and practices is unacceptable,
as is the current "cookie-cutter approach" of implementing this policy
to the detriment of local needs and conditions.
Coming out of all the meetings was the overall sense
that a new direction for the forestry economy is needed, one in which
forestry-based communities are empowered and in control of their
The Stand Up for the North Committee plans to meet soon
to sum up the work of these meetings and, in discussion with local
communities, work out next steps and the best way forward at this time.
Peter Ewart speaking in Williams Lake, March 16, 2017.
The first speaker at these meetings was Peter Ewart,
spokesperson for the
Stand Up for the North Committee. He began his presentation by
criticizing "petrified thinking" and "petrified forest policy" which
maintains that there is no alternative to the status quo and that
nothing can be done about the many problems that plague forestry today
According to Ewart, there are two trends in this
globalized world regarding forestry and other resource issues. On the
one hand, there is the trend for more corporate concentration,
resulting in more forestry decisions being made in faraway corporate
boardrooms and distant government offices.
On the other hand, an emerging movement of workers,
Indigenous peoples, contractors, small and medium businesses,
municipalities and resource-based communities who want more say and
more control over the management of our forests and other resources,
more wealth staying in the communities where it is generated, and a new
for the economy.
Fundamentally, it is an issue of empowerment and
democratic renewal. In that regard, he argued that for this empowerment
to be advanced, more "worker and community empowerment mechanisms"
(WCEMs) are vital, and he gave examples of various Interior and
Northern communities calling for community control of forestry and
revenue sharing. He also gave examples of workers taking the initiative
to stop mills from shutting down, such as at the Harmac mill in
Ben Parfitt, forestry analyst for the Canadian Centre
for Policy Alternatives, was the keynote speaker at the meetings. He
laid out ten proposals "to set our forests and BC's rural communities
on a new course," and began his presentation by talking about the
difficult situation that two communities, Merritt in the southern
Interior and Fort
Nelson in the far north face as a result of mill closures. Indeed,
across the province, nearly 100 mills have closed their doors in
the past 20 years.
Given the dramatic fall in expected logging rates
across many parts of the Interior, he emphasized the importance of
"getting more from less" which includes restoring health to local
forests, putting an end to wasting usable wood, capturing the full
value of logs through further processing, and empowering local
communities and regions "to
have a more direct say in forestry decisions through the creation of
new regional management boards."
As a first step, Parfitt suggested that a comprehensive
review of logging rates across BC is necessary, along with the
resetting of logging rates in all regions to sustainable levels. In
addition, an "up-to-date analysis" must be published of "fiber flow,"
i.e. where trees are logged in the province and where they are
Other key points in Parfitt's proposed ten points
included awarding "long-term, secure, area-based tenures directly to
First Nations," phasing out all exports of raw, unprocessed logs from
BC, creating regional log markets to create new jobs and foster more
local wood manufacturing, enacting new rules requiring minimum levels
manufacturing for companies holding long-term logging licenses, and
encouraging higher-value wood manufacturing by providing better access
to trees for value-added producers.
In most of the towns, Parfitt's presentation was
followed by brief presentations from panel members who included
representatives of BCGEU, Professional Employees Association, Unifor,
and USW 1-424.
In Fort St. James, Renel Mitchell, a lead researcher
from the Tl'azt'en First Nation, made a well-received presentation, in
which she emphasized the importance of communities, community groups
and First Nations working together in common cause over forestry and
Fort St. James, March 17, 2017
Organizers and Sponsors
The meetings in Prince George, Mackenzie and Quesnel
were hosted by the Stand Up for the North Committee, while the meeting
in Williams Lake was hosted by the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation
Society, Council of Canadians and USW 1-424; and, in Fort St.
James, by the FSJ Chamber of Commerce.
Sponsors for the overall tour, which was organized by
the Stand Up for the North Committee, included: BCGEU, Faculty
Association of CNC, North Central Labour Council, PPWC Local 9,
PPWC National, Professional Employees Association, Unifor and
Economy and the Softwood Lumber
contains two articles on the forestry sector. The first previously
appeared in Workers’ Forum in
January 2017. The second is a discussion on political economy which
shows there is an alternative to the way the forestry industry is
currently plundered for private gain.
The pamphlet is
published as a contribution to the discussion organized by BC forestry
workers and fellow Canadians, who stand for nation-building against
nation-wrecking, on the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber agreement, trade,
and the future of forestry in the province.
32 pp $5
Order from National Publications Centre
cheque or money order
Toronto ON M5C 2J8
Strike of Quebec Paramedics
Support Paramedics' Just Demands!
three simultaneous demonstrations: one
in front of the Urgences-Santé offices in Montreal, one in front
of the National Assembly in Quebec City and the other in New Richmond
in Gaspésie. The demonstrations were
of a general strike of nearly 6,000 paramedics,
emergency medical dispatchers and support staff in the pre-hospital
sector in Quebec.
All unions representing workers in the pre-hospital sector participated
in the actions.
for themselves and
the services they provide, and demanded that they be met by the Quebec
Montreal, March 16, 2017
and working conditions
commensurate with the important work they do for the people under very
difficult conditions. The paramedics' collective agreements expired
March 31, 2015. They are saying, "Enough is Enough" of living and
working conditions worsening, jeopardizing their physical and even
psychological health and their ability to provide the services upon
which the people depend. Enough, they are saying, of workers being
forced to prevent a collapse of the system out of sheer will and
determination. Enough of the government refusing to take responsibility.
wage increases that have been obtained
by other workers in the public and semi-public sectors. They are
calling for improvements to their pension funds including early
retirement without penalty. They are calling for the abolition of
on-call schedules, which are called "7/14" and are used mainly in
remote regions. This means that workers are on duty seven days in a
row, on call 24 hours a day, and then have seven days off. These
on-call schedules are out of date and unsuitable. They were supposed to
be temporary but are still being used.
the hour. This includes
ensuring a workload that actually corresponds to what can be done under
the current conditions given the level of staffing and the ever more
complex tasks they have to perform.
1,000 workers took part, put
the emphasis on the necessity to maintain uniform working conditions
across Quebec. These are conditions they were able to get through their
over the years, whether on wages, retirement, vacation time
and pay, group insurance, etc. They denounced the Quebec government and
its Health Minister Gaétan Barrette for withdrawing from the
bargaining tables (Urgences-Santé is the exception because it is
a public agency) and declaring that the various employers are
"independent" while it is the government that holds the purse strings
and determines the norms for delivery of services. Workers say that the
Ministry is hiding behind the employers' associations to drive down
conditions in the sector, pitting workers against workers.
more than 300 workers
participated, mostly those working for private, not-for-profit and
cooperative ambulance companies, workers gave a more recent example of
government abdicating its responsibilities. The Quebec government is
attempting to impose unilaterally a new service contract on the
Corporation des services d'ambulance du Québec (CSAQ), which
represents the vast majority of the ambulance companies outside
Montreal and Laval, as of March 31. According to the workers, this new
contract includes cuts of $121 million over three years. The government
is demanding that CSAQ "negotiate" within the parameters of the slashed
budget, putting huge downward pressure on working conditions and
delivery of services. The CSAQ has initiated legal proceedings against
the government over the service contract, which means that the
negotiations are now at a complete standstill.
for slashing budgets and then claiming that the "negotiation must go
on" with the "independent companies."
claim what is rightfully
theirs and immediately improve their conditions and the services they
provide to the public. At the centre of the strike is the demand that
the Quebec government take up its responsibilities towards hospital
services and cease its cynical manoeuvring to break the unity in action
of the workers and wreck services even more.
Workers' Forum joins the ambulance
workers demanding that the government satisfy their just demands and
calls on all to stand by their side in their courageous struggle.
Striking paramedics on picket line.
ISSUES | HOME