May 11, 2017
Growing Opposition to Federal
Workers Organize Actions in Ottawa
Demanding a Secure Pension for All
Protest against Bill C-27, Ottawa, May 5, 2017.
• Workers Organize Actions in Ottawa Demanding
a Secure Pension
for All - Louis Lang
• Ottawa Retirees Won't Stand for Anti-Pension
Bill C-27, They Will "Sit-In"
Against It - Ottawa Committee
for Pension Security
• Workers Intensify Actions in Defence of Their
Essar Steel Algoma
Bankruptcy Protection Fraud
• Instability and Bitter Infighting Amongst
• Crisis in Sault Ste. Marie's Finances
Growing Opposition to Federal
Workers Organize Actions in Ottawa Demanding a Secure
Pension for All
Bill C-27, An Act to amend the Pension Benefits
Standards Act, 1985, was introduced in the House of Commons by
Finance Minister Bill Morneau on October 19, 2016.
The bill creates a
"framework for the establishment, administration and supervision of
target-benefit plans" for federally regulated workers in the private
sector, as well as Crown Corporations. Currently, there are
over 300 defined-benefit plans (DB) in the federal sector
covering 489,000 workers with $100 billion in
Bill C-27 would allow employers to undermine DB plans
and replace them with target-benefit plans (TB) that reduce the value
employers contribute and eliminate their obligation to maintain and
provide a guaranteed level of benefits to retirees. With TB plans, the
legal requirement on employers to fund, maintain and guarantee pension
benefits is removed.
Immediately, a broad opposition of retirees and unions
raised the alarm and demanded Bill C-27 be withdrawn as an affront to
Canadians and their right to security in retirement. The opposition
pointed out that Morneau introduced the legislation as a sneak attack
with no consultation or prior notice to any of the organizations
The Trudeau Liberal government temporarily shelved the
bill at first reading and began a hastily-organized "consultation" with
a few select "stakeholders." No retiree organization was invited to
submit views and no public consultation took place on the proposed
legislation. The period of private consultation announced by Morneau
on May 15. All indications suggest the Trudeau
government intends to push Bill C-27 through the House of Commons
despite broad opposition from concerned Canadians and their
Pensions Must Not Be Target of Private Gain for
Morneau Scheppel Inc., the pension and insurance
consulting firm founded and operated by Bill Morneau until he was
appointed Finance Minister, has long pushed pensions as a target for
private corporate gain. Replacing defined-benefit pension plans with
target-benefit plans is one such scheme to enrich the few.
Not surprisingly, Morneau Scheppel Inc. hailed the
introduction of Bill C-27 as "a positive step that could boost the
development of these types of plans across the country." The company
expressed the hope that its former CEO and now Finance Minister's
initiative at the federal level would prod the Quebec and provincial
governments to do
the same, as the prospects for transferring pension benefits from
retirees to private corporate interests are enormous.
Already in 2012, the Conservative government in
New Brunswick introduced its "Shared Risk" Target plan to replace the
existing DB plans. Morneau Scheppel Inc., with the current federal
Finance Minister still its Chair and CEO, was instrumental in the
conversion of the New Brunswick Public Service Pension Plan away from
benefits. Similar changes to DB plans soon followed in the pension
plans of several hospitals and the City of Saint John. Also in 2012,
CEO Morneau became an official pension investment advisor to Ontario
Liberal Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan, and in 2014, Ontario Premier
Kathleen Wynne appointed him to a pension panel led by former Prime
Minister Paul Martin. The influence of private corporate interests over
governments, along with their outlook, agenda and aim of private
profit, extends into all facets of the economy including retirement.
Defend the Pensions We Have; Fight for Pensions for All!
Protest against destruction of public employees' defined-benefit
plans in violation of workers' contracts, Fredericton, November 6, 2013.
New Brunswick public sector workers and unions continue
their opposition to the destruction of their defined-benefit plans to
this day. They express their contempt for the deceptively named "shared
risk" and "target" plans. Many plan members, retirees and their
organizations have denounced the government and Morneau Scheppel Inc.
providing false and misleading information about what the conversion
away from their DB plans would mean for them. Plan conversions in New
Brunswick have resulted in class action lawsuits and constitutional
challenges that are flooding the courts.
Faced with the Liberal Trudeau/Morneau government's
expansion of the attack on pensions and its threats against retirees'
financial security with Bill C-27, increasing numbers of current and
retired workers are actively organizing to defeat the bill and defend
their right to a secure defined-benefit pension.
The Ottawa Committee for
Pension Security organized a demonstration and sit-in at the Prime
Minster' Office at the Langevin Block for noon on May 5. More
than 250 active and retired public sector workers, members of the
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Professional Institute of the Public
Service, Canadian Association of
Professional Employees, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and other
unions joined despite the heavy rainfall. Shouts of "Trudeau, Morneau;
Bill C-27 Has to Go!" and "Secure Pensions for All!" rang through the
streets across from Parliament Hill as workers expressed
their determination to continue the fight for the right of all
workers to a secure pension.
The Ottawa Committee demands the immediate withdrawal
of Bill C-27, declaring in a leaflet, "The Ottawa Committee for Pension
Security came together to counter the assault of Bill C-27 on
retirement security and the inadequacy and inequality of recent changes
to the Canada Pension Plan."
The leaflet also points out, "The Trudeau government
has adopted Stephen Harper's 2014 proposal to allow employers to
eliminate retirement security and break their legal pension obligations
to workers and retirees in the federal jurisdiction."
Join the fight to defend the defined-benefit pensions
that workers have now and their extension to all! Together let us stop
the immoral destruction and conversion of defined-benefit plans to
"shared risk," "target" or some other grossly defined variation of
defined-contribution plans that steals value from pensioners and
increases insecurity in
Importantly, the struggle includes a determined No! to
Bill C-27 and the imposition of these vile schemes on young workers
entering the workforce, which denies them their right to security in
retirement, and splits and weakens the working class. Governments must
reject as corrupt and retrogressive the influence of private corporate
that want to profit from pensions and steal value from retirees.
Organize to Defeat Anti-Pension Bill
Hands Off Our Pensions!
Governments Must Guarantee the Right of All to
a Secure Defined-Benefit Pension and Retirement at a Canadian Standard!
Ottawa Retirees Won't Stand for Anti-Pension
Bill C-27, They Will "Sit-In" Against It
The changes to federal pension legislation proposed in
the Liberal Government's Bill C-27 will strip pension plan members of
their benefit security, and violate the "sacred trust" principle of
pensions, says the Ottawa Committee for Pension Security.
"Most retirees in this
country survive on very modest workplace pension benefits, particularly
women whose wages were relatively low and whose average time in the
workforce is shorter," says Nancy Parker, a coordinator for the Ottawa
Committee for Pension Security. "Retirees are standing against this
terrible Bill by sitting down in front
of the Prime Minister's Office until it is withdrawn. It will open the
door to future rollbacks of our pension benefits, and close the door to
secure pensions for younger and newly hired workers. The legal security
of the basic 'defined-benefit' type pension plan has been reworked in
Bill C-27 such that all of the future risk of pension provision is
transferred to workers and retirees."
While Finance Minister Morneau claims that the
legislation would provide for a consent mechanism for its most
draconian provisions, the OCPS argues that an employer that is
determined to escape its pension obligations could simply lock out its
workers until they are prepared to offer their consent. In other words,
in the real world of
contemporary labour relations, consent can easily be coerced.
Widespread opposition to Bill C-27 has translated into
an active national campaign by the Canadian Labour Congress and many of
its affiliates, as well as the National Association of Federal
Retirees, the Congress of Union Retirees of Canada (CURC), and many
seniors' organizations. The formation of the Ottawa Committee for
Security in January 2017, and the demonstration it is organizing
at the Prime Minister's Office on May 5, indicates that this
opposition is moving from a relatively quiet lobby into the streets.
"We are not just here to protect our own pensions,"
says Parker, "but for a decent pension and retirement system for
today's young generation. Bill C-27 also targets them, telling them
that they should never expect a secure pension income. All generations
need to unite to fight this bill."
The Ottawa Committee for Pension Security is a group of
concerned individuals who have come together to support retirement
security for all. Real retirement security comes from a greater
expansion of the CPP supported by secure defined-benefit workplace
pension plans that are not a "target" but guaranteed to pay the pension
Media Contact: Nancy
Protest against Bill C-27, Ottawa, May 5, 2017.
Quebec Paramedics' Strike
Workers Intensify Actions in Defence of Their Rights
Paramedics' contingent in May Day march in Montreal.
Paramedics in Quebec, who have been on strike since
February, are intensifying their actions in defence of their rights and
just demands. They have been without a collective agreement since March
Paramedics are asking for wage increases similar to
those of other
public and semi-public sector workers. They are calling for
improvements to their pension funds, including early retirement without
penalty. As well, they are demanding the abolition of on-call
schedules, called "7/14," putting workers on duty seven days in a row,
on-call 24 hours a day, and then taking seven days off. These
were intended to be temporary when introduced, and workers say they are
now out of date and unsuitable. Paramedics are further seeking
stability with normal shifts, paid by the hour. This includes a
workload that corresponds to actual conditions, given the level of
staffing and the complexity of tasks they have to perform.
Paramedics participated in large numbers at the May Day
demonstration in Montreal in support of their demands for substantial
improvements in working conditions and retirement.
On May 5, paramedics held a militant demonstration
against Premier Couillard's visit to the Gaspé Peninsula to
promote his nation-wrecking anti-social offensive as an "economic plan"
for Quebec. The workers took to the streets and briefly blocked the
Premier's car, demanding that he render account for the government's
refusal to negotiate. Premier Couillard arrogantly refused to speak to
the paramedics and police intervened to clear the way. The paramedics
continued their demonstration with support from local residents.
On May 9, striking paramedics employed by
Urgences-Santé announced that they want to negotiate wages,
retirement and workload together with all workers in the pre-hospital
sector, to maintain the common conditions they have established through
their struggles over many years. This came in direct response to the
decision of the Quebec government to withdraw from negotiations in the
pre-hospital sector (except at Urgences-Santé, which is a public
enterprise), claiming that the various publicly-funded employers are
"autonomous" and should negotiate as they want with workers. At the
same time, the government imposes service agreements that dictate the
budgets and staffing of these employers. Urgences-Santé
paramedics are planning more mass actions including protests at events
held by Couillard government ministers to challenge their anti-worker
position and refusal to negotiate.
Essar Steel Algoma Bankruptcy Protection
Instability and Bitter Infighting Amongst Oligarchs
The necessity for a new direction for
Billionaire oligarch Tom Clarke seized control of Essar
Steel Minnesota for $550 million at a U.S. Chapter 11
bankruptcy auction on April 26. Clarke's Social Wealth Controlling
Fund (SWCF) called Chippewa Capital Partners also recently acquired
U.S. iron ore pellet producer and transporter Magnetation out of
bankruptcy protection. He announced plans to merge the two as Mesabi
Metallics and complete construction of the $1.9-billion Essar
taconite pellet plant in Minnesota. Clarke boasted that his oligopoly
would soon be adding a steel mill or two to go with his coalmines,
carbon trading business, healthcare interests and other social wealth.
would not reveal the name of the steel mills but rumours are
circulating that they may be Stelco or Essar Steel Algoma, which are
both under CCAA bankruptcy protection in Canada.
Clarke's purchase of Essar Steel Minnesota is
reportedly backed using the recently acquired Magnetation assets as
collateral in an arrangement with Liberty House's GFG (Gupta Family
Group) Alliance, a SWCF headquartered in London, England with
connections in India, and another undisclosed SWCF, which both pledged
$250 million to complete the transaction. Clarke boasts that the book
value of Magnetation for purposes of borrowing is $700 million even
though he acquired the assets out of bankruptcy in January this year
for only $52.5 million.
Chippewa Capital Partners was the only entity to show
up to the Essar bankruptcy auction. SPL Advisors, the current SWCF
managing Mesabi Metallics, formerly known as Essar Steel Minnesota,
bowed out as did Cliffs Natural Resources that initially
offered $75 million.
Cliffs Natural Resources did not withdraw gracefully.
Its CEO Lourenco Goncalves denounced the sudden entry of Clarke's
oligopolist firm on the scene with its greater offer. Clarke's seizure
of the two iron ore pellet producers puts the oligarch into direct
competition with Cliffs, a major iron ore pellet producer in Minnesota.
Cliffs has long wanted to seize control of Essar Minnesota's unfinished
pellet facility and valuable state mineral leases or at least prevent
Essar from becoming a direct competitor.
The CEO of Cliffs, Lourenco
Goncalves, is known in Canada for his bombastic and disruptive words
and actions against the working class and rivals. Aside from closing
competing Canadian iron ore mines in Labrador and elsewhere and
refusing to uphold its social responsibilities towards retirees, miners
and the environment, Cliffs has
interfered directly in the affairs of Essar Steel Algoma in Sault Ste.
Algoma Steel depends on Cliffs for iron ore pellets.
Cliffs has used this dependency to attack its Essar Global rival with
whom it has engaged in a long bitter struggle in Minnesota. Cliffs
inserted a clause into its iron ore delivery agreement with Essar Steel
Algoma, while the latter was under CCAA, prohibiting Essar Global from
becoming a possible candidate to take Algoma Steel out of bankruptcy
Immediately after the Essar Minnesota (aka Mesabi
auction where Clarke's firm seized control, Goncalves
unleashed a tirade, quoted below from Steel Market Update
(grammar is per the published original): "What happened yesterday was
an auction that we elected not
to show up
for. Our offer was made, it was public, so I can talk about,
was $75 million. And then I increased that offer to $100
million and that's also public information, so I can talk about. And
our offer was all cash, just writing a check. And my offer would also
make all the contractors and vendors 50 per cent hold [whole] on
money as soon as the process -- the bankruptcy process would end. So,
they would recover $0.50 on each $1 that they owned at that
point. The squatters that are there for -- at this point for 10
years would get zip [Goncalves is referring to Essar Global with whom
he has had a bitter feud for years], would get a goose egg as
well as all the other parties that helped them to continue to be there.
I would only this 50% for the vendors and contractors. It's cash."
Goncalves was then quoted calling Clarke's SWCF not
Chippewa Capital Partners but "Chewbacca," and sarcastically and
"Look, if you combine a blind with a handicap, you are
not going to make for MMA fighter, right? You are going make a
handicapped blind man. So, you're combining Magnetation [out of
Chapter 11 bankruptcy], with all their success in the past, with
Essar Minnesota [out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy], that has also been
successful. So, you combine those two stories of success, you pair with
someone that offer $250 million of equity and then increase
to $350 million. That said that they are going to put a DRI
[Direct-Reduced Iron] facility for 3 million tons of pellets and
they will start talking in three years. That 3 million tons mega
model for that type of size does not exist yet. And they are going to
start talking and they're going to start talking through it. That
sounds like a great combination of everything.
"And the other thing is where's the money? Although
they have an underwritten letter of commitment from big financial
institutions like Goldman Sachs, like Bank of America, or JPMorgan or
Morgan Stanley or something like that, or the account with Bank of
Timbuktu, so these are things that we all see in court. That's the mix,
color that I can give to you. I just feel bad for the Minnesota people
that fool me once, shame on me. But fool me twice, blame me. That's my
assessment of the situation with Chewbacca Steel. That's the word I'd
Goncalves said he still believes that Cliffs is in the
running to acquire Essar Minnesota's state mineral rights, which is
scheduled to be decided at a hearing on May 22. Clarke's seizure
of Essar Minnesota and plans to complete the half-finished facility
require mineral rights, which is a Minnesota state political decision.
During the long running
battle between Cliffs and Essar, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton
terminated Essar's lease last July 1 because of failure to
complete the project on time, pay contractors and return a conditional
grant from the state of $66-million for infrastructure. Governor
Dayton entered into discussions with Cliff's
CEO Goncalves at that time to take over the mineral rights. However,
with oligarch Clarke taking over the unfinished Essar project, the
fight over mineral rights has assumed a new dimension.
The modern socialized economy of industrial mass
production needs modern relations of production, cooperation and
scientific planning amongst all its sectors and parts within a
nation-building project if it is to avoid recurring economic crises and
reach its enormous potential. The bitter economic and political
infighting amongst competing
oligarchs over control of parts of the economy in building their
empires both at the national and international level is a fundamental
reason for wars and why the socialized economy consistently falls into
crisis and fails to meet the needs of the people and general interests
The organized working class is the social force capable
of depriving the oligarchs of their power to disrupt the economy and
wage wars for empire-building. The time is now for a new direction for
the economy without the destructive control of the financial oligarchy.
Together, Let's Build the New!
Crisis in Sault Ste. Marie's Finances
Time for a new direction for the
economy that favours the people
says no to the oligarchs!
The bankruptcy protection of Essar Steel Algoma has
deprived the Northern Ontario city of Sault Ste. Marie
of $26 million in municipal taxes. This represents one quarter of
its annual budget. In addition, the city has already paid $250,000
in legal fees to defend its interests within Algoma Steel's Companies'
Act (CCAA) bankruptcy process in the Ontario Superior
The police powers of the
CCAA put in first place the interests of moneylenders and big legal and
accounting companies of the financial oligarchy to the detriment of the
working class, pensioners, municipalities and other claimants on the
value workers produce. The moneylenders who provide funds during the
CCAA process, called
Debtors-In-Possession, are paid ongoing interest as a priority. The
bills of the big legal and accounting firms that employ a hoard of
lawyers and consultants are promptly paid along with the Superior Court
fees. Beyond those payments, the presiding CCAA judge has police powers
to dictate who else is paid and who is not, such as the
municipalities and pensioners regardless of anyone's legal
arrangements, expectations and rights. In most cases for example, the
judge allows executive managers to receive retention bonuses under the
hoax that they are indispensable while retirees are routinely denied
benefits and payments into their pension plans.
The shortfall in Sault Ste. Marie's city budget has led
to dire talk of austerity and the need to increase taxes on all others
by as much as 25 per cent. Also destructive is the fact that in
Sault Ste. Marie, Essar Steel Algoma owes more than $40 million to
over 120 local businesses, which the oligarchs in control refuse
now, and may only pay a small percentage of the amount owed upon
The financial oligarchy in command of the CCAA in each
particular case uses the police powers to strengthen its dictate over
the social wealth existing within the facility, either its value upon
liquidation or potential from the continuing value workers produce.
This process is to the detriment of the legal claims and rights of all
the expectations of retirees with longstanding arrangements for
pensions and benefits and municipalities that have provided necessary
infrastructure and services. The entire CCAA process stands in sharp
contradiction with the proper smooth functioning of the socialized
economy on which everyone depends.
With Algoma Steel, the oligarchs who want to seize
control and exit from CCAA are demanding huge concessions from active
and retired steelworkers and salaried employees.
With the CCAA fraud at
Stelco, originally engineered by
the infamous U.S. Steel, the oligarchs vying for control are demanding
a negation of all social obligations for pensions, benefits and
environmental remediation, and concessions in the existing
steelworkers' contract, such as the eventual elimination of the COLA.
They want to use the
police powers of the CCAA to take all social obligations and
expectations "off the balance sheet" so they can increase their claim
on the added-value workers produce and flip Stelco to another buyer for
a big score, as happened before in 2007.
The Algoma steel mill and the workers who produce and
have produced steel value are a precious asset of the economy,
community and society. They should be treated with care and respect as
the foundation of the well-being of the people in the region and the
general interests of Canadian society. Those directly in charge of the
the provincial and federal government should be held to account for the
attacks and threats of the oligarchs against the working people, local
suppliers, the community and their valuable steel producing asset.
The retrogressive outlook of forcing the economy and
its assets to serve the financial oligarchy to the detriment of the
productive forces, working people, community and society is backward in
the extreme and must be rejected and replaced. A new direction for the
economy with a broad modern outlook to serve the people and put their
interests and well-being as a priority within a nation-building project
must come into being to turn the situation around.
Canadians must mobilize and organize themselves to say No!
to the oligarchs and Yes! to themselves.
All out for a new direction for the economy that
favours the people!
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