June 8, 2017

Stelco Workers Accept New Contract

The Power to Deprive of the Financial Oligarchy and Its State Must Be
Challenged and Overcome


Stelco Workers Accept New Contract
The Power to Deprive of the Financial Oligarchy and Its State Must Be Challenged and Overcome
Will Stelco Be American Enough?

Quebec Mining and Metallurgical Workers Fight for Rights
Workers at Niobec Mine Strike Against Demands for Concessions by Magris Resources
CEZinc Strikers and Allies Demonstrate at Glencore Shareholders' Meeting in Switzerland

June 1 -- 34th Ontario Injured Workers' Day
Compensation Is a Right! -- We Will Not Give Up Our Fight!

Stelco Workers Accept New Contract

The Power to Deprive of the Financial Oligarchy and
Its State Must Be Challenged and Overcome

Local 1005 USW holds information meeting for its retirees to review the new tentative agreement,
at the Hamilton Convention Centre, June 1, 2017.

Workers' Forum sends militant greetings to Local 1005 USW, its executive, members and retirees. Local 1005 conducted itself in an honourable fashion regarding the difficult situation confronting its members, retirees and steel communities. The Canadian state, especially the Ontario and federal governments and Superior Court succumbed to the demands of the U.S. imperialists. The state has handed over Stelco steelworks to another gang of U.S. oligarchs while severing new production of value from the social responsibilities that come with such a position of economic power.

The oligarchs in control of U.S. Steel and their fellow members of the financial oligarchy through a company called Bedrock concocted a plan to sever Stelco steelworks in Hamilton and Nanticoke from responsibility for pensions, retiree benefits, environmental remediation and various obligations regarding outstanding payments to suppliers, contractors and unsecured creditors. This anti-Canadian plan was accomplished through the Ontario Superior Court and the anti-social dictate of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). Using the power to deprive of the Canadian state, the U.S. financial oligarchy has succeeded in transferring value from Canadian steelworkers, salaried employees and others through what is now widely regarded as legalized theft of the CCAA.

The executive, members and retirees of Local 1005 and their allies throughout the country made an enormous effort to stop this legalized theft and power to deprive of the oligarchs and their state. Steelworkers held countless meetings and rallies, gave speeches, distributed their newsletter Information Update, and visited fellow workers throughout Ontario and Quebec and into the United States to mobilize public opinion to defeat the nefarious plans of the financial oligarchs through a militant campaign of No Means No! Even if this stage of the battle is over, the Local 1005 executive has vowed to continue the struggle to defend the rights of steelworkers, retirees and other working people no matter what the hardships and difficulties.

The state power of the financial oligarchy through its media, courts and political representatives of the cartel parties in the Ontario Legislature and federal Parliament waged a campaign to wreck public opinion and declare the only alternative to legalized theft of what belongs to workers by right is liquidation of the Stelco steelworks. The financial oligarchy and its state machine presented a done deal of legalized theft or liquidation. They mobilized their mass media, university experts and economists to show with previous examples that liquidation was not an idle threat but a reality the workers would face if they refused to accept legalized theft of what belongs to Stelco workers and retirees by right and a steelworks that belongs to the people of Canada.

The Stelco experience once again proves that a new direction for the economy and country is necessary; a direction that overcomes its difficulties through renewal of the productive forces and not wrecking them; through meeting its social responsibilities not abandoning them; and through using the social product from industrial mass production for the well-being of all in a pro-social nation-building project.

The obstacle standing in the way of the Canadian working people is the power to deprive of the financial oligarchy and its state machine. The working class has strengthened its understanding of the necessity to organize its independent forces and institutions to become strong enough to deprive the financial oligarchy and its state of the power to deprive the working people of their nation-building project and what is theirs by right.

Contract Passed by 63.8 Per Cent in Favour
- Local 1005 USW -

Local 1005 USW held a contract ratification vote on June 6, 2017.

The membership was informed of the details of the agreement on May 31, 2017.

After one week of discussing whether it was in their interest to accept the tentative agreement, the membership voted to accept the contract by 63.8 per cent.

467 members voted in total of a possible 518.

90 per cent of the membership turned out to vote.

We would like to thank the members for such a great turn out. There will be no further comment tonight.

Any questions should be directed to President Gary Howe. 905-547-1417 EXT. 1

(June 6, 2017)

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Will Stelco Be American Enough?

Sycophantic discussion amongst the ruling elite

Members of the ruling elite recently engaged in a discussion in the pages of the Hamilton Spectator over how "American" Stelco will become once taken over by Bedrock Industries, LP, a New York-based venture capital firm specializing in buying up metals, mining and natural resource assets. The discussion ranged from debating how American Stelco has been in the past and what degree is necessary to pass muster under the Trump administration. The goal apparently is to be recognized as American enough so as not to be punished with America First trade rules.

Reading the comments of university experts and the President of Stelco, one begins to wonder if they have all lost their minds. The discussion, if one can call it that, is so irrational that the only way someone can join in is to become equally irrational.

The Spectator writes in an article titled "The Trump factor with Bedrock-owned Stelco, Will having U.S. owner be American enough?": "McMaster University business professor Marvin Ryder says a key question over the months ahead will be the extent to which the newly restructured Stelco will be viewed under changing trade rules. Would it be seen as American or Canadian when it comes to selling steel in the U.S.? 'It's the whole question of providence -- what it takes to declare a company American or Canadian could become quite interesting,' he says."

In other words, deeper annexation of Canada into the U.S. Empire is the way forward in the face of the "changing trade rules." With U.S. ownership and control, the U.S. administration will view Canada as an extension of the U.S. and willing participant in Making America Great Again.

The article continues, "When the steelmaker was a subsidiary of U.S. Steel, Ryder says, the company was in the best position to argue it should be categorized as American and subject to the same or similar rights as steel companies in the U.S."

Most steelworkers and their allies would argue that Stelco being a subsidiary of U.S. Steel did not put it in the "best position" at all. Perhaps the opposite of best, which is worst, would be a more appropriate characterization of how things have gone. Even the Harper government became so incensed with the antics of U.S. Steel it launched a lawsuit alleging USS broke its promises under the Investment Canada Act. However, with an irrational discussion, it's best not to let facts get in the way.

The item continues, "But more recently, the company cut ties to its American parent and set out as an independent Canadian company, which was a step in the opposite direction. 'When they renamed themselves Stelco, they were clearly Canadian,' says Ryder."

So, Stelco went from the "best position" as a U.S. subsidiary and "categorized as American," (even though almost everyone would say the experience was a disaster), to becoming Stelco once again, "an independent Canadian company, which was a step in the opposite direction."

Now perhaps, the discussion continues, the Bedrock takeover will reverse Stelco's opposite direction and move it back towards the "best position" as an American subsidiary. But apparently, the degree of Americanization is debatable, as Stelco under Bedrock ownership and control may not be a U.S. subsidiary in the eyes of the Trump administration.

Ryder says, "Now, with an American owner (Bedrock), they can make a better connection to being American. It's not as good as being U.S. Steel Canada. But it's better than being Canadian owned."

Whew, that's a load off our minds. We Canadians certainly do not want to own and control anything if it upsets the U.S. imperialists. With Bedrock in command, the situation may not be "as good as being U.S. Steel Canada," which everyone knows worked out really well for workers, retirees, local suppliers, contractors and the steel communities. But what the heck, when having an irrational discussion it's best to ignore the concrete conditions and just forget what really happened at Stelco both as a subsidiary and when independent. Don't listen to those contrarians at Stelco Local 1005 USW who say quite bitterly that Canadians have suffered "legalized theft" while under the boot of U.S. Steel. Ah, but at least, Ryder assures Canadians, with the Bedrock takeover, "it's better than being Canadian owned" because Canadians are incapable of nation-building and are better off as subjects within the U.S. Empire with the Trumps, Obamas, Clintons et al doing all the thinking for us and making all the decisions.

Michael McQuade, general manager and president of Stelco the subsidiary, and also Stelco the independent during its change to the "opposite direction," was asked what was better, subsidiary or independent. "That's a great question," he replied, "I do not know the answer to that."

McQuade is probably evasive because the irrationality of the question put him on the spot. He knows full well, because he was in the middle of the entire mess, that Stelco or any other company cannot be independent within a dependent economy captured within U.S.-controlled Fortress North America.

The working class declares its resolute opposition to this nonsense of the ruling elite. They do not speak for Canadian workers, the youth and their allies. The Canadian working class has a completely different outlook, aim and view of the situation both at Stelco and generally. A new independent pro-social direction for Canada is necessary and possible. Control of Canadians over their economic and political affairs is the only way forward, not subservience and absence of control within U.S.-controlled Fortress North America.

Join in to organize a modern nation-building project that vests sovereignty in the people and control over all those affairs that affect our work and lives.

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Quebec Mining and Metallurgical Workers Fight for Rights

Workers at Niobec Mine Strike Against Demands for Concessions by Magris Resources

On Tuesday, June 6, the 280 workers at the Niobec mine in Saint-Honoré-de-Chicoutimi in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec went on strike against concessionary demands by their employer Magris Resources. The workers' collective agreement expired May 1 and the negotiations for a new one began in January, with no results. The workers, members of Unifor's Local 666, held a general membership meeting and vote on the afternoon of June 6 with 247 workers in attendance where 97 per cent rejected Magris' final offer. The workers then set up their picket lines and installed their trailer near the entrance to the mine.

In a statement issued just after the strike began, Unifor pointed out that the main issues that pushed the workers to go on strike are Magris' demands to freeze the bonuses to which workers are currently entitled under the collective agreement, to freeze the employer's contributions to the pension fund for the duration of the agreement, to reduce union leaves and to get the union to withdraw all outstanding grievances. Talking to media, workers referred to "drastic demands" for concessions that would lower the health and safety and other standards they have achieved and they denounced the company's offer as a provocation. They said that they are fighting for the preservation and improvement of mining and living standards in the region.

In a letter posted on the website of the Local, a worker writes that the conditions at the mine have greatly deteriorated since Magris bought the Niobec mine in 2015. The worker denounces the carelessness by the company in regard to equipment maintenance, and the fact that production is constantly increased regardless of the capacity of the equipment to sustain such a level of production. He describes this state of affairs as "run to fail," which means running the machines to the point of failure and only then conducting maintenance. He also denounces the company for systematically challenging and ignoring workers' interventions that conditions at the mine are unsafe.

The Niobec mine was purchased in early 2015 by Toronto-based mining company Magris Resources from mining giant Iamgold which is also Toronto-based. Magris joined forces with CEF Holdings of Hong Kong and investment company Temasek of Singapore to make the purchase.

The Niobec mine is one of the largest niobium producers in the world and the only one in North America. Niobium is an alloying agent that lightens and strengthens materials to which it is added. It is used in particular in the automotive, aerospace and petrochemical sectors and in the construction of pipelines and bridges.

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CEZinc Strikers and Their Allies Demonstrate at Glencore Shareholders' Meeting in Switzerland

On May 24, the members of USW Local 6486 on strike at CEZinc in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec and their allies from other unions made their voice heard outside and inside the general meeting of shareholders of the global mining consortium Glencore in Cham, Switzerland. CEZinc workers have been on strike since February 12 against attacks on their pensions. The Salaberry-de-Valleyfield operations are managed by Glencore which together with Noranda Income Fund (NIF) owns CEZinc. Glencore controls NIF through ownership of 25 per cent of its shares. The consortium is the exclusive supplier of zinc concentrate to the plant and the exclusive buyer of the zinc produced by the CEZinc workers. The Quebec Steelworkers (Métallos) have decided to organize a world-wide campaign to put pressure on Glencore to withdraw its demands for concessions in the pension plan and the intervention at the shareholders' meeting in Switzerland was part of this global campaign.

The CEZinc workers were joined in the demonstration by workers from the Swiss union UNIA, the country's largest private sector union, and the international trade union IndustriALL. They denounced Glencore's refusal to negotiate and requested that it negotiate seriously by withdrawing its demands for concessions. Two Steelworkers' representatives then went inside the meeting holding shareholders' proxies which allowed them to speak and ask questions. They called on shareholders to demand that Glencore negotiate to reach an agreement that is acceptable to the workers.

A steelworker said: "You're dealing with the lives of people who do physically demanding jobs in very hot and contaminated working conditions. This kind of tactic by multinationals, of continually trying to squeeze working and living standards, is outdated and no longer acceptable. Employees should be seen as valued partners who should be able to keep the hard-won gains that were achieved over generations of collective bargaining."

Inside and outside the meeting, the workers also condemned Glencore's attacks on its workers in other countries including Peru, Australia, Colombia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In particular, they denounced the fact that 16 workers were killed in Glencore's facilities in 2016 and that reports on the causes of death have not yet been officially communicated. In addition, they pointed out that about 86 workers suffered from occupational diseases in the same year and Glencore did nothing to provide adequate compensation to these workers and improve health and safety conditions within its facilities.

The action at the shareholders' meeting was held as workers at the Glencore-owned Oaky North coal mine in Australia continue their strike, begun a few weeks earlier, against demands for wage cuts, lowering of safety standards, dismantling of regular work schedules and reduction of union representation regarding various aspects of the conditions at the mine.

In the case of CEZinc, Glencore and NIF are demanding the introduction of a system of gradual wage reductions, and transferring those amounts into the pension fund. The company would then reduce its contribution to the plans by the same amount. A further company demand is to raise the age of early retirement.

The workers, who point out that the pension plan is fully solvent and even capitalized at 114 per cent, reject these attacks against a system that workers have built through struggle and sacrifice. They are determined that it will remain in place for them and for future generations of workers.

(Photos: IndustriALL)

June 1 -- 34th Ontario Injured Workers' Day

Compensation Is a Right! --
We Will Not Give Up Our Fight!

Injured workers and their allies marked the 34th Ontario Injured Workers' Day with spirited actions affirming that they will not give up their fight for full and just compensation for all workers who are injured or made ill at work, and for safe and healthy conditions of work.

Women of Inspiration, a support group for injured women workers, kicked off the events on May 31 for the eleventh year with a "Sleepless in Queen's Park" vigil. The vigils bring to the attention of MPPs the situation of injured women workers, who spend sleepless nights from the pain of their injuries and the stress of the hardship brought on by the failure of the government to meet its responsibilities to provide them with compensation and support. The vigils also celebrate the women's resilience and their fight for justice for injured workers. This year's vigil included a lively cultural program led by the Justice Singers and greetings to the Justice Bike Ride participants as they arrived from their week-long trip from Ottawa. Several young women spoke passionately about joining the fight for justice for injured workers and for safe and healthy workplaces, including one who spoke movingly about overcoming the difficulties she faced after a workplace concussion and participating in organizing to change the situation for herself and others.

On June 1, hundreds gathered at Queen's Park for a rally and march to demand justice for injured workers, affirming that "Compensation Is a Right -- We Will Not Give Up the Fight!" Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups (ONIWG) members from cities in southern Ontario were joined by workers from the United Steelworkers, United Food and Commercial Workers, Ontario Nurses' Association, Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Public Service Alliance of Canada, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Unifor and others. The many other participants included contingents from the South Asian Women's Rights Organization and the Workers' Centre of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist). The large number of young people and activists from many different unions participating in the rally and march this year was a testament to the successes of ONIWG's organizing to make the cause of justice for injured workers the concern of all Ontario workers.

A busload of workers, many of them retirees, came in from Peterborough where they are fighting for compensation for workers who became ill from toxins used in the General Electric plant there as far back as 1945.

The rally welcomed participants in the Justice for Injured Workers Bike Ride -- Peter Page, Richard Hudon and Nicole Simpson -- who spent the week leading up to the rally biking from Ottawa through Cornwall, Brockville, Kingston, Belleville, Cobourg and Oshawa, making their way to Toronto. Peter, speaking on behalf of the riders, explained that they met with mayors and councillors in these communities to call on them to demand that the provincial government justly compensate injured workers through the WSIB, instead of denying their claims and forcing them onto Ontario Disability and Ontario Works, effectively downloading responsibility for injured workers onto the municipal governments.

OFL President Chris Buckley addressed the rally, recognizing the fight of injured workers belongs to all Ontario workers. Everyone has the right to work in a safe workplace and Workers Compensation must cover all workers, with no exclusions, he said. Gerry Leblanc from the Steelworkers' Toronto Area Council spoke to the need to enforce the Westray Act -- which to date has resulted in a jail sentence for only one employer found responsible for a workplace death. Alejandro Bravo from the Fifteen and Fairness campaign addressed the successes of their organizing and the work still to be done for workplace safety, particularly for temporary workers in industries like construction and those employed by temp agencies.

Following the rally, participants marched to the Ministry of Labour. On their arrival, they were met by a sea of pink flags as hundreds of CUPE Ontario members marched from their convention to join the injured workers and to add their voices to the demand that the right of all workers to compensation when they are injured or made ill at work be recognized.

CUPE National President Mark Hancock addressed the rally at the Ministry of Labour as did a CUPE spokesperson from the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions. Sue James, on behalf of the large contingent of General Electric workers from Peterborough, explained the organizing they are doing to see that the claims of workers exposed to toxins at the plant are recognized and demand that the WSIB, which failed these workers for so many years, be investigated. Janice Martell, whose father had passed away just days before, spoke of the fight for justice for him and for the other 20,000 or so miners and refinery workers who have been exposed to McIntyre powder -- which contains the neuro-toxin aluminum -- in the mines of northern Ontario.

Willie Noiles, ONIWG President, told the rally that the injured workers groups are focussing on three demands for changes to the compensation system going into next year's provincial election:

- the WSIB must end deeming, they must stop pretending injured workers are employed when they are not, and provide full compensation for as long as the disability lasts;

- the WSIB must stop its practice of systematically ignoring the advice of injured workers' health care providers and disregarding medical opinions that an injured worker is not ready to return to work. The WSIB must give priority to the injured worker's treating health care team; and

- the WSIB must end the practice of reducing or eliminating benefits to injured workers based on what they consider "pre-existing conditions" -- often the signs of degeneration caused by a lifetime of hard work -- and must treat all work injuries equally.

The final speaker outside the Ministry of Labour was CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn, a longtime ally in the fight of injured workers, who declared in closing, "We Will Win Justice for Injured Workers! Justice, Now!"

Following the rally, many of the injured workers and their allies participated in a panel discussion, "Fighting Back Against Toxic and Unsafe Work," on the organizing going on in different sectors to fight for the right to a safe workplace and full compensation when injured or made ill in the workplace.

Photo Review

Queen's Park Rally and March, June 1

Rally at Ministry of Labour

Panel Discussion: Fighting Back Against Toxic and Unsafe Work

Sleepless at Queen's Park Vigil, May 31

Justice for Injured Workers Bike Ride, May 25-June 1

Port Darlington, Toronto City Hall

Cobourg; Port Hope


Cornwall; Brockville; Kingston


(Photos: Workers' Forum, ONIWG, N. Simpson, IAVGO, K. Taghabon, CUPE, UFCW, OFL.)

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