June 29, 2017
Intense Propaganda for Privatization
Neo-Liberal Wreckers Portrayed as
Think Tanks and Experts
Maritime workers protest in Vancouver February 23, 2017 against Emerson
• Neo-Liberal Wreckers Portrayed as Think
Tanks and Experts
• Residents and Neighbouring Communities Demand
Immediate Assistance and Change of Ownership Model for Railway and Port
- Pierre Chénier
• "The Airport is Increasingly Defined as a
Precarious Workplace and We Are Fighting to Improve Labour Standards
- Dan Janssen, Toronto Airport Workers' Council and
Vice-President of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace
Workers Local 2323
Intense Propaganda for Privatization of
Neo-Liberal Wreckers Portrayed as
Think Tanks and Experts
May Day 2017 action by workers at Pearson International Airport in
Intense propaganda has been done for a while by
government officials, so-called think tanks and experts, as well as
monopoly media in favour of privatizing Canadian ports and airports.
The federal government itself is promoting the Emerson Report
which was ordered by the Harper government to review the transportation
in Canada and openly recommends maximum deregulation and privatization
of these systems. In 2016, the Trudeau government
hired Credit Suisse AG to investigate options for privatizing
major Canadian airports, while investment bank Morgan Stanley Canada
was hired to study potentially privatizing 18 ports.
Although their reports have been in the hands of the federal government
for a long time, their content is being kept rigorously secret. This
shows that the federal government considers decision-making on such
important matters to be left to leading Ministers and the financial
oligarchy and its private monopolies, not to Canadians. Transportation
Minister Marc Garneau said in a question-and-answer session after a
speech to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade on January 25, "It
is by no means a done deal. It is just a new government exploring
different possibilities." As if we are supposed to find something
and heave a sigh of relief that the federal government is graciously
A most blatant promotion for the privatization of
Canadian ports was made in an article by Charles McMillan and George
Stalk published in the Globe and Mail on
February 17, 2014, entitled, "It's time to privatize Canada's
leading ports and airports."
"Canada's transport infrastructure needs to step up its
game. The vast web of enterprises that encompass ports and airports
need a new governance model that competes against global competitors.
They need a global vision, a global talent base, and the tools to act
quickly and smartly against rivals like Los Angeles, Singapore, Dubai
Amsterdam. Governments should focus on what they do best, including
first class models of safety, security, customs clearance, and similar
tools to make our airports and ports the best in the world, and seen as
such by customers, governments, and leading multinationals.
airports and ports would disband
their traditional political governance model, with the concurrence of
the federal government and Parliament. That step would allow private
firms and individuals to take shares in a governance model that is
globally competitive and operates in a collaborative performance
fashion with the
main stakeholders, including its employees."
The message is clear. Ports and airports and
transportation systems are to be fully put in the hands of private
consortiums and the financial oligarchy for empire-building, and
governance should also be put directly into the hands of those forces
that roam the world in pursuit of their own narrow interests. This
means building transportation
systems as part of global gateways and corridors that are instruments
in the fight and collusion for profit, domination and power of select
global private interests and imperialist powers they are associated
with. Pro-social nation-building for the well-being of all, in which
transportation systems serve an economy of completely socialized and
interrelated industrial mass production, is never considered and is
actually sacrificed in these schemes.
Speaking of schemes, the latest one comes from the C.D.
Howe Institute, the neo-liberal think tank closely associated with the
Liberal Party, to the point that Finance Minister Bill Morneau was its
president prior to being elected as a
In a June 15 research paper entitled "Casting Off:
How Ottawa Can Maximize the Value of Canada's Major Ports and Benefit
Taxpayers" author Steven Robins proposes that the federal government
sell equity interest in the 18 Canada Port Authorities (CPAs), the
four largest of which are Vancouver,
Prince Rupert, Montreal and Halifax. These CPAs were introduced by
federal legislation in 1998 to
operate the major ports on federally-owned land on a commercial basis
but with certain restrictions such as how much they can raise fees
charged for various activities, how much money they can
borrow from banks, etc.
St. John's Newfoundland protest against CETA and changes
cabotage regulations, January 2017.
In a similar vein, the article suggests that the
Canadian government could
introduce and sell equity interest in port ownership that could amount
to $2-3 billion, even up to $5 billion if the
government went for total
equity ownership by private interests. This is money, the author
irrationally says, that could go into the coffers of the government to
invest into much needed infrastructure!
Another notable point in the article is how far it goes
in suggesting to simply throw in the towel, that privatization of
public assets is already the name of the game, so why
bother trying to fight it and simply put the nail in the coffin of
any semblance of nation-building.
The article says:
"The CPAs are one link in the supply chains that
characterize Canada's international trade. Interestingly, however, they
are the last link that remains in public hands -- the vast majority of
trade is already facilitated by private companies. The CPAs operate in
a highly competitive environment and have limited ability to influence
costs from origin to destination."
Then the author shamefully
proceeds to argue that costs
for shippers and the public are not necessarily going to go up because
there is so much competition between ports and shipping lines that
even under private ownership, CPAs could not raise fees on a whim. This
is an absurd answer that contradicts the experience of the
of other public assets. All the various costs can be expected to go
through the roof with ports under direct private ownership.
Furthermore, it reduces the entire matter to an issue of monetary costs
as if the issue at hand is not the ownership and control of the ports
by private foreign
monopolies to directly decide the fate of those
workforce and the all those whose livelihoods depend on marine
Workers are rightly opposing any plan to further
deregulate and privatize transportation systems including ports and
airports. The federal government must render account for entertaining
and implementing these schemes in contradiction with the public
interest and the openly expressed opposition of workers and communities.
The times demand that public assets be defended and
renewed so as to be instruments of a modern nation-building project
that serves the people and its socialized economy and in which
decision-making power rests on workers and people.
Churchill, Manitoba Left Stranded
Residents and Neighbouring Communities Demand Immediate
Assistance and Change of Ownership Model for Their Port and Railway
Picket in Churchill Manitoba, September 2016 against closure of grain
shipping at Port of Churchill.
A most difficult situation has been created for the 900
the Port of Churchill and others in surrounding communities in Northern
Manitoba. The now private railway line
connecting these communities to each other and other parts of the
province was seriously damaged by spring floods and requires
significant repairs to be usable. Instead of immediately
mobilizing its resources to repair the line, the owner Omnitrax
announced the closure of the Hudson Bay Railway Company and the rail
line connecting the Port of Churchill on Hudson
Bay with its neighbouring communities and southern Manitoba. Omnitrax
refuses to recognize the situation as a public emergency and repair the
line immediately. Omnitrax is one company
within the U.S. consortium called the Broe Group with headquarters in
Protest in Winnipeg, September 21, 2016 against closure of Churchill
The damaged rail line is the only land transport link
Churchill to the rest of the province leaving more expensive means of
transportation by just air and boat, with the port
ice free only from June through October. The loss of the rail link adds
another dimension to the problems of Churchill and other northern
Manitoba communities. Omnitrax also owns the
privatized port, which it closed in the summer of 2016. The port
employed 10 per cent of the population.
The rail line is vital infrastructure for supplying
food and other
products including propane to the North and sending goods to the South,
and to meet the people's transportation needs.
The majority of households in Northern Manitoba heat their homes with
propane. To transport food, propane and other supplies into and out of
Churchill by air or boat drastically increases
prices for residents, which people have already reported.
The people reject the indifference of Omnitrax in the
face of an
emergency they face. With the arrogance of a distant emperor, Omnitrax
recommended that people find "alternative"
sources of supplies for their basic necessities as the rail line cannot
possibly be repaired for a year if at all.
The people in the north reject the company's ultimatum.
meetings and demonstrations in mid-June to demand that railway repairs
be done immediately, that the federal and
provincial governments intervene to ensure this happens, and that a new
model of ownership of the railway line and the port be worked out to
replace private ownership, especially by a
U.S. or other foreign corporation.
The aloofness of the federal government has been
conveyed in the
liberal language of empty moral support that the people simply do not
want to hear anymore. A resident who took
part in a June 15 protest in Churchill denounced the government
"They're blatantly ignoring
us here. Even though it's an American
who owns the rail line, Churchill is still in Canada, right? Do
something for us."
The federal government claims to be studying the
awaiting the studies of Omnitrax's engineers before deciding what to
do. Such empty claptrap! Omnitrax publicly
claims it does not have the funds to make the necessary repairs yet its
ownership group brags of billions of dollars in investments in real
estate and other sectors. The people interpret
Omnitrax's plea of poverty as a request for a pay-the-rich state
subsidy or perhaps in preparation for entry into bankruptcy protection.
Communities in northern Manitoba are seeking immediate
help and a
change in the ownership and control of these infrastructure assets that
are vital to their existence and development.
To have essential infrastructure such as ports and railways in the
hands of private interests and empire-builders with their aim of
maximum profit is nation-wrecking. The closure of the
Churchill port and now the disaster of no rail link are proof of the
instability of handing over the people's assets to the oligarchs.
Pro-Social Alternatives Exist
Residents are demanding that governments take control
situation and ensure that repairs are done safely and as quickly as
possible. A local Indigenous-run railway company says
its workforce has the expertise to do the repairs. The Mayor of
Churchill said this proposal deserves attention and that governments
must act to unblock the situation. Another proposal from
the community is that Churchill be granted emergency government freight
subsidies to stabilize the prices of goods arriving by air.
Another demand is to renationalize the railway and
Liberal government of Jean Chrétien sold both to Omnitrax in
coalition has been formed, which includes First
Nations and municipalities in the area that want to acquire the railway
Criminality of Privatization of Public Assets
The situation in Churchill shows in a dramatic way the
of the anti-social offensive with its endless waves of deregulation and
privatization of public assets. Favouring and
serving the private interests of the global oligarchs is in complete
contradiction with modern nation-building to favour and serve the
well-being of all and bring under peoples' control those
affairs that affect their lives.
The Chrétien Liberal government's 1997 sale of
railway line to Omnitrax was facilitated by federal legislation and
took place in the wake of the deregulation of the
railways and the subsequent 1995 privatization of CN Rail to which this
line belonged. One feature of this deregulation and privatization was
the abandonment of rail lines serving less
populated regions and areas such as Northern Manitoba where the natural
conditions require more maintenance and gross income is low.
Maximum private profit dictates the actions of
companies such as
CN. The executives are the first to insist that rail lines and other
businesses that do not meet a certain level of gross
income and profit must be abandoned otherwise the rich investors will
throw them out on their ears.
The Chrétien government sold the Port of
Churchill to Omnitrax for
$1.00! This sale was accompanied by repeated government subsidies to
Omnitrax, supposedly for the maintenance
of the railway and the port, money that the U.S. monopoly could easily
divert elsewhere within its global holdings. The people question
whether this led to substandard maintenance and
subsequent derailments and now this disaster of not even having a rail
The Harper Conservative government's 2011 destruction
Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) was a further blow to Churchill. The CWB
single-desk public monopoly in the service of
farmers used the railway to Churchill and its port to ship grain. For
farmers in northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, shipping grain through
the Port of Churchill was cheaper and faster.
The CWB also owned producer cars that moved the grain to port. The
large private grain companies that have taken over since the CWB was
wrecked are not concerned with the needs of
the farmers, communities and Canadians nor the economy. They are
building their own port facilities in major centres, to concentrate
control and wealth and build their competing
The demise of the CWB greatly reduced the amount of
by rail to the Port of Churchill. To add insult to injury, the Harper
Conservative government after wiping out the
CWB gave Omnitrax five-year subsidies as compensation for losses of
grain transportation on its rail line and through the port. In 2016,
Omnitrax simply canceled grain transportation at the
port, which has not resumed, putting a significant portion of the local
population out of work, including several residents who had not
accumulated enough hours to be eligible for
Prior to the damage to the
rail lines from this year's spring
floods that brought rail transport to a halt, Omnitrax had reduced the
weekly freight transport service from two shipments to
one. This greatly hindered the community's access to fresh produce and
the availability of other necessities.
The privatization of basic public assets, such as
infrastructure, benefits the narrow private interests of the
empire-builders. It puts their aim for maximum profit in
command of those economic affairs that directly affect the people's
lives. The precarious situation in Northern Manitoba, the numerous
train derailments and the disastrous explosion at
Lac-Mégantic Quebec are evidence that privatization of the basic
sectors of the economy must be ended and rejected as activity that is
hostile to the people and to society. A new aim to
serve the people is required for the basic economy.
In Northern Manitoba, all sorts of pro-social projects
suggested and could be organized to deal positively with the Churchill
railway line and port. The people depend on the
basic economy and want a say and control over its activities. This
cannot be the case if a global ruling imperialist elite deprive people
and their society of control over their basic economy
through privatization and other means. The people demand control and
empowerment of a nation-building project to ensure that the basic
economy meets their needs and guarantees the
well-being of all without fail.
All out to support the community of Churchill and the
communities fighting for their rights, well-being and future!
"The Airport is Increasingly Defined as
Workplace and We Are Fighting to Improve Labour Standards
Airport Workers' Council May Day 2017 action at Pearson International
Workers'Forum: What is
the Toronto Airport
Workers' Council and what is its aim?
Dan Janssen: The
Toronto Airport Workers'
Council is a group of union reps at the Toronto Airport. Most of them
work on the floor, some of them are full-time reps. We came together to
try to make improvements at Pearson Airport when it comes to labour
standards, health and safety, minimum wage, basically to be a voice for
workers regardless of whether they are unionized or not. We have six
unions on the Council: Public Service Alliance of Canada, Service
Employees International Union, the International Association of
Machinists and Aerospace Workers, UNIFOR, the Teamsters and the
Canadian Union of Public Employees. Those are the larger unions at
but there are a lot more unions at the airport. Those are the six
biggest ones. There are a lot of workers that are not unionized
including ground workers, retail workers, passenger services workers,
and of course there are a lot of management groups that are not
unionized. It is estimated that there are up to 49,000 workers at
Pearson. It is
Canada's largest workplace. The Workers' Council represents a broad
variety of workers such as retail workers, ground workers, baggage
handlers, flight attendants, aircraft mechanics, ground services
mechanics, fuelers, etc.
WF: What are the main
you have taken up to improve the conditions of the workers at Pearson?
DJ: We have been
a $15 minimum wage and the province of Ontario just announced that
it will increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by
January 1, 2019. We have been fighting both with the airport
authorities and the Ontario government to increase the wages. Now it
with the Ontario government.
Another big issue is contract flipping. That is when a
request for proposals is put out for a service contract and the
contract is bid on by a number of companies and the airport authority
or the airline determines from the contract proposals that come in who
the provider will be. When the provider comes in, a lot of time what
happens is that
the workers have to go to the new provider, and there is no protection
for them. They have to start all over again at whatever base wage the
new provider pays. Sometimes their seniority is wiped right out and
workers have to start all over on vacation [benefits], probationary
period, and so on, so they end up falling behind. Some workers have
been working doing the exact same work for 10 or 15 years,
but they have worked for four different companies and still they may
only be making $12 to $13 an hour.
To give an example, the Consolidated Aviation Fueling
workers had their contract flipped [in 2015]. Some of them had
been there 25 to 30 years or longer and were making $22
an hour plus when their contract was flipped. The workers then went to
work for the new company but their wages were going to be no
more than $14 an hour and they had to restart their vacation
[benefits] all over again, their probationary period, etc. So you go
back to work and 90 days later you may have a job or not,
depending on if you pass probation or not. If you don't work directly
for an airline, you are working on contract and you could be subject to
contract flipping. Those doing the service jobs at the airport are also
subject to contract flipping.
The airport authorities handle all these service
contracts and they put out the requests for proposals every three years
or so. The airport is increasingly defined as a precarious workplace
and we are fighting to improve labour standards. Contract flipping is
definitely something that is playing into it, as well as low wages.
What tends to happen also with contract flipping is
that your union reps, your health and safety reps, those who were your
voices in the workplace don't make it past probation; they are singled
out as troublemakers and they don't make it through. Also workers may
go from union to union. We have seen this happen a couple of times.
say workers were Machinists members and the new contract that picks
them up is a company that is already covered by a UNIFOR contract, all
of a sudden they are all UNIFOR members. No fault of the union but it
is the system that is like that.
Another thing we are fighting for is better health and
safety standards at Pearson. We have had a number of accidents in the
workplaces resulting in some bad injuries and even a fatality. We are
pushing to have better health and safety standards in the workplaces,
increased training, etc. We also get together at the table and talk
and safety issues as one large group at the airport rather than as the
silos of health and safety committees that exist. We are facing the
health and safety issues of a precarious workplace. When you are
working for minimum wage what is on your mind is going to the next job,
how you are going to feed your family, and safety becomes something
that is kind of pushed aside. When employers have high turnover rates
they are constantly training new people to get them to the workplaces
as quickly as they can and this has also an effect on health and safety
as the workers are not fully prepared to enter the workplace. With
these contract flips and precarious work, you do not gain experience
of the workforce that comes through longevity.
WF: What kind of
actions are you
organizing in this context?
DJ: We just held our
May Day action
which was a successful event. We had a pretty good group of people out
at the event even if it was raining. We were pushing the airport
authorities for a $15 minimum wage as well as for putting an end
to contract flipping. We also brought up health and safety issues and
WF: What is your stand
privatization of airports?
DJ: Privatization is
only going to
hurt the general public as well as the workers at the airports. If
airports are to follow a profit model, people are going to end up
paying more in service fees. I do not think that contract flipping is
going to stop either anytime soon because as we have seen in the past
privatization is a race to
the bottom. They are trying to lower the costs for their goods, costs
for their labour and for their services. It is a continued race to the
bottom as well as increased service fees for passengers.
Our CEO and his team at Pearson have these big ideas in
mind in terms of transit. They are trying to create a transit hub and
they need tons of money to do it. From what I heard, they are pushing
the idea that partial privatization will help them fund that project,
in particular the project to build a transportation hub with rail
coming in as well
as bus services. It is going to be located just outside the airport.
Privatization is putting the money in the hands of the
few. Once it is privatized, the money is only going to a select few,
basically going to create a monopoly. I think that the Liberals are
basically trying to finance their Infrastructure Bank. Airports are the
biggest things you can sell off in the country that is going to help
them to have their
Infrastructure Bank set up.
WF: What would you
like to say in
DJ: All the unions at
Council are fighting hard to improve the standards here at Pearson. We
are not going to stop until we make some gains for the workers at this
airport that will improve our airport into the future for passengers
and workers as well.
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