September 14, 2017
Our Security Lies in Our Fight for
the Rights of All!
Workers in Action to Defend Rights,
Health and Safety
Our Security Lies in
Our Fight for the Rights of All!
• Injured Workers Launch Ontario-Wide Campaign
for Universal Workers' Compensation
• Spirited Action in Leamington Opposes
Criminalization of Migrant Workers
• Primacy of the Human Factor at the
Workplace - Pierre Chénier
• Quebec Steelworkers Demand Mining Companies
Take Up Their Responsibility for Safe Working Conditions -
André Racicot, President, USW Local 9291
• Newfoundland Refinery Workers Reject Company
Dictate and Demand a Say
in Their Safety - Glenn
Nolan, President, USW Local 9316
Our Security Lies in Our Fight for the
Rights of All!
Injured Workers Launch Ontario-Wide Campaign for
Universal Workers' Compensation
Injured workers press conference at Queen's Park, September 12, 2017
The Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups (ONIWG)
launched their province-wide organizing campaign under the banner
"Workers' Comp Is a Right" on September 11. The action coincided
with the return of MPPs to the Ontario Legislature. The
following day ONIWG held a press conference at Queen's Park to
present their campaign to the media.
Karl Crevar speaks at campaign launch,
September 11, 2017
The campaign was launched at the offices of the Workers'
Action Centre, with many injured workers from Toronto along with ONIWG
member organizations together with their allies and friends in
attendance. The participants discussed the three demands that
ONIWG has put forward and why these are considered central in the
organizing work and to arm activists with the information they need to
mobilize others to join in.
ONIWG's three demands are:
1. No cuts to compensation based on phantom jobs
2. Listen to the healthcare professionals treating
the injured workers
3. Stop cutting benefits based on pre-existing
Local meetings will take place around the province to
launch the organizing work. In Toronto the meeting takes place
September 19. For information on this and other upcoming meetings click
Karl Crevar, a past-President of ONIWG who has been
active for more than 27 years on the concerns of injured workers, heads
up the provincial organizing campaign. He, along with ONIWG President
Willie Noiles and Heidi McFarland, an injured worker from Mississauga,
led the discussion.
Launch of province-wide campaign, September 11, 2017.
Karl reviewed the history of workers' compensation
legislation in Ontario and the cuts made by successive governments of
all political hues starting from 1990. Since that time, there have
been three major pieces of legislation affecting workers' compensation,
none of which enhanced workers' rights. Karl presented some of the
of injured workers organizing to defend their rights in the face of
these cuts. As well, he provided background on the three demands being
put forward in the provincial campaign.
Karl pointed out that it is up to injured workers to
defend their rights; they cannot rely on the politicians or any other
force to do it for them. Among the tools in this organizing campaign
are holding meetings to bring together workers in different local
areas, and gathering signatures for petitions and insisting that their
local MPPs present them
in the legislature. He pointed out that the provincial election is
coming up in 2018 and injured workers need to organize so that
their demands are recognized as election issues. All those running for
office must be
forced to reckon with the demands of injured workers. It is not a
matter of injured workers saying we support one or another political
of putting forward our own demands that defend our rights, he said.
Discussion continued on various aspects of the
struggles of injured workers and how to make their voice and
organization more effective. The meeting reflected the determination of
injured workers to assert their collective strength and to continue
their fight for justice.
1. Demands of the Province-Wide
Organizing Campaign of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups
1. No cuts
based on phantom jobs
Injured workers demand the
practice of "deeming" must
be ended. This is the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)
practice of assessing that an injured worker is capable of doing a
certain job at a certain wage, even though no such job is available or
the worker is not able to do the work. The amount workers are "deemed"
making is deducted from their benefits. With the increase in the
Ontario minimum wage, many of these injured workers will be "deemed" to
be earning more resulting in further cuts to their benefits. "Deeming"
or "Determining" are among the main ways the WSIB cuts benefits to
to the healthcare
professionals treating the
Reports released by ONIWG,
the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Industrial Accident Victims'
Group of Ontario in 2016 and 2017 have exposed the WSIB's use of their
staff doctors -- or paper doctors -- to overrule the recommendations of
the actual physicians treating injured workers. The staff doctors then
rule workers are fit to return to work before completing their
before having the proper time to heal.
based on pre-existing conditions
since 2010, the WSIB has begun a
practice of aggressively reducing or eliminating benefits to injured
workers whom it claims suffer a disability not due to a workplace
injury but because they had "pre-existing conditions." These conditions
-- as opposed to a "pre-existing impairment" -- did not affect the
performance prior to their workplace injury and are so broadly defined
as to include factors that are a normal part of aging. A worker who is
hired to do a job based on their years of experience is then penalized,
if injured, because of their age. Injured workers are demanding this
Details on the demands are available in the document "Workers'
To find out more about the campaign click
here and go to the action
toolkit to get your campaign materials. Join the ONIWG
mailing list by e-mailing: email@example.com and follow
ONIWG online at:
To find injured worker groups and supports in your
community, click here.
Spirited Action in Leamington Opposes Criminalization
of Migrant Workers
Activists from the Ontario Public Service Employees'
Union (OPSEU) together with Justicia for Migrant Workers organized a
rally and demonstration at the
Leamington Municipal Offices on September 10. They were there to
make a bold statement against any attempt by the Leamington Town
Council or the Business Improvement Association to push the passage of
an anti-loitering bylaw. Such a bylaw clearly targets migrant workers
who congregate in the downtown area after work and on weekends.
Talk of considering such a bylaw came up at a
July 19 special meeting to discuss revitalization of the uptown
district of Leamington. Reports indicate that the suggestion for such a
bylaw was endorsed by the chair of the Business Improvement
Association who spoke about workers congregating downtown as being
While the city has denied it will pass such a bylaw
criminalizing and marginalizing migrant workers, the demonstrators sent
a loud message that any such attempts to target workers for their
lifestyle and living conditions are unacceptable. Representatives of
unions, the Windsor and London labour councils and activists groups
Leamington, Chatham, London as well as Toronto including a contingent
from the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) all participated,
lending their voice.
Speakers emphasized that they would not accept the
targeting of migrant or any workers under any circumstances. The
demonstrators affirmed that migrant workers in particular built the
billion dollar greenhouse and agricultural industry in and around
Leamington. Their contributions should be celebrated not denigrated.
They should be rewarded for their hard work with the best cultural and
living conditions. Their rights must be upheld along with the rights of
all instead of targeting them as a law and order problem.
Other speakers drew out the racist and diversionary basis of official
claims and proposed measures which target migrant workers, as well as
the hypocrisy which could well be criminal of the Trudeau
government. In the NAFTA negotiations it claims to defend Mexican
workers yet here in Canada the denial of their rights is sanctioned and
a regime of super-exploitation as cheap and disposable labour is
"Stand Up and Fight with Solidarity!"
Excerpts from Speech by
Gabriel Allahdua, a
migrant worker from St. Lucia in the Caribbean, worked for four years
in greenhouses under the federal government's Temporary Foreign Worker
Program (TFWP). He spoke to the demand of migrant workers for the
affirmation of their rights and clearly identified the political nature
of the ongoing violations of rights.
"This area here is called
the tomato capital. Who are
the people who made it that, who continue to make it the tomato
capital? [...] For the past 51 years migrant workers have been coming
to this community and to Canada to harvest fruit and vegetables in the
Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program."
Holding up a tree branch Gabriel compared the tree to the situation
facing migrant workers. "This is a 51 year old tree. I want to tell you
about the tree, stem, branches, leaves and also about the roots. The
Stem. Why I am in Canada? I am here to do...(a)ll the 'D' jobs, all the
dirty jobs, dangerous jobs, the 'D'... jobs. But the federal government
says I have no rights in Canada. The federal government who wants us to
do the dirty jobs ties us to our employer for our work permits. The
federal government designed the program and that is what we are
fighting today. Rights. I have no rights in Canada!" Gabriel said. "Is
that freedom, is that ...?" he asked.
"Each and every fruit you eat has 20 injustices bound up in it. If I
speak up they send me home. Is that freedom, justice, fairness?
Equality? It is illegal for migrant farm workers to unionize.... No
government of Canada has signed, ratified or recognized the
International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers.
"Within the roots of that tree, workers have been used, abused,
refused. That's Canada, the land of freedom and fairness," Gabriel said.
"What about the residential schools? Truth and reconciliation
commission? It's the system that dehumanizes and exploits at all
levels. That's what we are fighting. Why we're here today. This happens
at every level of government, even at the lowest level with bylaws,"
"What to do about it? Sit back and watch? Or stand up and fight with
solidarity!" Gabriel asked.
He gave the example of last year's caravan organized by Justicia in
which activists caravanned from Leamington to Windsor and all the way
to Ottawa to bring attention to the demand for justice for migrant
workers. "It's about social change, a long change but with solidarity
we can bring about change," Gabriel concluded.
Speakers Defend Rights of Migrant Workers
Chris Ramsaroop, a
representative of Justicia for Migrant Workers, explained
that Leamington is the location of the largest concentration of migrant
workers in Canada. He said that migrant workers built the community and
are responsible for billions of dollars coming to this community. He
declared that any attempt by the city of Leamington to pass
bylaws will be met by fierce resistance. He called on all to mobilize
to say NO! to hate, discrimination, racism and attacks on migrant
workers. He invited everyone to participate in an action on
September 23, in St. Catharines when Justicia will march in the
Niagara Grape and Wine Festival to affirm the rights of migrant workers
in the Niagara region. He also said another action is to be held in
Leamington on September 24.
Elizabeth Ha, an OPSEU activist and member of the
Windsor and District Labour Council Executive Board,
explained that when she learned
about the possibility of an anti-loitering bylaw in Leamington she
decided a stand needed to be taken. Leamington is Canada's tomato
capital because of migrant workers. They work all day out in the sun
with little to no
health and safety equipment. They contribute to the economy and yet the
city and Business Improvement Association want to make some
racist bylaw against them and treat them as some sort of threat. They
live, work here, contribute to our economy. They should be thanked
every day for what they do, she said.
Other speakers included
representatives of the Windsor
and London Labour Councils, CUPE Ontario, the Ontario Secondary School
Teachers' Federation, the IWW and the Windsor Workers' Education
Following the speakers an impromptu march was held through downtown
Leamington from City Hall to the "Big Tomato" tourist
During informal discussion, participants said the
action had a broad character shedding light on the criminal hypocrisy
of the Trudeau government. In the midst of NAFTA negotiations, the
Liberal government loudly claims to defend Mexican workers yet here in
Canada it sanctions the denial of the rights of migrant workers and
exploitation as cheap and disposable labour. Many migrant workers are
Others spoke highly of the Canadian working class and
its refusal to be lulled to sleep by the likes of of Prime Minister
Justin Trudeau and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland who love to talk
about workers' rights abroad in
Mexico, the United States and elsewhere while saying nothing of the
violation of workers' rights with impunity right here in Canada. For
class, accountability begins at home here in Canada!
Primacy of the Human Factor at the Workplace
The two interviews published in this issue of Workers'
on the workers' struggle for the right to healthy and
conditions reveal problems workers are facing on this front. The
empire-building of the global private interests includes the dangerous
demand that the human factor be eliminated when it comes to
determining the working conditions of workers. The imperialists want to
eliminate the voice of the human beings who do the work, the workers
who produce the goods and deliver the services that society depends on
for its existence.
Although working conditions
in terms of their safety and security
directly affect the very lives of workers, and in many cases entire
communities, every effort is being made to exclude workers from
decision-making and even to declare that the human factor is the cause
of problems. This imperialist consideration leads to the
workers who defend their health and safety accusing them of interfering
with productivity and trade.
Workers at the Come by Chance refinery in Newfoundland
and in the mining sector in Quebec are sounding the alarm about the
dangers and tragedies that lie ahead when the human factor is not
recognized as the essential and most important aspect of production,
which must have a voice in decision-making. The processes that
are supposed to give them a voice within the framework of the
institutions of civil society are being liquidated by global private
interests in their frenzy of empire-building.
In the Quebec mining sector, the imperialists through
Mining Association are deliberately and openly blocking the functioning
of two committees of the government's Labour Standards, Pay Equity and
Occupational Health and Safety Commission overseeing work practices in
the mines. Miners have relied on those committees to
express their views. At the Come By Chance Refinery, the new U.S.
owners are ignoring the established Process Safety Management regime
and the joint health and safety committee, leaving refinery workers
marginalized with respect to important problems and changes at their
Workers cannot play their essential role as producers
wealth without a say in the conditions at their workplace, including
importantly the issue of health and safety. But this right to a voice
is not recognized under the hoax of private ownership and property
rights, which view workers and their demands in the outmoded and
fashion as a cost of production and hindrance to the competitiveness of
the private interests on the world markets.
In the context of imperialist globalization, the ruling
consider the voice of workers and their rights within the established
norms of civil society an obstacle to empire-building and every effort
is being made to eliminate them. It must not pass!
Quebec Steelworkers Demand Mining Companies Take Up
Their Responsibility for Safe Working Conditions
"Prevention is taking a hit. We do not want to go
to the 1980s when there were several fatal accidents
in mines in Quebec"
Workers' Forum: The Syndicat des Métallos
held a press conference in Quebec City on September 12, denouncing
the situation in Québec mines with regard to the health and
safety of workers. Can you tell us more about the situation?
The press briefing was aimed in particular at denouncing the boycott by
the Quebec Mining Association (AMQ), which systematically blocks the
functioning of the Plan of Action and Regulatory Review Committees
of the Labour Standards, Pay Equity and Occupational Health and
Safety Commission (CNEEST).
CNEEST established two very important committees, the
Regulatory Review Committee and the Action Plan Committee, which are
tripartite employer-union-government committees. Every year, the Plan
of Action Committee decides what will be the focus of the work of the
during the year. For example, there are a lot of collapses happening
in mines right now. We want the action plan this year to include a plan
to deal with these collapses. In March 2016 the employers, unions
and CNEEST agreed to draw up an action plan to deal with this problem
and in October 2016 another meeting was held where we all agreed.
Everyone agreed that there was an increase in
underground collapses, leading to more and more workers getting
Meanwhile, CNEEST issued an order to discontinue the
method of removing the ore to get it to the surface and loading
explosives simultaneously. The employers have challenged this order in
the courts and have declared through the AMQ that they were no longer
available for the meetings of the two committees.
As for the CNEEST, it does not enforce things; it does
not force employers to participate in the committees. It has been
almost a year and a half now that nothing has moved on these
committees. Prevention is taking a hit. We do not want to go back to
the 1980s when there were several fatal accidents in mines in
We have made the public, CNEEST and the government of
Quebec aware that it is time to act because we will not accept a return
to the way things were in the past. We have the solution. The solution
is to improve regulation, if there are accidents. Whenever a fatal
accident occurs, we look at whether the regulations are adequate. If
not adequate, they are adjusted, often to make them more severe. This
is necessary because the safety of workers is at stake.
WF: Could you explain the court
challenge to the CNEEST order for employers to discontinue the method
of removing ore to the surface and loading explosives simultaneously?
Several mining employers challenged CNEEST's ban on this operation
commonly called "fast mining." This method permits the removal of ore
to take it to the surface from a lower level in the mine while
simultaneously loading explosives for use at a higher level. In other
words, a worker is loading explosives at a higher level while a
remote-controlled loader loads ore. It is an unsafe operation. A fire,
for example, may occur in the lower part of the mine and spread and the
worker loading the explosives above will not notice it and be fatally
injured in an explosion.
Back in 2003, I believe, the United Steelworkers,
including myself and my local, went to court and won a ruling that
prohibited the use of this method because it was considered dangerous.
However, the employers started to use this method secretly and it came
to a point, because of an accident I think, where the CNEEST reviewed
file and prohibited the method. It sent notices of corrections to
miners who were using this method.
that the mining
companies are boycotting the committees. The employers say this is not
the case, but we are convinced this is the case because they started
saying they were no longer available to take part in these committees
after CNEEST issued its order prohibiting the method of fast mining.
is no reason to use
this fast mining method. For example at the Iamgold's Westwood mine in
Abitibi, we have more than 300 active sites. Even if they do not do the
operation simultaneously (at a lower and higher level), they can load
ore at another site so there will still be ore going to the mill. This
will not damage the mine's profitability.
So we identified a risk, we set up a committee that
should work with an action plan to coordinate our action and address
this problem, but no plan is being implemented.
WF: What are the Steelworkers' demands
in this context?
Our demand is to reactivate these CNEEST committees immediately. Second
is to put in place measures to stop injuries and deaths underground. At
the moment, we are having problems in all the mines across Quebec with
rock bursts and collapses. It is a problem that has been highlighted
through these committees. The CNEEST is well
aware of it but it is reluctant to take a stand and we are pushing them
In 2017, there were two deaths in the mining
sector in Quebec. In the regulatory review committee, we requested that
a special committee on remotely operated and remotely controlled
operations be set up. Right at that time, in February, there was a
casualty in a mine related to that kind of operation. The problem was
connected with these remote-controlled loaders.
At this time, employers are in the process of
introducing full-fledged remote-controlled operations. There would be
no more operators. The entire work is being done from the surface.
There are no regulations currently in place in Quebec regarding such
operations. We want to regulate this so that we do not let employers
act as they please.
Employers want to limit the number of operators. We have a mine in
Val-d'Or where the employer has eliminated 20 operators in the
of ore by putting in a type of conveyor that begins its operations from
the surface and goes down to load the ore. The ore being carried to the
surface is entirely managed from the surface. These
machines work almost 24 hours a day, even while explosives are
We are highly critical of the Quebec Mining Association
because it is blocking these issues from being addressed while the
CNEEST is putting very little pressure on the mining companies. We want
the CNEEST to stop closing its eyes to what is happening and to force
the parties to take up their responsibilities.
We workers do not accept the current situation. We are
not going to go backwards.
Newfoundland Refinery Workers Reject Company Dictate
Demand a Say in Their Safety
Glenn Nolan begins 150-kilometre journey.
On the evening of Labour Day, Glenn Nolan, President of
United Steelworkers Local 9316 representing the Come By Chance Refinery
workers in Newfoundland and Labrador, left town to travel by bike and
foot the 150 kilometres from the refinery to the Newfoundland
Legislature in St. John's. Nolan, who has cystic fibrosis, made the
trip with Perry Feltham, the union's Vice-President and Chair of its
health and safety committee at the refinery. They are determined to
raise the serious problems workers are facing at the refinery in terms
of their health and safety.
The Come By Chance refinery is run by North Atlantic
Refining and owned by New York-based commodity traders SilverPeak
Strategic Partners. The oil refinery produces petroleum products such
as heating oil, propane, diesel fuel, gasoline and others.
Workers' Forum: You
chose Labour Day to make your trip in defence of the right of
workers to work under healthy and safe working conditions.
the action started on the evening of Labour Day, at 8:00 pm.
Workers have been fighting for the rights of labour all these years and
Labour Day was a fitting day to undertake this action. Also, 8:00
pm is safer, with less traffic. We started the venture at 8:00 pm
and finished it at 2:00 pm
the next day. We walked and also used a little motorized pedal bike.
I did the trip with the Vice-President of the Local and
Health and Safety Chair, who did the driving. We had a lot of support
along the way. We had people stopping to have coffee with us, sitting
around with us, plus there were all the emails of support that we
received. A week before, we let everybody know we were going to do
arrived at Confederation Building at 2:00 pm where we were met
by 20 people or so. We then had a meeting with the Minister
Responsible for Workplace NL, Sherry Gambin-Walsh.
WF: What was the
purpose of the action?
We did not have
a choice. It came to a point that nobody was listening to us, from the
government to the company. We have a right to know as workers and a
right to be involved. This is our safety.
We are supposed to be part of a Process Safety
Management (PSM), which is about best safe practices at the refinery.
The union signed a document in 2014, a Code of Practice, which is
part of PSM and has many elements that are aimed at getting us involved
in the process. The document was also signed by the government and the
company but they never utilized it during these years. We were the
first in Canada to sign it. It was a first in Canada. PSM exists mostly
in the U.S. where it is actually part of the law.
PSM includes what is called Management of Change (MOC)
but we are not getting it the way it should be. We are put in a
situation in which we could have an incident and we are not involved.
To give you an example, the company makes a reduction
in a unit, going from two operators to one. According to the PSM there
should be a Management of Change, in which all the hazards that we are
going to come up against by reducing the unit are shown. There is
supposed to be a process through which all the obstacles that are going
to be faced regarding health and safety are listed, where new
procedures are spelled out if they are going to be needed, emergency
response is planned, and so on. There has to be a process that draws
you to reach these conclusions, how workers are going to be safe, and
workers need to be involved in the process. Workers have a right to
what the new procedures are going to be.
What is happening is that if they do not consult us, we
end up going to the government. When I met the Minister, she said that
she had 163 directives that were issued to the company and the
company is in compliance. But we are telling the Minister that
these 163 directives mean that we are not safe there, that is why
these 163 directives. Because if the process was implemented, we
would not have those directives, we would be involved. The process is
supposed to resolve the issues without directives.
We are reminded of the situation we lived in 1998
when we had an explosion at the refinery in which two brothers died.
There also, they did not have the proper process of management of
change. The whole thing went back to the relationship between the
company and the union, to the Joint Health and Safety Committee; us
them. The same scenario is repeating itself, instead of the problems
We asked a year ago to sit down with the company and
the government, to work this out and do a proper Process Safety
Management. We never heard back from them.
WF: When you met the
Minister, you presented demands regarding your situation.
GN: We presented two
demands. One is that we want to be part of the Process Safety
Management, as we are supposed to be. Second is that our joint health
and safety committee should not be dysfunctional the way it is. The
director of safety on the company's side is dictating what is going to
happen. The committee is not operating.
The unionized part of the committee cannot function when the other side
will not listen.
We are going to keep fighting to represent the workers
no matter what happens. This fight is not over until the work is made
safe for the workers. It was not like that at the plant before the new
owners came in and started their bullying. To have a say is critical.
This is our safety. It cannot be dictated to us.
I do not believe that we should have to do this but we
are going to do it again if needed. We received a lot more support than
we expected. People all along the trip were showing their support and
we got the inspiration of these emails, people saying, "we are behind
you," "whatever you need we will back you," "how can we help you?" The
response is the same inside the plant.
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