October 12, 2017
Defence Organizations of Unemployed
Workers and Unions Demand Abolition
of Arbitrary Appeals Tribunal
• Defence Organizations of Unemployed Workers
and Unions Demand Abolition of Arbitrary Appeals Tribunal -
• "We Are Demanding Deep Changes to the
Employment Insurance Appeal Process" - Interview, Sylvain
Bergeron, Coordinator of LASTUSE
• Compensation for Injured Workers Is a Right!
- Peggy Morton
• Response to Workers' Compensation Board
Review Panel Recommendations
• The Disgusting and Tragic
History of MANA in Hamilton - Bill Good,
Retired Bar Mill Local 1005 activist
• Continuation of Court Battle to Stop
Privatization of Hydro One - Mira Katz
• Nova Scotia Teachers
Demand Their Right to Decide - Kevin Corkill
• Workers Must be the Decisive Factor in
Determining Their Wages and Working Conditions
• Coming Event -- Life in Nova Scotia with
Stephen McNeil and the
Liberals Is No Picnic!
• U.S. Truckers' Actions Defend their Dignity
• Support the Fight of U.S. Truckers for
Working Conditions - Normand Chouinard
Defence Organizations of Unemployed Workers
and Unions Demand Abolition of Arbitrary
Thirty-two groups mostly defence organizations of the
unemployed workers and unions, sent an open letter last August 30
to the government of Canada demanding deep changes to the Employment
Insurance appeal process. The main target of their letter is the Social
Security Tribunal. The Harper government instituted the arbitrary
Tribunal as part of the anti-social reform of the Employment Insurance
regime in 2012-13.
The new appeal process of the Social Security Tribunal
has caused havoc in the lives of unemployed workers and EI recipients.
The Trudeau government in the face of opposition to the Tribunal across
the country ordered a review and a consultation of its use in March of
this year. The government hired the global accounting giant KPMG to
review the performance of the Tribunal. KPMG reported last week on its
findings and recommendations to the Minister of Families, Children and
Social Development. The report has not yet been made public.
Under the hoax of streamlining various appeal processes
and "saving money for the taxpayers," the Harper government created the
Social Security Tribunal as the body to hear appeals from applicants
for Employment Insurance, Old Age Security and the Canada Pension Plan.
The Tribunal replaced the EI Board of Referees/Umpire appeal
process, instituting in its place a two-step appeal process with a
General Division and an Appeal Division. The roughly 800 people
working for the EI Board of Referees/Umpire appeal process were
replaced by about 100 people appointed by the government.
The former Board of Referees was a multi-regional
tripartite structure, with one representative from employers, one from
working class organizations and a President. The regional members of
the Board of Referees were from the region where the worker lived and
filed an appeal with all hearings required to have the worker present.
Under the new system, a single member of the Tribunal
hears the appeal. That person does not have to be from the region and
is not required to conduct a hearing with the worker present. Most of
the hearings are conducted by video-conference or over the phone, even
from the home of the member of the Tribunal.
Abolish the Tribunal!
The signatories of the letter demand replacement of the
Social Security Tribunal. They pinpoint many devastating aspects of the
current process. They estimate that the time required for decisions
both at the first instance at the level of the General Division and at
the second Appeal Division level has quadrupled to an average of four
In the case of the Appeal Division, the time may extend to a full year
and more. Needless to say the unemployed workers are forced find a way
somehow to sustain themselves without EI benefits while this process is
slowly proceeding, which is entirely unjust.
Access to any aspect of the appeal process is by no
means automatic. At the level of the General Division, the member of
the Tribunal has what is called "summary dismissal" power, which means
the application to appeal can be dismissed without even hearing the
At the Appeal Division, the worker must ask for
authorization to appeal and faces the possibility that the case will be
dismissed without any further hearing.
Since the establishment of the arbitrary Tribunal, the
number of EI appeals has dropped dramatically. Under the previous
regime, 24,000 requests a year to the first level of the Board of
Referees were accepted.
Before accessing the new Appeal Tribunal, any worker
challenging an unfavorable EI decision must file a request for
reconsideration. Workers file approximately 58,000 requests for
reconsideration per year with 30,000 of them summarily dismissed.
Of the 28,000 allowed to appeal, only 3,500 workers a year
The appeal process is also highly secretive. Workers do
not know what precisely they are appealing until well after they have
appealed because they do not receive a copy of their file until much
later in the process. If they are not represented by a defence
organization, life is a bureaucratic abyss into the unknown. The
defence organizations of
the unemployed have coined the expression that the new appeal process
is a "no right, no benefits process."
The Rights of the Unemployed Must Be Recognized and
The casualties of the process and indeed of the entire
EI regime are the rights of the unemployed and the facts surrounding
the reality of being unemployed and without a livelihood in a
socialized economy controlled almost entirely by big companies. The EI
regime and appeal process do not recognize the right of unemployed
compensation at a Canadian standard. The current economic system has
never been able to provide steady employment and a livelihood to the
workers because that is not its aim. In fact, unemployment is lauded by
those in control of the economy as necessary for its proper
functioning. Unemployment ensures workers are always available on the
market that makes their capacity to work available to buy by those who
own and control the socialized economy. Unemployment also puts downward
pressure on the price of workers' capacity to work. Without full
employment for all as an aim of the economy, redress and compensation
must be provided to the unemployed as a right.
The EI regime dismisses the
facts of life of the economic system in the most arbitrary absurd way.
The EI regime is based on assumptions of levels of unemployment in
definite regions. These assumptions are recognition that unemployment
is a constant in the lives of workers. However, these assumptions do
not lead the EI regime to provide
full compensation to the unemployed as a right but are used arbitrarily
as determinants of EI eligibility. This turning of facts and truth on
its head permeates the entire anti-social anti-worker EI system,
including the appeal process.
Even though knowledge of a region and the actual
conditions are supposed to be used as a determinant, a working
knowledge of the region by the arbitrator has been flushed out of the
process. This results in members of a tribunal hearing an appeal from a
region with which they may have no connection at all and no knowledge
concrete conditions that workers face as they strive to make a living.
Activists tell Workers' Forum that they are
dismissed when they bring forward facts of the conditions of life, even
those relating to how workers are paid. (See interview below) These
facts are necessary within the rules to determine the EI amount
unemployed workers are entitled to or to determine if a decision
forcing repayment of
benefits because of overpayment was made in error etc. Workers
themselves and their representative are being eliminated from the
process, with no hearing occurring at which the unemployed are present
and able to present their case face to face with another human being
who might listen to them. What remains is entrenched executive power,
arbitrary police power of the state, which criminalizes and
marginalizes the unemployed and renders account for these actions to no
The signatories of the letter make it clear that they
do not want to have tinkering on the edges of the EI regime as a result
of a review. They demand real changes favorable to the workers and
their rights. Among other things, they demand the reinstatement of the
three-member panels that existed with the Board of referees, the
removal of the
"summary dismissal" power, and the requirement to seek leave to appeal.
They demand full information be provided on each and every case to
workers and their representatives right from the beginning of the
process. They also demand that workers be entitled to a hearing in the
format of their choice — in person, by video or telephone.
"We Are Demanding Deep Changes to the
Employment Insurance Appeal Process"
Workers demonstrate in Saguenay, February 23, 2013, against Harper
government's EI reforms.
Workers' Forum: LASTUSE, as a
member of the Autonomous Movement in Solidarity with the Unemployed
(MASSE), supports the call for a complete overhaul of the EI appeal
process. Can you describe what LASTUSE has experienced with this appeal
process and what changes you demand?
Sylvain Bergeron: In the
appeal process at this time, we have access to only one person, who is
appointed by the government. Gone is the Board of Referees, which was
made up of three people, one representative of the employer, one
representative of labour, and a chairperson appointed by the
government. They were all
from the region and knew the reality on the ground. Now we are dealing
with one person, who does not even have to come from our region.
A general problem facing the new system is the
difficulty of having the facts examined in the appeal process. I
believe that in remote regions we live this reality a little harsher
than other places. For example, we often have forestry workers going
through the appeal process. Since we no longer deal with a Board of
Referees, who were local
people, people from the field, the new member of the Social Security
Tribunal does not know the region and certainly the peculiarities of
the forestry industry. When we start dealing with how payrolls work in
logging, for example, and payrolls play a big part in applications and
appeals in the employment insurance system, they are completely
lost. They have no idea of what we are talking about. These are people
who were simply appointed by the government as judges. Among them are
former Progressive Conservative candidates or donors to the Party.
Another example is that the Judge of the Appeal
Division does not accept that the facts must be examined. At that
level, he is only considering arguments points of law. The judge
considers the decision that has been taken by the lower level of appeal
strictly whether it is good from the point of view of the law. It was
different before with the
umpire. The decision was also made on the basis of the law but the
judge agreed to examine the facts and took the time to examine the
facts of the case.
Another important issue is the hearings. Hearings
should be conducted in person, as was the case before. This forms part
of the credibility of the case. The hearings are largely an issue of
credibility, the word of the worker versus the word of the employer.
But since the introduction of the new system, only one or two per cent
of my files are
heard in person. The hearings today are done by videoconference or even
the telephone. Without even seeing in person the reactions of the
judge, my EI recipients often ask me, "Do you think the judge listened
to us?" This lack of seeing the adjudicator in person puts additional
stress on them.
Knowing the regional particularities, the concrete
reality, is very important. To act as referee, it takes people who know
the reality. That knowledge makes a huge difference in the decisions.
When I appeared before the Board of Referees I had a success rate of
approximately 93 per cent. Now, at the level of the General
Division of the
Social Security Tribunal the success rate has fallen to about 70
per cent. We are now more often forced to go to the next level in the
appeal process since this new tribunal system has been in place.
Another problem is the delays, which have become
extremely long. Before, at the Board of Referees, the process could not
exceed 45 days to settle a file. Now at the General Division it
takes months and even longer at the next stage, which can drag on for a
year or even longer.
Meanwhile, the stress on the unemployed is very
intense. People have to live somehow while these things drag on. In
addition, there is the fear that sets in around the process, something
which has existed for a long time, well before the Harper reform. Many
unemployed people no longer want to apply for EI because they are
afraid. They say
that if they are to be treated as fraudsters, then they will no longer
apply. They may be eligible but they do not apply. They empty their
RRSPs. They face increasing hardships just to make ends meet.
The situation for the unemployed is extremely difficult
in regions where the economy is worse off, such as in the
Gaspésie, Côte-Nord, Abitibi or Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean.
Finding a job is very difficult there. The pressure on unemployed
workers is stronger. We demand deep changes to the Employment Insurance
Compensation for Injured Workers Is a Right!
The Report and Recommendations of the WCB Review Panel
was released in early July. Submissions on the report were accepted by
the Alberta government until September 30. The government will now
review the recommendations and responses, prior to introducing new
Many injured workers
participated in the review, together with unions and advocates. Injured
workers spoke out on the terrible impact of the violation of their
rights by a WCB obsessed not with caring for injured workers but
reducing employer premiums. They conveyed the important message that
the wrongs inflicted on injured workers in
violation of their rights must be acknowledged and redressed.
Particularly over the last 15 years, the WCB has
been focused on finding ways to deny benefits to workers. Those schemes
include outright rejection of claims by rejecting the opinion of
treating physicians and health professionals, deeming workers able to
perform non-existent jobs at inflated wages, declaring that workers
"pre-existing condition" and other ways. In addition, no one has
tabulated or exposed how many employers have coerced injured employees
into not filing a WCB claim so that employers could benefit from
"incentive schemes" to reduce premiums.
The Review Panel began its work in early 2016.
Many injured workers actively took part in the review. Seventy workers
from different sectors of the economy participated in meetings between
the panel and injured workers in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge.
Injured workers, individual unions, the Alberta Federation of Labour
other advocates completed questionnaires, gave written submissions, met
with the panel and took part in "engagement sessions."
In its report, the Panel acknowledged that the WCB is
seen to have a "culture of denial." Workers spoke out demanding the WCB
and other authorities treat injured workers with respect and dignity.
They affirmed their right to maintenance of their standard of living,
to retraining when needed, to accommodation at the workplace, and to
all their medical and health needs met. They smashed the silence on the
poverty and pain in which so many injured workers are forced to live
and the brutal treatment rained down on them by the WCB.
The Final Report of the Panel included 60
recommendations addressing some of the major concerns put forward by
workers and their collectives. They include:
- Establish a Fair Practices Office operating
independently from the WCB, to provide increased assistance to injured
workers including an alternate disputes resolution process. The Appeals
Commission and Medical Panel Office would operate independently of the
- End all incentive programs for case managers and
health care providers to send workers back to work or be declared ready
to return to work. Remove all arbitrary limits to treatment (such as
the secret "six week rule" for physiotherapy).
- Selection by workers of health care providers such as
physiotherapists; independent medical examiners to be chosen by the
worker from a roster established in conjunction with the College of
Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, not by the WCB; ending the practice
of using WCB paid and retained "medical consultants" to provide second
opinions on workers they have neither seen nor treated for the purpose
of overriding the opinion of the treating physician.
- End the practice of returning "surplus" premiums to
employers. For example in 2015, the "surplus" returned to
employers was equal to 40 per cent of all premiums paid, with
employers paying the lowest premiums in Canada even before the
"surplus" was returned.
- Require employers to continue coverage under existing
health benefits programs.
- Provide interim relief for workers who have
demonstrated they have an arguable case while their matters are under
- Make changes to the deeming process to eliminate the
most fraudulent aspects.
The Canadian Injured Workers
Association of Alberta called for further reform of the deeming
process. It states, "The recommendations of the panel address the
fraudulent deeming practices of the WCB, in particular the way in which
WCB declares workers capable of working full-time at a phantom job such
as a parking lot attendant or store
greeter, irrespective of the workers' skills, experience, education and
physical limitations, and the existence and availability of such work.
To add insult to injury, WCB then increases the imaginary wage for this
phantom job every year until workers are left with a pittance or often
no benefits at all.
"The recommendations are a good beginning, but in order
to protect the rights of injured workers, deeming must be used only
when documented evidence exists that a worker has refused a legitimate
job offer for appropriate work. The job must be available and suitable
for the worker's skills, education and experience. The WCB must support
injured workers in their efforts to obtain real work. The reluctance of
employers to hire injured workers must be recognized, and compensation
continued until workers have found suitable work. A 'deemed' wage must
not only be based on verifiable information as proposed by the panel
but established annually, not years into the future. All
workers now deemed should be able to have their case re-opened
including access to appeal."
Read the full 192 page report here.
Response to Workers' Compensation Board
Review Panel Recommendations
Group photo, members of the Canadian Injured Workers Association of
The Canadian Injured Workers Association of Alberta
(CIWAA) recently issued its response to the report and recommendations
of the WCB Review Panel established by the Alberta government. CIWAA
congratulated all the injured workers, their allies and advocates who
have worked to smash the silence on the fate of injured workers.
CIWAA states, "[It was] pleased to see that the recommendations of the
review panel have addressed some issues of great importance to injured
However, the CIWAA identifies five important issues not
considered by the panel, and calls on the government to implement the
changes outlined below. It also calls for an ongoing consultative role
for injured workers through their organizations as part of a new Fair
Practices Office. In addition it calls for further measures to restrict
which should only be used when documented proof exists that a worker
has refused suitable work.
1. "Justice for Injured Workers now without benefits and
often living in extreme poverty. The report details many ways in which
workers are unjustly denied benefits, but makes no recommendations for
reparations and to address the ongoing injustices.
"The panel recognized that the review and appeal
process is daunting for injured workers, especially those who do not
have a union at their workplace or collective to support them. Injured
workers living in poverty may have abandoned their claim, missed a
deadline, or failed to assemble the evidence they needed to counter the
opinions' of WCB-retained 'paper doctors' who never saw or treated them.
"Recognition of the failure of the current WCB system
to uphold the rights of injured workers requires that injured workers
whose claims have been unjustly denied have access to review and
appeal. All denied claims of injured workers where the decision was
based on the opinion of WCB paid physicians, medical consultants and
Panels which contradicted the clinical observation and findings,
ongoing direct examinations and supporting medical evidence of treating
physicians and/ or health care providers must be reopened on request.
As well, if the worker now has evidence or medical opinion which was
not previously presented at the time of adjudication, this evidence
should be considered and not rejected on strict legal grounds, e.g.
time limits or lack of 'new evidence.'
2. "Claim suppression: Employers must not be permitted
to engage in claim suppression with impunity and strong penalties
against employers should be in place. All systems which encourage
employers to suppress claims must be ended.
3. "Non-economic loss payments should reflect the real
impact of a disability on a worker's life outside the workplace.
Current payments show how little value is placed on the life of a
worker. To provide some examples of how profound changes to a worker's
life are valued: a worker who becomes legally blind in both eyes would
eligible for a NELP of $28,800; complete immobility of a knee
- $22,500; hearing loss - from $360 - $4,500 (and
no, $360 is not a typo) and infertility - $4,500. The maximum
for a worker who is totally disabled (e.g. paralysis of at least two
limbs, profound brain injury, loss of both hands) is
4. "Medical Panels: The decision of a Medical Panel is
considered final and not subject to any form of appeal. This is a
denial of natural justice. For example, new information could show that
the Medical Panel erred. Therefore decisions rendered by Medical Panels
should be subject to appeal.
5. "Pre-existing conditions: The WCB declares that
normal aging constitutes a 'pre-existing condition' - a blatant form of
age discrimination. Even when a worker has not previously been
diagnosed or treated by a physician for this 'condition,' and was able
to perform their job before the injury but can no longer do so, WCB
declares a 'pre-existing condition.' WCB then limits benefits to a
period of recovery from an 'exacerbation of the pre-existing
condition.' WCB should recognize a pre-existing disability or
impairment, not a pre-existing condition."
The CIWAA calls on injured workers and their allies to
continue to go all out on the basis that Workers' Compensation is a
Right, to ensure that the positive recommendations of the panel and the
important issues not included in the panel's report be addressed in new
legislation and WCB policy.
The Disgusting and Tragic History of
MANA in Hamilton
Benefit Dance for Locked-Out MANA Workers
Hall, 1031 Barton St. East
Tickets $10, all money raised will be donated to Hamilton area food
When the German company Max Aicher Corporation bought
the Bar and
Bloom Mill from U.S. Steel in 2010, it was called a rejuvenation
steel industry and a great economic story for Hamilton, by the
Provincial Liberal Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Sandra
What it become was an ongoing tragedy for the workers,
the city of
Hamilton, United Steel Workers, Local 1005 and the whole trade
movement. To the shame of all levels of government, yet another foreign
corporation, bought a Canadian manufacturing asset and could thoroughly
trample on the rights and livelihoods of
U.S. Steel had taken over Stelco in 2007 and in a
short time they
proved to be a brutal profit greedy employer locking out Lake Erie
workers in 2009 and the Hamilton plant in 2010 (USS would
lock out LEW
again in 2013). So, it appeared to be a blessing when Max Aicher
over the Bar and Bloom Mill. Such
would not be the case.
Max Aicher North America (MANA) had been interested in
plant in North America to supply its customers in the auto industry.
Negotiations with U.S. Steel had progressed through 2010, closing
sale November 2010. At the time, MANA stated "they had no problem
the 2006 contract with
U.S. Steel had idled both Hamilton and LEW in
January 2009, and they
supplied customers from U.S. plants owned by US Steel. When the MANA
closed, 59 former Bar and Bloom Mill workers were SOLD as a part
asset sales agreement and ORDERED to report for work on
November 15, 2010. THEY
HAD NO CHOICE! USS was no longer their employer. Eight days before, on
November 7, USS had locked out the Hamilton plant, and it appeared
that these 59 (plus an additional 54 retirees and 4
won the lottery, having escaped the brutality of U.S. Steel.
Continuation of Court Battle to Stop
Privatization of Hydro One
Fred Hahn speaking outside Ontario provincial court appearance in its
lawsuit against the
Ontario government, June 12, 2017.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees and CUPE Ontario
President Fred Hahn filed a lawsuit against the Ontario Premier and
Ministers in December 2016. The misfeasance suit alleges that the
government knows full well that the privatization of Hydro One through
the sale of shares in the enterprise is harmful to the people of
Ontario yet is proceeding anyway. The suit argues that the sale is
structured in a way to benefit parasites in the financial sector who
are also supporters of the Ontario Liberal Party.
CUPE lawyers argue that the privatization of Hydro One
is an abuse of power by government ministers for the benefit of select
private interests. In defiance of public opinion and exhibiting an
abuse of power, just weeks before a scheduled June hearing, the Ontario
government announced the sale of yet another tranche of Hydro One
This brought private ownership of Hydro One to over 50 per cent.
Deregulation and privatization of Ontario's public
electricity generation and distribution system has resulted in a
dramatic increase in hydro rates for workers and others in Ontario,
including small and medium-sized businesses. Resistance to the
privatization of Hydro One is part of the struggle of the Ontario
working class and others against
the broad antisocial offensive of the rich and their state.
Another arm of the state, the Ontario Superior Court of
Justice ruled on June 12, that the government has every right to
privatize whatever it wants and summarily dismissed CUPE's suit. In his
ruling, Judge Cavanagh states the misfeasance suit is "an impermissible
attack on a core policy decision taken by the Ministers that is immune
from judicial review in a civil tort action and that the Claim should
be struck out and the action dismissed....
"The acts taken to proceed with privatization or, as
the defendants describe it, broadening of ownership, of Hydro One were
authorized by amendments to the Electricity Act, 1998 , a
legislative act. The Ministers are high ranking political actors whose
official responsibility requires them to assess and balance public
considerations. The decision to proceed with privatization of Hydro One
was a considered decision that represents a 'policy' in the sense of a
general rule or approach, applied to a particular situation. It
represents a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by the
"[CUPE's] pleadings are, in substance, policy
objections to policy decisions made to privatize Ontario Hydro. Such
objections may or may not be well founded from a policy perspective,
but they are precisely the types of objections to which the immunity
afforded to core policy decisions from civil tort claims is intended to
As for CUPE's contention that the privatization of
Hydro One is a way of favouring select private interests who are
financially supporting the ruling Liberal Party and benefit personally
from privatization, the Judge states, "Political fundraising is a known
and legitimate part of the political process" and is not unlawful.
The Judge states "core policy decisions" are generally
immune from review by the courts. Exceptions occur, he contends, when
these decisions are proven in court to be irrational and bad faith
decisions amounting to an abuse of power, which he could not find in
The lawyers representing the Ontario Premier and
Ministers of Finance and Energy during the hearing pleaded for
dismissal of the suit. They contend that as a result of parliamentary
privilege, an exercise of authority viewed possibly as being in bad
faith or made for an improper purpose is not in itself sufficient to
establish misfeasance in
Queens Park demonstration, April 8, 2017.
CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn disagrees with the
arguments of the defence and dismissal of the suit. CUPE filed an
appeal of the Judge's ruling on September 21. President Hahn said,
"This case is about more than the sale of Hydro One. It's about the
government's responsibility to act in the best interest of its
citizens. This case is
about protecting our democracy from elected officials who are tempted
to use their power to benefit themselves and their friends at the
expense of the people's good.... But the thing is, they didn't just
privatize it — they structured the deal in a way that led to donations
in the hundreds of thousands to the Liberal Party of Ontario.
"[The privatization of Hydro One has] saddled
ratepayers with charges totalling more than $1 billion. This is
misfeasance in public office, and it cannot be allowed to go ahead
unchallenged.... We hope that the Premier and her Ministers will still
be held accountable for their decision to sell off our hydro system in
a way that benefited
their friends on Bay St. and their own political party.... Once this
case moves to trial the Premier and Ministers will be required to
provide full disclosure and the public will be able to know the full
story of what went on."
Nova Scotia Teachers Demand Their Right to Decide
Nova Scotia teachers have consistently highlighted the
conditions they face. They seek to improve conditions they contend are
intolerable, unsuitable to learning and even dangerous. At the Law
Amendments Committee on Bill 75 last February 15, teachers,
counsellors and many others who work with and
within the education system in Nova Scotia presented problems they face
in their everyday work and demanded changes. Teachers brought forward
longstanding problems they face as well as solutions they believe will
improve the education system in Nova Scotia. As in years gone by, the
concrete suggestions they presented, which reflect the
expertise and firsthand experience of those who do the work, fell on
While Premier McNeil has paid lip service to the
nonetheless imposed legislation that denies their right to decide their
terms of employment. He used police powers of the legislature to
dictate the working conditions of the teachers, which are in essence
the learning conditions of students.
McNeil and his Liberal government cannot deny the truth
teachers are the decisive factor in the education system but use words
to deflect from their anti-worker anti-social deeds. McNeil said while
in the midst of depriving teachers of their rights, "I've heard from
people who are watching, teachers who are watching it from home, ‘This
is my reality,' as well as friends of mine, people I know." McNeil
feigns understanding that teachers face problems and are the best
resource to solve the problems of the education system and improve the
teaching and learning conditions, but in deeds, McNeil refuses to
listen or allow them to make the necessary changes. He said the
teachers who expressed through their mass demonstrations and resistance
forced him to recognize the important role teachers play but he refused
to recognize the most important lesson: Nova Scotia teachers themselves
have the decisive role to determine their working conditions and terms
of employment. How can it be otherwise in a modern
society? Only an anti-social force that has usurped power could deprive
teachers of their rights.
McNeil and his Liberal government repeat the
anti-social fraud of "living within our means" or "taxpayers ability to
pay" ad nauseam
but what problems are they solving? What working conditions and
learning conditions are they improving in this instance? More
importantly, why are the teachers and support workers marginalized
from having a say over their conditions of work? The actual workers are
quite capable of determining the means within which Nova Scotians must
As for the issue of taxpayers and their ability to pay,
throws that out to suggest teachers are not producing anything and are
a dreaded cost to the people. Just imagine for a moment the
backwardness of the argument that modern education is a cost and does
not add value to the economy and society. Take away mass education,
is a modern right of all, and what kind of society would Nova Scotia
have? Not one to be proud of or that could be considered of value. The
issue McNeil and his anti-social gang refuse to face is how to realize
the value teachers produce within the economy, and not have education
as an expenditure of the provincial budget.
Teachers' Demands Most Modest Are — the Right to
Teachers during the latest round of bargaining made
for increases to their wages, improvement in class sizes and supports
for students with specific needs, the replacement of aging equipment
and materials and so on. On top of dealing with the impact of child
poverty and all other social ills that many Nova Scotian children
are suffering, teachers made important requests to improve the learning
conditions of students.
The fact that the McNeil government could not meet any
the teachers and resorted to police powers to impose a contract is
proof that it is not interested in the learning conditions of students
but rather in having the power to dictate working and learning
conditions regardless of the views and suggestions of those who do the
The McNeil government seeks to absolve itself of the very reason that
Nova Scotia has a government: to put the needs of the people in first
place and make every possible effort to meet those needs and the
general interests of society. Investing in social programs and moving
society forward with a pro-social program that recognizes the rights of
members and puts them in first place is the duty of any government fit
This much we know, teachers are the experts as to what
the needs of
students are. Teachers along with their students are the experts as to
what is needed to support learning and development of the youth and
fulfil their right to education. They should be the decisive factor in
determining their working conditions and the government should
fully support and provide all necessary resources to make this happen.
With the dictate of the McNeil Liberal government,
lost every mechanism available to determine their conditions of work,
thus, eliminating the ability of teachers to improve the learning
conditions and outcomes of Nova Scotia youth. Teachers have proven time
and again that they are up to the task of mending, repairing and
being accountable to the youth, where the government is not.
What mechanisms are needed by workers to be able to
working conditions? How can workers as a social force deprive the
government of its power to deprive the working class of its rights?
What organization or system will put workers in the decisive role as
decision makers to make headway in resolving the problems they
face at work and the specific problems they face such as teachers who
are charged with educating the youth? Let's discuss!
Workers Must be the Decisive Factor in Determining
Their Wages and Working Conditions
The discussion of who should decide the wages, pensions
conditions of workers, unionized or not, is important. Especially so,
as the federal, provincial and municipal governments and big
corporations, under the discredited banner of austerity, are dictating
lower wages, pensions and working conditions for the working
The motive of those who currently own and control the
economy is to drive down the standard of living of working people,
thereby seizing a greater portion of the new value workers produce to
further enrich themselves and their private empires.
Through their work-time, the Canadian working class
value to sustain themselves, the economy and society as a whole. The
aggregate value workers produce is the amount available for
distribution to themselves and society as a whole. The right to decide
how the aggregate new value workers produce is distributed is a modern
right of the actual producers. This is especially pertinent when the
distribution of value affects the workers themselves in a particular
sector or workplace.
The teachers of Nova Scotia brought to the fore the
necessity to discuss and resolve this question of who decides
when they engaged in job actions to resist the attack of the McNeil
Liberals denying teachers their right to decide their terms of
employment. The Liberal government used the royal prerogative of the
to force teachers back to work and impose on them a contract denying
them their right to decide their wages, pensions and working
conditions. Under the terms of Bill 75, The Teachers
Professional Agreement and Classroom Improvements Act , the Liberal
government unleashed its police powers to deprive teachers of their
decide the conditions of their employment, which are also the learning
conditions of students.
Depriving the actual producers, in this case teachers
educated students, their right to decide the conditions of their work
is the height of arrogance of the rich and their representatives
flaunting their class privilege. Teachers and other educational workers
are those who know what the conditions are now and what is missing from
those conditions to better serve their students and nation building. To
argue that teachers do not know what the conditions should be for the
betterment of all or that teachers want only to improve their personal
lifestyles at the expense of others is an ugly anti-working class
prejudice of the rich and their representatives. The rich are implying
teachers hold the same anti-social motive and aim as they do. The
motive and aim of the rich to maximize their profits at the expense of
working people and society is precisely the problem teachers and other
workers are striving to overcome.
The aim of teachers is to educate the youth as best
they can and to
the highest possible degree given the level of development of the
productive forces. Teachers are determined to fulfill the right of all
to education. Teachers in concert with their students are society's
best social force to decide their working and learning conditions.
Coming Event -- Life in Nova Scotia with
Stephen McNeil and the Liberals Is No Picnic!
Rally and Lunch Outside Liberal AGM
Demonstration at Province House, September 21, 2017 against Bill 148.
Park across from
by Nova Scotia Federation of Labour
Let's join the Liberals for lunch outside their AGM on
October 14. They are meeting at the Westin Hotel, so we will be at
park across the street from 11:00 am -- 1:00 pm. Join us with your
banners and lunch as we make some labour lunchtime noise!
We have been under constant attack by the Liberals
since they took office in 2013.
We have seen several anti-worker pieces of legislation
being rammed through the house.
Students are paying far too much for post-secondary
More than 120,000 Nova Scotians do not have a
Emergency rooms are closing.
Our overcrowded classrooms need more teaching
Liberals have cut budgets for our nursing homes by
millions of dollars, lowering food quality for long-term care residents.
U.S. Truckers' Actions Defend
Their Dignity and Rights
Truckers protest outside the Ministry of Transportation in Washington,
DC, as part of October 3-8, 2017 actions against imposition of E-logs.
From October 3 to 8, thousands of truckers
operating in several U.S. states protested against the implementation
of new regulations that will negatively affect their working conditions
and increase harassment of drivers by transportation monopolies. The
new regulation requires all transportation companies and independent
truckers to install an electronic system to register the hours driven
on their vehicles (Electronic Logging Device or ELD, also called
E-logs). All truckers operating in the United States must comply by
(click to enlarge)
Canadian authorities are in talks with their U.S.
counterparts to harmonizing the new regulations within a year or two,
as soon as the provinces have agreed to implement the ELDs. In Canada,
Transport Canada confirms it "held an informal consultation process" in
the summer of 2016 to introduce new rules for trucking. "The
from this exercise will guide the next steps," writes Natasha Gauthier,
Senior Advisor, Media Relations. "Transport Canada is looking at
options before we begin the next steps," she said. "However, any
modification should harmonize, as far as possible, with the United
States final rules."
The U.S. truckers' protest is organized under the theme
"Operation Black and Blue" and "ELD or Me." In recent months, truckers,
particularly independent truck drivers have been using social networks
to protest calling on people to rally behind them "to preserve the
integrity and dignity of the transport industry and its drivers."
were held in the U.S. capital, as well as truck parades on the streets
surrounding the White House and the Capitol, the seat of the U.S.
Congress. In California, a long parade of nearly 500 trucks slowed
traffic on a highway despite threats from the police authorities to
intervene against the truckers. Similar actions occurred in Seattle
rally and a parade of intermodal truckers from the Port of Seattle put
forward demands for improving working conditions and against imposing
ELDs. Actions have also taken place in New York, as well as in cities
in Missouri and Florida and many other places. As a form of protest,
truckers have also decided not to report to work and leave their
trucks at home or at their respective terminals during the six days of
The truckers who protested
say the new regulations were decided behind closed doors and without
their input even though these decisions will directly affect their
lives. Their main demands to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Administration (FMCSA) are the immediate revocation of the obligation
to impose ELDs or at least that the federal
government extends the deadline for compliance.
The FMCSA maintains that the purpose of ELDs is only to
ensure the safety of drivers and road users by preventing "delinquent"
truckers from exceeding their regulatory driving hours and falsifying
the current paper log. The truckers who took part in the actions during
the week reject this logic and consider that the issue is the attempt
government and transportation companies to control their working days,
spy on everything they do, criminalize their work and deny them their
right to decide those matters that affect their lives.
The next action is scheduled to take place on
October 18, with the aim of demanding that the federal government
and the FMCSA delay the implementation of the new regulation. On that
date, truckers are encouraged to cease all activity for a full hour to
demonstrate the importance of the work they do for the economy, and
dignity and rights.
Support the Fight of U.S. Truckers for
Human Working Conditions
Lineup of trucks during U.S. truckers protests, October 3-9, 2017.
Clearly, the new regulation requiring electronic
monitoring truck drivers is a way to establish greater control over
their actions, especially the "independents," those who own their
trucks or own a very small fleet of trucks. The independent truckers
represent about 20 per cent of the nearly four million truck
drivers in the United
The proponents of electronic monitoring contend the
measure will bring a modicum of safety for road users and for drivers
themselves by ensuring the electronic control of driving hours. In
contrast, the experience of truck drivers leads them to doubt the
honesty of the U.S. federal government agency, the Federal Motor
Administration (FMCSA) and other major players in the industry who are
behind electronic monitoring. Truckers suspect a more sinister agenda
is at play.
The difficult situation facing truckers throughout North
America is an integral part of the major upheavals affecting all
sectors of transportation -- rail, marine, air and ground transport.
Different levels of government, including the Trudeau federal
government are injecting billions of dollars into new trade corridors.
The federal government is
trying to privatize major infrastructure such as airports and seaports.
U.S. and Canadian truckers are increasingly aware of these upheavals
across the continent and fear that this new regulation requiring
electronic surveillance is not intended to provide security but rather
to increase harassment of truckers and to create conditions for major
in the trucking industry that will adversely affect their living and
working conditions. Many suspect amongst other things electronic spying
is a dress rehearsal for driverless trucks to be introduced without
consideration for the well-being and future of the millions of truck
In the context of the establishment of new trade and
transportation corridors, cross-border arrangements, the
"modernization" of NAFTA, and the increasing integration of Canada into
the U.S.-led Fortress North America, the implementation of E-logs will
effectively change many aspects of the continental production chain.
logging, coupled with constant computer monitoring of drivers, will
allow the largest shippers and customers who dominate the market to
better know the exact location and arrival times of their goods. This
will maximize the role that existing and future transport corridors and
routes play to increase the profits of global private interests. This
further concentrates the economies of North America in the hands of a
few oligopolies, which are fast becoming capable of dictating their
will and control over all aspects of life throughout the continent.
The introduction of E-logs, a measure that has been in
existence for years in Europe will make it easier to create a
continental transit system to improve the fluidity of trucking. This will mean, among other things,
minimizing the stops for the rest periods truckers must take. This
so-called "train velocity" policy of the railway industry that led to
the abandonment of basic safety measures in the operation of trains in
order to keep them in motion as continuously as possible. "Train
velocity" was a significant factor in the Lac-Mégantic tragedy.
Let us take the example of a trip from Montreal to
Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, which is a driving time of
almost 24 hours (1775 km). Based on the actual regulations on
driving hours, a driver will make the trip in about two days. On the
other hand, if a transit zone is established (a place where another
driver takes over
and begins his driving hours), two drivers would complete the trip in
less than 24 hours. It would be possible to do this because it
will be known beforehand precisely when and where the driver must stop
Although this practice already exists and is used on
some roads by large transport companies and their employee-drivers,
E-logs will now place "independent" drivers under the strict discipline
of the transport monopolies that contract work to them, as well as
large shippers of all kinds, putting control over their working days
into their hands.
Electronic surveillance in road transport, where workers are scattered
across the continent, allows carriers and shippers to supervise their
drivers as a foreman would do on a factory floor. This intrusion into
their lives on the road imperils their security, stability, futures and
any independence that remains. U.S. truckers are taking action against
change because as they know full well, electronic spying will worsen
their working conditions and further wreck their trade and make them
vulnerable to other adverse changes as has happened in the rail
A key issue in this change is the one of Who Decides.
laws and regulations and for whose benefit? Time
will tell us the full effect of these changes. When the FMCSA or
Transport Canada changes the rules, it invariably directly serves the
financial oligarchy and the private monopolies, which are the ones
actually dictating the changes to serve their narrow private interests.
Furthermore, how will monitoring of truck drivers'
actions improve their health and safety and road safety? This is a
gross misrepresentation of where safety resides and of the trucking
trade itself. Safety lies in the struggle of truckers for their rights,
including the right to decide the pace and duration of the working day.
It is not an electronic
monitoring system, however advanced it may be, which ensures safety but
rather the actual working conditions of the workers and the role they
play in deciding and implementing them.
U.S. truckers are not opposed to the introduction of
new technologies, but is this new technology going to allow them to
exercise control over their lives or will it wreck their lives even
more than they have already been wrecked? No one is in a better
position than truckers to feel the chaos and anarchy that prevail in
the transportation system
and in the economy.
Monopolies and governments may want to create their
transit areas to make uninterrupted trucking the norm, but the problems
these changes face are enormous and workers will be made to pay because
the working people are not in control of their lives let alone the
broad economy. Road transportation, governed by global private
their dictate over the socialized economy, goes through recurring
crises buffeted by many unforeseen events on a regular basis. The
introduction of new technique may have the appearance of better
regulating the situation but the unbridled competition for control
amongst warring corporations soon bursts forth in anarchy and violence.
Just look at
the wild disruptive fight in the aerospace industry amongst Bombardier,
Boeing, Airbus and Embraer.
The economy is not planned to operate to benefit the
workers who work and produce the value or ensure the economy operates
without crises. Nor is the aim of the economy to serve the people and
society that depend on it for their existence. The economy exists today
to make maximum profits for the few at the expense of the many. In this
situation where a few exercising their class privilege dictate their
will over the many, how can we even speak of electronic surveillance
and new trade routes being of any help other than to strengthen the
hand of those already in control.
Without workers being directly involved in making the
decisions that affect their lives and work, and fighting for
transportation systems that are part of a pro-social economy with a
modern aim to guarantee the well-being of all, the changes that are
being imposed by these new technologies, laws and regulations are
creating more instability
and insecurity in workers' lives and will give rise to even more
disastrous crises. Truckers increasingly realize that only their
efforts to organize actions in defence of their rights can ensure their
safety, working conditions and way of life, E-logs or no E-logs.
1. In Europe today, an even more advanced system of
personalized chips not only tracks cargo but records drivers' personal
data 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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