October 12, 2017

Quebec

Defence Organizations of Unemployed Workers and Unions Demand Abolition
of Arbitrary Appeals Tribunal

PDF

Quebec
Defence Organizations of Unemployed Workers and Unions Demand Abolition of Arbitrary Appeals Tribunal  - Pierre Chénier
"We Are Demanding Deep Changes to the Employment Insurance Appeal Process" - Interview, Sylvain Bergeron, Coordinator of LASTUSE 

Alberta
Compensation for Injured Workers Is a Right! - Peggy Morton
Response to Workers' Compensation Board Review Panel Recommendations

Ontario
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
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!


United States
U.S. Truckers' Actions Defend their Dignity and Rights
Support the Fight of U.S. Truckers for Human Working Conditions - Normand Chouinard


Quebec

Defence Organizations of Unemployed Workers
and Unions Demand Abolition of Arbitrary
Appeals Tribunal

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 months. 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 worker.

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 continue the process.

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 Upheld!

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 workers to 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 of the 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, the arbitrary police power of the state, which criminalizes and marginalizes the unemployed and renders account for these actions to no one.

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.

Haut de page


"We Are Demanding Deep Changes to the
Employment Insurance Appeal Process"


Workers demonstrate in Saguenay, February 23, 2013, against Harper government's EI reforms.
(D. Canuel)

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 appeal process.

Haut de page


Alberta

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 legislation.

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 have a "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 and 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 have 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 WCB.

- 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 appeal.

- 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.

Haut de page


Response to Workers' Compensation Board
Review Panel Recommendations


Group photo, members of the Canadian Injured Workers Association of Alberta.

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 workers."

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 deeming, 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 'medical 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 Medical 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 be 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 about $90,000.

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.

Haut de page


Ontario

The Disgusting and Tragic History of
MANA in Hamilton

Benefit Dance for Locked-Out MANA Workers

Saturday, October 14 -- 3:00 - 10:00 pm
Steelworkers Banquet Hall, 1031 Barton St. East
Tickets $10, all money raised will be donated to Hamilton area food banks.

For more information visit 1005's website: www.uswa1005.ca 

When the German company Max Aicher Corporation bought the Bar and Bloom Mill from U.S. Steel in 2010, it was called a rejuvenation of the steel industry and a great economic story for Hamilton, by the Provincial Liberal Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Sandra Pupatello.

What it become was an ongoing tragedy for the workers, the city of Hamilton, United Steel Workers, Local 1005 and the whole trade union 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 Canadian workers

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 took over the Bar and Bloom Mill. Such would not be the case.

Max Aicher North America (MANA) had been interested in buying a plant in North America to supply its customers in the auto industry. Negotiations with U.S. Steel had progressed through 2010, closing with a sale November 2010. At the time, MANA stated "they had no problem with the 2006 contract with Local 1005."

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 deal closed, 59 former Bar and Bloom Mill workers were SOLD as a part of the 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 apprentices) had won the lottery, having escaped the brutality of U.S. Steel.


Haut de page


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 shares. 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 policy 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 Ontario government....

"[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 apply."

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 this case.

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 public office.


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."

Haut de page


Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Teachers Demand Their Right to Decide

Nova Scotia teachers have consistently highlighted the working 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, guidance 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 deaf ears.

While Premier McNeil has paid lip service to the teachers he 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 that 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 thousands of 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 live.

As for the issue of taxpayers and their ability to pay, McNeil 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, which 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 Decide!

Teachers during the latest round of bargaining made modest demands 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 demands of 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 work. 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 its members and puts them in first place is the duty of any government fit to govern.

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, teachers have 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 determine their 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!

Haut de page


Workers Must be the Decisive Factor in Determining Their Wages and Working Conditions

The discussion of who should decide the wages, pensions and working 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 class.

The motive of those who currently own and control the socialized 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 produces new 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 legislature 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 right to decide the conditions of their employment, which are also the learning conditions of students.

Depriving the actual producers, in this case teachers who produce 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 that 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.

Haut de page


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.

Saturday, October 14 -- 11:00 am - 1:00 pm
Park across from Westin Hotel
Organized by Nova Scotia Federation of Labour
Facebook 


Let's join the Liberals for lunch outside their AGM on Saturday, October 14. They are meeting at the Westin Hotel, so we will be at the park across the street from 11:00 am -- 1:00 pm. Join us with your signs, 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 education.

More than 120,000 Nova Scotians do not have a family doctor.

Emergency rooms are closing.

Our overcrowded classrooms need more teaching assistants.

Liberals have cut budgets for our nursing homes by millions of dollars, lowering food quality for long-term care residents.

Haut de page


United States

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 December 18.


(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 feedback 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." Gatherings 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 where a 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 actions.

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 of the 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 defend their dignity and rights.

(Photos: Overdrive Online, M. Owens, Operation Black & Blue)

Haut de page


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 States.

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 Carrier Safety 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 changes 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 drivers.

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. Indeed, electronic 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 trend 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.[1] This will mean, among other things, minimizing the stops for the rest periods truckers must take. This resembles the 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 to sleep.

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 this 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 industry.

A key issue in this change is the one of Who Decides. Who decides the new 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 interests and 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.

Note

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.

(Photos: TML, Overdrive Online)

Haut de page


PREVIOUS ISSUES | HOME

Website:  www.cpcml.ca   Email:  office@cpcml.ca