November 2, 2017

Education Workers Say No! to Attacks on
Their Working Conditions 

All Out to Support Striking
Ontario College Faculty!


Student Rally and March
Stand with Ontario Community College Faculty!

Thursday, November 2 -- 12:00 noon
Gather at 900 Bay St., Office of Deb Matthews, Deputy Premier and
Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development
March to Queen's Park
Organized by: Centennial College Students MARCH and OPSEU Local 558
For further actions in support of College Faculty see events calendar here.

Education Workers Say No! to Attacks on Their Working Conditions 
All Out to Support Striking Ontario College Faculty!
Take Up the Demand to Stop Paying the Rich; Increase Investments in Education!
Quebec Early Childhood Centre Workers Hold One-Day Strike

Legalized Theft of Workers Pensions and Benefits Must be Stopped!
Hamilton Workers Rally in Support of Sears Workers

Workers Hold Governments' to Account for Regulating on
Behalf of the Monopolies

New Brunswick Workers Press Their Demands on Workers' Compensation
"Regulations Play an Important Role in Safeguarding Our Communities"
- Interview, Fred Hahn, President, Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario

Coming Events
Join Celebrations of the Centenary of the Great October Socialist Revolution!

Education Workers Say No! to Attacks on Their Working Conditions  

All Out to Support Striking Ontario College Faculty!

Rally organized by Fanshawe College faculty outside Deb Matthews constituency office in
London, October 30, 2017.

Workers' Forum calls on everyone who is able to join the rally of the striking Ontario college faculty and students on Thursday, November 2 at Queen's Park in Toronto from 12 noon to 1:15 pm.

The college faculty have made it clear that they require a change of direction in the colleges to stop the increasing use of contract faculty (faculty without stable full-time work). Their demands would limit the expansion of the trend towards precarious contract work and make inroads to reverse it. They also demand mechanisms for faculty and students to have a greater say over their institutions so that the quality of education can be defended and enriched. These demands require an increased investment in the education system by provincial and federal governments. This goes against the neo-liberal trend of restructuring existing social programs to more effectively pay the rich. Neo-liberalism is the politics of paying the rich, which then is supposed to "trickle down" to the people.

One way neo-liberal restructuring takes place is through the increasing use of what are called "flexible" employment arrangements to depress wages and free up funds to pay the rich. Instead, increased funds for education should go towards improving the working conditions of college faculty and the system’s assets, which are essentially their students' learning conditions. Their demands include salaries, benefits and pensions commensurate with the vital work faculty do.

Besides reducing the investment in colleges through precarious "flexible" contracts, the college administrators say they want "flexibility" from one semester to the next to quickly service the demands of the large monopolies for particular skills. The big companies demand well-trained graduates to serve their narrow private interests rather than Canadian nation-building. The monopolies designed the college system to service their demand for trained employees without having to pay for that training.

The diversion of public funds away from colleges to pay the rich in other sectors is also being carried out on the backs of the sons and daughters of the working people and their families who are forced to pay high tuition and other forms of user fees to make up for the lack of state investments in post-secondary education. These youth and their families are deliberately placed into a servile relationship with the banks that profit from their indebtedness through interest paid either by governments or the youth and their families.

The faculty's demand for a say over what is taught, their teaching methods and how the progress of students is assessed means imposing limits on the ability of the monopolies to use the colleges to serve their narrow private interests that increasingly clash with the overall development of Ontario and Canada.

Niagara College faculty joined on picket line by members of the Brock University faculty.

The College Employer Council has put forward proposals to make the situation worse, in complete contradiction with what the faculty are demanding. The Council wants to increase its ability to utilize lower-paid and insecure faculty and use loopholes in Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act to maintain its ability to carry on with no change in direction. This is because the Council follows a neo-liberal aim to use the assets of the society, including the youth and workers, to pay the rich. Through various rules and regulations, as well as exercising control over who is appointed, the Employer Council and the Boards of the Colleges are made instruments of the monopolies and government to impose their will over college education rather than representatives of the communities and public will.

The government enforces a framework in which the College Employer Council, the unions and everyone else involved negotiate how best to implement the neo-liberal program in education and have it serve the rich and their narrow private interests. The struggle of the faculty and other educators who uphold the modern right of education for all has always been against the overall state-imposed framework. For example, the McGuinty Liberals and Hudak PCs were forced to back down on their outright dictate of their neo-liberal program when working people in Ontario said No! to Bill 115 and its arbitrary legislative powers to attack working people. Introduced in 2012, Bill 115 was meant to deprive teachers and other education workers in the K-12 system of their rights and was met with a resounding No Means No!

For fear of an open fight with the working people, the Wynne Liberals as well as the Patrick Brown PCs now say they stand for negotiations and collective bargaining, albeit within parameters they define, which are essentially how to deprive working people of their rights. But working people are rapidly gaining experience with the fraudulent form of false choices and negotiations within a predetermined anti-social framework and are finding ways to affirm their No! within the circumstances.

College faculty and students are saying No! to the parameters being imposed on them by challenging the overall direction. Their No! is a No! to the denial of the rights of working people and the theft of the value they create through their work by governments acting on behalf of the rich. College faculty and students are saying No! to decreased investments in education, to fraudulent negotiations in which the working people are forced to choose their poison. Their No! upholds the right of all to a modern education within a system organized to meet the needs of the people, the economy and nation-building. Their No! upholds the right of those who provide the services society relies upon for its existence to have a say over those services, how much should be invested, how they are delivered and for whom.

No Means No!
Increase Investments in Social Programs!
Stop Paying the Rich!

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Take Up the Demand to Stop Paying the Rich;
Increase Investments in Education!

Rally at Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, Toronto, October 25, 2017.

Ontario college faculty are engaged in a just battle to improve not only their own working conditions but those of thousands of college teachers on precarious contracts. Waging this struggle also seeks to elevate the learning conditions of college students. The ratio of contract teachers to full-time staff is 70/30, a ratio faculty denounce as injurious to teachers and students.

The Ontario Liberal government and its appointed college administrators say changing the imbalance to 50/50 would cost the Ontario treasury $250 million, a sum it does not want to pay. The response of the government raises several important issues:

1) Increased investments in social programs, in this case education, are crucial for a modern economy and society.

2) College teachers and their students should not have to suffer the consequences of an arbitrary provincial austerity budget that cannot meet the educational needs of the 500,000 students and attacks teachers by hiring thousands of them on unjust precarious three-month contracts.

3) The 24 Ontario colleges and their teachers produce thousands of highly valued trained workers every year. The modern economy cannot function without trained workers with specialized capacities. Businesses in Ontario and elsewhere, especially in the United States, employ those valued students who by working for them reproduce the value of their education not just from the college system but the K-12 system as well. This reproduced social value from their education should be returned in a proper exchange with the educational institutions that produced it and not be pocketed as additional profit by employers, no matter where in Canada or the world they are located. A modern educational system requires a modern system of exchange to realize the value that it produces. The current method of funding education from a provincial budget with revenue raised through general taxation is a fraud that promotes the lie that education is a cost. Also, charging students tuition violates the modern right of all to an education including a post-secondary one.

Education is not a cost. Education is a socially-produced value that educated workers reproduce through their work. For the working class to perform at the level required in a modern economy, workers need education not only as a right for themselves but as a necessity for the economy and society. The modern economy cannot function without educational workers producing educated workers and those educated workers reproducing the value of their socially-produced education through work and having that value returned in a proper exchange between the enterprises that employ them and the educational system and its institutions.

Declaring education a cost is a subterfuge that the ruling imperialist elite use to turn the educational system into yet another state-organized pay-the-rich scheme where their private enterprises use socially-produced education value without properly paying for it for the purpose of further enriching themselves.

4) Teachers and other education workers, the actual producers of education value must have a say and control over their working conditions and terms of employment. College teachers and other education workers should have a say and control over the curricula, the functioning of their educational workplace, the terms of their employment including wages and such matters as the proper ratio of fulltime to part-time faculty, the annual investment needed to continue operations through renewal of the fixed assets, and a role in determining the value of their graduates' education.

Administrators should manage the colleges and ensure they function smoothly but should not interfere with the teachers and other educational workers who are doing their work. Governments should end the practice of permitting the monopolies to set curriculum and research in post-secondary education for their narrow private interests. Government officials should instead use their authority to ensure those enterprises that hire Ontario graduates realize in a proper exchange the educational value of the workers they employ. This necessity to realize the socially-produced education value goes as well for those enterprises abroad, especially those in the United States that annually hire over 150,000 educated Canadians without acknowledging the source of that education value let alone realizing it in exchange through payments.

Faculty at Cambrian College in Sudbury receive financial support for their strike from sister
OPSEU Local 656, October 31, 2017.

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Quebec Early Childhood Centre Workers
Hold One-Day Strike

Montreal, October 30, 2017.

On Monday, October 30, about 11,000 workers from more than 400 early childhood centres held a Quebec-wide one-day strike against the demands of the employers and the Quebec government for rollbacks in all aspects of their working and retirement conditions. In the early hours of the morning, workers who are members of the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN), mounted picket lines in front of their centres and held demonstrations in several cities including Montreal, Quebec, Sherbrooke, Joliette, Rimouski, Cap-aux-Meules, Bonaventure, Rouyn-Noranda, Brossard, Gatineau, Trois-Rivières, Sept-Iles and Saint-Felicien. Early childhood centre workers recently voted 94 per cent in favour of a six-day strike mandate to be used at the appropriate time to force a restart to negotiations, the withdrawal of demands for concessions and for acceptable collective agreements. The October 30 strike was triggered by the government's latest provocation -- that negotiations will stop until the workers accept the concessions in their pension plan -- on top of the already large gap between the positions of the two sides. Although the government says most of the bargaining issues are resolved, the workers at the demonstrations said no progress has been made on the issue of the pension fund, wages, group insurance, regional disparities, the integration of the category of special needs educator into the collective agreement, and several others. The collective agreements of these workers expired on March 31, 2015. Over 30 bargaining sessions have been held since and the government is still miles away from offering conditions that workers might even consider worth examining.

On the picket lines and in the demonstrations, the workers strongly denounced the government's efforts to downgrade their conditions and the quality of services by downgrading their profession, qualifications and training. The fact that the government shows no respect for them and tries to negate their status as educators of the younger generation was a recurrent theme in the conversations. For example, workers denounced the government for wanting to eliminate the specific ratios that govern the number of children per educator, which are ratios that correspond to the complexity of the work educators do according to the situation and the problems experienced by the children. It seeks to replace them with global ratios that have nothing to do with actual conditions and seeks to remove these ratios from collective agreements, preventing workers from raising grievances if ratios are unacceptable. The government, the workers said, is also looking to eliminate the pedagogical hours that are part of their working hours, which are hours of preparation they need to provide services that meet the needs of the children. "Our tasks are more and more complex, children come to us with more and more complex problems because of the problems in society, and with immigration the question of language in our communication with children is also a complexity and the government recognizes none of this," one educator told Workers' Forum at the demonstration in Montreal. Among the most numerous signs were those saying "Our training has value!" and "No to the rollbacks!"

One of the strongest sentiments expressed by the workers is that early childhood services cannot be adequately delivered without those providing the services having a decisive say about the working conditions and the delivery of services.

Carole Leroux, President of the Early Childhood Centre Workers of Montreal and Laval, expressed this well in her remarks at the Montreal demonstration:

"Many of us have been in the system for a long time -- we know best how it works and what kids need. We are the ones who have the training and expertise to work with the children entrusted to us. You can see how the rollbacks demanded are a direct attack on the quality of services offered to children and an attack on women who make up 96 per cent of the workforce. We refuse to participate in lowering the quality [of services]."

Early childhood workers are proud of the important work they do for society, including providing childcare that enables parents to participate in work outside of the home, and educating and socializing children from a very early age. They demand working conditions that correspond to their work and qualifications, and do not accept being treated as a cost to be reduced in the name of anti-social austerity.

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Legalized Theft of Workers Pensions and Benefits Must be Stopped!

Hamilton Workers Rally in Support
of Sears Workers


Workers across Hamilton responded to the call of USW Local 1005 to rally in support of Sears workers, retirees and their families that are being deprived of the pensions and benefits that belong to them by right by Sears Holdings and its use of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). Flags, banners and placards lined the street in front of MP Bob Bratina's office and across from one of the Sears stores now plastered in "Closing Out" signs. Local 1005 proudly positioned their banner, "CCAA Is Legalized Theft" in front of Bratina's office, while flags from striking education workers at Mohawk College, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, CUPE Local 3396 which represents Hamilton Catholic School Board workers and the Brewery, General and Professional Workers' Union (SEIU Local 2) lined the street. Workers shouted slogans and blew horns and noise makers at passing vehicles, many of whom honked their horns in support.

Gary Howe, President of USW Local 1005, said, "We all know why we are here. We are here to support the Sears workers who are under attack under the CCAA. Since 2003 our local has been saying that the CCAA is legalized theft. It is used to attack workers' rights." Sears Holdings has taken money out of Canada that belongs to the workers' pensions and benefits, he said.

Bill Mahoney, Local 1005's resident poet, captured the militant mood of the rally with his poem that ended with the line: "Who will build a world that's just and free, if it ain't those like you and me?"

Paul Miller, MPP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, recounted a list of companies in Ontario which have used the CCAA to attack workers' pensions and benefits. Now the same is planned for the public sector. This has to stop, he said.

Anthony Marco, President of the Hamilton and District Labour Council, called for the unity of all workers, unionized and non-union, to take up the fight for the rights of all and for legislative change to the current bankruptcy laws that have been used against so many workers in Hamilton and across the province and country.

Demonstration makes its way through the Sears store in solidarity with the Sears workers.

The demonstration stopped traffic on the busy four-lane street between the MP's office and the Sears store and participants crossed the street with flags and banners unfurled. In front of the store they shouted: "Don't shop at Sears," before marching through the store, in defiance of the security guards who threatened the protestors with arrest for their act of solidarity with the Sears workers. The demonstrators continued through the mall nonetheless, shouting slogans and winning the approval of the people in the mall and emerged in high spirits, buoyed by the militant action to defend the rights of all.

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Workers Hold Governments' to Account for Regulating on Behalf of the Monopolies

New Brunswick Workers Press Their Demands 
on Workers' Compensation

As the New Brunswick government proceeds with its task force on WorkSafeNB that was announced on May 30, and the Discussion Paper has been released in October, workers are pressing their demands for just and adequate compensation for workers who are injured or made ill on the job. WorkSafeNB is the Crown corporation that oversees the implementation of occupational health and safety, and workers' compensation legislation in the province.

On October 24, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) New Brunswick organized a demonstration in front of the provincial legislature to protest the ongoing deterioration of workers' compensation in the province in the last two decades.

On this occasion, CUPE and the New Brunswick Federation of Labour are putting forward three immediate demands to change this situation:

These demands are:

- eliminating the 3-day wait period for injured workers;
- increasing benefits for injured and deceased workers; and
- expediting the claims process by hiring more front-line staff at WorkSafe NB.

Workers pointed out that the most drastic deterioration of workplace compensation happened in 1993 when the Liberal government of Frank McKenna passed Bill 55, which among other things introduced the three-day waiting period, slashed the amounts workers were entitled to receive and placed a heavier onus on injured workers to prove that an injury or illness is work related.

These measures were similar to those that other neo-liberal governments of the time passed, under the hoax that monopolies were paying "too much in premiums" to the compensation system, that this prevented the companies from investing in the economy and creating jobs and that the compensation system was liable to collapse if these anti-worker measures were not taken. What was to become known as the "unfunded liability" of the compensation system was a way of pushing injured workers into dire poverty and imposing all kinds of arbitrary policies. These policies were deliberately designed to deny them the compensation that belongs to them by right, making their life more and more difficult. It meant that a lesser amount of the new value that workers create and that is appropriated by the monopolies would be put in the compensation system, freeing this value to be used by the monopolies according to their whim. This introduced an extreme imbalance into the compensation system that has only become further entrenched.

The demands of workers are aimed at restricting that trend and these policies and improving the lives of the injured workers.

At the demonstration, CUPE New Brunswick President Daniel Légère said that it was time now to reverse the situation. "We're drawing the line in the sand now. It's time to push this back."

Workers' Forum spoke with Patrick Colford, President of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour about the task force and Discussion Paper and what is expected.

"While we are kind of happy that it seems they want the input of New Brunswickers -- when you read the paper you get a sense of bias toward the employers' sector," said Colford. "They talk about the Rehab Centre, which is run by WorkSafeNB. They are saying that other jurisdictions do not have such a centre and they want the rehab services contracted out to private companies. For years they have been talking about closing the Rehab Centre and they have actually cut its funding. The centre is a one-stop shop for injured workers that provides physical and psychological assistance. It should be maintained in public hands and its funding should be increased. "

Colford also talked about the appeal process for claims that are being denied by WorkSafeNB, saying, "We have that issue when claims are being denied and people are appealing and they are very successful in having the decisions of WorkSafeNB overturned. First the decisions were overturned by a Board of referees. The employers were crying that too many appeals were won and their rates were going up so an Appeals Tribunal was created and still the workers are benefiting from these appeals. The employers are complaining that this tribunal needs to be scrapped. They do not want the Board of Referees, they do not want this, they just want that the decisions of WorkSafeNB are binding when they deny claims. That is not acceptable."

In conclusion, Colford said, "We want the Task Force to do the work and realize that the biggest issue that we've got is that workers are not being heard and taken care of. In the 1990s when the fund was in trouble we gave concessions and with the new changes they seem to want to impose further concessions to injured workers. The workers' compensation system in New Brunswick does not work for workers, it works only for employers. That is the problem that needs to be addressed."

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"Regulations Play an Important Role
in Safeguarding Our Communities"

The Ontario Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne is currently trying to pass Bill 154, the Cutting Unnecessary Red Tape Act, 2017, an omnibus bill that includes, buried deep in the bill, Schedule 4, a section which is about gutting government regulations. Workers' Forum recently talked to Fred Hahn, President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario which launched a public campaign to remove Schedule 4 from the omnibus bill. CUPE Ontario made a presentation on this matter to the Ontario Standing Committee on Justice Policy and is calling on the people of Ontario to join the campaign including sending messages to their MPPs asking that Schedule 4 be removed from the bill. For information on how to send a message and to get a sample message, click here.


Workers' Forum: In your presentation to the committee, you criticize the use of omnibus bills to pass significant legislative changes that are buried deep in these bills.

Fred Hahn: Yes. Omnibus bills first and foremost are a problem. They are supposed to be, if used at all, a way of cleaning up things that are all related. Instead, we know that for more than 20 years, governments have used omnibus legislation in a way it was never intended. This is a bill which changes different components of different pieces of legislation, like allowing printing to happen by email instead of by letter, things that I suppose would be appropriate for omnibus legislation, but in it, there is something new, this Schedule 4, that we have focussed on. We believe that if that legislation was independently brought as a separate piece of legislation there would be much more scrutiny over it, so that was a focus on our comment on Bill 154.

WF: What is your stand on Schedule 4?

FH: With Schedule 4, the government ensures that whenever any ministry adds any new regulation or amends currently existing legislation, they have to look at the costs associated with implementing that new or amended regulation, and they would have to provide an offset for profit-making businesses to eliminate the compliance cost of the new regulation. There is actually, believe it or not, a regulation under this proposed legislation buried within Bill 154 that suggests the government would have to offset every dollar by $1.25. It does not say how exactly this "offset" is going to work. Is it going to be a tax cut? Is it going to be a waiver of some regulations for businesses to offset this cost? Who knows. It opens a dangerous door in legislation, not just for this government but for future governments. Regulations, as we know, can be changed at will by government without having to go through the legislature.

This is very much like the executive order issued by Donald Trump in January which says that for every new regulation two existing regulations must be taken away or gotten rid of. The difference is that with the political brand that Trump represents it is done very openly in the U.S. and the Trump administration is actually proud of presenting it publicly, while the Liberal government in Ontario is hiding it in an omnibus bill.

This comes from the belief, that some in the business community would like us to swallow, that regulations are bad, that they are just red tape that serves no purpose. Bill 154 is actually called Cutting Unnecessary Red Tape Act, 2017. In fact when we are talking about regulations, we also know that, for example, there are hundreds of them under the Occupational Health and Safety Act that keep people safe at work. There are environmental regulations that prevent another crisis like the one that happened in Walkerton. [In 2000 the water supply of the small community of Walkerton in Ontario was contaminated by a dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria, causing the death of seven people and serious illness in thousands -- WF Note.]

The example of the Walkerton tragedy is incredibly powerful. The inquiry into the deaths that happened at Walkerton demonstrated that changes to regulations and a decrease in regulations on water purification led directly to the E. coli outbreak in the water system and people dying. In the aftermath of the tragedy, water purification was heavily regulated once again. We had many members in the municipal water system who as employees did not meet these new standards but we worked hard with the employers, saying they have to meet these standards and you have to provide them with new training. The standards are there for public safety. We wanted new training of people so that they are clear about their obligations, how this stuff works, that is the way to go forward. This is the most blatant example although I am sure there are many others that demonstrate that regulations play an important role in safeguarding our communities.

WF: What is the campaign that CUPE Ontario is waging to get Schedule 4 removed?

FH: We issued a media release to get public attention. We contacted journalists. We tried to get people to pay attention to it. It has not been easy because the policy is buried in the bill and framed as if there is nothing there, nothing to worry about. We reached out to our coalition partners, especially our environmental coalition partners. With them we wrote a joint letter asking for Schedule 4 to be removed. Anyone concerned about the environment understands that the way to go forward into a green future is not just through green initiatives or some sort of corporate agenda. Regulations are required in order to safeguard the environment. Regulations form the heart of how the legislation is implemented and interpreted. We are also asking our members to send emails to their MPPs about these issues. There is not much time for a broader campaign because the legislation is scheduled to go for clause-by-clause review on Thursday October 26.[1]


1. Bill 154 went for third reading on October 30 and 31. It was voted on and carried November 1 and becomes law after Royal Assent of the Lieutenant Governor.

In the debate at third reading on October 30, Minister of Economic Development and Growth Brad Duguid referred to those expressing concerns about the omnibus bill as "entirely off base." He did not address the fundamental concern raised by CUPE Ontario, that because regulations do not pass through the legislature, they can be easily eliminated without any public scrutiny, never mind that Ontarians are already sidelined from decision-making. Minister Duguid instead made the issue one of "checks and balances through our whole system" that would prevent any regulatory offset from "endanger[ing] people's lives." This of course denies the people's experience with neo-liberal governments that disempower the people and carry out anti-social regulations as they please, in the name of high ideals such as job creation, providing a competitive business environment, etc. This has had actual and predictable negative consequences for the people.

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