November 16, 2017

Results of Vote Forced on Ontario College Faculty

College Faculty Vote No!


Left: Union bargaining chair J.P. Hornick announces No! vote. Right: faculty and supporters
outside the Labour Relations Board await vote results.

Results of Vote Forced on Ontario College Faculty
Faculty Overwhelmingly Vote No!
Support for College Faculty Grows

Minister Matthews' Schemes - Mira Katz
The Government, College Employer Council and Ontario Labour Relations Board: Three Sides of the Same Coin - David Starbuck

Stelco Results for Third Quarter 2017
Stelco Brags of Being "Low Cost" - K.C. Adams

Nova Scotia Classroom Council Sets Its Sights on Absenteeism
Oppose the McNeil Liberals' Criminalization of Youth! - Kevin Corkill

Food and Service Workers Fight for Their Rights
BC University Workers Stand Up to Global Food Service Monopoly
Food Terminal Workers in Ontario Strike for Better Wages and Working Conditions

Results of Vote Forced on Ontario College Faculty

College Faculty Vote No!

College faculty and supporters gather outside Labour Relations Board during
and following No! vote.

Ontario college teachers have rejected with a resounding No! the forced vote of the Ontario Labour Relations Board. Ninety-five percent of the 12,000 faculty members voted in the Board’s forced vote with 86 per cent voting No!

The teachers’ union, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, had clearly said that the result of the forced vote would be no, as the terms offered in the proposed contract were not substantially changed from the original rejected offer that provoked the strike. The union wanted to continue negotiations but the forced vote needlessly prolonged the strike by two weeks. Many believe the Labour Relations Board knew the result would be no, but wanted to use the rejection as ammunition for the Ontario government to declare an impasse and legislate teachers back to work without reaching a settlement acceptable to the teachers.

Union Mobilizes for No! Vote

La Cité College, Ottawa, November 14, 2017

Centennial College, Toronto, November 13, 2017

Sheridan College, Toronto, students stand with faculty picket, November 13, 2017.

Seneca College, Toronto, November 14, 2017

Left: Humber College, Etobicoke. Right: Centennial College, Toronto

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Support for College Faculty Grows

More than a hundred George Brown College students rallied at the downtown campus to stand with their professors in their fight for a just contract and humane working conditions.

Paula Greenberg, a George Brown student and one of the main organizers of the rally, told Workers' Forum that the students support their teachers. She pointed out: "This is more than a fight for higher wages or working conditions, it is a fight to end precarious work by college faculty and all workers. It is about raising the quality of education for all students. This fight is about a bright future for the coming generations and to defend the interests of the people of Ontario." Greenberg noted that the students are calling on their teachers to reject the offer being put to a forced vote by the College Employer Council (CEC) because it offers even less than what college faculty rejected in the first place.

A number of faculty who spoke at the rally stated that the support of the students in their fight was crucial in light of the CEC's attempts to divide faculty and students. Jamie Smith, a part-time faculty member, told the rally he has been living from one 15-month contract to another in a constant state of uncertainty about his employment. He said that the majority of college faculty are put in this humiliating situation and that it is simply wrong. Another faculty member stated that the environment at the community colleges in Ontario is becoming more and more dehumanized.

The students at the rally expressed their ongoing support of the just struggle of their teachers and pledged to organize more student rallies at the other Toronto colleges.

Workers from several unions as well as community groups and political organizations in Ottawa joined the striking faculty staff at Algonquin College for a solidarity picket at noon on November 13. The picket line of more than 120 faculty and their supporters came at a time when striking college faculty were getting ready for a government forced vote on an offer that had already been rejected. The signs and spirit on the picket line clearly showed that they would not be intimidated by any government threats and demanded that the College Employer Council return to negotiations and work out a just solution. 

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Minister Matthews' Schemes

Scheming: given to forming schemes; especially: devious
(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

On November 10, Ontario's Deputy Premier and Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, Deb Matthews announced that the Wynne government is requiring that Ontario's colleges establish a dedicated fund with all the savings from the faculty strike which will be controlled by the Ontario government. She said that the fund will be used to support students who have experienced financial hardships as a result of the strike and that she will work "immediately" to develop the parameters of the fund's use. "We need to work out the details together and we will do it quickly," she said. To show how she is "working together" she stated that she had "just spoken" with "student leadership" from the College Student Alliance and asked them "for their advice and for feedback from their membership." "I'm looking for the best ideas about how to make sure this reinvestment directly benefits students who have faced hardship," she said.

How should this be viewed by all those concerned?

There are a number of reasons why this move by the government should not be viewed as positive or as a "band-aid" solution, or a response to demands from students or faculty. There are other significant aspects which should be considered.

If a government was truly concerned about its citizens and in this case its college students it would be a principle that it intervene when such disputes arise to affirm the rights of the most vulnerable in particular and the rights of all in general.

First of all, the demand for a refund by students for user fees they have paid is just. The cost of education has been shifted more and more to individuals who are left by the government to fend for themselves. To have students fork over money without gaining the proper education to which they are entitled cannot be accepted. However, the government claims that it is going to use the fund to assist students in hardship. These are weasel words. All students are in hardship in Ontario as they and their families are being forced to pay for education which is their right. That some students and their families have more or less to allocate towards education is not relevant. A refund should be a refund, period.

However, what about the faculty who have been placed in hardship as a result of the underfunding of college education by government which has precipitated this strike? The part-time and sessional contract faculty in particular are in a very vulnerable position as a result of their insecure working conditions and this is more so now as they are without a union and laid off. It is for them in many respects that full-time and partial-load faculty are waging this strike. That the government does not seem to care about these vulnerable workers shows that this is not about concern for citizens or any humanitarian principles.

Governments have a duty to look out for the most vulnerable at all times and under all circumstances. In the case of Ontario pensioners of U.S. Steel who had their health benefits arbitrarily frozen and cut by U.S. Steel and sanctioned by the federal court under the authority of the Companies' Creditors Adjustment Act (CCAA) the government did not intervene to establish a fund to secure the hundreds of millions in revenue U.S. Steel had made as a result of steelworkers' work, while they claimed poverty to deny retirees their benefits, plunging them into insecurity. The theft of health benefits from the older generation who require them to live is surely a cause worth intervening for. Why the double standard? While the government feigns concern for students to the point of intervening, the grandparents of those students are given the shaft. Clearly this is not then about concern for students or citizens in general but something else.

What Is This About?

A central demand of the college faculty and students has been that government invest in education. The reduction of investments in post-secondary education or their diversion into the privatization of education is a main reason why the college faculty have been forced to go on strike to bring into being new arrangements to block the rampant abuse of part-time and partial-load faculty and contribute to stability for faculty and thus their students.

Instead of seriously addressing the demand for increased investments and a stop to privatization, the government is now establishing a pool of funds taken from existing budget allocations dedicated to faculty and staff salaries and giving itself and representatives of one of the two associations that represent college students the role of trust fund consultants to dole out this money as they see fit. The government is not "consulting" the Canadian Federation of Students which has from the outset put its support behind striking faculty and linked this to the call for increased funding for colleges. This shows that one aim of this affair is to try and divide students based on their local student association's affiliation at the provincial level so as to paint one association as being legitimate and deserving of a seat at the table and the other as illegitimate or not "neutral."[1] Such a stand is a cheap attempt to divide support for the striking faculty and divert from the demand for increased investments. It is a common method of the ruling elite to use existing divisions amongst the working people by currying favour with one group while isolating others, all to undermine any united political movement for rights.

The government is also trying to position itself for a possible No vote by the faculty by presenting itself as the defender of students when the truth of the matter is that it is the faculty who are defending students by affirming their own rights. The Liberals will no doubt try and use their links with representatives of one student association in deciding what to do with the millions of dollars in this fund as a way to pressure them in various ways to attack faculty, call for back-to-work measures or other nefarious schemes, all in the name of "putting students first."[2] They tried and failed to do this in the K-12 sector as high school students province-wide staged walk-outs in support of their teachers and other education workers in 2012, something that greatly assisted in forcing the government to back down on its attack on the rights of all following the passage of Bill 115, the Putting Students First Act.

Another important matter is that the government appears to be encroaching on the authority of the colleges in terms of how they use funds they receive from the provincial government. Although it may be presented as a one-time measure or response to the strike, the government's requirement that the colleges establish a fund using monies saved during the strike to be used as the government decides is part of an overall trend of the province taking more and more control over how public funds are to be used at the local level in order to directly serve private interests. For example, the provincial government has used "mandate agreements" in the university sector to give itself a role in restructuring universities and the important research and training they do. These agreements are used to funnel public funds directly to projects designated by the Ontario government and the financial interests that control it, rather than having these funds come under the control of the universities' boards of governors or Senate. By forcing each university to get their "mandate" approved by the provincial government in order to obtain special funds, the government has sought to usurp other decision-making authorities that may be in conflict with what the ruling party wants.

In the K-12 sector the Ontario government has also sought to define how funds allocated to local school boards are spent. This prevents school boards from robbing Peter to pay Paul in a manner the province doesn't like to make up for government funding cuts, and instead forces them to rob Peter to pay Paul in a manner the province wants, such as through increased use of online education and different forms of technology rather than other measures to make up for such cuts.

By using their arbitrary power to take control of local college budgets the Ontario government is likely seeking to entrench its authority over local boards which are supposed to serve local needs. This is not a favourable matter for education.

Discussion of what lies behind these moves is important as college faculty and students deliberate in advance of the results of the vote. In the opinion of Workers' Forum the most important thing to consider is that security lies in the fight for the rights of all and the consciousness and organization of the working people to affirm the rights of all under all circumstances. Security does not come from strengthening the arbitrary powers of government to decide what happens whether it be in the name of "fairness," "equity" or anything else.


1. On October 16, the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario released a statement which said: "Throughout the province, students and their teachers have been feeling the lasting effects of chronic underfunding from the successive Ontario governments. Large class-sizes, lack of job security for professors and instructors, rising tuition fees and degradation of campus facilities are all the byproducts of decades of funding cuts and fee increases."

2. The College Student Alliance on its website claims that it is "the only college student-focused advocacy group in Ontario," and that it is "putting continuous public pressure on OPSEU and CEC [College Employer Council] to make a deal while also sharing updates with students through our online resources."

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The Ontario Government, the College Employer Council and the Ontario Labour Relations Board -- Three Sides of the Same Coin

Faculty at Georgian College in Barrie rally for "No" vote, November 13, 2017.

One thing that is being revealed during the course of the job action taken by Ontario college faculty is that the Ontario Government, the College Employer Council (CEC) and the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) are acting together in an attempt to impose a solution to the current conflict that denies the rights of all and leaves the Ontario community college system in the service of the rich and the monopolies.

An illusion had been created in the mind of many that each of the three act independently and fulfill a specific role. This is not true. The three act in a concerted way to undermine the struggle for rights of all. The Ontario government appoints the members of both the CEC and the OLRB. Salary, benefits and working conditions for the appointees are lucrative. Spoken or unspoken, the continuation of the employment of the appointees depends on their decisions and actions being in accordance with government policies and the interests of the monopolies.

One game that the Ontario government and the CEC play is in the funding of the college system. The Ontario government funds Ontario colleges at only 60 per cent of the Canadian average while the CEC claims that college budgets cannot pay for a college system that ends precarious work and recognizes the rights of all. Instead of demanding that the Ontario government fund Ontario colleges at the Canadian level, the CEC ignores the fact that the Ontario government funds Ontario colleges at a rate of a billion dollars per year below the Canadian standard. Instead, the CEC ridicules faculty's demands as exorbitant and hence unreasonable, even though meeting them will only cost a fraction of the amount by which the colleges are actually underfunded. A few days ago, the Ontario government issued a directive to Ontario colleges to commit those funds saved as a result of the faculty strike to student bursaries. If the Ontario government can intervene to order colleges to divert unspent monies to students, why can't the Ontario government intervene to force the CEC to negotiate a collective agreement that provides a framework for resolving the current crisis in the college system? The answer is: it could. However, ending precarious work is not in the interests of the monopolies who reap inflated profits when precarious work prevails. It is also not in the interests of the government which is crafting the language of Bill 148, which is touted as ending precarious work, to enable unscrupulous employers such as the CEC, to force a collective agreement on workers which negates the rights that Bill 148 is supposed to guarantee.

When faculty engaged in their first job action in 1984, and persevered for 24 days, the Ontario government used its power to legislate faculty back to work. It threatened back-to-work legislation in 1989 and 2006. This time, the Liberal government seems reluctant to pass back-to-work legislation, stating repeatedly that workplace disputes are best resolved by collective bargaining. This is all part of the dance of the three to impose a solution in the service of the rich and the monopolies. However, back-to-work legislation remains a real possibility if the CEC continues to stonewall. In 1984, back-to-work legislation resulted in the Skolnik Report that gave faculty the workload formula. This does not mean that a similar settlement in 2017 will result in major gains in the defence of the rights of all, especially if the solution is delayed until after the next provincial election in June. The fact remains, when the Ontario government, the CEC and the OLRB cannot exercise their will by persuasion, they attempt to exercise their will by force. When faculty are not convinced to give up their struggles, back-to-work legislation, with its threat of large fines and jail time, is a hammer used to attempt to suppress the struggle for rights.

The OLRB is supposedly a neutral arbiter in the struggle between Ontario workers and capital. Nothing is further from the truth. The rulings and actions of the OLRB invariably serve the interests of the government and the largest monopolies. College faculty saw this very clearly in 2007-2008. The Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty declared a few days before the beginning of the 2007 election campaign that the Liberals would introduce amendments to the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act (CCBA) that would recognize the right of freedom of association of part-time, sessional and other contract employees and their right to join a union of their choice. This took the issue of the rights of these employees out of the election campaign. After the re-election of the McGuinty Liberals, the government created the Whittaker Commission in 2008 to advise the government on changes to the CCBA. Whittaker concurred with the recommendations of the CEC to "modernize" the CCBA, including the provision that the CEC is currently using to impose a forced vote on faculty. The McGuinty government accepted Whittaker's recommendations. The demands of the CEC were given a guarantee but not the rights of contract college employees. Although, signed union cards were quickly obtained, the CEC and its law company, Morley-Hicks, staged a charade whereby they challenged the voters' list. The OLRB collaborated by only hearing challenges to ten employees per month, a process that would have delayed the counting of the ballots for over ten years. OPSEU was forced to withdraw the application after several years and launch a new organizing drive; the results of which are now before the OLRB for certification. The truth is that the OLRB has collaborated with the CEC at every step of the way to keep contract college employees from exercising their rights.

The OLRB also collaborated with the CEC in the current dispute to impose electronic voting over 49 hours in the forced vote process. This was the proposal of the CEC which was opposed by the union. The OLRB concurred with the CEC. Normally, the voting process is in person, with paper ballots, over eight hours, with certain provisions for mail-in ballots for those in class or off campus. In the new procedure, voting is done over 49 hours, by computer, on the college computer system.

Faculty are learning from their experience. The Ontario government, the College Employer Council and the Ontario Labour Relations Board are three heads of the same hydra that serves the rich and the monopolies and not the youth, college faculty and the people of Ontario. Illusions that they are independent from each other and act in the public interest are disappearing. That the Ontario government, the College Employer Council and the Ontario Labour Relations Board are recognized by faculty to all be in the service of the rich and the monopolies and acting as one, each with their own role, and that no illusions should be held on this issue, is a major achievement for faculty and their struggle for the rights of all.

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Stelco Results for Third Quarter 2017

Stelco Brags of Being "Low Cost"

The third quarter results begin with the assertion that Stelco Holdings Inc. is "low cost." The word "low" implies a comparison with high. Given that most prices for material inputs in steelmaking are similar, what does this "low cost" mean? It can only mean that the price of the human capacity to work is lower at Stelco than the price competitors pay, except of course at certain brutal employers such as the German imperialists MANA in Hamilton and others in "right to work" former slave states in the United States. Aside from these exceptions, the price the owners pay for individual reproduced-value, which are direct wages and benefits, are fairly similar in steel plants throughout the U.S. and Canada. This means that individual reproduced-value at Stelco is neither significantly higher nor lower.

Then what must this "low cost" mean? First consideration must be as to why the human input, the capacity to work, is viewed as a cost. Humans are working and producing steel. They are not machines or scrap steel. Presumably the humans work for their own benefit, their economy, community and society. Their input produces new value, which gives life to them and society. Some of the new value they produce goes towards their claim for reproduced-value to sustain themselves throughout their lives. The rest of the new value is claimed by others. How can a certain portion of the new value workers produce be considered a cost while the rest of the new value is not considered a cost?

The others who claim the rest of the new value workers produce after workers have claimed their reproduced-value declare that the workers' claim is a cost to them, the others," because it lowers their claim but in reality the workers' claim costs them nothing as workers produce the entire new value on which all claims are made.

Alan Kestenbaum, Stelco Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer says in the third quarter press release that the "low cost" arises from Stelco having addressed its "legacy issues" while under bankruptcy protection of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). These "legacy issues" are mostly claims of retired or soon to be retired Stelco workers on the value active workers produce. Those claims arise from the original contracted deal for the sale of their capacity to work. The "legacy issues" also include claims for environmental remediation of historical Stelco lands. The human "legacy issues" are claims for pensions and other post-employment benefits that were taken off the Stelco balance sheet using the police powers of the CCAA, a form of legalized theft of what belongs to workers by right. This allows Kestenbaum to brag that Stelco now has "a strong balance sheet," and in addition, by having sold shares in Stelco for over $230 million, Stelco "is poised to grow organically ... through disciplined acquisitions. If the right opportunities present themselves, we will be poised to act.... We look forward to creating value to the benefit of our valued customers, employees and shareholders."

Kestenbaum acquired Stelco out of CCAA bankruptcy protection for next to nothing and aside from a continuing claim on a portion of the new value workers produce, he has sold shares for $230 million that he can use to "grow" his empire. The royal "We" he uses refers in fact not to him but to the workers who create the value, which is then claimed by the "employees and shareholders." As owner and man in control, Kestenbaum considers the claim of employees on the value they produce as a cost to him and his shareholders because it reduces their claim on new value, the added-value, the profit.

But what gives Kestenbaum the right to declare his employees who produce the value, as being a cost to him and his shareholders? Are they slaves? Workers who produce the new value could just as easily say those who claim a portion of new value as added-value are a cost to workers because without their claim for added-value the workers could claim the entire new value they produce as their own and distribute it as they wish.

The assertion of being "low cost" and viewing the claims of workers as a cost stem from the present relations of production, how workers and those in control of their workplaces relate to each other. The steelworkers who produce the steel and its new value are not in control of those relations of production or their workplaces. They are in a subservient and dominated position within the relationship. Others who own and control the steel complex are in control and they arrange the financial results of production and sales according to their thinking and social being as owners in control. They own and control the steel facility and organize the workers to work and produce new value for those in control. The prevailing relations of production dictate that their right of ownership and control of the steel facility means that they buy workers' capacity to work from a labour market. Those in control then use that capacity to work to produce new value, which they own and control. They relate to their employees as owners to purchased human beings while at work in the manner of owners to slaves, except that the ownership of their workers extends only to their capacity to work. This relation of production is one of control by humans over other humans, the right of owners of the workplace to control workers and the new value workers produce.

The relations of production dictate that any portion of the new value workers produce that is deducted before owners can make their claim must be considered a cost against the portion owners claim. Their thinking as social beings in control of the steel mill is that of those in a commanding dictatorial relationship with the workers from whom they buy their capacity to work. The relationship dictates in their thinking that the claim of workers for reproduced-value is a cost to those in control and ownership because it reduces the added-value the owners can claim from the new value workers produce. Their social being in control of the working class determines their thinking and actions.

The contradiction between reproduced-value and added-value is a fundamental aspect of the contradiction between the working class and those who own and control the workplaces and parts of the economy. The contradiction within the relations of production arises from the contradiction between the social interconnected nature of the modern economy and the private ownership and control of competing parts of that socialized economy. To resolve these contradictions and allow for the workers to claim the entire new value they produce and then distribute it according to their own agenda and aim for the economy requires a radical change in the relations of production and new direction for the economy. It requires new relations of production where those who work are in control not only of their workplaces but the entire value they produce.

To read the Stelco press release on its third quarter results click here.

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Nova Scotia Classroom Council Sets Its Sights on Absenteeism

Oppose the McNeil Liberals' Criminalization of Youth!

The McNeil Liberals are up to it again, turning reality onto its head and trying to blame the youth for all the problems in the schools. McNeil's proxy for determining the working conditions of teachers, the Nova Scotia Classroom Council, announced it will be spending $1.9 million to hire "attendance support workers," 14 of them to be exact, to address the problem of absenteeism in schools across Nova Scotia. According to them more than 29,000 students miss more than 16 days of school per year.

Feigning interest in making real substantive change to the oft described deplorable working and learning conditions in the schools, the McNeil Liberals introduce a measure that uses a criminalizing element to impose their dictate instead of dealing with the problems with real solutions.

As if teachers, support workers and others in the education field did not explain in length the needs of the education system during law amendment hearings, demonstrations and in opposition to Bill 75 -- the Teachers' Professional Agreement and Classroom Improvements (2017) Act imposed on Nova Scotia teachers in February -- the McNeil Liberals continue to try to dictate to teachers and students. In this case, they are also setting out to criminalize the youth. A council member said, "They do have a budget for transportation to move around to find the students where they are, and they will have the responsibility to find those students where they are." This "crackdown" on student absenteeism is the worst kind of duplicity and should be denounced as such.

Not only does it not address the real problems facing the youth, it criminalizes them and exposes them to needless harassment creating the conditions for further problems in the schools and for teachers to deal with as well. We don't need a crackdown on anything save for a Liberal government that insists on dictating the working conditions of teachers and public sector workers. With all the problems at schools and the social problems outside is it any wonder why so many youth don't go? This is a social problem and needs a social solution not two-bit criminalization of our youth for what is clearly a sign that they do not see a future for themselves.

This is a shameful act of a government that refuses to put the needs of the people in the first place, that dictates the working and learning conditions of students which is clearly creating a low-level and intolerable environment where youth would rather not be. Teachers and others in the education system need to reaffirm their right to make the decisions in their workplace and continue to oppose the dictate of the McNeil government which is now criminalizing the youth with the thinly veiled purpose of getting them to go to school.

More and more as governments across Canada more and more turn to police powers to impose their dictate we need to double down on our efforts to fight for a pro-social direction including a bright future for our youth starting with guaranteeing their basic rights to food, shelter and clothing something the McNeil government has not even been able to do.

Shame on the McNeil Liberals for Criminalizing the Youth!
Teachers and Students Must Decide Their Working and Learning Conditions Together!
Oppose Bill 148: the Anti-Worker Dictate of the McNeil Liberals!

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Food and Service Workers Fight for Their Rights

BC University Workers Stand Up to Global
Food Service Monopoly

Food service workers at the University of Northern BC in Prince George, members of UNITE Local 40, organized a rally on November 8, to protest their low wages, restricted benefits and unsatisfactory working conditions. The workers reject with contempt their employer Chartwells' wage increase of 20 cents an hour. Workers at UNBC with 15 years seniority presently receive as little as $14 an hour in payment for their capacity to work often within precarious work schedules. UNBC contracts out food services to Chartwells, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Compass Group PLC, a British imperialist monopoly with billions of dollars of gross income and net company profit.[1]

About 100 people attended the vigorous rally held outdoors in the courtyard of the university. A number of students came out to support the workers, as did members from the Faculty Association of UNBC, CUPE, Prince George District Teachers' Association, Stand Up for the North Committee, a UNITE HERE! Local 40 member from Simon Fraser University, and others from the community. The workers chanted, "20 cents won't pay the rent" and other slogans as they marched with picket signs around the courtyard.

During the course of the rally several people spoke, including students, faculty and other union members. One student noted that food service staff work extremely hard, calling the 20 cents an hour offer from Compass "insulting."

At the conclusion of the rally, the UNITE HERE! Local 40 organizer, Harley Augustino announced that more actions would be forthcoming, including a petition to be circulated amongst students.


1. The British monopoly Compass Group PLC is the largest contract foodservice company in the world with operations in over 50 countries buying the capacity to work of 500,000 workers. It has contracts for foodservice, cleaning, property management and support services worldwide. In 2016, Compass reported a global gross income of $33 billion and company profit of $1.7 billion.

Compass holds large contracts for food and other services with governments and their agencies throughout the imperialist system of states. Of particular importance to Compass are contracts with various militaries, prisons, schools, health care facilities and as a United Nations registered food vendor with contracts to supply UN peacekeepers in most areas where U.S. imperialism has waged wars for regime change or has caused significant civil unrest and destruction.

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Food Terminal Workers in Ontario Strike for Better Wages and Working Conditions

Some 25 workers organized in Teamsters Local 419 have been on strike at the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto since November 7 for a first contract. They are warehouse workers for a food distribution company called Ippolito Produce, one of the terminal's tenants. A solidarity picket was organized at the terminal on November 13, the date that their negotiations were set to begin with their employer.

The workers are on strike for increased job security, fair wages and scheduling, paid sick leave, and better treatment by management. They state, "Our boss demands that we speed up our work, and does not give us enough time to finish tasks. He threatens to punish people for not finishing these tasks on time. We work with a lot of big machines, and it is dangerous for us to be going too fast. We are worried this is unsafe." They point out that they are constantly told that there are lots of people outside looking for work and that the company could fire them easily with impunity. The workers also point out they are often sent home without notice if there is a slow day. The workers work a six-hour day. They would like to have regular, predictable hours so that they can plan their lives with their families accordingly and be paid overtime when they work on Sundays.

The strikers point out: "We made the decision to form a union this summer and are now negotiating our first contract. We have had a lot of support from other workers at the Food Terminal. About half of the companies at the Food Terminal are unionized now." They point to the example of the workers from Fresh Taste, another food warehouser, who organized a successful strike last year and won a wage increase -- their first in 14 years.

At the solidarity picket Jamyang Yeshi, a member of the union bargaining committee, stated that the striking workers will continue their struggle till they get a just contract and thanked everyone for their support.

The workers are calling on other unions and workers to support their just struggle by emailing or calling Joel Ippolito, the owner of the company, to urge him to settle with the workers. He can be emailed at or by phone (905) 631-7700.

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