November 23, 2017

Biennial Convention of the Ontario Federation of Labour

Settling Scores with
Our Own Ruling Class


Biennial Convention of the Ontario Federation of Labour

Settling Scores with Our Own Ruling Class
Challenges Facing Ontario Workers - Enver Villamizar

Ontario Liberals and PCs Pass Back-to-Work Legislation Against
Striking College Faculty

Negotiate Don't Dictate!
Congratulations to All Those Who Fought to Affirm the Rights
of All!
- David Starbuck

Finance Minister Morneau's Company Takes Control of Stelco Pensions
Parasites Feeding Off Workers' Pensions
Administration of Stelco Pensions for a Contracted User Fee

Striking Quebec Metallurgical Workers Step Up National and
International Campaign

Step Up Support for CEZinc Workers Fighting for Their Dignity
and Rights!
- Pierre Chénier

Propaganda About Labour Shortage in the Trucking Industry
Truckers Discuss the Necessity to Organize to Defend Their Rights Under All Conditions - Normand Chouinard

Biennial Convention of the Ontario Federation of Labour

Settling Scores with Our Own Ruling Class

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) is holding its Biennial Convention under the banner "Power ON" from November 20 to 24, 2017 in Toronto at the Sheraton Centre Hotel.

This OFL convention is the last before the provincial election expected on June 7, 2018. It comes just as the Trudeau Liberals appear set to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), something greatly opposed by the Ontario working class in the last election, especially autoworkers. Meanwhile, instead of taking up the fight here against the Canadian ruling class and its Trudeau government which has subordinated Canada to U.S. authority, the organized autoworkers, who are mainly concentrated in Ontario, are being called on to join the Trump administration in attacking Mexico in the NAFTA negotiations. The aim is allegedly to raise Mexican wages and standards so the monopolies cannot use them to drive down Canadian wages and threaten to move production to Mexico.

Meanwhile, steelworkers who have carried a determined and ongoing fight against the legalized theft of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) and to embark on a new direction of nation-building within a self-reliant economy are being told that they should abandon their own thinking and outlook and blindly follow Trudeau and Trump in opposing alleged Chinese dumping of steel in Canada as the main problem. The Trudeau Liberals refuse to defend what belongs to Canadian workers by right including their pensions, benefits, steel mills, jobs and economy, which are issues Canadians can control. Steelworkers and others are told to forget the reality they face and abandon their own fights against U.S. and other foreign monopolies destroying Canada's steel industry and broader economy. Give up your own demands for nation-building the working people are told; rally behind this or that monopoly that has problems competing globally with other monopolies. Take up every demand of the monopolies and ruling class as your own and give up organizing your own working class forces for a determined and self-reliant struggle for your rights, a new direction for the economy and nation-building, which necessarily means settling accounts with our own ruling class right here in Canada.

The ruling elite do everything possible to present the problems facing the working class as "out there" in the global sphere, supposedly organized by shadowy forces over which Canadians have no power nor should they even wish to control. Canadian working people want control over those affairs that directly affect them in the here and now and reality of Canada. To block this yearning for control, the ruling class attempts to divert them into other issues such as marshalling workers as a voting bloc behind different versions of an agenda that serves the rich and does not originate with the thinking and outlook of the working class. This was the case in 2015 with their push for workers to vote for the Trudeau neo-liberal austerity agenda as opposed to the Harper version, instead of having their own working class aim and agenda.

The working class has to address this problem of constantly being pressured to line up behind interests that are not its own if it hopes to make any advance. We see this now with the attempts of the ruling class to rally the working class behind tweaks to Ontario labour laws. Reforms that serve the working class within the bourgeois system of representative democracy are only possible when the working class wages a determined fight for its own rights, agenda and aim, and firmly establishes its interests as the interests of the nation. For workers to reduce their aim to tweaking labour laws that did not arise from the working class itself and their own thinking and outlook will not serve to defend their rights and movement towards their emancipation.

The working class has raised very important demands for changes in labour and other laws to serve its own interests. For example, workers demand the defence of the pensions they have and the extension of pensions to all. At this moment, steelworkers, their allies and workers in different sectors of the economy are fighting to end the legalized theft under CCAA of what belongs to them by right, including their pensions.

Workers demand justice for injured workers, the withdrawal of legislation aimed at undermining the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively and an end to labour laws creating tiers of workers with different rights according to whether or not they have citizenship or any other consideration.

Working people demand an end to the neo-liberal austerity agenda and for an increase in investments in social programs and to stop paying the rich.

The working class demands Canada end its involvement in predatory wars in the service of various imperialist alliances in the name of peacekeeping. Workers oppose Canada's meddling in countries such as Venezuela, Korea, Haiti and anywhere else the U.S. imperialists are currently targeting. Workers want an anti-war government and to make Canada a zone for peace.

Delegates to the OFL convention can make headway by raising these matters of concern to the working class when they return home, in whatever way possible, and in so doing begin to settle accounts with our own ruling class.

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Challenges Facing Ontario Workers

As the Ontario Federation of Labour holds its biennial convention in Toronto, the passage of back-to-work legislation against striking college workers by the Ontario government is on the minds of many.

In passing back-to-work legislation, the Wynne government is continuing the direction of criminalizing workers' strike actions. To make this less apparent and to soften the blow, it is imposing arbitration (or in this case mediation-arbitration). But by making the arbitrator operate within the parameters of the government's anti-social austerity agenda in a very prescribed way, the arbitrator becomes a "handmaid" of the government. This allows the government to have a contract imposed without having to do it directly. It also ensures that the arbitrator operates strictly within the parameters set by the government rather than according to what is needed by the workers who provide the different services and the people who use those services.

It has become the mechanism of choice of the ruling elite in Ontario to try to eliminate the right of workers to have a real say over their wages and working conditions by presenting arbitration as an "alternative." Since 2008 when the Ontario government ordered striking Toronto transit workers back to work, it has sought to eliminate workers' right to strike in the name of "protecting the public" while at the same time preventing arbitrators and the arbitration system from making necessary increased investment in public services. This is the program of the ruling class in general in Ontario as the PCs have also championed this demand while in a minority government with the Liberals and while in opposition during a majority Liberal government.

In 2011, banker Don Drummond was commissioned by the McGuinty Liberal government to propose a complete restructuring of Ontario's public services to serve the aim of freeing up billions in public revenue for debt and deficit financing and other direct pay-the-rich schemes for monopolies favoured by the Liberals. The 2012 Drummond Report addressed the matter of labour relations and sought to "re-balance" the labour relations regime in general to block working people -- especially those in public services -- from defending or improving their working conditions on the basis that this represented an unacceptable cost to the government and the "taxpayer." Meanwhile, the billions in interest payments to the very TD Bank that had previously employed Drummond, and payments to other private monopolies in Ontario, were not presented as a cost to be reduced but as the reason for the restructuring itself.

The report of the Commission on the Reform of Public Services in Ontario that Drummond headed called on the government to "Develop specific and well-defined objective criteria that interest arbitrators would be required to account for in formulating their awards/decisions. For example, 'ability to pay' criteria should be broadened to include economic and fiscal environment, and productivity criteria in arbitration awards/decisions."

The program of the Liberals is the program of the ruling elite to use every opportunity to limit workers' right to say No and to present them as a "cost," while paying the rich is a given, not to be questioned. In the case of the college faculty's strike it is being done through the arbitration system and the normalization of new criteria arbitrators must follow.

The government has gone beyond simply requiring the arbitrator's award to be determined according to an employer's "ability to pay" and prescribed further criteria negating the ability of the arbitrator to do anything but impose the neo-liberal austerity agenda. The exact same language constraining the arbitrator's decision-making used in the legislation to end the 2008 Toronto Transit Commission strike was included in the back-to-work legislation against striking college faculty.

The law in both cases reads:

"In making an award, the mediator-arbitrator shall take into consideration all factors that he or she considers relevant, including the following criteria:

"1. The employers' ability to pay in light of their fiscal situations.

"2. The extent to which services may have to be reduced, in light of the award, if current funding and taxation levels are not increased.

"3. The economic situation in Ontario.

"4. A comparison, as between the employees and comparable employees in the public and private sectors, of the nature of the work performed and of the terms and conditions of employment.

"5. The employers' ability to attract and retain qualified employees.

"6. The purposes of the Public Sector Dispute Resolution Act1997.

In 2015, the Wynne Liberals passed back-to-work legislation against four groups of striking workers in the K-12 education sector that imposed an arbitrary deadline for a "negotiated agreement" to be reached after their strikes were outlawed; if it was not met, the matter would immediately go to arbitration. This is consistent with the action taken against the college faculty: the imposition of an unrealistic, arbitrary deadline and then presenting arbitration as the solution.

As more and more workers' struggles are being criminalized through back-to-work legislation, and as legislation declaring workers "essential" makes going on strike illegal, the use of arbitration to impose contracts is becoming increasingly frequent. In certain cases, it is the workers themselves who demand arbitration after getting nowhere at the bargaining table in the hope that an independent arbitrator will do them justice. However the arbitration system is being restructured and it is highly likely that whoever seeks to get the nod from the ruling elite in Canada to win the upcoming Ontario election will be tasked with ensuring this restructuring is permanent.

What is important to consider is that the main aim of using back-to-work legislation and then presenting arbitration as an alternative is to eliminate the ability of workers to have a say over their wages and working conditions. It is part and parcel of the overall program of the ruling elite to suppress the interests of the people and their right to conscience by strengthening the police powers of the state. This say of the workers however is the decisive factor for the defence of public services and their improvement. In the case of education, the government's actions are condemnable because it is eliminating the decisive factor for defending students' learning conditions, notwithstanding the government's claim that all its actions are undertaken in the interests of students. By imposing arbitration and telling employers that they need not bargain, the government is making dictate -- in this case by the government and then an arbitrator who is bound by the government -- the norm. This does not favour the working people or those who rely on the services they provide.

More and more the ruling elite and their governments will go in the direction of declaring services "essential," not to defend the public interest but to negate workers' right to strike or take other actions to ensure they have the working conditions necessary to deliver such indispensable public services. As the workers find ways to reject dictate the government will seek to strengthen its powers to criminalize any actions they take, such as working to rule, labelling them "illegal strikes" because they are "coordinated," as established in precedents set by Ontario Labour Relations Board rulings against teachers and other workers.

The working people of Ontario have to consider this trend in working out a way forward that serves their interests. One solution being presented is that electing the NDP will address this problem and give the workers leverage. How this would give them leverage and leverage for what has to be discussed. In addition, how would this challenge the program of the ruling elite to put all the resources of the society at the disposal of the rich and hand over Canada's resources and territory to U.S. authority?  Whether or not it would put the workers in a stronger position to affirm their rights and the rights of all has to be discussed and worked out, otherwise it only serves to divert from solving the problems facing the working people in the present.

In other cases workers are being told that arbitration, as has been prescribed for the colleges, is better than staying out on strike, and that the only way to really fight is through electing a different government.

However, finding ways to say No! to dictate by employers and the government is vital, as is ensuring that the broader public is mobilized to affirm that workers having a say defends the rights of all. The resounding No! vote of college faculty to their employer's forced offer reveals that the working people overwhelmingly reject dictate. This is a very positive factor. This No! must continue to have its expression and not be suppressed. It shows that the sentiment of the workers is to uphold their dignity and reject dictate. This comes from pride in the important work they do and the vital services they provide for the society. It is this factor which favours the society as a whole and why it is important to find ways to prevent the elimination of the voice of the working people in setting their wages and working conditions.

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Ontario Liberals and PCs Pass Back-to-Work Legislation
Against Striking College Faculty

Negotiate Don't Dictate!

College Faculty on November 16, 2017 overwhelmingly rejected forced vote on
College Employer Council offer.

On Sunday, November 19, the back-to-work legislation against striking Ontario college faculty -- Bill 178, the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Labour Dispute Resolution Act, 2017 -- passed third reading with the Progressive Conservatives (PCs) supporting the Wynne Liberals and the NDP voting against it.

The back-to-work legislation came in the context of striking college faculty overwhelmingly rejecting the College Employer Council's "last offer" on November 16 in a vote forced on them by the Ontario Labour Relations Board, following which the Ontario government stepped in to impose an arbitrary 5:00 pm deadline for a new agreement to be reached or it would impose a mediator-arbitrator and declare the strike illegal. This deadline was given despite the fact the conditions blocking college faculty from reaching a suitable agreement for the past five weeks -- the lack of good faith bargaining on the part of the Council, in the best interests of the students, faculty and the college system as a whole -- had not changed.

Faculty at La Cité College, return to classes November 20, 2017 in silent march of protest against back-to-work legislation.

When the deadline passed without an agreement, the government announced that it was introducing legislation to declare the strike illegal and for all outstanding issues to be referred to "binding mediation-arbitration." It was unable to get expedited passage of the legislation as the NDP did not agree to it, so sittings of the Legislature were held over the weekend.

A government backgrounder, released three hours after the arbitrary deadline, indicated that the mediator-arbitrator would have the exclusive power to determine all matters necessary to conclude a new collective agreement, and would have the ability to assist the parties in settling any related matter. In other words the mediator-arbitrator would have the singular power to impose a new contract on the 12,000 striking fulltime and partial-load faculty, something bound to have significant ramifications for an even larger number of part-time, sessional and contract faculty who are still without union representation. Clearly the results of their unionization vote will now take on even more significance.

The government presented its introduction of back-to-work legislation as a matter of assisting students based on fraudulent claims that the two sides had hit an impasse when in fact the College Employer Council had scuttled negotiations to force a vote on its unacceptable offer.

In Bill 178's preamble, the government claims it tried over the five weeks of the strike to assist the parties in resolving their differences through mediation but was unsuccessful. As a result, it states that "the education and preparation for employment of over 220,000 full-time students has been disrupted," adding that for some the "successful achievement of the program learning outcomes required for job readiness may be at serious risk." It then singles out the "preparation for employment" programs with a breakdown of the numbers of students in apprenticeships as well as in the Literacy and Basic Skills, Academic Upgrading and Second Career programs and clients who receive a variety of Ontario government-funded job search and other employment assistance services through the colleges.

To justify forcing an end to the strike the government goes on to say that "these negative consequences, particularly for vulnerable students, may be long term in nature," and that continuation of the dispute "gives rise to serious public interest concerns."

The back-to-work legislation ensures that the framework for any resulting contract is firmly situated in the anti-social neo-liberal austerity agenda of the ruling class, that demands restraint from the people in order to the pay the rich by attacking social programs and undermining proper working conditions. This will be done by requiring the mediator-arbitrator to take into consideration criteria such as the colleges' "ability to pay" and the province's economic situation. Furthermore, the legislation specifies that the mediator-arbitrator must take into consideration "the extent to which services may have to be reduced, in light of the award, if current funding and taxation levels are not increased."

College faculty at various colleges return to work en masse and post group photos to OPSEU Facebook page, reflecting their unity and determination in face of the back-to-work legislation. Here faculty prepare to return to George Brown College in Toronto November 20, 2017.

To fool the gullible, the government claims that "Nothing in the proposed Act prohibits the parties from continuing to negotiate, and they would be encouraged to do so." Nothing of course except the fact that the Employer Council no longer needs to negotiate as workers have had their strike made illegal, with a similar fate likely for any future work-to-rule action to affirm their rights.

The legislation makes clear that any opposition will not be tolerated and asserts that anyone who contravenes or fails to comply with the prohibition on strikes or lockouts is guilty of an offence. On conviction, an individual would be liable to a fine of not more than $1,000; and in the case of an employer or union, a fine of not more than $25,000, with each day of contravention or noncompliance constituting a separate offence.

Furthermore a strike in contravention of Bill 178 is deemed an unlawful strike under the Colleges Collective Bargaining Act, 2008 and its associated penalties.

Bill 178 states that each employee in the bargaining unit shall "without delay, resume the performance of the duties of his or her employment or shall continue performing them, as the case may be." Until a new collective agreement is in place, the terms and conditions of employment that applied on the day before the back-to-work legislation took effect continue to apply, unless the parties agree otherwise.

Bill 178 contains provisions for the employer and union to agree on a mediator-arbitrator or if that is not possible for one to be imposed by the Minister of Labour as well as timelines for the selection and for the mediator-arbitrator to begin proceedings. No application to question the government's choice of mediator-arbitrator or "to prohibit or restrain any of the mediator-arbitrator’s proceedings" is allowed under the legislation.

Workers' Forum opposes cynical attempts to present such anti-democratic dictate as something done to help students. Experience has shown that only those solutions which come from the workers themselves and which they fight to realize give rise to an equilibrium which favours the interests of the society and not those of the rich.

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Congratulations to All Those Who Fought
to Affirm the Rights of All! 

Faculty at Cambrian College in Sudbury prepare to return to work, November 21, 2017.

On Sunday, November 19, the Ontario Liberal government and the provincial Conservatives passed Bill 178, the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Labour Dispute Resolution Act, 2017. The passage of this bill forced more than 12,000 full-time and partial load faculty to give up their strike struggle and return to the classroom. This action came three days after faculty overwhelmingly rejected the College Employer Council's (CEC) last offer by a vote of more than 86 per cent with a turnout of 95 per cent.

The results of this vote were a complete repudiation of the position of the CEC that the work withdrawal had no support of faculty but was the result of union hotheads. The results of the vote clearly showed that faculty were united in rejecting any attempt to dictate a resolution which did not emerge through negotiation. The resounding No! vote also bolstered their demands for job security, working conditions commensurate with the important jobs they do, the right to freedom of association and unionization for contract employees, and the right of faculty to a meaningful role in academic decision-making.  The Wynne Liberal government, mimicking the CEC and its bully tactics, instead of making the CEC negotiate a collective agreement that provided a framework for resolving the crisis in Ontario colleges, forced faculty to end their strike struggle under pain of fines of $1,000 per day for individuals and $25,000 per day for the union. Fines imposed on workers and their organizations violate workers' right to withhold their labour, a right guaranteed under natural law.

Ontario college faculty deserve congratulations for voting No to blackmail and dictate under difficult circumstances. That they were unable to force the employer to negotiate and had back-to-work legislation imposed on them reveals that the Liberals and the PCs are unfit to govern. Through their strike actions they have shown that there is a need to increase investments in college education in Ontario to affirm the rights of education workers and the right of youth to a modern education system. They have shown that the CEC is totally incapable or unwilling to recognize either the needs and interests of students or those of faculty.  Faculty have exposed the plans of the CEC to attack the human factor, the most important factor in education, through increasing reliance on artificial intelligence and robotics within two decades. They have vitalized the struggle against the super-exploitation of part-time, sessional and contract work. College students have seen that if faculty, who prepare the youth of this province through education and training, cannot have work with stability and rights, then what chance do the youth have?

The CEC, despite support from some members of the College Student Alliance, was unable to mobilize students against faculty. They put the entire college system through five weeks of torture in order to impose their will and that of the monopolies and the rich on the college community. Students rejected the CEC line that faculty were greedy and were putting students' lives at risk for faculty's own greedy aims and they supported faculty's position that the struggle was for a college system that is adequately funded, recognizes the rights of all the members of the college community and that seeks to give them a guarantee.

Faculty return to work at Fleming College, November 20, 2017.

The CEC and the Ontario government never sought to bargain with the faculty bargaining team in a way designed to resolve the dispute and provide a framework for resolving the issues facing the college system. The CEC took the position that faculty must limit their demands to what is acceptable to the CEC and the Ontario government. When faculty refused and persisted in raising demands that would deal with the underlying problems in the college system, the CEC declared that faculty demands were unaffordable and hence unreasonable. This, despite the fact that Ontario only funds its colleges at 60 per cent of the Canadian average.

Despite faculty's constant appeals to the CEC to return to the bargaining table, the CEC refused. Only after three weeks did the CEC return to the table for a few days, and then when due to union concessions, a deal was near, the CEC abruptly walked out of the negotiations and insisted on a forced vote on its last offer, extending the dispute for another ten days. Even after the overwhelming NO vote, the CEC refused to bargain or to send the matter to binding arbitration. Instead, Kathleen Wynne stepped in to order faculty back to work and impose binding arbitration-mediation on the parties. In doing so, she pulled the CEC's chestnuts out of the fire without addressing any of the problems facing the Ontario college system.

Now that we have a return-to-work, college management is refusing to consult with faculty and students to determine a return-to-work protocol that serves the interests of all members of the college system. Instead, they are insisting on a back-to-work process that will complete the college year by the end of next April. If the colleges can be forced into a schedule that is completed by the end of April, they will save many tens of millions in faculty salaries and student reimbursement.

One thing that should be noted is that the back-to-work sleight-of-hand of the Ontario government has eliminated a task force inquiry into the Ontario college system that would have reported within six months, in May, about a month before the next provincial election. This would have put the issue of the colleges four-square in the forefront of the election campaign. This task force was supposedly agreed upon in bargaining in the few days before the CEC abruptly changed course, withdrew from the bargaining table and applied for the forced vote. Now, a task force inquiry depends upon the decision of the mediator-arbitrator. It may come about or it may not. In any case, any report is almost certainly delayed to after the election, a development that cannot but help the Wynne Liberals.

Faculty return to work at Mohawk College, November 20, 2017.

The actions of the CEC have cost the Ontario economy hundreds of millions of dollars. Lost faculty salaries near $100 million and students are due compensation for their lives being put on hold and the stress that is being imposed on them. The government has been forced to offer compensation to students, albeit much less than what is reasonably due. Students have been offered tuition refunds if they withdraw within two weeks. These actions smell of random motion as the government seeks to stem the damage to its reputation and chances of re-election next June. They fail to adequately compensate students for the havoc that has been wreaked upon their lives.

The legislative debates on Bill 178 took just less than two-and-a-half hours for all three readings. The Liberals and Conservatives showed contempt for the colleges, students and faculty and all working people in Ontario by refusing to permit any discussion on the significance of the legislation and instead pushing it through without debate. That less than half of their members even attended reveals their callous disregard for the rights of working people and the importance of ensuring that they are held to account. Showing their cowardice and fear of the working people, neither Premier Kathleen Wynne nor Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown even bothered to speak at second or third reading! Those Liberals and Conservatives who did speak blamed faculty for the dispute and the NDP for allegedly delaying students' return to classes by refusing to pass the back-to-work legislation in one day without any examination of the proposed legislation. Neither addressed the substantive issues facing the colleges which college faculty and students had brought to everyone's attention.

Faculty return to Sault College, November 20, 2017.

Now the work is to make sure that this moral victory of Ontario college faculty is transformed into a material victory. The need is to take the struggle to fund Ontario colleges at the Canadian level and the struggle to defend the rights of all through to completion. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives are refusing to recognize that Ontario colleges suffer from chronic underfunding. Denial of rights stems from this underfunding and the desire of the rich and the monopolies to have a college system that serves their interests and not those of the youth and people of Ontario.

Faculty are back-to-work but the struggle remains, albeit in a new form. The upcoming Ontario election and the period leading up to it provide faculty with an opportunity to advance their struggle and that of the entire college community. Faculty and students have put Ontario colleges and their need for renewal at the centre of the political agenda of the province. They need to keep up this struggle. In 2007, the Liberal government sought to keep the colleges off the political agenda of the election; in 2017 they sought to accomplish the same aim by manoeuvring that any task force into the situation not report until after the next election. Ontario college faculty and students cannot afford to allow another sleight-of-hand to prevent the colleges being given their due regard in the election campaign. The demand to fund Ontario colleges at a Canadian level and to recognize the rights of all must be addressed.

Faculty and students must work to keep the issue of the colleges in the public eye in the period leading up to the election and during the election. Now is the time to discuss how students and faculty can intervene in the election campaign to continue raising their demands.

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Finance Minister Morneau's Company Takes Control of Stelco Pensions

Parasites Feeding Off Workers' Pensions

The problem with Finance Minister Bill Morneau shaping federal pension legislation to benefit his own company Morneau Shepell is not just one of individual corruption. The problem goes deeper into the parasitism and corruption generally of a system where private companies systematically take money from workers' pensions, and pensions for all at a Canadian standard are far from a reality.

Private companies should have nothing to do with pensions. Pensions are not a productive enterprise. Pensions form part of workers' claim on produced value for having sold their capacity to work. Any private profit taken from pensions is similar to the corrupt usury of payday loans where a portion of wages is stolen from workers.

The administration of pensions, in whatever form they may now exist and any investment of pension funds should be a public service handled by a state enterprise with no user fee demanded or expected. No money should be removed from the pension funds either as profit or for administrative work.

The backward outlook of governments and the ruling imperialist elite insists all economic activity should profit a privileged few who own and control the economy. The governing outlook is corrupt and backward and needs to be replaced with a modern pro-social outlook.

A modern outlook puts the actual producers and their needs and well-being at the centre of the economy and in control of all affairs that affect their work and life. The aim of the economy should be to uphold the rights of all including their economic right to a Canadian-standard livelihood from birth to passing away.

The modern economy is essentially social, reflecting the modern productive interconnected forces of industrial mass production and one producing social class, the working class that works cooperatively. The outlook and aim governing the economy should conform to the social nature of the modern productive forces. A socialized economy needs socialized relations of production where the actual producers are in control of what they produce and its distribution. Class privilege and parasitism such as that of private interests robbing pensions should be banned.

Morneau Shepell pension workers are not state employees working to provide a public service or deliver a social program. State employees sell their capacity to work to the state agency, which then uses their work-time to provide a public service or social program. A public service on principle should be available to all regardless of social position or wealth and thus be without a user fee. This is not the case when the governing outlook is anti-social and user fees are charged for public services or worse when the public service is privatized such as the case with Morneau Shepell and pension administration.

Workers sell their capacity to work to Morneau's private company. Morneau Shepell then uses their work-time to administer pensions for a contracted user fee. The user fee paid to Morneau Shepell for its employees to administer pensions exceeds the amount the company pays workers for their capacity to work and any material and equipment consumed in the process. The extra amount in the user fee goes to the owners as parasitical profit and is totally without merit. Needless to say the entire user fee drains money from the pension funds and should be banned as a corrupt practice.

Workers engaged in the administration of pensions as a public service and those employed with parasitical companies such as Morneau Shepell are equally educated, skilled and capable. The added layer of parasites who own and control the private companies and claim corporate profit for the public service their workers provide is completely unnecessary, parasitic and corrupt. Aside from the entire user fee draining pension funds, the corporate profit goes into the coffers of the rich such as Finance Minister Morneau who stuff it away in tax havens or buy villas in France.

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Administration of Stelco Pensions for
a Contracted User Fee

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSC) issued a statement on November 15, announcing Morneau Shepell Ltd. would take over the administration of Stelco's five defined benefit pension plans effective January 1, 2018. The FSC announcement follows word last month that it had contracted Morneau Shepell to administer the Registered Retirement Plan of workers employed by Sears, which is currently winding up its operations under the police powers of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).

The appointment, for a contracted user fee, of a private administrator is another blow against Stelco's defined benefit pension plans, which are now off the balance sheet and closed to new hires. The destruction of Stelco workers' defined benefit pensions and other post-employment benefits (OPEBs) or "legacy liabilities," as the rich so contemptuously call them, has been the aim of the ruling imperialist elite in control of Stelco since 2003.

With courage and resolve, steelworkers led by Local 1005 USW resisted the anti-social aim of those in control. Using the police powers of the CCAA and the immense social wealth, connections and continent-wide steel production of U.S. Steel, the imperialists have now completed this particular battle and aim. To take the defined benefit pensions and OPEBs off Stelco's balance sheet and deny them to new hires took the imperialists fourteen years, two rounds within CCAA, repeated lock-outs of steelworkers, the wrecking of much of Stelco's productive capacity including the blast furnace in Hamilton greatly reducing the number of active workers, the transfer of steel customers to U.S. Steel's U.S. mills, the removal of enormous social wealth from Stelco through corrupt practices in particular following the first bout in CCAA, and multiple changes of ownership and control.

The elimination of defined benefit pensions and OPEBs at Stelco for new hires is part of the ongoing destruction of these programs throughout the private sectors of the economy. This lowers the standard of living of the Canadian working class concentrating even greater social wealth that workers produce in the hands of the rich. The ruling imperialist elite are now working to arrange the legalized elimination of defined benefit pensions in the public sector with the Trudeau/Morneau anti-social Bill C-27. The defined benefit pensions of Canada Post workers appear to be the first slated for destruction but postal workers are determined to defend them in a protracted battle.

With the addition of Stelco's five pension plans, Morneau Shepell expands its empire. Finance Minister Morneau's company now administers for lucrative user fees 40 per cent of the pension funds of workers employed in the largest 500 companies in Canada.

Instead of administering the Stelco pensions as a public service without user fees including company profit deducted from the existing pension funds, the Ontario government through its Financial Services Commission has acted as an agent for the expansion of the Morneau private empire. The CCAA, FSC and federal pension legislation such as Bill C-27 are weapons used to legalize the theft of what belongs to workers by right.

Steelworkers note that as per usual with these sorts of anti-worker announcements, the ruling imperialist elite trot out their experts in the universities, think tanks and media to mystify and prettify the pay-the-rich schemes and attacks on workers. Ignoring the fact that the new owners of Stelco have effectively eliminated defined benefit pensions and OPEBs as a social responsibility of the company, a Hamilton professor deflected attention towards the notion that existing Stelco pension plans are in better shape than those of the Sears workers. "It doesn't mean Stelco pensions won't be reduced at some point in the future," the accommodated professor is quoted as saying in the local media. "It's too early to know what kind of hair cut might be required because we don't know how much money might come in," the professor of the rich added before going on to praise fellow members of the ruling imperialist elite, in this case the owners of Morneau Shepell and Finance Minister Morneau, as running "the gold standard" of a pension service for fat user fees and private gain.

Hamilton steelworkers in summing up their experience, say the direction of the governments in general is anti-worker and corrupt with the use of CCAA, legislation and other weapons. In particular, the corrupt stench of the Stelco case wafts from Ottawa, to Toronto and Hamilton, as Liberal governments federally and in Ontario hand out profitable public service contracts to a Liberal-connected pension administration company whose principal owner is Trudeau's Finance Minister.

Instead of defending the pensions and benefits workers now have and extending defined benefit Canadian standard pensions to all, the governments are sinking deeper into the cesspool of corruption, class privilege and the denial of workers' rights. They are turning pensions into avenues of profit for private interests and leaving millions of retired workers to fend for themselves. The entire direction is wrong. The working class has the social responsibility to organize itself and fight to put an end to this direction and forge a new pro-social direction for the economy and country.

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  Striking Quebec Metallurgical Workers Step Up National
and International Campaign 

Step Up Support for CEZinc Workers Fighting
for Their Dignity and Rights!

The 371 workers at CEZinc in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield began the tenth month of their strike in defence of their rights and their dignity as workers on November 12. They are continuing to reject the unacceptable concessions demanded by the employer, Noranda Income Fund-Glencore.

The concessions relate in particular to the pension fund. CEZinc wants to introduce a system of gradually shifting wages to contributions to the pension plan. The company also proposes to reduce the value it puts into the pension plan by the same amount. This would directly lower workers' wages while increasing the corporate claim on the new value workers produce. CEZinc also wants an increase in the age at which workers can take early retirement. Early retirement is a necessity for these plant workers because they work in an environment full of highly toxic products.

CEZinc workers steadfastly reject these concessions. They do so out of respect for the workers who came before them who fought for the pension plan and their working conditions, in a spirit of dignity for the work they do under very difficult conditions, and because such concessions would begin a downward slide leading to other demands for workers to give up what they have achieved. On the picket lines, workers carry signs that say, among other things, "We will not back down!"

On the other hand what is the motivation of the Noranda Income Fund and the mining giant Glencore, which as the owner of 25 per cent of the fund is in a controlling position, as well as being the exclusive supplier of zinc concentrate input for the refinery and the exclusive buyer of the zinc metal output? To enrich themselves even more, when they are already drowning in wealth, by lowering the conditions of the workers? The manipulation of the price of zinc in the context of collusion and rivalry between monopolies for market control and empire-building? An insider deal and accounting manoeuvres within the Glencore Income Fund? All of the above! Nothing pro-social or pro-worker in there! Nothing that has anything to do with solving the problems of the mining sector! Just the narrow private interest that is imposed on the workers and the community despite all the damage it causes.

The workers are continuing their just strike and are rightly asking for increased support from other workers and the community, in Quebec, Canada and around the world.

In this regard, they undertook the "Adopt a Striker" campaign, whereby steelworker locals across Canada are asked to make a recurring donation to a striker, in the amount and frequency of their choice, no matter how long the strike lasts.

They are asking workers and their allies to send a message to the executives of the Noranda Income Fund and Glencore expressing their support for the strikers.[1]

The message reads as follows:


I am writing to show my support for the 371 CEZinc workers who have been on strike since last February in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield.

On October 2, they rejected the latest employer offers, which were very similar to those that led to the strike in February, in a proportion of 97 per cent. The result is clear: the concessions requested are unacceptable.

The demands of the employer reflect a lack of appreciation for employees and the difficult conditions of their work.

You occupy a key position in the company. In doing so, you are partly responsible for what 371 families are going through today. And beyond the unionized, it is the entire community of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield that suffers. We call upon you to play a positive role in resolving this conflict. The strikers are strong, so is the solidarity. Trade unionists from all over Quebec and around the world support them. They will not go on their knees.

But the longer this strike lasts, the more difficult the return will be and this risks jeopardizing labour relations when they are back. It is not too late to negotiate in good faith a fair contract for the benefit of all.

Thank you for your attention.

A supporter of USW Local 6486 members.

In addition, the United Steelworkers launched a worldwide campaign against Glencore to help settle the strike in a way that is acceptable to the workers. Representatives of CEZinc strikers took part in actions in Toronto, Switzerland, Australia and Colombia to gather support for their struggle and express their support for other workers around the world who are facing the attacks of the Glencore global monopoly against their rights.

On November 9, the Executive Committee of IndustriALL, the international union that according to its website represents 50 million workers in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors in 140 countries, endorsed the global campaign against Glencore.

In its press release, the Executive Committee mentions that Glencore workers in at least three countries are waging a bitter fight against the company's attacks. Besides the Salaberry-de-Valleyfield strike, there is a lockout that has been going on since last May of workers at the Oaky North mine in Australia who are fighting against the company's attempt to replace them with sub-contractors. In South Africa, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa is waging a campaign for a living wage at Glencore operations and for nation-wide collective bargaining and harmonization of conditions at all Glencore operations. The company has recently denied union officials access to its sites. It employs 27,000 workers in South Africa.

The struggle of the CEZinc workers continues and deserves everyone's support.

All Out to Support the Striking CEZinc Workers!
Glencore Fights for Its Narrow Private Monopoly Interest at the Expense
of the Workers and of All!
CEZinc Workers Are Fighting for Their Rights as Producers of the Social Wealth
and Against the Lowering of the Standard of Living of All!


1. To sign the message of support for CEZinc strikers, click here

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Propaganda About Labour Shortage in the Trucking Industry

Truckers Discuss the Necessity to Organize to
Defend Their Rights Under All Conditions

A big illusion is being promoted within the movement for the defence of the rights of truckers in Quebec and Canada. The major employers and media are talking a lot about a labour shortage that allegedly exists in the sector. This labour shortage, according to them, will push the big transportation companies to improve the working conditions of truckers, as an imbalance between supply and demand will favour truckers. In such a concocted scenario, the organized fight of the truckers in defence of their rights, their dignity and for a new pro-social direction for their industry is not necessary.

The illusion being spread to paralyze truckers is all the more dangerous because not only does it seek to make truck drivers believe that changes will occur naturally through supply and demand but that the ruling circles, the people in control at all levels who are responsible for the recurring crises and problems, will magically change their outlook and ways on their own. The fairy tale is that the conditions of a labour shortage will cause the big companies to adapt and find new solutions that will benefit the truckers, without the truck drivers having to lift a finger to organize and wage actions with analysis to defend their rights.[1]

On the contrary, in the midst of major technological transformations and upheavals in all transportation industries and the building of new major trade corridors and transport routes, the situation requires great vigilance and foresight. The need for independent organizing and thinking of truckers has never been greater or more urgent. The task to defend their rights belongs to the truckers themselves. No remedy will come from the gods of plague.

Any shortage of workers that may occur in transportation, as elsewhere in the economy, has never slowed the deterioration of the working conditions of truckers and attacks on their rights. Any imbalance between supply and demand whether real or imagined has never forced the ruling circles of industry to adapt their behaviour in favour of the interests of the working class. They always find ways to favour their own interests. The preoccupation of those in control is always how to make conditions favourable for their own narrow private interests.

Quebec truckers convoy arrives at the Quebec National Assembly, November 19, 2016.

Some may point to specific or temporary improvements but these have always been at the insistence of truckers. Overall, the basic situation of truck drivers has recently deteriorated dramatically. The concrete conditions have propelled truckers to demand an immediate increase in wages and improvement of working conditions, and the effective recognition of their work as a trade of national importance to ensure their safety and that of new drivers who are joining the industry and the public.

Example of Intermodal Truckers in the United States

The case of the 100,000 intermodal truckers in the United States is indicative of the kind of workforce that is being created in trucking. USA Today recently had a report on the working conditions that prevail for a vast majority of intermodal truck drivers assigned to container transport at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.[2] The article reveals that immigrant drivers are forced to sign exclusive contracts with certain container transport companies. The contracts decide all aspects of what the truckers life is to be, as if they are slaves. Many drivers are forced into debt to purchase an expensive truck that meets California's environmental requirements. The transport companies then use the truckers' debts as a means to coerce and lock them into arrangements that leave them totally powerless with regard to their working and living conditions. If they leave the job, they lose their trucks and livelihood but not their debt. If they are sick or absent due to fatigue or family reasons, they may be fired and likewise lose their trucks.

Many drivers are forced to pay for things that are usually the responsibility of employers and end up working without any claim on the value they produce. At times, they even owe money to their employer, despite working days of 15 or more hours. These working conditions result in hundreds of work accidents. More than 40 drivers have died in recent years as a result of work accidents in these two ports alone. These conditions are reminiscent of the company steel and coal towns in the song "Sixteen Tons" where workers had to buy everything from the company store, effectively returning their entire wages and more to their employer. Their wages were often paid in company vouchers redeemable only at the company store. Only determined trade union organizing and battles ended these inhumane anti-worker practices.

Here is an interesting quote from the USA Today report:

"Prominent civil rights leader Julian Bond once called California port truckers the new black tenant farmers of the post-civil-war South. Sharecroppers from that era rented farmland to make their living and regularly fell into debt to their landlords. Widespread predatory practices made it nearly impossible for the farmers to climb out."

However, intimidation and a culture of fear have not prevented more than 1,000 California drivers from raising formal complaints about their suffering since 2010. The struggle of these intermodal truckers, who have decided to speak openly about the conditions they face, finally created a breach in public opinion. The exposure of their conditions compelled workers in other sectors of the economy and public opinion generally to force certain big distribution monopolies such as Costco, Walmart and Target to cancel some deliveries of containers from the network of transport companies in question. The battle of the truckers and their resolve to break the silence on their conditions has forced their situation into the open where now even the mass media cannot deny that such backward conditions exist and must be stopped.

Only the organized resistance of the truckers will decide if these inhumane practices will be overcome throughout Canada and the United States. Transport workers must continue to break the silence themselves on the conditions in their own sectors and to lead their own battles. This struggle for their rights and to humanize their workplace unites with all others fighting for their rights. A determined organized struggle can halt the downward spiral of working conditions and create a workforce that does the work but is proud and determined to do so only when their rights are recognized and respected within a humane environment.

Washington DC picket by U.S. truckers outside the Department of Transport in October 2017 as
part of national days of action by truckers in defence of their rights.

Those who propagate illusions within the truckers' movement that a shortage of workers and a compliant ownership will change conditions for the better want to paralyze truckers and stop them from organizing and waging battles in defence of their rights. Do not forget that one constant remains: workers can only rely on themselves within their collectives to defend their rights.

The ruling circles will generate panic regardless whether a shortage of workers exists or not. Their widespread calls to bring in workers from abroad to expand the pool of workers reveals only that they hate what they call "full employment" because it denies them one weapon in their class war to exploit the working class. The ad nauseam repetition of the propaganda about a labour shortage that allegedly constrains economic growth has gone hand in hand with the building of an enslaving system of intermodal truckers in California that only now is being exposed. And we truckers should count on these people to find solutions to our problems and defend our rights? Certainly not!

Many truckers refuse to fall into the trap of anti-consciousness that has been set to ensnare and paralyze us. We need to build and strengthen our independent organizations and use them to develop our own thinking, reasoning, analysis and struggles, and move steadily towards a new direction for the industry and thereby contribute as a contingent of the working class to opening the doors to the progress of society.


1. For truckers, this so-called labour shortage is a real insult and double-edged sword. When no shortage of workers is said to exist, increased competition for the available jobs forces down wages and working conditions. Truckers find themselves forced to work harder without care for their personal well-being or risk losing their employment. Then, during a "shortage," carriers increase pressure on truckers to work harder and faster because of the "shortage." One way or another, the truckers pay the price unless they organize and resist.

 2. Brett Murphy, "Forced into debt. Worked past exhaustion. Left with nothing." USA Today, June 16, 2017.

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