December 21, 2017
To Affirm Their Rights, Workers Need
Collective Power to Deprive
Employers and Their State Deprive
Construction Workers of Their Rights
To Affirm Their Rights, Workers Need the Collective Power to Deprive
• Employers and Their State
Deprive Construction Workers of Their Rights
• Quebec Construction Workers Fight for
Healthy and Safe Conditions
- Interview, Simon
Lévesque, Health and Safety Director, FTQ-Construction
Maritime Workers Take
Action to Oppose Trudeau Government's Anti-National Preclearance Act
• "We are Going to Have to Fight It Through the
- Interview, Rob Ashton, President, International Longshore and
Warehouse Union, Canada
Health Care is a Right!
• Ontario Paramedics Raise Concerns Over
Changes to Ambulance Act
Interview, Jason Fraser, Chair, Canadian Union of
Public Employees Ontario Ambulance Committee
• Readers' Note
To Affirm Their Rights, Workers Need the
Collective Power to Deprive
Employers and Their State Deprive
Construction Workers of Their Rights
Construction workers are very vulnerable to abuse and
denial of their rights. In addition to the general lack of control all
workers face at their workplaces, construction employment is unstable
as it finishes when a particular project is completed. Construction
work, according to statistics and life experience itself, is a most
with frequent injuries, deaths and work-related illnesses.
In effect, the struggle of
construction workers to humanize their job sites is constant and
charged with the necessity to bring the human factor/social
consciousness to the fore and put it in command. How is this
accomplished when workers are in a subordinate position to their
employers according to the prevailing relations of production based
on the power of money, and the state regularly intervenes to
criminalize the struggle of workers in defence of their rights? The
answer lies in workers' collective power to deprive those who seek to
deprive them of their rights of the power to do so.
Employers and the state argue that the construction
project itself and its successful completion is most important and not
the human factor. They argue that the human factor must subordinate its
rights to the project and its completion, which requires curtailing the
rights of construction workers and their social consciousness. The
their state argue that the work and the value workers create for both
employers and construction workers requires subordinating all
decision-making to the demands and anti-social consciousness of the
employer to complete the work in as little time as possible and with
the least investment in the well-being and security of the workers. The
outlook of the employers and their state is irrational and desperate
and not in conformity with the modern social conditions, where rights
must be affirmed and cannot be denied, and the human factor/social
consciousness must be in command at all times.
For employers and their state to achieve their goal to
de-humanize the workplace and exercise absolute control in the manner
of medieval lords, they resort to force and state-organized
criminalizing of workers' conscience, speech and their collectives.
They attempt to deprive workers of their right collectively to make and
based on the concrete conditions of the job site to ensure a safe
working environment and to meet the needs and claims of workers for
what belongs to them by right, as the actual producers of the value the
employers so crave.
This is the modern world where people have rights by
virtue of being human. The rights of construction workers and all
working people cannot be denied or restricted in any way. Through
working people affirming their rights, transformations occur that
humanize the natural and social environment including the workplace.
Any social force
such as employers and their state that deprive working people of their
rights prove through their actions they are not fit to rule at the
workplace or in government. The working class must develop and gain the
collective power to deprive those who seek to deprive workers of their
rights just as people collectively developed and gained the power to
deprive the medieval lords of their power to deprive.
Through strengthening their collectives and affirming
their rights through actions with analysis, construction workers
together with all working people will humanize their workplaces and the
entire political, social and natural environment. Through their
collective strength, actions and modern outlook that puts the human
consciousness in first place, they will develop and gain the power to
deprive those social forces that seek to deprive the people of their
rights of their power to deprive.
Quebec Construction Workers Fight for
Healthy and Safe Conditions
Striking Quebec constructions workers march, May 24, 2017.
Quebec construction workers are stepping up their
defend their rights, including the right to work in healthy and safe
conditions. Construction workers make up 5 per cent of Quebec's
workforce and suffer 25 per cent of officially recognized
deaths. A megasite like Hydro-Québec's La Romaine
hydroelectric dam on the North Shore has seen four deaths since the
start of the work in 2009. The workers blame the working methods
and especially the fact that their voice and expertise are not listened
to when they point out dangers and the importance of prevention on
Workers' Forum recently spoke with Simon
health and safety director for the Quebec Federation of Labour
(FTQ-Construction), on the situation facing construction workers and
what the union is doing to defend workers' rights.
Workers' Forum: What is the main
work the union is
currently doing to transform the situation with respect to health and
safety on construction sites?
Simon Lévesque: The issue of
prevention is our
main work. In particular, the prevention representative appointed and
trained by the workers is at the centre of our interventions.
When the Occupational Health and Safety Act was
in 1979, legislators agreed that by 1985 the provisions of
would apply to all sectors. The construction sector is at the top of
the list in the first priority group, according to the Act. We are the
only sector of the economy that has special provisions in the
Act because we work in the most dangerous sector. Yet all these
provisions in the law about construction, that were to be enforced
by 1985, have
never been put into practice.
There has never been a politician with the courage to
provisions we were entitled to, and primarily having our prevention
representatives. This has been done for other priority groups but not
us. This law has never been functional because we have not been granted
what is in the law.
Since 2010, we have managed to get prevention
some of the biggest construction sites. We got our first decision
in 2010, from the Labour Standards, Pay Equity, and Workplace
and Safety Board (CNESST) for the construction site building the
extension to Highway 30, where we got our first
prevention representative. Then we had a decision regarding the McGill
University Health Centre, where we got five prevention representatives,
one for each of the five trade unions in the construction sector. We
asked for five because we did not want any conflict between the unions.
We did not pursue the question of representativeness, of how many
members each union has, etc. The five prevention representatives were
in the same office, working together, demonstrating that it was
This has paid off because on the other major
construction sites we
are now seeking prevention representatives, and we are presenting
demands to the CNESST when large employers refuse to give them to us.
When the employers on big sites refuse to allow prevention
representatives we ask the Board to make a decision under
section 221 of the Act. According to this article, on sites of
workers, all the accident prevention mechanisms are determined by the
CNESST. Wherever we have prevention representatives, some headway has
been made in terms of health and safety. However, the biggest employers
are using their political
influence to put pressure on the CNESST, to block us from having
prevention representatives. At the Romaine site, we had to exert a lot
of pressure through the media, especially following the latest death in
December 2016, which was the fourth death on this site, to obtain
prevention representatives on a voluntary basis. Hydro-Québec
finally agreed and we've had prevention representatives on site for
almost a year.
For prevention to work, there needs to be cooperation.
must be well integrated. All parties must participate. We must work
together for a common goal. It must be said that where we have
succeeded in getting prevention representatives cooperation has not
always been good. Besides, we want to have prevention representatives
everywhere, not just on the sites of over 500 workers. It is not
on large sites that fatal accidents happen. They happen on sites of all
We want to develop prevention representatives so that
not have a choice on whether to take the necessary measures to ensure
that work is
safe. We do not want to deal merely with issues related to personal
protective equipment. We want to tackle the real issues, what hurts and
kills our workers. We want to tackle the working methods, we
have to make sure that the right working methods are used, the right
tools, the right equipment. We must tackle the issue of health as well.
Our workers deal with a number of contaminants, solvents, things that
end up killing them in the long run. At present, there are just two
occupational diseases that are recognized in construction; asbestosis
and silica exposure.
The problem we have is that we are not being listened
to. When our
workers want to speak, they are often gotten rid of. Those who have
spoken face all kinds of reprisals. The workers are told to shut up,
that they do not have the expertise to deal with these things, that we
have to leave that to the experts. At La Romaine, workers pointed out
that the way they were being told to drill the rock was not consistent
with their experience of doing this work safely. They were told that
those matters belong to the geologists. Their experience and expertise
The prevention representative is important in
workers do not have job security. If they complain, if they call their
unions, they are targeted. Even if they make an anonymous complaint to
the CNESST it is possible to deduce from what sector the call is coming.
On the other hand, when the workers raise the issues
prevention representatives, they are more protected. The representative
is on-site full-time, dealing with workers' health and safety. They go
through him. He is their voice. He defends their point of view.
Workers' voices must be protected. Otherwise, in a situation where
is an absence of job security, employers can determine which workers
are complaining and use reprisals.
In addition to our complaints to the CNESST, we make
interventions on construction sites. If we believe that the community
must take charge of its own affairs, then we must lead by example. Just
recently, on a 15-story building, there were six floors without
railings. In 2017, we still have to fight to say that railings are
necessary! We are intervening in a vigorous way on the sites to get the
employers to apply immediate corrective measures.
Maritime Workers Take Action to Oppose
Anti-National Preclearance Act
"We are Going to Have to Fight It
Through the Regulations"
Maritime Workers at the
port of Vancouver as well as ports throughout the country have
been standing up to the Trudeau government's Bill C-23, An Act
respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the
United States. This legislation expands "preclearance," a process
for clearing customs of the
destination country before leaving the country of origin, from select
airports in Canada to land and water crossings. It permits
preclearance of cargo in Canadian facilities by U.S. agents, and
authorizes them to carry weapons and detain, search and use force
against Canadians within those facilities.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU)
fought the legislation as it moved through the House of
Commons and the Senate. Now that it has received Royal Assent, it is
continuing to fight and to inform Canadians about what this legislation
means. Along with the BC Federation of Labour and the BC Civil
Association, the ILWU organized a rally on December 16 at the
cruise ship dock at Canada Place in Vancouver, on
the last day of the cruise
ship season. Every ILWU worker at Canada Place will be directly
affected by Bill C-23 and maritime workers throughout the country will
now have to undergo security screening by both the Canadian
government and U.S. Homeland Security.
Unions and many other organizations have been active in
opposing Bill C-23 as a violation of the rights of passengers and of
workers and a violation of national sovereignty. The legislation hands
over information about Canadians to a foreign government, allows a
foreign government to determine if a Canadian worker can work or not
and invites the
police powers of a foreign government onto Canadian soil with impunity
Workers' Forum interviewed Rob Ashton,
President of the ILWU Canada after the December 16 rally.
Workers' Forum: Can you explain the
purpose of the rally at Canada Place on December 16?
Rob Ashton: The rally was organized by
my union, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, mainly by
young workers, to bring awareness of what the Canadian government is
doing with Bill C-23. Irene Lanzinger, the President of the BC
Federation of Labour, and Josh Paterson from the BC Civil
Liberties Association also spoke there. The rally was organized on very
short notice at a time when people are busy with other things so we
think it was quite successful.
Bill C-23 is legislation that was negotiated in secret
between the Harper government and the Obama government in 2015 and
was rammed through the House of Commons and the Senate faster than a
bullet train. We did not succeed in getting it changed before it passed
and received Royal Assent on December 12. Now it is at the
regulation stage and we are going to have to fight it through the
It's important to know the history of the security
clearance program. After 9/11 the Canadian government came out
with the Marine Transportation Security Clearance program. The maritime
unions, including the ILWU, pushed back because it was too intrusive
and too overbearing. In order to work at Canada Place where the cruise
dock in Vancouver, a maritime worker has to have security clearance,
has to submit fingerprints and undergo a detailed background check.
There are lots of problems with it but there is a grievance procedure
written into it.
Under Bill C-23, after a worker gets that security
clearance from the Canadian government, which means that they are
cleared to work in locations like Canada Place, their name and
birthdate and other information will be sent by the Canadian government
to U.S. Homeland Security for screening. If U.S. Homeland Security
"derogatory comment" then the worker may lose his or her security
clearance. We don't know what is meant by a "derogatory comment." We
have asked government officials and no one can tell us. We know the
Trump administration's attitude and actions towards Muslims, minorities
and immigrants. We have a large number of South Asian
workers and we need to protect all the workers from attacks on their
Another concern we have is about the powers and the
immunity given to American border guards in Canada. If an American
border guard commits any crime in Canada he or she is deemed immune to
any charges in Canada. The American border guards will have to travel
back to the USA to face possible prosecution by their government. With
this bill the American border guards will also have the ability to deal
with workers, detain them, and possibly strip search them.
What we have said all along, to the House of Commons, to
MPs, to Senators, is that if the Canadian government approves someone
to work in Canada no other party should have the authority to take that
away. We had
some support. At the House of Commons Committee on Public Safety, Diane
Watts, a Conservative MP from BC, moved our technical amendment to that
effect and it was seconded by Matthew Dubé, an NDP MP from
amendment was defeated. In the Senate there was also support from some
Senators. On the last day of the three-day
Senate process there is line by line review of legislation. Even though
this was a big bill, instead of the normal one to two hours review,
C-23 was passed in six minutes and 55 seconds.
WF: Besides the concerns
about racial profiling and targeting national minority workers do you
have other concerns?
RA: We have concerns about everyone. Right
now if I want to travel to the U.S. and I enter a preclearance area
then I change my mind and decide not to travel, I can just leave.
Under this legislation once I walk into preclearance I will not be
allowed to leave until I answer to their satisfaction, whatever
questions the American border guards want to ask. It goes so far as to
allow a U.S. border guard to strip search a Canadian passenger without
a Canadian official present.
We are concerned that with these powers U.S. Homeland
Security can deny the right to work to any Canadian maritime worker on
any grounds and that could include being an outspoken opponent of this
legislation. This will impact all maritime workers who need security
clearance. That includes everyone at the Canada Place cruise
ship terminal and certain other workers in the port, but not all. A
worker with a security clearance has to reapply every five years. For
workers that already have the security clearance it's when you reapply
that your application goes to Homeland Security. We have a hall
dispatch system so we process about 50 to 300 workers a day for
Canada Place during cruise ship season. We estimate that up
to 2,000 workers could be affected by this.
WF: You have raised both the question
of workers' rights and national sovereignty. Can you elaborate?
RA: Trudeau talks about defending the
middle class. My members are working class, not middle class and what
the Trudeau government is doing is attacking the working class. It
that you are middle class if you are a white male making millions of
dollars a year. As far as I am concerned the Canadian government has
just told the world that they will not defend Canadian sovereignty. Our
position is that if a Canadian worker is cleared by the Canadian
government to work in Canada then no foreign government has the right
to take that away.
WF: What other actions do you have
RA: We've been told by Transport Canada
that we have 18 to 24 months to deal with the regulations so
the rallies will get bigger and bigger and we are not going to stop
until we have peace for the working class because the
working class in this country has been hoodwinked for a long time. They
were told during the election that the government would take care of
the working class and all it is doing is attacking them.
Health Care is a Right!
Ontario Paramedics Raise Concerns Over Changes
to Ambulance Act
On December 12, paramedics from many Ontario cities
converged on Queen's Park to oppose dangerous changes to the Ambulance
Act made as part of the massive omnibus Bill 160, the Strengthening
Act. The bill was adopted
after third reading on
December 12 and received Royal Assent the same day.
Bill 160 was tabled by the Wynne Liberal
September 27, which went full steam ahead to push the bill
Despite the fact that the bill repeals or enacts seven entire Acts and
amends more than 30 others, only four days of public hearings were
held, all in Toronto. Health care unions denounce
Bill 160 for pushing significant new privatization and further
threatening local public hospitals. The paramedics' action at Queen's
Park focused on Schedule 1 of the bill amending the Ambulance
Act. Posted below is an interview with Jason Fraser, Chair of the
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario
Ambulance Committee (CAPO). There are about 8,000 paramedics in
Ontario and CAPO represents roughly 5,000 of them.
Workers' Forum: What are the main
changes to the Ambulance Act in Bill 160?
Jason Fraser: Schedule 1 is the
of Bill 160 that CAPO and Ontario paramedics are concerned with
amendments are in two parts. One amendment is regarding diverting
patients who call 911 for emergency medical care away from
hospitals. The second part, which is a big
concern to us, is the part that allows the Minister to make amendments
to the Act, including allowing two pilot sites for the purpose of
allowing people trained as paramedics to work on firetrucks. The
government is saying they want to test this. They are looking for two
host municipalities to be pilot sites for paramedics working on
As far as the diverting of patients is concerned, we
still 100 per cent sure of what that would mean. Our take on it is
when we arrive on scene, rather than taking somebody to a traditional
emergency room, they will be taken to another facility such as a mental
health facility. That seems to be the example that government
always gives us. Provided that there are the proper regulations and
protocols in place, and that the patients are going to publicly-funded,
not-for-profit facilities, we are not opposed to that part. But we need
to make sure that the regulations, the policies and the protocols are
in place to not only protect the patients but also protect the
Also, we are not interested in taking people to private facilities by
any means. We are still unsure of who will make that decision, to take
the patient to a facility other than the traditional emergency room of
a hospital. We did not request this change. We have been taking
patients to hospitals for years and it is working. Maybe the
the hospitals is a factor that explains why this diverting is being put
into the law, but then providing proper funding for the hospitals would
help the health care system to deal with this problem.
The second part is to allow people that are trained as
that currently work in fire services to work on firetrucks and perform
paramedic duties. We find that very problematic. That is our work. That
is the work we do. There is no evidence that a paramedic working on a
firetruck would mean an improvement in patient care over the
care that is currently provided. We also see this as an increase of
liability for municipalities, because there are currently no
regulations, no protocols and no quality assurance programs to oversee
paramedic work on a fire truck. In Ontario, the municipalities are the
employers of the paramedics. The funding of the paramedic services is
split 50-50 between the provincial government and the
Paramedics in Ontario that provide paramedic services are highly
regulated. There is extensive oversight, regulations and compliances in
place to ensure the safety of patients and that system just does not
exist in fire services in regards to patient care.
If the provincial Liberal government feels there is a
increase the number of paramedics working, that are able to provide
patient care in the communities, they should be investing money back
into the paramedic services that already exist and not duplicate the
At the moment, there is no such thing as a fire-medic
Ontario. You can work as a full-time firefighter in the province and
also work part-time as a paramedic, but you are doing your paramedic
service on our trucks, based on the regulations and oversight of our
We do not agree that this model should be introduced
seems to be able to answer why it is being introduced. All the union
groups that represent paramedics are opposed to it. The Association of
Municipalities of Ontario is opposed to it.
Over the course of the summer, before the bill was
right up until the third reading of the bill, we had several meetings
with people at the Ministry of Health who were working on the file. We
talked to several MPPs and also the Minister of Health, in the first
week of October. We were not listened to. The Minister invited CUPE to
make amendments that we could be comfortable with. CUPE did that. We
proposed amendments but they were not accepted.
We have serious concerns about the patients. We are
out for our patients to make sure that they have the best available
care and we want to continue to provide that. The government should
increase the funding for the existing paramedic services, not reinvent
the wheel and introduce a second system. Fire suppression and fire
prevention and paramedic services are two different jobs. Proper
funding for paramedic services and proper funding for hospitals as
well, would help the overall system.
With this issue, Workers'
Forum ceases publication for
this year. Our next issue will be produced on January 18 before
the new session of Parliament is set to begin. During the break, we
invite you to join in the work of the Workers' Centre to set the course
for a successful New Year in the light of all the challenges which face
workers' movement. To reach us, send an email to:
The Workers' Centre of CPC(M-L) and the Editorial and
Technical Staff of Workers' Forum
wish all readers season's greetings
and a safe and happy New Year.
Chénier Secretary, Workers' Centre, CPC(M-L)
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