January 25, 2018
Workers Fight to Get Canada Post to
Recognize Their Rights
Negotiations at the Post Office and the
Destruction of the Principle of Universality
• Negotiations at the Post Office and the
Destruction of the
Principle of Universality -
Hamilton Specialty Bar
• Another Grand Theft in the Steel Industry
Quebec Law Further
Criminalizes Construction Workers
• Strengthening Police Powers Will Not Solve
the Problems of the Workers
• Interview, Richard Goyette, Former
General Director of FTQ-Construction
• Changes to Construction Regulations
Workers Fight to Get Canada Post to
Recognize Their Rights
Negotiations at the Post Office and the Destruction of
the Principle of Universality
Negotiations are taking place between Canada Post and
Union of Postal Workers. The contract of the Rural and Suburban Mail
Carriers (RSMC) expired on December 31, 2017, and the
contract of the
Urban Operations group expires on January 31.
Postal workers' defence of the public Post Office is a
good example of their defence of nation-building and the rights of all.
Amongst other thing, their struggle defends the principle of
universality. In Canada, one of the principles of nation-building since
its founding was the principle of universality. It was one of the
reasons given for why each separate British dominion should become part
of Canada. It was said that, by uniting, everyone would enjoy the same
standard of living and protection irrespective of their specific
conditions. There would be no "have" and "have-not" provinces. Regions
far from urban centres would not be deprived of the universal standard
of health care, or services of any kind, due to their remote location,
smaller populations, colder climate, topography or economic
circumstances. In this context, a national postal system was
established to provide service at a uniform price to all Canadians
regardless of location and this has been essential for the development
of Canada right from the beginning.
Of course, one of the reasons for the uniform prices was to facilitate
the circulation of necessary business information. A public postal
monopoly owned by the government was the most effective way to pool
enough capital to create a system of communications vast enough to
connect business addresses throughout the country and send out their
catalogues and bills.
Abiding by the principle of universality means that the
price to send a letter across the street in Toronto is the same as
mailing it to Chicoutimi. To guarantee universality, Canada Post
shifts some of the added-value postal workers produce from delivering a
letter across the street in Toronto towards the transporting of a
letter from the city all the way to Chicoutimi. A universal price and
service to all Canadians regardless of location affects the overall
rate of profit. In the case of mail, the added-value workers produce in
relation to the total value decreases as the distance increases. This
lowers the overall rate of profit for the corporation.
Canada Post is still a Crown Corporation, not a private
business. However it is privatizing the most profitable sections of the
and this negates nation-building. Through the privatization and
deregulation of postal services, the ruling class seeks to eliminate
the principle of universality both in words and in deeds. This means
added-value workers produce from delivering mail shorter distances will
not be used to subsidize the transporting of mail greater distances.
Private companies would deliver mail, including packages, in the large
urban centres and this production would be separate from the
still-public delivery of mail in the rural and outlying suburban areas
country. To build their empires, the private companies seize for
themselves the entire added-value urban postal workers produce rather
than have that value go towards nation-building for which, in Canada,
it is necessary to provide the principle of universality with a
At Canada Post, privatization and deregulation has been
going on for many years. As a result of the deregulation of the
delivery of parcels by the Liberal government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau
in the early 1980s Canada Post has lost its state-mandated monopoly on
package distribution to the global monopolies FedEx, UPS and DHL, which
deprives Canada Post and Canadians of much needed added-value that
could go both into renewing the post office and to general state
revenue for investments in social programs.
The fact of the matter is that both Liberal and
government appointments to head Canada Post -- Moya Greene by the
Liberals and Deepak Chopra, (past-President of Pitney Bowes Canada) by
the Conservatives --
were appointed to oversee the chopping up of the universal postal
In 2005, when Moya Greene was appointed CEO of
Canada Post by the Paul
Martin Liberals, she made it clear in one of her first speeches that
the exclusive privilege and universal service obligation were
"restrictions from the past" that needed to be eliminated through
deregulation. She said, "In order for deregulation to succeed it has to
happen gradually. In the places where it was successful, it gave postal
administrations more freedom to compete and adjust to the economic
With the appointment of Deepak Chopra by the Harper
Canada Post stepped up its systematic selling off of postal franchises
to Shopper's Drug Mart and other retailers located near retail Postal
With Bill C-9, a federal budget bill in 2010, the
succeeded in taking international letters out of the exclusive
privilege of Canada Post. With this bill the government legalized the
already existing illegal operations of businesses known as "remailers"
that were handling letters bound for international destinations. By
sneaking deregulation into a budget bill to avoid debate, Harper
enabled large private mailers to take millions of dollars of revenue
from Canada Post each year.
The direction of the Trudeau government now is no
their so-called new vision of Canada Post, they have replaced the need
for a public post office and a universal postal service with some vague
promises that all Canadians are entitled to "high quality postal
service at a reasonable price." They have kept the final decision about
what is "high quality" and what is a "reasonable price" in their own
The backward trend towards privatization and
accompanied with constant downward pressure on the claims of postal
workers on the value they produce in the form of wages, benefits and
pensions. The main weapon in the attack on postal workers is the
government use of legislation to criminalize the class struggle of the
working class to defend its rights and improve its terms of employment
-- the direct claim on the value it produces, which makes up a large
of its standard of living. Within this the workers face the problem of
misuse of negotiations to get concessions which are unsustainable. In
fact, limitations are often imposed by both employers and
governments which dictate parameters within which the workers are
permitted to negotiate. The parameters are based on realizing
neo-liberal objectives which harm the workers' interests but the
given no say in the matter.
The other claim of the working class on the value it
produces is through the defence of social programs, which are also
under attack and being reduced, not improved through needed investments.
All this shows that the struggle of the postal workers
rights is a matter which concerns all Canadians, not just postal
workers. When the postal workers fight to defend their rights and a
public post office, it is an integral part of nation-building, which in
Canada includes the affirmation of the principle of universality.
Hamilton Specialty Bar in Receivership
Another Grand Theft in the Steel Industry
The bankruptcy of Hamilton
Specialty Bar has thrown the lives of 220 steelworkers and
salaried employees and 400 pensioners into turmoil. The wrecking
of the Canadian steel industry
and the ramifications of this on workers and their economy and
communities are a profound concern for all. Working people in Hamilton
throughout the country are taking up their social responsibility to
deliberate on this crisis and discuss ways to turn the situation around
in their favour and organize to bring into being a new direction for
the economy with a modern aim to guarantee the well-being and rights of
all. This requires a working class front strong enough to deprive the
ruling imperialist elite of the power to constantly rain these
disasters down on the people.
Workers at Hamilton Special Bar, formerly a unit within
Slater Steel, produce carbon and alloy steels for the automotive, heavy
truck, off-road, mining, forging, cold finish and service centre
sectors. The company went into bankruptcy protection 14 years ago
under the Companies' Creditors
Arrangement Act (CCAA). A U.S. holding company
called Delaware Street Capital bought the Hamilton unit and then,
in 2007, flipped it to another U.S. holding company led by
Capital. To continue in operation, the new owners demanded wage and
other concessions from steelworkers including the destruction of their
defined-benefit pension plan. This leaves retirees today with nothing
other than what they have accumulated in a savings fund to augment the
amount they receive from the Canada Pension Plan. With the
current bankruptcy protection, the trustee in charge also informed the
retirees that their Other Post-Employment Benefits, mainly medical
benefits, have been suspended. Hamilton Specialty Bar, which began
in 1910 as the Canada Steel Company and later became Slater Steel,
is yet another Canadian company that has become victim to the
nation-wrecking of the financial swindlers who compete for domination
on a global scale at this time.
In early January, the
holding company told the 170
steelworkers who had been on a seasonal shutdown that their return to
work would only last four weeks before permanent closure of the mill,
unless a new buyer could be found. Most salaried employees were
summarily dismissed. The company has an outstanding $27.5 million
debt to Wells Fargo Capital Finance Corporation, which has been a
significant owner of debt at Specialty Bar since 2008 and since
then has been receiving interest profit from the added-value
steelworkers produce. The bankruptcy court documents found on the
website of the receiver Ernst & Young contain only vague
explanations such as,
"Its (Specialty Bar) financial performance recently worsened."
Mickey Mercanti, President of United Steelworkers
Local 4752 at the plant told the local media he was "really
mad," adding, "There's no way we should be in this spot right now with
the economy the way it is." Mercanti said workers became suspicious
something was not right when they started receiving reports of
being paid. Their questions went unanswered. They were left in the dark
as to what was going on, which is usually the case for the working
people who do the work and rely on it for their livelihoods and
yet have no control or say over those matters that concern them the
most and directly affect their lives.
A situation similar to the
"Sears grand theft," as some now call it, may also be at play in this
wrecking of Hamilton Specialty Bar. Workers have no control over what
happens to the added-value they produce. In the Sears
case, much of the profit had for years been smuggled out of the company
to the U.S., instead of being reinvested in renewing and strengthening
company and economy in Canada. Many question why those in control of
Hamilton Specialty Bar would declare bankruptcy in the current
situation when the steel economy is in one of its periodic upswings.
What has happened to all the value workers have produced during this
period when vehicle sales are at an all-time high in Canada? Upon
telling the union of the shutdown in early January and the subsequent
call-back of workers to complete orders for three large customers, the
only explanation offered was that the company was having a "cash flow
The consensus amongst
the working people of Hamilton is that this should not be happening.
Those in control of the economy have
proven themselves unfit to be in the important positions they hold.
Workers in Hamilton discuss this phenomenon of how they get
dispossessed of what belongs to them by right and are seeking how to
themselves provide solutions which take the economy in a new direction,
towards a stable all-sided self-reliant economy that can guarantee the
well-being and rights of all.
Quebec Law Further Criminalizes
Strengthening Police Powers Will Not Solve the
Problems of the Workers or the Sector!
Mass picket in Montreal during May 2017 strike in the construction
sector. Workers were
legislated back to work on May 30.
The Government of Quebec introduced Bill 152 which
criminalization of construction workers last November 15, shortly
before the end of the fall session of the National Assembly. The
rationale is that this is required to fight corruption in the industry
based on recommendations of the Charbonneau Commission (Commission
Public Contracts in the Construction Industry) which is a
pretext but does explain why it called the bill An
legislative provisions mainly to give
effect to certain Charbonneau Commission recommendations. It amends
Act R-20 which affect labour relations,
vocational training and workforce management in the construction
industry, and the Act respecting occupational
This is anti-worker deception of the first order. The
intervenes in the relations of production between construction
employers and construction workers on behalf of the employers.
The full weight of the state and its police powers and authority to
punish individuals and collectives is brought down on construction
for the supposed crime of defending themselves while producing value at
their place of work. Bill 152 denies construction workers their
rights as workers to speak, to associate in collectives of workers, to
meet and discuss the issues confronting them, especially in the heat of
the moment at their worksites. It restricts them taking action to
their rights through withdrawing their capacity to work until an
agreement with the employer to solve the problem or problems has been
reached that is satisfactory to the workers.
In other words, Bill 152, and other
establishes equilibrium at construction worksites not through
negotiations and respecting the rights of workers but through
criminalizing workers and suppressing their rights using police
powers. This must not pass! Construction workers and their allies are
determined to Break the Silence!
on this state-organized
conspiracy to deprive them of their rights.
Legislative hearings on this anti-worker bill will be
held on February 6 and 7. It is important to examine this bill and
discuss its ramifications because this affects how governments at all
levels are treating the rights of working people everywhere and will
provide workers in all sectors of the economy with insights they need
to wage their own struggles. It is also important because every effort
is made to isolate the construction workers, not only in Quebec but
everywhere, this is also done with dock workers and others who are
as a criminal strata which makes them a "category" deemed
a legitimate target for police action.
Workers' Forum will provide information and
opinions on a
regular basis about the bill and the context in which it is being
presented. We begin in this issue with an interview with Richard
Goyette, a labour and social law lawyer and former general director of
FTQ-Construction. We also include an article that outlines some of the
changes Bill 152 makes to Act R-20.
In future issues, Workers' Forum will examine
how the Charbonneau Commission, convened to examine the activities of
collusion and corruption in the awarding and management of public
contracts in construction, the possible links of this collusion and
corruption with the financing of political parties, and the possible
of the industry by organized crime, is now being used to amend a law,
which is supposed to govern relations of production between
construction workers and their employers, in a way that attacks workers
and benefits an arbitrary and dictatorial rule of construction
Workers' Forum is saying right from the get go
that the strengthening of the regime of police powers in the
construction sector is the wrong thing to do. In the first place,
workers are not criminals and the problem of corruption in the industry
is not of their making. It is the corrupt construction companies and
financiers and various people in their service as a result of the
corrupt political system. But the bill puts the blame on all the
activities undertaken by construction workers to make their voices
heard and to defend their rights as producers of immense social value,
including their right to work in healthy and safe conditions These
activities are portrayed by this bill as intimidation and threats to
economic activity in the construction sector and to the claim of those
who own and control the means of production on the added-value workers
produce. All this one-sided intervention in favour of the employers is
taking place in the most dangerous industry in Quebec, one that kills,
maims and sickens more workers than any other!
Secondly, the measures taken as a result of this bill will exacerbate
not only the problems that workers and the sector are facing but that
the entire society faces as a result of unsafe construction due to
short cuts taken by the owners.
To unleash police powers and the disinformation that
accompanies them seeks to prevent working people from uniting to
deliberate on the problems they and their economy and society face, so
as to find solutions that benefit the people. This begins with attempts
to isolate sections of workers so that their criminalization succeeds
and nobody rises to their defence. It is important that workers in all
sectors find the means to express support for the fight construction
workers are waging in defence of their rights and the the rights of
Interview, Richard Goyette,
Former General Director of FTQ-Construction
Forum: What are the main features of the Quebec government's
Richard Goyette: The
on construction workers. Given that we have a very
unstable industrial sector, not only physical insecurity but financial
insecurity and job insecurity, this creates chaos. We have construction
workers in the
regions struggling to secure the few jobs they have, and there is the
issue of very unhealthy conditions on the job sites. What this bill
means is that if you are waging some fight to defend yourself, to
defend your workforce, or because your wage is stolen, or if you raise
your voice when you meet your boss, rather than solving these problems
law imposes penalties on you, up to the loss of the union
representative's ability to represent the union for five years.
The law uses words like "meeting," to mean an illegal
meeting on the
building sites. What is an illegal meeting? Workers coming together to
ask the employer to adopt security measures? It has already happened
that the Quebec Construction Commission tried to intimidate workers who
had exercised their right of refusal on a construction site
on the grounds that the work stoppage was illegal.
There are always ways to interpret things, and the best
way to do
that is to suggest that the construction industry is very violent, an
industry where organized crime circulates freely. In the name of that,
all kinds of legislative measures can be taken to exercise repression
against workers. In fact, construction, with 5 per cent of the
workforce, has 25 per cent of deaths annually in Quebec and the
accident rate. These people did not die at the hands of organized
crime. They died because of a definite mode of production, and there is
no criminal investigation into that, there are very few repressive
measures against that. Workers can be killed and their wages
stolen. We are talking about millions of dollars lost to undeclared
work and if, in order to get our real pay which corresponds to the
hours worked, if we raise our voice, there will be fines and loss of
jobs. Trade union representatives may lose their union job for up to
WF: Can you give us specific
examples in the law that highlight this goal of silencing workers?
RG: First of all it is the
imposes silence. When you have no job security, no financial security,
you do not have the power to speak because there are plenty of ways to
get rid of a construction worker. It is in the very conditions of the
industry that silence is being imposed.
For example, there is an article in the bill that says
who uses intimidation or threats that are "likely" to cause
obstruction, slowdown, or cessation of activities on a site commits an
offence which is punishable by fines.
What does that mean, using intimidation? Screaming?
Being upset? If
the boss feels intimidated, he will file a complaint and the worker is
liable to a fine of $1,120 to $11,202 per day or part of the
this offence lasts.
We remember what happened in 2015 when Indigenous
people in the La
Romaine region held a demonstration on the road leading to the
construction site. Would these people be fined or ticketed? Would
workers in a region who are fighting for regional employment and
demanding that the companies consider the number of workers
from outside the region that are allowed to work while the local
workers themselves are unemployed? Is this intimidation? Is it
intimidation to bring people together on the road leading to the
construction site, to bring workers, their families including their
children, or even the MNA for the region? Is this "likely" to cause
I compare that with section 237 of the Occupational
which says that someone has to "directly and seriously"
health, safety or physical integrity of a worker before this is
considered a violation of the law.
So when a worker is killed, someone has to be directly
seriously responsible, but when it is economics, it is enough that the
action is "likely" to hinder production for the full weight of the law
to be used against the worker. It is a method of legislating which
claims that the material, the economy, comes before the human person.
not make sense. If an employer wants to get rid of a union
representative, or people from the region who are fighting for regional
economic development, he just has to wait until there is some action to
say he fears the threats and then can close his construction site.
Other aspects of the bill are similar to that one. For
bill states that an association of employees, its representative or an
employee cannot hold a meeting at the workplace under penalty of very
heavy fines. Bill R-20 and the Labour Code already say that you
do not have the right to hold a union meeting at a workplace
without the authorization of the employer. Why another article then? If
a problem arises on a construction site and the workers get together,
and the union representative arrives, is it an illegal meeting? Union
representatives make site visits. We talk to people. We do not stop
production. First, when the workers are working, they are not too keen
on leaving their machines and unhooking their harnesses and safety
belts to come and talk to us. On the other hand, however, if there is a
serious health and safety or labour relations problem, yes they will
come to see us and now we are going to be told that this is an illegal
meeting, and everyone will have to pays fines and the union
representative may be prevented from being a union rep for five years.
That kind of provision does not exist anywhere else in the Labour
Code or labour legislation, it only exists in construction.
Again, if we were dealing with a sector of activity
which was in
good order, very healthy, with job security, etc. we could say that yes
it is better to meet in our union local. But we are in a sector of the
economy where even the basic rules of health are not respected. We do
not have toilets that have water so that we can wash our hands. We
have to fight for that, to have access to basic sanitary conditions. It
becomes an illegal meeting to enforce basic rules and safety rules in
an industry that is known for killing and injuring workers.
WF: Very briefly, what is the
relationship between the Charbonneau Commission and Bill 152?
RG: A link has been concocted
mandate of the Commission and labour relations. Charbonneau Commission
staff had no expertise in labour relations. The investigation team
consisted of investigators with experience in criminal investigations
and expertise in the fight against organized crime. They talked
about labour relations and conflicts in labour relations as if this was
a crime. They said that exercising rights in regards to property is a
breach of property as it is in the criminal code sense, so those who do
so are bandits and we will treat them like bandits.
WF: What do you think
workers should do about this bill and what is the solution to the
RG: In my opinion, the entire bill
must be withdrawn.
We need a system of income security and job security.
There has to
be planning of the work. If we consider that 68 per cent of
construction sites in Quebec are governmental, there can be planning
and stability. We should not have peak periods, and after that nothing.
There should not be huge variations in the workforce and hours
worked. As long as people do not have relative job and income security,
in addition to physical security on construction sites, the situation
will not change for the better. Ironically, there are plenty of reports
that have been submitted over the years, from commissions of inquiry
and from government-commissioned experts, which have concluded
that without putting an end to the instabilities and insecurities in
the construction industry, the industry cannot provide solutions to its
malaise, and this bill contradicts all this. The trend of attempting to
smash the unions has to stop; this maintaining of a wild west economy
construction sites is what causes the chaos.
The problems are certainly not going to be solved by
entire sector of the workforce of the right to protest, the right to
speak, and the right to build some balance of power, or by depriving
our union representatives from being able to work for five years.
Let's not forget that the anti-scab law does not even
apply in the
construction industry. Work continues on construction sites during a
construction strike. If we decide to do a tour to stop work on
construction sites, that is going to constitute intimidation and
threats that are likely to obstruct, slow down, or stop work on a site
(all of it illegal according to Bill 152). Regular work that carries on
during a strike is illegal in other sectors. It is only in construction
that this is legal.
A possible solution is to hold a working table chaired
Ministry of Labour, which would bring together the sector's
stakeholders, and would be mandated to report to the Minister of Labour
on actual solutions to provide security for the industry, and
employment and income security to workers in the sector.
A public campaign has to be waged because this is
only the construction workers but their families and society
Changes to Construction Regulations
Bill 152 currently before the Quebec National
Assembly makes several
amendments to Act R-20, an Act
Respecting Labour Relations, Vocational
Training, and Workforce Management in the Construction Industry.
bill amends, among other things, section 113.1 of the Act, which
with intimidation and the threat of
obstructing, slowing down or stopping work on a construction site.
The current text of the law says:
"113.1: Any person who uses intimidation or threats to
an obstruction to or a slowdown or stoppage of
activities on a job site
is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of $1,120
to $11,202 for
each day or part of a day during which the offence continues."
The amended text, if Bill 152 passes, will read:
"113.1: Any person who uses intimidation or threats that
an obstruction to or a slowdown or stoppage of activities on a job site
is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of $1,120
to $11,202 for
each day or part of a day during which the offence continues."
Adding the word "likely" provides a much wider
possibility for criminalizing workers (or people in the community) than
Section on Management of the Operations on a
Bill 152 amends the current section
113.2, which reads: "113.2: Any person who requires an
employer to hire specific employees or a specific number of
employees is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine
of $1,518 to $15,146.
"For any subsequent conviction, the fines are doubled."
The proposed amended text reads: "Any person who uses
intimidation or threats that
are likely to compel an employer to make a decision regarding workforce
management in the construction industry or to prevent the employer from
making such a decision, or otherwise imposes such a decision
is guilty of an offence and
liable to a fine of $1,518 to $15,146.
"For any subsequent conviction, the fines are doubled.
"Any act listed or described in the second paragraph of
section 101 constitutes a decision regarding workforce management."
Once again the words "likely to compel" are
wider and more
subjective than "requires an employer" in terms of the possibility they
offer to criminalize workers. Besides, the charges of "intimidation"
and "threats" are now going to apply to any attempt of workers and
their union to intervene on issues regarding the management of
the operations on the work site. This negates the very raison
of a union in terms of defending its members, among other things,
regarding the management of the operations, whether to ensure workers
have jobs on the sites, the workforce is adequate regarding the task at
hand and their safety etc.
Section on Attempting to Commit an Offence or Inciting
Commit an Offence
Bill 152 through the addition of section
118.1 modifies section 118 of the current Act regarding attempts to
under the Act or inciting somebody to commit or attempt to commit such
Section 118 currently reads:
"Any person who attempts to commit any of the offences
this Act, or aids or incites any person to commit or attempt to commit
such an offence, is guilty of an offence and liable to the penalty
prescribed for such an offence."
Bill 152 adds 118.1:
"118.1. An association of employees, a representative
of such an
association or an employee that holds an employee meeting at the place
of employment without the employer's consent or that orders, encourages
or supports the holding of such a meeting is guilty of an offence and
is liable, for each day or part of a day the offence continues, to
a fine of $7,842 to $78,411 in the case of an association or
representative, and $1,120 to $11,202 in the case of an
This explicitly criminalizes workers holding meetings
their conditions at the workplace. This strengthens the criminalization
of workers meeting and discussing already in the Act. Section 99
current Act prohibits the holding of an employee meeting on a
construction site. It reads:
"99. No association of employees shall hold any meeting
members at the place of employment without the consent of the employer."
The widening of the scope of the criminalization of the
are holding meetings on the construction sites is obvious as it is now
going to apply, with heavy fines, to a union, a union representative
and to the workers themselves. The government is doing this in a
perverse and undignified way without any reference whatsoever to the
reasons why workers may feel they have to meet and discuss the state of
affairs at the worksite, what the problems are they face and how to
those problems. Presumably, the employer is responsible for causing the
problems or at least not adequately dealing with the problems the
workers face, so requiring the employer's permission to meet and
discuss and hash out solutions to the problems is irrational.
Section Prohibiting a Union Representative Who Is
Under the Act from Exercising His Duties for a 5-Year
Bill 152 modifies Section 119.1 to broaden the
scope of the offences it covers. The amended text reads:
"119.1: Any natural person convicted, by a final
judgment, of an offence listed in any of sections 113.1, 113.2, 115, 119, 119.0.1, 119.0.3, 119.0.5
is disqualified from leading and from representing, in
whatever, an association listed or described in any of subparagraphs a
to c.2 of
the first paragraph of section 1 or an association of employees
affiliated with a representative association for five years from the
day sentence is rendered."
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