February 8, 2018
Defend the Public Post Office!
Liberals' Hypocrisy on Home Delivery
a Universal Postal Service
• Liberals' Hypocrisy on Home Delivery and a
Service - Louis Lang
Criminalization of Quebec Construction Workers
• Defend Workers' Dignity and Rights!
Whose Economy? Who
• Sobeys Attacks Workers and Economy in Western
Defend the Public Post Office!
Liberals' Hypocrisy on Home Delivery and
Public Services and
Procurement Minister Carla
Qualtrough announced on January 24 what she called "the
government's vision for renewal at Canada Post." Minister Qualtrough
declared on behalf of the government that its "new vision is that of a
renewed Canada Post that will provide high quality service at a
reasonable price to
Canadians no matter where they live." The Minister did not elaborate
the meaning of this "new vision" and "renewed Canada Post." Notable as
well was her refusal to refer to any of the reports or thousands of
views submitted by Canadians on what they would like to see with a
renewed Canada Post. Nor did she mention the problems postal
workers have raised within their struggle to defend their working
conditions against the corporation's demands for cutbacks, elimination
of postal services, and attacks on their wages and benefits.
that Canada Post's program to eliminate home
delivery and replace it with community mailboxes will be "terminated
effective immediately." However, where community mailboxes have already
been installed, the program eliminating home delivery will not be
reversed. In other words the program to eliminate home delivery is
being paused. This means close to a million households have now
permanently lost home delivery. Is anyone to believe that the Liberals
are not just working with Canada Post to figure out how to finish the
job in the future? The government is also asking Canada Post to set up
a panel of experts and advocates for seniors and people with
disabilities to do a study and provide advice on "development,
implementation and promotion of an enhanced accessibility program."
Qualtrough announced she will be seeking changes to
the Financial Administration Act
to reclassify Canada Post. She said, "Currently, under its listing in
the Financial Administration Act,
has a legal obligation to pay a dividend to the federal
government. I intend to seek the Governor in Council's approval to move
Canada Post Corporation from Financial
Act, Schedule III Part II to Schedule III Part I
to remove this obligation. This change also means that Canada Post is
now legally required to, along with its annual corporate plan and
capital budget, submit an operating budget for Government approval."
also directing Canada Post to "better promote" its
remittance services and provide more information about postal money
orders and the digital remittance service it provides through
Disregard for Review of Canada Post and Consultations
In May 2016, the newly elected Liberal government
announced a review of the Canada Post Corporation for which it created
the Canada Post Corporation Review Task Force. Within this review the
Minister in charge asked the House of Commons Standing Committee on
Government Operations and Estimates to consult Canadians on
the future of Canada Post.
The review was to be completed by the end of 2016
and to include "extensive consultation with Canadians." Nearly two
years later, it appears the Liberal government has chosen to ignore the
report of its own Task Force, including the hundreds of submissions it
received, as well as the results of the public consultation and report
Standing Committee entitled, "The Way Forward for Canada Post."
The formulation of the Minister about a "new vision" of
a "renewed Canada Post" is problematic and difficult to explain given
the existing regulations already in place within the Canadian Postal
Service Charter. Those regulations govern the functioning of Canada
Post Corporation and outline the kind of service the company is
required to provide Canadians. The first article of the Charter is
titled "Universal Service" and states:
Canada Post will maintain a
postal system that allows
individuals and businesses in Canada to send and receive mail within
Canada and between Canada and elsewhere. Canada Post will provide a
service for the collection, transmission and delivery of letters,
parcels and publications.
The provision of postal
services to rural regions of
the country is an integral part of Canada Post's universal service.
Canada Post will charge
uniform postage rates for
letters of similar size and weight, so that letters to Canadian
addresses will require the same postage, regardless of the distance to
reach the recipient.
As required by the Canada
Act, Canada Post will charge postage rates that
are fair and reasonable
and, together with other revenues, are sufficient to cover the costs
incurred in its operations.
Canada Post will provide
advance notice of and publicly
advertise proposed pricing changes for regulated letter mail products
and consult with consumers during the rate-setting process.
Does the Minister's announcement mean that the Liberal
government intends to change or violate the Charter in some manner to
implement its "new vision" for Canada Post?
Qualtrough's very feeble announcement means that the
Trudeau Liberals have chosen to ignore the work of the Task Force and
the Parliamentary Committee and the views submitted by Canadians,
including postal workers, on the direction of the post office. It
refuses to explain what their plans are for a "new vision" for a
Post." This directly ignores and contradicts the overwhelming demand of
Canadians during the last elections and since for a strengthened public
post office. The results of all the consultations, online surveys, town
halls and public hearings bear out the demand for a reinvigorated
public Canada Post and reversal of the years of privatization and
cutbacks in service.
The Liberal government is not touting what Canadians
have said they want and is deliberately keeping silent on its own
unilateral plans. On January 24, in addition to her public
announcements, Minister Qualtrough also sent a letter to the new Chair
of the Board of Directors of Canada Post with the grandiose title
"Innovations and Best
Practices for Implementing Renewal." These "Best Practices" demanded by
the Federal Cabinet come right in the midst of negotiations with the
Canadian Union of Postal Workers for a new collective agreement within
which postal workers, with the support of Canadians, want the cutbacks
in postal service stopped and reversed. But the Trudeau
government has its own neo-liberal agenda. The Minister's letter in
part directs the corporation as follows:
"The Review has identified various areas of opportunity
for Canada Post. In this context, the Government is asking Canada Post
to undertake the following as it develops its program for implementing
"Consider the applicability
in Canada of best practices
and successful innovations in other countries, particularly various
models of alternate day delivery."
What hypocrisy the Liberal government displays. Under
the guise of preserving home delivery for those households that still
have it, the government is directing the corporation to reduce home
delivery from five days to alternate days or less. These demands to cut
services to eliminate more jobs will not save the post office as the
claims, as they directly run counter to its founding charter and
obligation to Canadians. These measures to reduce service will further
undermine and weaken the ability of Canada Post to provide a universal
postal service to which all Canadians are entitled. This is not renewal
and nation-building but a continuation of the wrecking of a public
institution and treasured asset that Canadians need and want to see
strengthened in new ways. The Trudeau Government must be held to
account and denounced for its duplicitous stands.
Canadians should judge the situation for themselves.
The postal workers are defending their working conditions and the
public post office. There is broad public concern about the attacks on
the post office and broad demands that the public postal service not
only be maintained but expanded. This was amply demonstrated in the
support for the just stand of postal workers during the 2011
strike and lockout. The current discussion on the state of the post
office and any review of Canada Post at the very least should take
these stands as their starting point. Postal workers and all working
people need to discuss what is going on, how to defend the public post
the public interest, and assess the remarks of Minister Qualtrough and
the plans of the Liberal government on this basis.
Discussion on Criminalization of
Quebec Construction Workers
Defend Workers' Dignity and Rights!
A vigorous discussion is taking place in Quebec on how
to defend the dignity and rights of construction workers who are under
state-organized attack. Workers'
Forum received many views and comments in response to its
January 25 issue that exposed and denounced the Quebec government's
Bill 152, which further criminalizes construction workers. Two of those
responses are published below.
Anti-worker Bill 152
blatantly attempts to criminalize union activity, by falsely equating
construction workers' organized actions in defence of their rights to
criminal intimidation, including deeming workers' defence of their
health and safety criminal interference to restrict trade.
Bill 152 is meant to prevent the problems in the
construction sector from being solved. By criminalizing the workers,
the actual corrupt elements in the sector carry on unobstructed and the
problems facing the economy, and hundreds of construction projects of
all kinds, are left to fester. The bill is somewhat reminiscent of the
early struggles to organize legal trade unions a century ago when all
organized activity of the working class in defence of its rights was
declared an illegal "restriction of trade." The difference is that
today, workers who resist unfair labour practices and dangerous and
anti-union activities can be defamed or accused of terrorism for
harming the national economy. For more than one hundred years workers
have systematically defeated attempts to deprive them of their rights
and won certain, albeit limited, legal recognition under labour law.
Today, governments at all levels are simply throwing those
laws out the window and acting like robber barons on a much larger
scale than ever before.
Authorities Must Deal with Problems in Construction
Instead of Attacking Those Proposing Concrete Solutions
A construction worker in Montreal said to Workers'
"My question is, why is the union being attacked as
being the one responsible for intimidation? We are being told that Bill
152 is a continuation of the Charbonneau Commission. What I heard from
the Charbonneau Commission was that it was employers who committed
fraud; it was the employers who were connected to organized crime, and
it was the political parties that were filling their pockets by
artificially raising the costs of public contracts they are awarding
construction projects, in exchange for the construction companies
funding their parties. How is it today, when no one has been convicted
and no one has been arrested under this commission, that the unions are
being attacked under the hoax that they are the ones doing the
"It's the employers who are
using intimidation on construction sites. They are the ones who force
us to work in unsafe conditions and threaten us by telling us that if
we are not happy with that, they will simply replace us, or stop
calling us for jobs and even fire us. When we denounce them, we are
threatened with dismissal, and we have no way of protecting ourselves
other than with the union. Why are issues like this not being dealt
with, for example, when employers threaten us with dismissal if we do
not work on Saturdays? If I want to keep my job I know very well that
on weekends, when I go to work, I cannot ask for a regular pay check
with deductions; I may have to do undeclared work, otherwise I can be
fired. This means working under the table. We are getting paid our
gross wage but without deductions for pension funds, income taxes --
tax money that does not go to the government. There is no one but the
unions that are defending us against this. If I make a complaint to the
Quebec Construction Commission (CCQ), I am not protected by the CCQ. My
job is not protected. On the other hand, the union is able to work in
such a way that I am protected, that I am not identified. Because it is
the union itself that files a complaint with the CCQ.
"Today, under the pretext that the Charbonneau
Commission provided evidence of a lot of problems on construction
sites, the unions are being attacked. They attack the unions that are
there to defend us rather than dealing with the corruption that exists
in the construction industry. It is this corruption that has raised the
costs of the construction projects, not the workers' wages.
"Already, when they passed Bill 30 in
December 2011, which abolished union placement, they included in
the law provisions against intimidation that was allegedly committed by
the unions. Why today, when union placement no longer exists, have
measures been taken to prevent workers and their representatives from
jobs? As a worker, I need a union that is able to raise issues. As far
as threats are concerned, the employers are constantly using them
against us. Their right to manage does not give them the right to make
threats whenever the union denounces something in order to enforce
existing collective agreements and laws.
"When I denounce the fact that the tools I have to use
are not the right tools for the job, I'm bluntly told to work with
those tools, otherwise I can go home. These are threats that are being
uttered by the employer. If you work with a tool that is not
appropriate for the job, you are facing a hazard, that is a threat.
However, we never hear anything from the government about this. There
has never been a government that has intervened to deal with this.
Measures are not being taken that would eliminate the danger. On the
contrary, it is those who are there to defend the workers who are being
"Another example. Let's say
I have the right to mileage
compensation for going to a remote worksite because I have to drive so
many miles from home to work. However, the employer tells me that if he
has to pay me the mileage compensation he will hire someone else
because that will cost him less. In addition, he tells me that if he
the mileage compensation, the other workers in the region will ask for
the same thing, so he threatens to no longer hire anyone from my area.
This is illegal because compensation for mileage is written into the
collective agreement, and yet these things happen regularly on
"Since there is no job security in construction,
employers can use any pretext to say that they no longer need us. As
individual workers we can't prove anything, the only ones who can do
something are the unions.
"The law [Bill 152] is written in order to take
away our means to protect ourselves. On paper, these means still exist.
But in reality, with the measures that are being taken to prevent a
union representative from being able to do his job, the situation is
very different. He is prevented from taking the necessary means to
agreements, laws and regulations.
"If I had job security, protection, it could help me to
demonstrate that if the employer kicked me out, he did that so as to
hire someone else, which he had no right to do. So that would give me
some protection. In construction, we do not have that security, so we
have an even more urgent need for a union representative who can
intervene, show that the employer is at fault. At the same time, there
is negotiation to convince the employer to respect his word because a
collective agreement has been signed by both parties. We want to
respect our part of the deal and we ask the employer to respect his.
Within the current conditions, I do not ultimately have the ability to
exercise the right to have a union that can act on the construction
sites. I have the right to choose my union, but the union can do very
little to change things in a context like this. We understand that if
we had seniority -- a form of job security and income security -- the
situation would be much different.
"To improve the situation, you need job security
measures and income security measures. It is also necessary that when
we vote to go on strike, the construction sites stop functioning
everyone has to be on strike. The measures in the anti-scab law do not
even apply in construction. How is it that I go on strike to get a pay
raise but the
construction sites remain open, and this is not illegal even though we
took a strike vote? If one intervenes to close the building sites, one
can be accused of intimidation.
"We need to tackle the real problems that exist in
construction, while the new law is attacking those who want to solve
problems in construction. We must make sure that the union can do its
work on construction sites."
Government Attack Requires Collective Response
from Workers' Movement
A Montreal postal worker says:
"After reading the articles in Workers' Forum,
I went to look at Bill R-20 and I noticed that it already puts
construction workers under a lot of pressure by excluding them from
being covered by various labour standards. Knowing how dangerous the
conditions already are in the construction industry, knowing that it is
already difficult to get a collective agreement because there is no
retroactivity, it is not easy to reach agreements that are negotiated
in good faith. [In construction, wage increases are not retroactive
to the expiry date of the collective agreement, which means employers
deliberately prolong negotiations -- WF Note.]
"Understanding the context of Bill R-20, we better
understand the move the government is making in putting forward
Bill 152. It is to try to prevent workers from affirming their
"We read in the Workers'
Forum articles that the
bill puts a lot of emphasis on what a worker's action is 'likely' to
produce. This is disturbing because we are no longer in a mode where we
must demonstrate things by facts but in a mode of "possibilities." Is
it possible that the workers intended to intimidate the employer? Is it
possible that the workers' action is "likely" to hinder the employer's
activity? We are in the subjective domain. The person at the head of
the company may feel a strain because the workers' move is likely to
intimidate him. We are to move away from the facts and act on the basis
of moods, how the employer felt about this or that move from the
workers. This undermines the ability of workers to affirm their rights.
If workers want to put their foot down and defend their rights in terms
of health and safety, will their actions now be interpreted as
intimidation? In addition, there are heavy fines that are imposed for
breaking the law. This bill greatly expands the rights of employers to
challenge the means that workers have to uphold their rights.
"This further aggravates the imbalance in labour
relations in one of the most hazardous sectors. This directly affects
workers who want to assert their rights on the shop floor in other
sectors of the economy, and the ability of the trade union to exercise
its right and duty to defend the interests of workers.
"The way I see it, this attack is not specific to
construction workers. It is a broad attack against the basic right of
workers to negotiate and to affirm their rights. In my opinion, it is
important that the workers' movement is made aware of what is going on
in the construction industry because a collective response is required,
not just from the sector, to defend workers from such attacks. In my
opinion, the government is seeing if this bill will work, and if so and
the workers directly targeted in the sector are defeated, the
government will go even further. We must not allow any sector to be
isolated. This requires a collective response from the workers'
Whose Economy? Who Decides?
Sobeys Attacks Workers and Economy in
Since Sobeys' 2013 takeover of Safeway in Western
Canada, it has closed over 50 stores within its empire affecting
thousands of workers and those who relied on those locations for
groceries and other supplies. Fifty store closures alone were announced
in June 2014, that the company asserted "logically follow the
acquisition of Canada Safeway." These included Sobeys, Safeway and IGA
stores in the Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan,
Alberta and British Columbia, with a majority in Western Canada.
The closures and attacks on the workers continue to the
present. Take the example of Sobeys' operations in Vancouver. Sobeys
demolished the Safeway on Davie
Street in Vancouver's West End last year. The 102 workers at the Davie
Street Safeway were offered employment in other stores in the city but
those jobs turned out to be insecure as Sobeys announced 10 more store
closures this January.
On January 23, it
handed termination letters
to 660 Safeway workers who are members of United Food and
Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1518. The firings come while
all 4,500 Safeway Local 1518 members throughout BC were
slated to begin negotiations with Sobeys for a new collective
Local 1518 President Ivan Limpright said Sobeys cancelled a
meeting on January 18 that was supposed to set up the bargaining
schedule. Then, five days later, the company announced the closure of
ten stores and sent termination letters to 660 members of the
Local. The company even had the gall to say publicly that if it
receives anti-worker concessions in the new collective agreement it
would consider reopening five of the closed Safeway locations under its
FreshCo discount banner.
The President of Local 1518 immediately denounced
the timing of the closures and layoffs as suspicious saying, "Last
week, on the first day of bargaining with UFCW 832 in Manitoba,
Sobeys demanded poverty concessions and then walked away from the
table. Now as negotiations are set to begin in British Columbia, they
announce 10 store closures? It's a classic scare tactic. But our
members won't be fooled."
Sobeys has decided to make 2018 the year of
attacking its Western Canada employees. This is not simply a BC fight;
it is a fight that Sobeys has decided to launch across the entire West,
the union said.
Local 1518 immediately filed a complaint with the
BC Labour Relations Board that the termination notices to its 660
members constitute an illegal lockout. President Limpright said the
timing of the announcement coupled with the carrot-and-stick nature of
the FreshCo news and the fact that the pharmacies at the five locations
earmarked for FreshCo will remain open, provide grounds for the illegal
"Look," said Limpright, "we're about to begin
with the company. And Sobeys picks this moment to announce 10
store closures? The company's message is clear: it will re-open at
least five of those stores only if the union and our members accept a
substandard agreement. That constitutes an illegal lockout. It's a
threat intended to
intimidate our members, weaken the union's position and further Sobeys'
own cause at the bargaining table.
"The BC Labour Relations Code defines an illegal
lockout as closing a place of work, a suspension of work or a refusal
by an employer to continue to employ a number of employees in order to
compel the employees to agree to conditions of employment.... This
illegal lockout is a bold and callous move to strip our members of
employment and their rights under a legally negotiated collective
agreement -- that's shameful."
Sobeys is a subsidiary of
Empire Co. Ltd (ECL), which in turn controls land, housing and
financial speculators Genstar Development Company (GDC) and Crombie
The GDC website reads, "[GDC has] operations in
Southern California, Atlanta and throughout Canada. GDC focuses on
residential land investments and equity financing.... GDC directs the
acquisition and development of Canadian master planned communities."
Crombie REIT is a Canadian Real Estate Investment Trust
listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. It became a subsidiary of Sobeys
Stores Limited in 1976 and subsequently part of the ECL empire.
The Sobeys supermarket chain is Crombie REIT's major insider tenant.
Sobeys' acquisition of Safeway added to the ECL
empire 213 stores, 4 distribution centres, 12
manufacturing facilities and various properties mostly in Western
Canada. Those in control of ECL told the Globe and Mail at the time
that the almost $6 billion in social wealth required to conclude
the purchase of Safeway
would come in part from "selling Safeway's real estate and then leasing
it back. Crombie Real Estate Investment Trust -- which Empire spun out
to handle its real estate -- has the right to make first offers on the
buildings, Sobeys said."
Sobeys' Land Speculation and Other Actions in Vancouver
The scale of the private interests the ECL empire
controls extends well beyond the food sector into land and other forms
of speculation. One closure clearly shows that the takeover of Safeway
was just as much about speculation on land and housing as anything
else. After Sobeys demolished the Safeway on Davie Street in
End, it started building two residential towers. This follows the
recent city rezoning of the area allowing for high rise construction.
The two towers to be built on the block will join another tower under
construction immediately adjacent and yet another underway across the
street. Land values, condo prices and rents have soared since the
with the most infamous case being the sale of the nearby White Spot
restaurant and parking lot for $245 million where units in the
proposed towers will be priced in the millions. With small parcels of
land fetching hundreds of millions of dollars, the speculators consider
the existing commercial operations as useless no matter their shape or
how needed they may be for the community.
The sheer size of ECL
confronts workers with a
formidable challenge. How do workers defend their rights when a
colossal cartel with tens of billions of dollars of assets and annual
gross income from various sources organizes a planned assault and they
are made powerless, by the limitations imposed on them by labour law,
to deal with it?
The situation demands serious treatment. Sobeys'
actions not only negatively affect Safeway workers directly, they have
implications for food and housing security, the price of land, food and
housing, the direction of the economy and the historic issue of who
should control decision-making about the social wealth workers produce
and where it should be invested and with what aim.
What decisions can workers take which respond to the
situation in a manner which affirms their rights and defeats attempts
to criminalize the workers for doing so? What can other workers do to
defend the rights of those under direct attack?
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