February 22, 2018
Hearings on Quebec Bill that Further
Interventions in Defence of the Rights
of Construction Workers
Striking construction workers march in Montreal, May 25, 2017. Within
days their strike was criminalized and workers forced back to work.
Further Criminalizes Construction Workers
• Interventions in Defence of the Rights of
Quebec Nurses Take
Action to End the Crisis in Their Sector
• Outaouais Hospital Workers -- Militant
Contingent to Smash the Silence on Working Conditions - Pierre
• Anti-Social Restructuring of Health Care --
The Example of the North Shore
- Interview, Nathalie Savard, President,
Union of Nurses, Licensed Practical
Nurses and Inhalotherapists of Northeastern Quebec
Another Blow to
Canadian Workers and Economy
• PepsiCo Shuts Down Alberta Spitz Sunflower
• Whatever It Takes! Teachers Stand Up to
Hearings on Quebec Bill that Further
Criminalizes Construction Workers
Interventions in Defence of the Rights of
Striking construction workers rally outside the Quebec National
Representatives of Quebec construction workers addressed
the Committee on Labour and the Economy of the Quebec legislature at
special hearings on February 6 and 7. They came to denounce
the government's anti-worker Bill 152, An Act to amend various
labour-related legislative provisions mainly to give effect
to certain Charbonneau Commission recommendations.
Bill 152 directly intervenes in the
relations of production between construction employers and construction
workers on behalf of the employers.
It steps up the criminalization of construction workers. It denies
construction workers their basic right to stable and safe working
conditions and, when workers must take remedial action, especially in
the heat of the moment, their right to meet and discuss the issues
confronting them at their work-sites, speak, associate in their
collectives, stand up for themselves are all denied in practice under
one excuse or another.
Bill 152 further
escalates the attacks on construction workers who have already been
subjected to the full weight of the state and its police powers. The
state has criminalized construction workers for exercising their right
to organize in defence of their claims on the value they create, for
safe and healthy working conditions and for
solutions to the problems of the construction industry that favour the
workers, economy and society.
The five unions representing construction workers in
Quebec submitted briefs to the Committee and testified at the
hearings: FTQ-Construction, Quebec Building Trades Council
(International), CSN-Construction, CSD-Construction, and the Quebec
The central union bodies in which some of the unions
participate also took part in the proceedings: the Quebec Federation of
Labour (FTQ), the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN), and the
Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (CSD).
Several construction employers' organizations also
presented briefs and testified, as well as general employers'
organizations such as the Quebec Employers Council. The Quebec
Construction Commission (CCQ), the state agency responsible for the
implementation of the related Act Respecting Labour Relations,
Vocational Training, and
Workforce Management in the Construction Industry (Act R-20) also
presented a brief and testified.
Trade union representatives denounced the bill as an
attack on workers' rights in favour of employers, and, in particular,
an attack on the basic right of workers and their unions to organize
and defend their rights directly at their workplaces.
FTQ-Construction General Manager Yves Ouellet said:
"The bill directly undermines our rights and freedoms and encourages
employers to interfere with union activities that aim to improve the
living and working conditions of workers. The FTQ-Construction totally
opposes this Sword of Damocles that hangs over the heads of the
representatives of the workers and associations.... The role of the
representative, what is it? It is to ensure a balance between the
workers and the employer in a labour relations regime that generates
more and more inequalities, to combat prejudices, to identify the
schemes and to enforce health and safety (regulations), collective
sites following complaints from workers on site or following random
visits, and call on the CCQ and CNESST [Commission des normes, de
l'équité, de la santé et de la
sécurité du travail -- Labour Standards, Pay Equity, and
Workplace Health and Safety Board] when necessary ... Yes, we think
that the bill as it stands violates our rights and is
extremely limiting. It puts a Sword of Damocles over the union
representative, who is the main link between the worker and his rights
because he knows that he is able to achieve something for the worker.
And that's important. Then that's what we do not like in the bill: it's
going to put the union representative in danger."
Union representatives denounced various repressive
measures against construction workers contained in Bill 152. For
example, the bill greatly expands the scope of the criminalization of
workers and anyone who puts forward demands in defence of their rights.
The bill says, "Any person who uses intimidation or threats that
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." (WF
The representatives pointed out that the language "any
person" and "likely to" opens the door to the arbitrary use of the
courts by employers and the CCQ to attack workers, union
representatives, the unions themselves and even people in the
communities, without any regard to the content for which workers and
They also denounced the clause of the bill which says,
"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
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
CSD Vice-President Martin
L'Abbée said: "The prohibition against holding a meeting of
employees in the workplace without the employer's consent, in section
118.1, could be interpreted as 'Anyone who holds a union discussion on
the site could be accused.' Let's imagine that the CSD-Construction
representative comes to a
construction site to meet his members. Is this a meeting? Does he need
permission to bring a document to a worker? To see how the work is
going? To assess if the rules in health and safety are being respected?
... The union representative on a building site, or an ordinary member
of CSD-Construction who speaks with colleagues on any work-related
subject, could that be considered a meeting? And should he have had the
prior consent of the employer? These are just a few examples of what
could happen and where anyone could ultimately be charged.... Yet in
labour relations, is it not the role of the parties, both employer and
union, to talk to each other and solve problems at the
source? Should labour relations matters not be dealt with where they
occur? We request the withdrawal of Section 18."
In their interventions, the union representatives made
a point of presenting the real conditions that prevail in the industry,
which reveal the extremely repressive and fraudulent nature of
Bill 152 while it claims to ensure the proper
functioning of the construction industry.
CSN-Construction President Pierre Brassard said, "The
underlying problem is job security, recall clauses and layoffs. If I
know I will keep my job, it will encourage me to denounce, denounce and
stay away from, the system of corruption and collusion with
employers.... That's what we have to look at, rather than putting
together a package of
fines, or raising the fines. We have to make sure that there is no more
persecution of whistleblowers, which means the worker at the base...
the whistleblower, if we do not protect him, forget it."
to protect the "whistleblowers" through a system of fines against those
who retaliate against them. This "protection" is through the state
agency CCQ, which is well known for repressing workers
who speak out. -- WF Note)
Brassard further said, "You can have all the fines you
want, you can have all the penalties you want, there is never going to
be anyone who will speak up. If we had job security with a recall
clause, not something shady, it would be easier to not accept things
like this. It would encourage workers to denounce things.... Because if
I do not have protection, I am not going to denounce [perceived
The bill goes so far that it prohibits union
representatives convicted of breaking the law from performing their
duties for up to five years. In this industry, this amounts to an
expulsion from the sites and from the union for life. "Five years makes
no sense. We lose our job when we lose five years. It's not true that
it's just five years of being
suspended. You will never come back to work after five years, it is
impossible in an industry like ours," said FTQ-Construction General
Manager Yves Ouellet.
Representatives of employers' organizations applauded
the bill as a contribution to the elimination of "intimidation" on
construction sites. They were pleased with its full-fledged attack on
workers and its defence of employers under the hoax of making sure that
work is not disrupted on construction sites.
The CCQ once again played
its role as an active advocate for the deployment of police powers
against construction workers. It fully supported the new measures such
as the use of the words "likely to cause an obstruction to or a
slowdown or stoppage of activities on a job site." The state
institution openly admitted that it actually worked with
the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions to ensure the
government introduced the most repressive bill possible. In particular,
it asked for and obtained a provision that the CCQ will have the power
to seize the computers and even the cell phone of anyone it claims is
suspected of fraud or intimidation on construction
Throughout the hearings, the Minister of Labour played
the typical liberal role of pretending to strike a balance between the
goal of criminalizing construction workers and the objections of
workers to the attacks on their rights. For example, the Minister asked
union representatives if they had a formula to replace the term "likely
would be acceptable to them while maintaining the intimidation charges
against them. She also asked the union representatives to come up with
a mitigated or slightly weakened clause that they could live with that
would still criminalize workers holding meetings or discussions at the
The Couillard government's Bill 152 is an attack
on the basic rights of workers and an instrument for aggravating the
problems of the construction industry by deploying the police powers of
the state against those who produce immense social wealth that society
depends on. The bill must be withdrawn as repugnant and considered a
criminal attempt to establish a police regime in the construction
"Strengthening Police Powers Will Not Solve the Problems of the Workers
or the Sector!" Workers' Forum, January 25, 2018.
Quebec Nurses Take Action to End the
Crisis in Their Sector
Outaouais Hospital Workers -- Militant Contingent
to Smash the Silence on Working Conditions
Forty nurses at the Hull Hospital in Gatineau have had
their unsustainable working conditions and published an "Outaouais
Emergency Black Book." The "Black Book" says, among other things,
"Today, we firmly denounce the miserable working conditions in which we
are forced to work. Miserable conditions that compromise
the health and safety of patients in the Outaouais but also members of
the nursing staff." The nurses have chosen to remain anonymous for fear
They also denounce the "management method to use as few
possible while we must manage as best we can when a large number of
patients requiring critical care come to the emergency room."
demand safe nurse-patient ratios and denounce the dangerous situation
that prevails. They also express their frustration at not being heard.
One of the consequences of the shortage of nurses is
explained in a
report from the group Santé Outaouais 2020, whose president
Mayor of Hull Michel Légère and its
vice-president is pediatrician Dr.
Henriette Fortin. Presently, only four of the hospital's five operating
running due to a nursing shortage. This resulted in almost 900
surgical operations at the Hull Hospital in 2017 compared to the
previous year, including 300 fewer orthopedic surgeries
and 371 fewer
day surgeries. The report's authors also point out
that to make up for the lack of nurses, managers have made continuous
use of overtime, to the extent that the Hull Hospital has the highest
overtime rate in all of Quebec for its operating rooms.
Of course, the dramatic situation in hospitals also
hospital staff. On February 19, orderlies, maintenance workers,
and food services staff held a sit-in to get their message across and
denounce the work overload and the many overtime demands from
management. The President of the Outaouais Health Care and Social
Services Workers Union (STTSSSO-CSN) raised the need to increase
investment in the health care network. The union also invited MNA
Maryse Gaudreault to work a week in their jobs. At this time, the
so-called representatives of the people have all taken up the most
cynical refrain that it is the nurses themselves who are the problem
denouncing their horrendous working conditions makes the profession
look less "attractive" to the next generation!
The question of workers' right to speak out -- their
right to smash
the silence and to defend their dignity and the well-being of the
people -- must be fully supported!
Anti-Social Restructuring of Health Care --
The Example of the North Shore
The Union of Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses and
of Northeastern Quebec (SIISNEQ) represents approximately 1,250
licensed practical nurses and inhalotherapists in three networks: the
Integrated Health and Social Services Centre (CISSS) on the North
Shore, the Regional Health and Social Services
(CRSSS) in James Bay and the Community Health Centre (CLSC) of Naskapi
in Northern Quebec. The union is affiliated with the Centrale des
syndicats du Québec. Workers' Forum recently talked
with SIISNEQ President Nathalie Savard about the impact of health care
restructuring on remote areas.
Workers' Forum: What is the impact
of the restructuring of the health care system in the regions you cover?
Nathalie Savard: In Northeastern
Quebec, there is
the CRSSS in James Bay, which existed as an integrated health
institution before Bill 10 [that imposed widespread restructuring
integration] was passed in 2015. It is as if the government took
model to create the CISSS. What has changed a lot is on the
North Shore, a huge territory with completely different realities. We
are talking about 1,300 km of coastline. We have two big health
centres which are in Baie-Comeau and Sept-Îles. These are
hospitals that each have an operating room. In the rest of the region
there are small centres that offer emergency departments,
community services, and short-term hospitalization. They do not have
operating rooms. There are also clinics in remote isolated villages.
would say that since the amalgamation of all the health care
institutions on the North Shore, three years after the passing of
Bill 10, we are still struggling with structures and trying to
functional institutions. In that time, all the important issues for the
members we represent have become critical, such as reducing the
that is hired through private agencies. No work has been done to reduce
mandatory overtime, which has gone through the roof. Our nurses
regularly do two, three and four shifts of mandatory overtime per week.
And in the middle of all this, there are currently 146 positions
fill that have not been posted since the CISSS was created. In
addition, the employer is abolishing full-time positions to transform
them into part-time positions.
The CISSS has a $ 9.6 million deficit. This
was the case for the
past four to five years. Within this situation, the CEO of the CISSS
says there are no cuts to service for the people. Yet this $9.6
deficit must be eliminated over a period of three years according to
the Minister's decision under the zero-deficit
legislation. It is obvious that this is being done through service
cuts. Short-term beds were recently cut in Les Escoumins, which is an
hour-and-a-half drive from the nearest hospital in Baie-Comeau. So
people now have to drive for three hours to see family in the hospital
and in our region there are no highways and if the weather is bad the
whole trip is risky. We can see that in small communities, they are
trying to centralize services for the benefit of large hospitals, at
the expense of local needs. The proximity of services to the population
that we had before is declining. According to Minister of Health
Barrette, the aim of the health care reform was to reduce
costs and improve accessibility. Well, we ran a $9.6 million
last year and when short-term beds in small villages are closed and
people have to go to Baie-Comeau or Sept-Îles to get services, I
think that access to care has improved either.
WF: In a vast region like the North
Shore, what is
happening with the issue of workforce mobility and flexibility pushed
by the reform?
NS: Mobility and flexibility of the
workforce is indeed an important issue.
What is important for nurses and inhalotherapists is
the quality of
the care and this requires stability. This means stable work teams in
emergency departments, intensive care, etc. Our union was aware that
these things were coming and during the last national negotiation we
fought on this matter. We ended our negotiations later than some
federations for a reason. We went on strike for a number of days to
make sure that the employer could not unilaterally impose mobility and
flexibility on us, like taking a nurse who lives in Sept-Îles and
sending her to work in the Lower North Shore which is four hours away
by plane. We were right in waging this fight because for the employer a
nurse is a nurse and that is it, she must work anywhere. Life is not
like that. There are different fields in nursing. If you have worked
for 15 years in the emergency department, you have developed
skills. I would not see a nurse working at a senior care facility to go
the next morning to intensive care without the proper training and
also the proper abilities.
fought for and got provisions in our collective agreement that the
employers cannot make unilateral decisions on workforce mobility and
flexibility. They have to sit with us and there are clear rules. An
agreement with the union is needed, and as far as we are concerned, we
consult the members. We are doing the same thing in James
We are there to ensure that our people have working
allow them to work in dignity and provide quality care to the public.
Our employers and the government should have the same goal as us.
There are solutions, of which we have plenty, but they
reinvestment in the health care system and an end to the budget cuts
that have accompanied the structural reforms. On the North Shore, in
five years, $30 million has been cut, while the new structures and
mergers were improvised without any planning.
Is the health care system being destroyed to better
sell it off to
those in the private sector, like the colleagues of the Minister of
Health? We think this is the case, that the destruction of the public
health network is for the benefit of private interests who want to get
the system back in their hands. Fifty to 60 years ago the health
system was private and people went into debt for treatment and there
were people who did not get treatment because they could not afford it.
We made a collective decision in those years to give ourselves a public
service that is available to all regardless of the size their wallets.
It is up to the people of Quebec to decide how our
implement our decision to have public health care. We have to stand up
and say that's enough. We have to manage the system differently.
Another Blow to Canadian Workers and
PepsiCo Shuts Down Alberta
Spitz Sunflower Seed Factory
PepsiCo announced it will cease operations at the Spitz
sunflower seed processing plant in southern Alberta this July.
Fifty-three workers will lose their employment that produces value for
themselves, the economy and small community of Bow Island. Local
sub-contractors and suppliers will also be adversely affected. In a
province dominated by resource extraction and the export of raw and
partially refined material, the Spitz factory is an exception,
producing consumer goods from local material.
PepsiCo issued an arrogant statement, consistent with
those who have no concern for the social consequences to the workers
and farmers of Alberta and the Canadian economy and society. PepsiCo
said the entire Spitz operation will be moved to facilities in the
United States as this fits its narrow private interests. The statement
reads in part,
"This facility [at Bow Island] will close later this year and Spitz
production will be moving to an existing contract manufacturer partner
in the U.S. This was a business decision based on an extensive
evaluation of the long-term viability of this site and its ability to
meet our increasing volume requirements for the brand, which will
continue to play
an important role in our North American portfolio."
The PepsiCo business decision reveals the lack of
control of Canadian workers and farmers over their own economy and
lives. The decision is based on the narrow imperialist aim of PepsiCo
to expand its private empire at the expense of Canadian
nation-building, according to its calculations of being able in this
way to expropriate the
PepsiCo first seized Spitz Inc in 2008, taking
control of its operations in Bow Island and Medicine Hat, Alberta and
the associated technical knowledge and patents. At the time, Spitz was
the leading Canadian brand of sunflower and pumpkin seed snacks and in
competition with PepsiCo's Frito-Lay portfolio of food products. In
announcing the takeover in 2008, PepsiCo boasted that it has a
history of seizing small Canadian food companies to expand its Frito
Lay Canada subsidiary, turning it into "one of Canada's largest food
The Spitz company began operations in 1982
producing sunflower seeds as bird feed. It soon branched into consumer
snacks eventually becoming a large operation with over 70 workers
in Bow Island and Medicine Hat, transforming sunflower and pumpkin
seeds grown locally into finished packaged commodities and sending them
out for wide circulation in retail stores, gaining a popular following.
Twenty-six years later in 2008, the owners of Spitz sold the
operation to PepsiCo headquartered in New York state, which then began
to expropriate for itself the added-value Spitz workers produce and
decide the distribution and use of that value. Within eight years
PepsiCo closed the Spitz facility in Medicine Hat, and two years later
has announced the shutdown of the remaining operation in Bow Island.
This is nation-wrecking at the hands of the U.S. imperialists with the
full complicity of Canadian state authorities and governments.
By seizing Spitz in 2008, PepsiCo began the
destruction of yet another food company in Canada. First, it gained
control of the expropriation of the added-value workers produce;
however, with continued operations in Canada the reproduced-value
workers claim from the sale of their capacity to work remained in
Alberta along with much
of the transferred-value from material. Now with the complete shutdown
of the Canadian operation, and production moved to the United States,
when Canadians buy a Spitz snack, almost the entire exchange-value will
flow out of Canada to the U.S. The only value remaining in Canada will
be a small retail mark-up and some of the value from
transportation. This effectively drains value from the Canadian
economy, greatly weakening it.
The necessity for a Canadian nation-building project
that vests decision-making in the people is obvious. It will give the
actual producers control over their means of production, the social
product they produce, and its value both for themselves and for use in
the extended reproduction of a stable, self-reliant economy that
provides the material basis
to guarantee the well-being, security and rights of all Canadians.
The vitriol and mania of the current Alberta government
for pipelines, to increase the export of raw material, misses the point
entirely of the necessity for nation-building under the control of the
working people themselves. The control of the imperialists dominated by
the oil and gas and other cartels that are only interested in ripping
out of the province has proven to be a disaster.
For other reports of recent imperialist nation-wrecking
of food production in Canada see: "Closure of Former McCain
Food Plant in Saint-André, New Brunswick," Workers' Forum, February 15, 2018
and "Campbell Soup to
Shut Down Canadian Manufacturing Plant," Janice Murray, Workers' Forum,
February 1, 2018.
Whatever It Takes!
Teachers Stand Up to McNeil Liberals
Rally in Defence of the Rights of All!
February 27, 12:00- 5:00 pm
Legislature, on the Granville Street side
Nova Scotians Rise Up and others
say and control over their lives. The people
are organizing to achieve this aim. Nova Scotia needs democratic
renewal and increased funding for social programs and universal free
public services. Nova Scotia does not need or want autocratic
governments that dictate terms of employment and an austerity program
to pay the rich in opposition to the needs and rights of the people.
Nova Scotians for the rights of
all at the Legislature in Halifax !
The situation has come to a breaking point for Nova
Scotia teachers, who are once again standing up to defend their rights
under very difficult circumstances. The governing McNeil Liberals
imposed a contract last year on 9,300 teachers, the ridiculously named
Bill 75, the Teachers' Professional Agreement and Classroom
Improvements Act, where no agreement was reached with teachers and
classrooms were not improved.
The government is now continuing its attack on the
teachers by proposing full implementation of a report it commissioned
by Dr. Avis Glaze. The McNeil government precisely commissioned this
report because it knew what the recommendations would be and has now
accepted them without hesitation.
This practice shows utter contempt for the teachers,
other education workers, students, and parents who are directly
affected and have definite ideas regarding how to improve the education
system and the teachers' terms of employment. Discussion is also taking
place as to how the value education creates should come back into the
system, in a proper exchange of values with the enterprises and
institutions that employ educated workers and directly benefit from the
enormous value they possess.
In the months leading up to imposition of the McNeil
Bill 75 dictate negating teachers' right to decide, the governing
Liberals refused to listen to any recommendations from the teachers who
do the work, from the students who study within the conditions in which
teachers work, and from counsellors, parents and other concerned Nova
Scotians. The government went ahead and brought Bill 75 down on
the heads of all those involved in education and then commissioned the
Glaze report to rubberstamp and justify its brazen dictate. This
unacceptable government attack on the rights of those who do the work
and are directly affected will not stand!
On February 20, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union held a
province-wide strike vote. Liette Doucet, president of the Nova Scotia
Teachers Union (NSTU) announced on Wednesday that 82.5 per cent of
teachers voted in favour of taking job action to defend their rights in
the face of unilateral sweeping changes the government threatens to
"They [teachers] made this decision knowing that they could face a loss
of pay and heavy fines. They are so concerned for students and the
future of education in this province that they are willing to accept
hardship in hopes that it will demonstrate to the government that the
only way forward is through meaningful consultation," Ms. Doucet told
reporters outside the NSTU office.
The NSTU said 93 per cent of the union's more than
10,000 public school members voted and 82.5 per cent supported job
action, whether the government declares it illegal or not. This
calculates as nearly 77 per cent of eligible teachers voted to strike.
The form the strike will take has yet to be decided,
already media are attempting to turn the teachers No!, in the form of their strike
vote, into a law and order matter, calling any strike "illegal" given
the fact that the contract the government imposed is still in place.
fully supports Nova Scotia's teachers and calls on everyone to stand
with them as they express their No!
to unnaceptable dictate over their working conditions which are
students' learning conditions.
Who Should Decide the Working and Learning Conditions
in Schools in Nova Scotia?
The people who do the work should decide their
terms of employment, and, in consultation with those directly affected
by the work, they should also decide the direction of the sector.
Teachers, students, parents and other concerned members of the polity
should decide the working and learning conditions in schools and how
the value that education creates should be returned to the sector for
its extended reproduction. This is a modern principle upholding the
rights of all, the stability and health of the economy and the general
interests of society.
People do not and will not
accept the anti-social fraud of a government dictate over terms of
employment and the direction of the education system. The government is
completely self-serving. The big corporations that refuse to
acknowledge the value teachers and the education system create and put
into their students, are not fit to decide anything which concerns
The nonsense of "taxpayers' ability to pay" is a
concoction to avoid dealing with the reality of a modern interconnected
economy. The government believes that bellowing inanities about
taxpayers gives it carte blanche to attack teachers, students
and the education system and deny the enormous value education
contributes to the
economy and society year after year. In fact, the individual taxpayer
should not pay for the education system; those enterprises and
institutions that consume education value should pay directly back to
the education system the amount they gain in value from their educated
The slander that teachers are self-serving and use
students as pawns to fill their pockets with cash is pathetic. Teachers
go about their work with the utmost professionalism and concern for
improving the learning conditions. They donate their own money to
provide classrooms with teaching materials. They are blocked by those
and the big business community who want to deprive teachers of their
right to decide and deny the value education creates for the economy
and society. Throughout this recent struggle for a negotiated contract
and to improve the learning conditions of students in Nova Scotia,
teachers have stood as one in defence of their modern right to decide
and for the right of Nova Scotia's youth to a modern education for all
at the highest level.
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