April 5, 2018

Iron Ore Company Workers on Strike in Labrador
Joined by Workers in Sept-Iles

Mine and Transportation Workers
Fight for the Dignity of Labour 


Delegation of USW Local 9344 workers from the IOC plant in Sept-Îles, Quebec join workers on picketline at IOC in Labrador, March 30, 2018.

Iron Ore Company Workers on Strike in Labrador Joined by Workers in Sept-Iles
Mine and Transportation Workers Fight for the Dignity of Labour

New Brunswick Public Sector Broadly Organizing Against Government Dictate
"Breaking the Mandate" Conference Promotes United Fight for Public Sector Wage Increases - Interview, Daniel Légère, President, CUPE New Brunswick

Nova Scotia Public Sector Workers Fight for Their Rights
Strike Vote Announced by Nova Scotia Council of Health Care Unions
Nursing Home Workers Demand Improved Health and Safety for
Themselves and Residents

Ontario Health Care Workers Seek New Ways to Affirm Their Rights
Alliance of Hospital Workers Unions Formed

Quebec Government's Abuse of State Power
Quebec Bill 152 Uses Charbonneau Commission to Unleash More Police Powers Against Construction Workers - Pierre Chénier

Iron Ore Company Workers on Strike in Labrador Joined by Workers in Sept-Iles

Mine and Transportation Workers Fight
for the Dignity of Labour

USW Local 9344 workers from IOC plant in Sept-Îles, Quebec join workers at IOC in Labrador, March 30, 2018. Sept-Îles workers have also voted down the company's latest contract offer.

The 1,400 workers at Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) in Labrador have been on strike since March 27. They went on strike mainly against the insistence of the IOC to maintain a category of workers called the "temporary workforce." Those temporary workers perform the same tasks as their co-workers but with worse terms of employment.

The striking workers are members of USW Locals 5795 and 6731, the latter a small local representing about 30 warehouse workers. As soon as they went on strike, the Labrador workers set up picket lines maintained by workers from two generations of IOC miners. They are also being supported on the line by former workers of a third generation, now very advanced in age. The older workers remember the struggles of the past for the rights of miners and mining communities and are proud to express their support for the striking workers.

On Thursday, April 5, the workers of IOC Labrador are holding a demonstration under the theme "Tear Down the Wall! Equal Rights for All! Their Fight Is Our Future." The event is sponsored by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE).

In a related development last week, the 301 IOC workers in Sept-Îles, members of USW Local 9344, massively rejected the company's final offer at general membership meetings held on March 28 and 29. They will be in a legal strike position on April 10. The Sept-Îles workers rejected the company's offer by 98 per cent with a turnout of 87 per cent.

In a brief interview with Workers' Forum following the general meetings, Dany Maltais, United Steelworkers Union Representative on the Quebec North Shore, said that the issue of technological change is one of the main reasons why the IOC offer was rejected:

"Technological changes are as important to us in Sept-Îles as the temporary workforce is in Labrador," Maltais said. "The employer started developing programs based on the automation of our tasks a couple of years ago. At the moment, the collective agreement says that workers affected by automation can take the jobs of workers with less seniority. But there are also going to be new jobs created. The job descriptions are going to be changed. The new jobs that are created will no longer belong to the bargaining unit. We are looking for a way to protect ourselves in the contract. We want the new positions, the new tasks, to belong to the unionized workers of our Local. The employer came to the table with its final offer without addressing this concern of ours which is very important to us. We consider the company's response to be a lack of respect."

Sept-Îles workers have also rejected the company's wage offer as inadequate, in part because it incorporates cost-of-living premiums. Those payments are not guaranteed because they vary according to the cost of living and may well be zero in some years. They also rejected the company's offer because it did not include the increase in pension benefits that workers are demanding. Pension benefits in the plan, a defined benefits plan, are not even indexed and it is only through bargaining that workers obtain benefit increases and adjustments to reflect the cost of living.

"Every dollar invested in the pension plan and in wages is a dollar left in the region, which is spent here on basic necessities. The entire regional economy benefits. We hope that current and future workers and retirees can continue to live well here," said Local 9344 President Eddy Wright on the Steelworkers' website.

"As far as the pension plan is concerned, we appreciate that the employer has withdrawn its concessionary demand to place new hires on a defined contribution plan. However, our goal is not only not to make concessions but to improve our working and living conditions," Dany Maltais told Workers' Forum. In contrast with the situation in Labrador, the issue of the temporary workforce has already been settled in Sept-Îles at the local bargaining level and ratified by the Sept-Îles workers.

The Sept-Îles workers will only be in a legal strike position on April 10 because their work is done in both Quebec and Newfoundland-and-Labrador and as such, they are subject to the Canada Labour Code which has its own rules and deadlines. There is also the question of essential services to be settled, because the railway on which the Sept-Îles steelworkers' work also serves the local population.

USW Local 9344 presents cheque to workers in Labrador City, to financially support their strike.

Members of the executive of the Sept-Îles local traveled to Labrador City on March 30, to support striking workers on their picket line and give them a check for $25,000. The Sept-Îles delegation was greeted warmly on the lines by the striking steelworkers. Tony Reccord, President of Local 6731 told them, "We support your fight too. Solidarity and equality are two of the cornerstones of the Steelworkers."

The Labrador workers mine the iron ore in Labrador, which they then concentrate and pelletize. The Sept-Îles workers perform the tasks related to the transportation of this material by rail to the port of Sept-Îles, where dock workers load the material on ships to be transported to steel plants worldwide.

The demands of IOC workers are to protect and increase their claim to the value they produce in order to keep as much of the value as possible in the region for the well-being of the actual producers and their communities. Their demands pertain to the dignity of labour and to the well-being of their communities, which depend largely on this production to live a cultured existence.

Under current conditions, the individual claims of workers on the new value they produce are in the form of wages, benefits and pensions. The active and retired workers' claims constitute the bulk of the value from production that stays in Labrador City and Sept-Îles. If IOC succeeds in expropriating a larger portion of the new value workers produce by reducing the amount going to wages, benefits and pensions,  the additional money captured as profit will leave the community and go into the coffers of the global owners depriving the people of its use.

The demands of the IOC workers are just and deserve the support of all workers.

Delegation from IOC Sept-Îles at USW office in Labrador City.

(Photos: Metallos, USW Local 5795)

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New Brunswick Public Sector Broadly Organizing Against Government Dictate

"Breaking the Mandate" Conference Promotes United Fight for Public Sector Wage Increases

Workers' Forum: CUPE New Brunswick held a conference mid-March with the theme "Breaking the Mandate." What was the aim of the conference?

Daniel Légère: The aim of the conference was to deal with the present situation. For the last couple of rounds of bargaining, back for about 12 years, the New Brunswick government has been bargaining with public sector workers enforcing a mandate of suppressing wage increases. Over the years, we have seen a lot of zero and one per cent settlements. This has been the government's view and practice for all public sector workers. It has stuck to that mandate over several rounds of bargaining.

Our members have found over a period of time that it is becoming harder for them to make ends meet, to pay all the bills at the end of each month. We did research on this and in fact our members have less disposable income than they had 12 to 14 years ago because of this government mandate in collective bargaining.

Through the conference, we developed a tool for our members to show their wage increases in relation to the cost of living increases. Their purchasing power has actually been significantly reduced over the last rounds of bargaining. We brought about 250 leaders together in Fredericton for the conference. We developed a bunch of tools to mobilize our members. We had our senior economist come down from CUPE National to show the impact not only on our members but also on our communities when you suppress wage increases. People have less money to spend and everybody is impacted by that.

The conference was very lively. People left there energized. We involved everyone to make sure we are going in the right direction. We had ballot boxes in which people could put their comments. Two or three times a day we had an open mic to get the feedback of the participants and we had overwhelming support from the delegates who attended.

The conference was the start of a movement, which is going to carry over into our convention from April 24 to April 27. After that, we are going to bring the conference into the regions, starting with training sessions in June and mass membership meetings in the fall. We are going to bring the conference to our 28,000 members in the province.

Part of our plan is to coordinate bargaining, to share information. Our experience is that once a group accepts the mandate from the government, it becomes harder for the next group to break from it. We have agreed to help each other to make sure that we break this government mandate.

We are not doing this in silos. We invited other public sector unions to join us for the first part of the conference to hear our economist speak. We are going to meet again with the other New Brunswick public sector unions. The entire public sector has been impacted by this government mandate. What we want to do this time is to set the mandate ourselves, including with the other public sector unions, so that the government cannot set the pattern. We are going to put the government on notice that we are planning to get real wage increases for our members.

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Nova Scotia Public Sector Workers Fight for Their Rights

Strike Vote Announced by Nova Scotia Council
of Health Care Unions

Conditions in the hospitals across the province are deteriorating. Problems include the closure of emergency departments and extreme wait times for health care. The adverse conditions are compounded with the refusal of the provincial government, the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the IWK Health Centre to bargain with the collectives of workers and reach an arrangement on terms and conditions of employment acceptable to health care workers. The situation has prompted the Nova Scotia Council of Health Care Unions to announce the first ever province-wide Health Care Bargaining Unit strike vote.

The Nova Scotia Council of Health Care Unions is one of four councils the government created unilaterally through the Health Authorities Act in April 2015. The councils comprise a total of 24,361 health care workers organized in different unions with each of the four councils having different leads, deputy lead negotiators and memberships.[1]

The places and date of the strike vote will be released in the coming days. The four unions of the four Councils will conduct their own votes and consultations with membership.

The resistance of Nova Scotia workers to the dictate of the McNeil Liberals has developed significantly. Conditions of work and the refusal of the employer to negotiate are key factors in arousing the resistance. Those who do the work do not have any authoritative say or control over the decisions that affect their working conditions, which are also the conditions of health care of Nova Scotians.

Jason MacLean, President of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU), explains why calling a strike vote is an important step in collective bargaining with the province at this time: "You can't just hold people out like that and have [Premier] Stephen McNeil bragging that they have this big windfall of money when you have a crisis in health care. And you have the people working within the crisis in health care and trying to keep it afloat, but you're not respecting them by giving them a deal at the table."

The conditions in both the education system and the health care system are often described as in crisis, which the reality shows is not an exaggeration. The Nova Scotia teachers are continuing their resistance to the McNeil government's use of police powers to impose a contract as well as major reforms without any say or input from those who do the work. Teachers give detailed daily reports of the continuing crises at their institutions as they struggle to educate the youth without the required provincial investments.

So too, health care workers issue countless reports of conditions of work that expose the government as being in direct contradiction with fulfilling the right of the people to timely quality health care. Stories abound of people languishing in hallways waiting to see a doctor, long lines of ambulances outside the Queen Elizabeth II emergency health centre, people waiting over 10 hours to see a doctor and even some leaving the ER to call 911 to try to have a doctor assist them before the situation becomes fatal. A crisis indeed.

The President of the NSGEU rightfully calls the situation a crisis in the hospitals, which is also a crisis in the politics of the province reflected in the government's inability to deal with any of the problems facing the people, including the provision of timely quality health care that belongs to Nova Scotians by right.

"Front line health care workers are doing the best they can, but this crisis is the responsibility of Stephen McNeil and his continuing denial that a crisis exists is cold comfort for the patients who are left waiting on an ambulance stretcher for more than 10 hours just to be seen by a doctor," MacLean says.

The political crisis is caused in part by the neo-liberal aim of the McNeil Liberals to impose their austerity agenda, as dictated by the imperialist rich whom they represent. Power to make decisions that affect the lives of the people of Nova Scotia lies in the hands of a privileged class that has usurped power and use it to serve their aim of expropriating maximum money profit from the new value workers produce. Their aim is in contradiction with the right of Nova Scotians to timely quality health care. In fact, most discussion in the think tanks and media of the rich is centred on how to manipulate social programs and public services in ways that meet their aim to expropriate maximum profit through privatization or other methods.

The workers' announcement that they will hold a strike vote is a significant and courageous move. To organize to withdraw their capacity to work shows how serious they are to defend their rights and the rights of all. This comes despite the continuous threats and dictate of the McNeil Liberals to impose contracts on workers, to criminalize their resistance and through police powers negate their right to withdraw their capacity to work. This marks another step in the direction of building resistance to the class privilege that is negating the right of Nova Scotians to have a say in the affairs that affect their lives and to solve the very real and serious problems their society faces.

While conciliation dates are set for April and May, the Nova Scotia Council of Health Care Unions is taking a significant step in seizing the initiative with a strike vote and putting the focus on the workers' demands for terms of employment acceptable to themselves and for solutions to the problems in the health care sector.


1. The four councils are:

The Nova Scotia Council of Health Care Unions -- total membership 6,506
The Nova Scotia General Employees Union -- 3,808 members and is the Lead for this council.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees -- 1,940 members and is the Deputy Lead.
Unifor -- 751 members.
The Nova Scotia Nurses' Union -- 7 members.

Nova Scotia Council of Health Administrative Professional Unions -- 4,213 total membership
NSGEU -- 2,979 members, Deputy Lead
CUPE -- 1,195 members, Lead
Unifor -- 35 members
NSNU -- 4 members

The Nova Scotia Council of Health Support Unions -- total membership of 4,029
NSGEU -- 1,853 members, Deputy Lead
CUPE -- 1,093 members
Unifor -- 1,082 members, Lead
NSNU -- 1 member

The Nova Scotia Council of Nursing Unions -- total membership of 9,613
NSNU -- 5,149 members, Lead
NSGEU -- 3,507 members, Deputy Lead
CUPE -- 484 members
Unifor -- 473 members

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Nursing Home Workers Demand Improved Health
and Safety for Themselves and Residents

Nursing home workers, members of CUPE Local 1876 picket office of Eddie Orrell, MLA
Northside--Westmount in North Sydney, March 30, 2018.

Nursing home workers in North Sydney, Nova Scotia organized an information picket on March 29, to smash the silence on their working conditions and the living conditions of nursing home residents. Workers from the Northside Community Guest Home raised their concerns about the effects of staffing shortages that cause workers high levels of stress and burnout, and difficulty in fulfilling their important tasks, all of which has a negative impact on the quality of life and conditions of residents. The issues of quality of care and conditions of work merge into one and the same.

Louise Riley, chairperson of the CUPE Long Term Care Coordinating Committee commented on the conditions of work, "There are many problems at the nursing home such as reducing the resident-to-staff ratio, little or no vacation time granted, and failure to replace temporary full-time positions."

Under the current anti-social offensive of the McNeil Liberal government with its broad attacks on social programs and public services, every working day for health care workers becomes a life and death struggle. The refusal of the government to make the changes necessary to ensure safe and proper conditions for home care workers and the people in their care has come to a crisis point. The McNeil austerity agenda includes the refusal to address staff shortages, underemployment, and the severe lack of nursing home beds in Nova Scotia.

The anti-social agenda of the McNeil Liberals to serve the interests of the rich elite whom they represent in government is causing widespread problems in all public services that Nova Scotians rely on for their security, well-being and the future of the youth. Because workers who perform the crucial tasks involved in public services are denied a decisive say in their working conditions, society is blocked from solving the problems the people face, which worsens the social conditions instead of improving them.

In the face of this, nurses are rising to take a stand in favour of themselves and the people they serve. They are resisting the pressure on them not to speak out on the terrible conditions of work they face every working day, which are the equally terrible conditions of those who rely on their services. They refuse to be silent! By taking a public stand to expose the conditions in their sector, they are putting the focus on the fact that the McNeil Liberals refuse to recognize the modern right of all to health care and to live in dignity during one's final years of life. The McNeil Liberals bring shame on themselves and the rich elite they serve for dragging society backwards with their refusal to invest public funds in health care and to act on the serious problems workers have been raising for years.

Nursing home workers' picket March 30, 2018.

(Photos: CUPE Nova Scotia)

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Ontario Health Care Workers Seek New Ways to Affirm Their Rights

Alliance of Hospital Workers Unions Formed

On March 27 the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (OCHU/CUPE), SEIU Healthcare and Unifor announced the formation of a new alliance to seek a negotiated agreement on behalf of 75,000 nurses, personal support workers, porters, administrative staff and dietary, cleaning and trades staff at 160 public hospitals in Ontario. The unions normally negotiate independently with the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) -- the hospital employers' umbrella group.

The alliance begins an escalating campaign of membership mobilization to push Ontario hospitals to return to bargaining and treat their staff with respect. Unifor, SEIU Healthcare and OCHU/CUPE hospital staff explain that through the Alliance they will work together to mobilize against the hospitals' demands for concessions to win a fair new collective agreement under the campaign banner of 'Together for Respect.' Collective actions include a province-wide solidarity day on April 11 and workplace rallies April 18, along with television and social media advertising that begins on April 9.

The formation of such an Alliance is an attempt to block the method used by the employer's association to divide the workers on the basis of their union affiliation by getting one to accept concessions or deteriorating conditions to then have this applied across the board to all unions and workers. The method of trying to set an anti-social pattern to extract funds from social programs has been used continuously in Ontario since the Liberal government unleashed its latest anti-social offensive which began in all earnest in 2012 under the McGuinty Government. It continues to be used for example against teachers and education workers as the various provincial unions are pitted against one another during negotiations to incite divisions and break the prevailing sentiment of teachers and education workers that they are united in defending their working conditions which are students' learning conditions. Health care workers in Ontario are leading an attempt to break through this method of dividing their ranks in order to defend their working conditions which are the basis for the quality of the health care system.

"By coming together, we are making history to demand that our members get the respect they deserve. The OHA has been unwilling to negotiate fairly, but I truly believe we are stronger together and I'm hopeful that our alliance will lead to us achieving positive outcomes for the 75,000 hospital staff we collectively represent," said SEIU Healthcare President Sharleen Stewart.

"Together we are going to resist concessions that the employers have been seeking, from mostly women workers who earn modest wages and deserve more respect," said Katha Fortier, Assistant to the National President at Unifor.

"Workloads for our members are very difficult and hospital staff are exhausted and stressed. They experience significant violence at work. The hospitals have reached agreements for paramedical staff, under the prevailing public sector pattern, but the hospitals refuse to extend this modest pattern to the nursing, clerical and support staff that we represent, let alone address issues like violence," said OCHU President Michael Hurley.

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Quebec Government's Abuse of State Power

Quebec Bill 152 Uses Charbonneau Commission
to Unleash More Police Powers Against
Construction Workers

Special hearings of the Quebec Legislature's Committee on Labour and the Economy were held on February 6 and 7. The hearings dealt specifically with Bill 152, An Act to amend various labour-related legislative provisions mainly to give effect to certain Charbonneau Commission recommendations.

Representatives of construction unions attending the hearings spoke against the bill. They rejected the slanderous measures in the bill that depict workers organized in trade unions as common criminals when they defend their rights on construction sites, including the extremely important right to safe and healthy conditions. Despite the passionate opposition of representatives of the working class and public demonstrations of thousands of construction workers and their allies during the construction workers' strike in May 2017, which took a clear stand in defence of the dignity and rights of these workers, the National Assembly unanimously adopted the bill in principle on February 22, and referred it to the Committee for article-by-article analysis.[1]

It strikes many observers as very odd that during the special hearings hardly anything at all was said about the Charbonneau Commission even though the bill takes the name of the Commission and allegedly seeks to implement recommendations from its final report of November 24, 2015.

The Quebec Liberal government created the Charbonneau Commission in 2011 with the complete name, the Commission of Inquiry on the Awarding and Management of Public Contracts in the Construction Industry. The Commission came into being after years of scandals in the way public contracts are awarded in the construction industry. The Quebec government, which created the Commission, is the main distributor of lucrative contracts to construction companies and engineering firms. The government chooses the companies and awards them with pay-the-rich schemes that include inflated prices and other benefits. Many accuse the official political parties, in particular the Liberal Party, of then receiving large sums of money from the construction companies for use in winning seats in the electoral process.

The Liberal government gave the Charbonneau Commission the following mandate:

- Examine the existence of schemes involving collusion and corruption in the awarding of public construction contracts, and the possibility of links to political party financing;

- Outline how organized crime may have infiltrated the construction industry; and,

- Provide solutions and recommendations on how to detect and prevent collusion and corruption in the awarding and management of public construction contracts and infiltration of the industry by organized crime.

Links between this mandate and labour relations, and the organized activities of the trade unions of construction workers in defence of their rights are not obvious, to say the least. But riding a wave of innuendo and slander in the monopoly-controlled mass media and anti-worker statements from government spokespeople a relationship has been made.

Linking corruption in the awarding of pay-the-rich contracts with labour relations diverts the issue from holding the co-conspirators in government and big business to account. It conveniently lets the perpetrators of crimes off the hook and uses the occasion to intensify state-organized police powers to deny construction workers their right to defend themselves collectively at work.

Bill 152 amends three labour laws:

- the Act respecting labour standards;

- the Act respecting labour relations, vocational training and workforce management in the construction industry;

- the Act respecting occupational health and safety.

To expose the anti-worker intent of Bill 152, the Charbonneau Commission and government's definition of organized crime must be addressed. According to the Commission's mandate from the government, organized crime is defined as: "a group of three or more persons that has been in existence for some time and is acting in concert for the purpose of committing one or more offences for the purpose of direct or indirect benefit."

The report of the Commission states, in a rather ambiguous manner, that given its mandate the Commission considers all individuals acting "in concert" for a common criminal purpose as belonging to organized crime, whether or not they are members of a criminal organization.

Article 467.1 of the Criminal Code defines "criminal organization" as, "a group, however organized, that (a) is composed of three or more persons in or outside Canada; and (b) has as one of its main purposes or main activities the facilitation or commission of one or more serious offences that, if committed, would likely result in the direct or indirect receipt of a material benefit, including a financial benefit, by the group or by any of the persons who constitute the group. It does not include a group of persons that forms randomly for the immediate commission of a single offence."

The Charbonneau Commission provides itself with a much broader definition of organized crime than the one for criminal organization found in the Criminal Code. The government's Bill 152 with its increased police powers against construction workers explains the self-serving definition.

The Commission classifies organized crime into two categories: the "Mafia-type" criminal groups and the "non-Mafia-type" criminal groups. It describes the "non mafia-type" criminal groups in the following manner: "The Commission groups in this category criminal groups that are not characterized mainly by the use of violence, the threat of violence and territorial control. These groups are more likely to engage in crimes of an economic nature, which are less associated with this type of method. It may be groups engaged in corruption, collusion, fraud or tax evasion. These groups do not necessarily have a hierarchy or rituals associated with Mafia-type criminal groups."

The Commission associates "non-Mafia-type" organized crime with "crimes of an economic nature." It suggests any individuals acting "in concert" and engaged in undefined "crimes of an economic nature" should be considered members of a criminal organization.

The crux of the matter then becomes how "crimes of an economic nature" are defined and who does the defining and for what purpose. During the struggle to legalize trade unions, the government and big business considered all trade union activity as "crimes of an economic nature," broadly defined as organized crimes of workers to restrict trade.

Regarding the defining of "crimes of an economic nature" and who is in control of that defining, construction workers point out that their definition and that of their employers are diametrically opposed. From the outlook of construction workers who are paid for their capacity to work, the individuals buying their capacity to work, their employers, often act in concert to commit "crimes of an economic nature" against workers.

Employers acting in concert pressure workers to work illegally, forcing construction workers to accept less than the standard wage for their capacity to work. This concerted employer pressure on workers often forces them to work for a standard wage but with no deductions going to Employment Insurance or to the Compensation Board or to any benefit or pension regime in place in the construction industry and so on. Employer pressure on workers of an "economic nature" also comes in the form of forcing workers to ignore standard construction practices and laws regarding health and safety on job sites.

The theft of wages and of the claims of government in the form of income tax evasion, Régime des rentes du Québec, EI and other benefits is rampant in the construction industry. Employers exploit the vulnerability of construction workers who must move from one construction project to the next, which leaves them mostly without job security and recognized seniority unless they enforce it themselves in an organized way.

Employers consider their own anti-worker tactics as good business practices and not "crimes of an economic nature." Those good business practices also extend to lucrative pay-the-rich contracts from governments. However, employers and the government are quick to label as criminals engaged in "crimes of an economic nature" any workers who take collective or even individual action to defend their rights.

Employers engaged in "crimes of an economic nature" against workers or the government treasury are not those the Charbonneau Commission addresses in its report or recommendations as being engaged in potential economic crimes. In fact, none of the common employer crimes against workers are mentioned in the entire work of the commission.

But when it comes to workers, the story is quite different, as it takes up the employer and government definition of "crimes of an economic nature" and dumps it on the organized working class. Referring to construction sites on Quebec's North Shore, the Commission writes:

"The Commission heard from eight witnesses who spoke about problematic situations that occurred on construction sites on the North Shore between 1996 and 2013. The Commission's concern on hearing these witnesses was to verify whether the practices brought to their attention, some of which were similar to methods used by criminal groups, stemmed from the possible involvement of such groups on these sites."

The Commission continues with stories told during its hearings. The main aim of the stories and their retelling in the report is to depict the workers as organizing actions "in concert" to extort an economic benefit. The report alleges that workers waged concerted actions by organizing "phoney organizations" to intimidate employers for an economic benefit or to negate their management rights or force them to hire more workers than they needed or restrict them from hiring the workers they wanted to hire, etc.

The report describes construction workers who established so-called phoney unemployed groups with whom they work in concert to force the hand of employers and intimidate them into hiring specific workers thus eliminating competition among workers on the labour market for the available work.

Undermining the competition of the labour market for jobs is a theme that runs through the entire report of the Commission. It highlights attacks on the marketplace as a feature of both organized crime and construction workers acting in a concerted way. This element of opposition to the competition of the market will be discussed more thoroughly in the next article.

By expanding the definition of organized crime and criminal organization in a self-serving way, the Charbonneau Commission has paved the way to further entrench a police regime against workers in the construction industry. Both the Commission and the government accuse workers of being engaged in concerted and organized actions that are "crimes of an economic nature" and "akin" to the world of organized crime albeit of the "non Mafia-type." These accusations against the organized working class echo the pre-WWII declarations of trade union activity, as illegal "crimes of an economic nature" to "restrict trade."

Meanwhile, the actual crimes of the big construction companies of accepting pay-the-rich government contracts, handing money over to the cartel parties in government to corrupt the electoral process, and the trampling on the rights of workers go unmentioned. Bill 152 is regressive and an attack on the rights of all. It solves no problems in the construction industry because that is not its aim. The bill is yet another attack on the right of workers to organize themselves effectively in defence of their rights and to open a path forward to a new pro-social direction for the economy.

(To be continued)

(Translation of quotes from the report of the Charbonneau Commission by Workers' Forum)


1. The strike was brutally ended on May 30, 2017 by the Quebec government that passed a back-to-work legislation against the construction workers under the hoax that their strike, which was about opposition to concessions that would aggravate their working conditions especially with the destabilization of their working hours, was harming the economy. The Charbonneau Commission and Bill 152 are also based on this anti-worker slander that the struggles of the construction workers are harming the economy by potentially slowing down or stopping activities on a job site.

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