May 8, 2018

Trudeau Government Forces CP Workers to Vote on Rejected Offer

Canadian Pacific Railway and
Trudeau Government in Cahoots to
Create Impasse for Workers


Trudeau Government Forces CP Workers to Vote on Rejected Offer
Canadian Pacific Railway and Trudeau Government in Cahoots to Create Impasse for Workers
Liberal Concoction to Violate Workers' Rights - Pierre Chénier

No Way to Run an Economy
Two Steel Plants Close in Hamilton

Workers in Montreal Resist Anti-Social Offensive
Crane Operators Protest Irresponsible Changes to Training Requirements
Transportation Workers Prepare to Strike Against Deterioration of Working Conditions and Privatization of Services

Resistance in British Columbia
"Open Mic" Meeting on Kinder Morgan in Prince George
Hotel and Food Service Workers in Prince George
Vancouver Safeway Workers

Trudeau Government Forces CP Workers to Vote on Rejected Offer

Canadian Pacific Railway and Trudeau Government in Cahoots to Create Impasse for Workers

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) announced May 1 that the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) will be conducting a vote on CP's "final offer." The Trudeau government is forcing the vote on an offer that CP workers and their unions have said is completely unacceptable. Three thousand CP engineers and conductors belong to the TCRC and another 360 signal maintainers are members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Just 10 hours before CP workers were set to strike on April 20 in defence of their right for a collective agreement acceptable to themselves, CP made yet another "final offer" to both bargaining committees. At the same time, the company made a request to the federal Minister of Labour to order union members, as per Section 108.1 of the Canada Labour Code, to vote on the final offer. Federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Patty Hajdu immediately granted the request on the advice, she said, of the federal mediators involved in the negotiations. She ordered the CIRB to conduct an electronic vote, which it organized for May 14 to May 23; a full month after the strike was set to begin.

Sign from the 2015 CP Railway strike raises the issues of worker fatigue and scheduling.

Both union bargaining committees are strongly recommending that the workers reject CP's offer. According to the TCRC, CP's final offer does not address workers' issues and concerns. In particular the offer refuses to deal with worker fatigue and the company's punitive discipline and adversarial labour relations approach. CP's anti-worker conduct has led Teamster members alone to file over 8,000 recent grievances.

CP's final offer includes the demand that workers drop their grievances and accept a $1,000 grievance resolution payment in lieu of proceeding with the grievance. The Teamsters wrote in a communiqué dated April 26: "The Company's proposal is an attempt to let itself off the hook for its countless violations of the Collective Agreement. This offer would force many members to abandon their grievances and require the Union to forfeit all of its outstanding policy grievances, including those on important issues such as drug and alcohol testing, benefits while on suspensions and the Fitness Assessment Policy grievance. Some of which are scheduled to be heard in the coming months. The Company is attempting to 'wipe the slate clean' of its past indiscretions for the measly price of $1,000 per member. This is a steal for the Company and an insult to the membership.... We are vehemently opposed to any Collective Agreement language that seeks to undercut your rights and allow the Company [to] walk away from its past violations scot-free."

In an interview with BNN Bloomberg on November 23, federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu defended her decision to force a vote on an offer that was rejected by the bargaining committees and to cancel a legal strike that had the overwhelming endorsement of the workers.

"It was an opportunity to move the process along, ensure that there was an offer on the table that members could review and that we can take that next step forward to getting a deal. I am happy that the offer is now on the table, that the unions have an opportunity now with their members to review that offer and then take action that is appropriate," she said.

When asked what her government will do if the workers reject the offer, she made it clear that her government intends to continue blocking workers from exercising their right to strike. In typical Liberal doublespeak she said: "It provides an opportunity to continue that process. If the offer is not accepted by the members and they vote to reject the offer then the bargaining continues. It continues the conversation between both unions and the employer about what a suitable deal would look like. It reinitiates the period of conversation where both parties have an opportunity to talk about what they expect in a deal."

The TCRC reports that once workers vote down CP's final offer, the union will again attempt to enter into negotiations with the company before any possible strike action, but if CP stonewalls, workers will proceed with their strike.

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Liberal Concoction to Violate Workers' Rights

BNN Bloomberg on April 23 asked federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu why she forced a vote on CP workers just hours before they were scheduled to strike. Both union bargaining committees considered the company offer totally unacceptable. Using the authority of the state to delay a legal strike is a serious matter that denies workers their right to take action in defence of their rights. Hajdu's answer is disingenuous to say the least as she did not address the matter at hand, which is the fact that the company has blocked any negotiations on the substantive issue the workers want dealt with which is why they voted en masse in favour of a strike vote. The other issue is one of rights and workers themselves choosing how to defend those rights against an intransigent employer who has long proven to be anti-worker in the extreme and refuses to even discuss the important issues workers are raising.

"It was an opportunity to move the process along, ensure that there was an offer on the table," Hajdu said, apparently with a straight face. When asked to elaborate what her government will do if the workers reject the offer, she simply repeated her earlier fatuous comment saying, "It provides an opportunity to continue that process. If the offer is not accepted by the members and they vote to reject the offer then the bargaining continues.... It continues the conversation between both unions and the employer about what a suitable deal would look like. It reinitiates the period of conversation where both parties have an opportunity to talk about what they expect in a deal."

Hadju's veiled insinuation that the union bargaining committee does not represent what the workers really want and if given a chance to see the agreement for themselves they might accept it is typical anti-union, anti-worker prejudice. She has no business using her position of power as a government minister to act on personal or party prejudices. Her doublespeak is a Liberal concoction, as no conversation or process that even remotely resembles good faith bargaining was taking place. The strike is the recourse the workers currently have to force the company to engage with workers in discussion for a new collective agreement. CP has been presenting "offers" they know are unacceptable to CP workers as they do not deal with the problems workers are facing. CP seems confident that the government will intervene to impose the measures it wants taken and the Liberal government thinks this is better for its reputation than back-to-work legislation.

The workers are raising very serious issues including worker fatigue, their 24/7 on call status, and CP's punitive system of labour relations that must be ended in practice under strict terms that hold the company accountable in the present not months and years down the road with endless grievances, which the company simply ignores.

According to CP workers the strike delay and forced vote on an unacceptable contract are a company/government setup to deny workers their rights. The setup is to push a typical Liberal line that workers are being unreasonable and a railway strike would damage the economy and be against the national interest. Once the final offer is rejected, the company/government alliance will unleash an anti-worker media campaign demanding the strike be suppressed to save the economy and national interest.

The fact that workers have just demands and current conditions are wreaking havoc on railway workers' lives and peace of mind and endanger public safety will be dismissed in the furor over saving the economy and national interest. Within this hysteria, forcing workers to work beyond the point of exhaustion and to face a climate of repression at work are acceptable for the ruling elite who control the economy and state. For the working class, this is not acceptable but criminal contempt for those who do the work and for the public who are in danger when standards and norms of railway conduct and relations of production are not respected.

Although the Trudeau government feigns innocence as a purveyor of anti-worker measures, federal governments have long played a direct role in the arrogance manifested by the rail monopolies. They have given them the power to regulate themselves and do as they please, under the hoax that as private companies they can make their own decisions. Besides, the people are told that such a situation is a natural law because the railway monopolies must be able to compete with other monopolies regardless of how destructive that competition may be.

The liberal illusion of dialogue and conversation is being used to negate the real situation and conditions facing workers. The mantra of "continuing the process and conversation" is to eliminate the legal space workers have to withdraw their capacity to work as a means of pressuring companies to become serious and move negotiations forward. It is also to provide the government with a justification to intervene directly in the dispute in favour of the private owners of CP Rail.

But in doing so, the ruling class exposes itself to the necessity for a new direction that brings governments to power that defend the rights of workers as a matter of principle, as a matter of defending the socialized economy and public interest. This necessity, both to defend rights in the present and prepare for a new pro-social direction for the economy by bringing governments to power comprised of working people selected by their peers, is increasingly discussed and high on workers' minds. The times cry out for all working people to stand together when rights are threatened. Let all workers denounce the Liberal government hypocrisy and stand with CP workers fighting for their rights and their just and important demands. The times also cry out for depriving governments of their power to deprive the workers of what belongs to them by rights, starting in the case of CP workers, with stability and safe working conditions.

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No Way to Run an Economy

Two Steel Plants Close in Hamilton

Two century-old steel plants have recently closed in Hamilton, Ontario. Both plants have undergone extensive modernization and have hundreds of skilled and experienced steel workers capable of producing enormous social product.

Hamilton Specialty Bar (HSB), formerly Slater Steel, is to be liquidated. Republic Steel, once part of the Steel Company of Canada (Stelco), is to be stripped of its machinery for shipment to a Republic-owned mill in Ohio.

These closures are yet another blow to the Hamilton industrial economy that workers have built up over the past one hundred years but do not control. The lack of control by the actual producers means that those in control, mostly from abroad, do not have a stake in the community or Canadian economy. Both steel plants have been tossed around from one global financial/industrial cartel to another in recent years. Each cartel has viewed the steel plants and workers as pawns in their pursuit of private gain to expand private wealth and empires with no concern for the local or Canadian economy and well-being of the working people.

The closure of Hamilton Specialty Bar through bankruptcy and liquidation of its assets directly affects more than 200 steelworkers, 50 salaried employees and over 400 retirees and their families. HSB workers produced enormous new value using an electric-arc mill to melt steel and then manufacture products such as ingots and round bars, mostly for the automotive industry.

The theft of machinery at Republic Steel and shipment to the U.S. means the liquidation of yet another valuable productive facility in Hamilton. Sixty steelworkers cut and shaped coiled steel into parts for the automotive and other industries. The closure directly affects the steelworkers, 15 salaried employees and many retirees and their families. Industrias CH, a Mexican-based financial/industrial cartel, currently controls Republic Steel.

These two major blows to the working people of Hamilton and their economy are yet further proof that a new direction for the economy is necessary and that the governments at the helm are not fit to rule. The working class is the only social force that can give the economy a new direction and aim to build a self-reliant all-sided economy that uses the social product and new value workers produce for the common good to meet the needs of the people and the extended reproduction and stability of their local and national economy.

Enough of this chaos and crisis in the economy and working people's lives!

The working class can do better!

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Workers in Montreal Resist Anti-Social Offensive

Crane Operators Protest Irresponsible Changes to Training Requirements

On May 5, crane operators drove their rigs through the streets of Montreal to protest new regulations that govern how workers are trained. About 10 cranes with their booms extended and several hundred workers joined the march and protest that ended in front of Premier Philippe Couillard's Montreal office. The action was organized by the Union of Crane Operators which is affiliated to FTQ-Construction.

The workers were protesting against a new regulation that the Quebec Construction Commission (CCQ) plans to impose on May 14 that is an attack on the professional training of crane operators. The new regulations provide that persons who have not obtained a Diploma of Vocational Studies (DEP) in Crane Operations may obtain an apprentice competency certificate as a crane operator. According to construction workers, the DEP, which requires 870 hours of professional training in all aspects of crane operation, is now mandatory for workers who want to become crane operators, with very few exceptions. The CCQ wants to establish an on-site training program which lasts 150 hours after which a certificate of competence-apprenticeship can be issued to a worker. It is on-site training that is managed by businesses and delivered on the job by construction workers. Union of Crane Operators President Evans Dupuis told the press that the program will make it easier for new recruits to override the technical diploma and warned that the new program will lead to more accidents at work sites. Workers at the demonstration said that crane operation requires knowledge of the terrain and how to deal with possible accidents with power lines and gave other examples that show that the new regulation will increase the risks not only for construction workers but for the public as well.

The workers totally reject the CCQ's argument that this new training is necessary in order to alleviate the upcoming labor shortage in construction and to ensure a level of versatility among workers in the construction industry. Their stand is that safety comes first as an overriding principle. The CCQ claims that the Labour standards, pay equity, and workplace health and safety board (CNESST) has approved this program, which shows the extent to which the public authorities have abandoned their responsibilities towards the health and safety of workers. The workers recall that when the vocational training program was introduced in 1996 it was precisely in response to the high number of deaths and injuries resulting from accidents involving crane operators. They are demanding that the CCQ give up its project and pledge to carry out other mass actions if it refuses to do so.

(Photos: FTQ-Construction)

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Transportation Workers Prepare to Strike
Against Deterioration of Working Conditions and Privatization of Services

Montreal public transit workers, members of CUPE Local 1983, vote 99 per cent in favour
of a strike mandate, May 3, 2018.

Two thousand four hundred maintenance workers of the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), members of the Syndicat du transport de Montréal (CSN) announced on May 1, a work-to-rule campaign for six days starting May 7. To underscore their determination to have their voices heard and demands met, they protested in front of the STM offices in Montreal the following day. Earlier on February 18, maintenance workers voted in favour of a full six-day strike if STM continues to refuse to agree to a collective agreement acceptable to workers.

Also, 4,500 STM bus drivers and metro (subway) operators, members of Local 1983 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, voted on May 3 in favour of a general strike. CUPE reports this strike mandate will be used at an appropriate time to force STM to come to an agreement the workers can accept.

The turnout for membership meetings and strike votes for both collectives of STM workers were historic highs with workers showing their determination to defend their rights. Their collective agreements expired this past January.

Maintenance workers report STM management has thrown concessionary demands at them that amount to a gutting of their collective agreement and denial of their rights. These include the conversion of day shifts to evening and night shifts, mandatory overtime, the use of employment contract agencies instead of directly hiring workers, and privatization of services and increased outsourcing of work. The demand for mandatory overtime follows a huge increase in so-called "voluntary" overtime hours since STM decreed a hiring freeze following budgetary cuts by the City of Montreal. The problems of fatigue, health and safety, and lack of family life for workers have become acute and the concessions demanded by STM would only worsen the problem.

Bus drivers face the issue of a wide discrepancy between the time allotted for them to complete their routes and the reality of Montreal traffic conditions. It has become impossible to complete some routes in the allotted time. This means delays and frustration for passengers and work stress that impacts the health and safety of drivers and the public they serve. Bus drivers demand route management that takes the actual conditions into account. They want better treatment by the employer of workers who become ill as a result of these circumstances.

The current struggles involving thousands of STM workers are significant as negotiations are being held under recent Quebec laws, properly called police powers, which trample on the rights of municipal workers. In 2014 the government passed Bill 15, which restructured pension plans imposing rules by decree in the municipal sector. This change makes it unlawful for municipal workers to negotiate the terms of their pensions. Using its new arbitrary power, STM has decreed substantial increases in contributions that maintenance workers are forced to pay into their pension plan in violation of previously negotiated agreements.

Also in effect since 2016 is Bill 24, An Act respecting the process of negotiation of collective agreements and the settlement of disputes in the municipal sector. This anti-worker legislation sets timelines for negotiations and imposes mediation. If no agreement is reached or the Minister of Municipal Affairs declares "special circumstances," the Minister then appoints a special mandatory to resolve the dispute. The mandatory provides a secret report to the Minister who can then use the findings to draft legislation imposing a contract. Also confining and negating the rights of workers is the fact that both the report of the mandatory and legislation imposing a contract must conform to parameters set within austerity budgets dictated by the municipal authorities and Government of Quebec.

Armed with such police powers, the STM refuses to negotiate with its employees. Maintenance workers suspect that the volume of concessionary demands STM has announced is an effort to use the police powers as a threat and force workers to accept a serious deterioration of their working conditions "voluntarily" to avoid an even worse government imposed contract.

Municipal workers do not accept this arbitrary and dictatorial treatment and are determined to defend their rights. The demands of the STM workers for collective agreements agreeable to themselves are just. Their struggle reflects that of all workers who have the collective right to a say over the terms of their employment, which includes the right to say No!

Stand with the STM workers in their just struggle against the arbitrary police powers of the municipal and Quebec governments.

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Resistance in British Columbia

"Open Mic" Meeting on Kinder Morgan
in Prince George

The second in a series of Open Mic sessions organized by Stand Up for the North (SUFTN) was held in Prince George on April 24 and focused on peoples' views regarding the Kinder Morgan Pipeline. Following an introductory presentation by spokesperson, Peter Ewart, a lively exchange and discussion ensued. Some highlights include:

 1. The right and need for people and communities to be the decision-makers with respect to whether or not the pipeline should be built;

 2. In this context, the necessity for full, prior and informed consent from Indigenous peoples was highlighted;

 3. The need for a plan with respect to energy resources that serves the interests of workers, people and communities rather than responding to the whims of the big oil companies and international conglomerates who call the shots from afar with no concern for the needs and wishes of the public;

 4. The need for such a plan to include more processing and refining at the point of extraction along with significant attention to planning for and moving toward new alternate energy initiatives such as geo-thermal, wind, electric cars, etc., as well as safeguarding the environment;

 5. The need to continue gathering information, combat disinformation and develop analysis based on facts;

Overall, there was a strong sentiment about the need to have these discussions and meetings so that people and communities are armed with the information necessary to figure out how to move things forward and develop a clear alternative to the agenda of the big corporations being imposed.

Visit the SUFTN Facebook page.

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Hotel and Food Service Workers in Prince George

Ramada hotel and food service workers, members of UNITE HERE! Local 40, rallied outside the Ramada Hotel in Prince George on April 19 to fight for increased wages and better working conditions. They were joined by UNITE HERE! members from the University of Northern BC (also in negotiations) and the Coast Inn of the North (soon to be in negotiations) as well as food service workers from other locations.

Also among those joining the demonstration to show their support were members of the North Central Labour Council, United Steelworkers, Canadian Union of Poster Workers, Hospital Employees Union, UNBC Faculty Association, Professional Employees Association, Stand Up for the North, and the Northern Branch of the BC Association of Social Workers.

Organized under the banner "Prince George Rising!" the rally and picket line were aimed at building and strengthening a movement to fight for a higher standard of living and better working conditions for workers across the entire community. The enthusiastic crowd shouted slogans, sang labour songs and, importantly, made a commitment to stand with each other as long as it takes to win contracts that afford terms of employment that meet the needs of workers and their families.

(Photos: UNITE HERE Local 40)

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Vancouver Safeway Workers

On May 1, May Day, about 75 Safeway workers, union officials and supporters rallied at a busy intersection across from Vancouver City Hall and outside City Square Safeway, one of 10 Safeway stores in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley that are being closed by the owner, Sobey's.

Since Sobey's 2013 takeover of Safeway in Western Canada the company has closed over 50 grocery stores besides the pending closures. In 2016 Sobey's closed its Coquitlam branch of Thrifty's, the company's other BC chain.

On January 23, 660 Safeway workers, members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1518 received termination letters shortly before negotiations on behalf of 4,500 Local 1518 members employed by Safeway throughout BC were slated to begin between the union and Sobeys for a new collective agreement. The company later announced that it would consider reopening five of the stores scheduled for closure under its FreshCo discount banner if it receives the anti worker concessions it is demanding. Safeway is the anchor tenant of the City Square Mall and some people believe closure of the store will result in closure of the mall and redevelopment of the site with condo towers. Over 100 workers are employed at the City Square Safeway.

Demonstrators held aloft placards with their demands. Banners of the Hospital Employees Union, Canadian Union of Public Employees,and the International Union of Longshoremen and Warehousemen Union were present. The rally was addressed by the president of the Vancouver and District Labour Council who outlined the history of MayDay as well as several union representatives. Kim Novak secretary treasurer of Local 1518 told the rally that the union considers the termination notices an illegal lockout. "We are not going away so the company better start talking to us". The rally concluded with shouting of slogans such as "What do we want? Respect!" and "What do we want? Save Our Safeway!"

Novak told Workers' Forum that the rally was just the first step in the campaign for a new collective agreement and to cancel the closures. A leafleting drive will be next. An article from Workers' Forum entitled "Whose Economy? Who Decides? Sobeys Attacks Workers and Economy" was distributed to participants and passers by.

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