January 24, 2019
GM Threat to
Close Oshawa Auto Plant
This Must Not
Windsor rally January 11, 2019, against closing of GM plant in Oshawa,
held across the river from GM's Detroit headquarters.
Fraudulent Talk About Canada and the
Rule of Law
Imposed Arbitration at
the Post Office
• Postal Workers Continue the Fight for Their
Rights - Louis Lang
Continue Fight for Rights
• Workers Mark First Anniversary of ABI
Aluminum Smelter Lockout
• Crane Operators, Allies and Experts All Say No! to Irresponsible New
GM Threat to Close Oshawa Auto Plant
This Must Not Stand!
Windsor rally against GM's closure of Oshawa plant, January 11, 2019.
GM's announced intention to close its Oshawa Assembly
Plant effectively breaks the contract it signed with Unifor
in 2016. The contract committed GM not to close any Canadian plant
before the agreement expires in September 2020. The indignation
this has aroused and the calls to hold GM to account are warranted.
up anti-Mexico sentiments as a way to expose GM's greed, which opens a
door to divide workers on a racist basis, is not warranted.
GM was bailed out with
public funds to the tune of almost $11 billion dollars when it
filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009. The public money paid to
GM was diverted from necessary services and social programs such as
health care and education. To pour salt in the wound inflicted on
Canadians, the federal and Ontario
governments made the bailout conditional on workers and retirees making
significant concessions to those who own and control GM. Meanwhile, the
Ontario government had already allowed GM and other large companies
such as Stelco the right not to sustain workers' pension funds at a
proper level. The government and big companies based this
anti-social action on the fraudulent claim of being too big to fail.
Yet here was GM declaring bankruptcy and Stelco doing it more than once
putting retirees' pensions at risk.
Even though GM declares healthy profits, it refuses to
pay back $1.6 billion of the loan it received from the
Conservative Harper and Liberal McGuinty governments at the time of the
pay-the-rich bailouts. A December article in the Detroit Free Press
quotes Unifor President Jerry Dias citing an even higher amount, saying
still owes Canada $2.8 billion as repayment for the bailout. No
official has explained why GM was not forced to pay back all the public
funds despite making record profits for its private investors.
CBC reported last October that an outstanding loan for
more than $1 billion to GM Corp., originally made on
April 29, 2009, appears on Export Development Canada's
Account transactions. That amount does not include the interest that
would have accrued over the almost ten years it has been on the
Why has the government not called in this debt especially after GM
announced its intention to break its agreement with Unifor and its
commitment to Oshawa and Canadians not to close the Oshawa plant? Is GM
using the threatened closure of its Oshawa plant as leverage to have
the Trudeau government write off the remainder of the debt,
similar to the $2.6 billion Chrysler debt to Canada silently
written off last year?
Whatever the case, GM has
defrauded the workers and Canadians with the connivance of both the
federal and provincial governments and this must not stand! Governments
must now intervene in a manner that favours the workers, their
communities and Canadians. For example, if GM proceeds to close the
plant as threatened, the government
could call in GM's outstanding loan and use the money to keep the
Oshawa plant producing until a longer term solution such as finding new
owners could be found. To begin this process, the government could put
a lien against GM's Oshawa facility for the amount of the outstanding
loan. If GM refuses to change its course, it should pay a price.
That is only just.
Within the situation, the workers at the Oshawa plant
and those at the many suppliers of material and parts should formulate
their own demands that favour them and not wait and see what the gods
of plague will impose as an alleged solution.
Workers shut down lines at Oshawa plant after GM confirms its decision
to close the plant in a January 8, 2019 meeting with union
representatives in Detroit.
Fraudulent Talk About Canada and the Rule of Law
The Trudeau government makes much ado about Canada being
a "rule of law country." The argument has been made a lot lately in
defence of Canada's arbitrary arrest of a Chinese executive of the
Huawei Company at the behest of the United States. The government has
also used it to justify Canada's ongoing sales of military vehicles to
Saudi Arabia based on a contract having been signed with that country
and General Dynamics that could not be broken.
However, the rule of law
logic does not apply in the government's dealing with the auto
monopolies. Many see a double standard. GM stands accused of breaking
several written and unwritten agreements, throwing workers' lives and
their communities into turmoil, abandoning perfectly good means of
production, and refusing to return billions
of dollars in public money given to it allegedly to avoid its failure.
Yet, the governments of Canada and Ontario stand aloof, declaring that
trashing of contracts is a private business decision.
Are Canadians to accept that the rule of law is a
weapon to be used selectively to hammer those standing up for their
rights such as Indigenous land defenders and workers on strike such as
postal workers, or to legitimize the arrest of an executive of a
Chinese company on spurious grounds that the U.S. demands it? This
self-serving use of the
rule of law to serve powerful interests throws the entire concept of
the rule of law into contempt.
If governments refuse to intervene in public affairs in
a manner that favours the people, and specifically in the case of GM to
hold it accountable for its practices, Canadians should make sure they
boycott those political parties that allow this to happen. The people
should refuse to vote for either the Liberals or Conservatives who both
taken part in selling out autoworkers and refuse to hold GM to account
and defend the rights of Canadian workers and our collective economy.
The NDP government of Bob Rae was infamous for introducing pensions
holidays for companies like GM which it declared "too big to fail." It
is high time workers select candidates for election who represent them,
not the rich, and turn things around in their favour.
Imposed Arbitration at the Post Office
Postal Workers Continue the Fight for Their Rights
Windsor picket by postal workers and their allies, January 16, 2019, as
forced arbitration begins.
The government-imposed arbitration process at Canada
Post began on January 16. The Liberal government's Postal Services Resumption and
Continuation Act denies
postal workers their right to strike to reach an agreement with Canada
Post acceptable to themselves.
A bulletin from the
Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) explains it planned to use the
first day of arbitration to determine the issues still in dispute and
the process to be followed by arbitrator Elizabeth MacPherson.
The legislation gives the Minister of Labour discretion
to determine the remaining issues in contention but the Minister chose
to transfer this authority to the arbitrator. The type of arbitration
process to be followed also has to be decided. The legislation provides
two types of arbitration processes: conventional interest arbitration
and final offer
The union has declared that it will participate in the
arbitration process on a "without prejudice basis subject to any
challenges or court rulings on the back to work legislation." CUPW
filed a constitutional challenge with the Ontario Superior Court on
December 11, 2018 claiming Postal
Act violates the right of
the union to free
collective bargaining under the Charter
Cavaluzzo, a constitutional lawyer representing CUPW stated at the
time, "The Liberal Government's legislation just like the previous
Conservative law in 2011, unilaterally prohibits any lawful
On November 27, 2018, after five weeks of
rotating strikes, the Postal Services
Resumption and Continuation Act forced postal workers to return
under their previous collective agreement. Facing heavy fines against
individual workers and the union, workers returned to work without
their serious concerns having being addressed.
The mediation process
imposed by the Postal Services
Resumption and Continuation Act also failed to resolve any of
issues and ended on December 17, 2018.
The union estimates that from the day the federal
Liberal government forced postal workers to return to work without a
new collective agreement to address the outstanding issues, 750
disabling injuries have occurred, Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers
(RSMCs) have worked approximately 439,000 hours without pay, and
workers have worked thousands of hours of forced overtime.
The union declares that postal workers will not stop
fighting until the important issues confronting them are resolved to
their satisfaction: health and safety, full-time secure employment, and
equality for RSMCs must be addressed immediately.
Quebec Workers Continue Fight for Rights
Workers Mark First Anniversary of
ABI Aluminum Smelter Lockout
Mass picket as Bécancour aluminum smelter workers mark one year
anniversary of lockout.
Bécancour aluminum smelter workers, alongside
Quebec workers, marked the first anniversary of the ABI lockout through
militant actions in defence of locked out workers and the dignity of
labour. Hundreds of workers hailing from various regions, including an
important contingent of workers from Sanguenay-Lac-Saint Jean, formed
picket lines and then demonstrated outside the constituency office of
the local member of the National Assembly for Nicolet-Bécancour.
Demonstration outside the constituency office of the National Assembly
They reiterated their two demands: that the Premier meet
directly with company officials and demand that they return to the
table to negotiate a collective agreement acceptable to the workers;
that the government re-open its energy agreement with Alcoa by virtue
of which the lockout is considered a "force majeure" that frees the
Tinto cartel from paying for the block of hydro-electricity reserved
for it and from paying fines when that energy is not used. Workers are
demanding that the clause be annulled. They point out that the
agreement is one of the reasons why the company's owners not only
refuse to negotiate with them, but are getting Quebeckers to pay for
lockout, while Hydro-Québec and Quebec are deprived of important
"There was little
separation between the parties last January when the dispute broke out.
The gap has widened since then and more than 1,000 families have
suffered for an entire year due to the greed of a multinational," noted
Clément Masse, President of United Steelworkers Local 9700
that represents the ABI workers, at the
rally outside the constituency office. "We need the government to get
out of its pseudo-neutrality and restore some balance to this process.
ABI is abusing the process and keeping hundreds of families in a state
of insecurity, with the complicit silence of the Quebec government."
Workers note that so-called government assistance in
the negotiation process, such as with mediation, the mediation council
and now the working group which the Minister of Labour is proposing to
set up, is a figment of the government's imagination, as the cartel of
company owners has the utmost contempt for such arrangements. On
December 19, 2018, two days before the negotiation deadline
set by the Minister of Labour, the company owners announced the
shutdown of half of the pot lines still in operation at the smelter,
demonstrating that they do not recognize that negotiation process.
Restarting those pot lines is a long and costly process and anyone
to negotiate would not behave in such a manner.
The Minister's latest invention is the establishment of
a working group which would use the ministry's resources as "support"
for the parties to reach a negotiated settlement. The Minister did not
explain how one supports a party which refuses to budge and only
recognizes its own dictate.
Meanwhile, workers are exposing the difficulties they
are experiencing, despite United Steelworkers union allocations and the
extraordinary support, including financial, they are receiving from
workers in Quebec, Canada and elsewhere. They are also reporting on the
difficulties being created for the local economy, such as jobs being
suppliers, loss of revenue by merchants, and the Mayor of
Bécancour noting that approximately 14 per cent of the
municipality's budget comes from tax revenue provided by the plant.
Workers face difficulties in maintaining their stand that they want to
go back to work with their heads held high, through a successfully
acceptable to them. That stand is in everyone's interest, as without
opposition to dictate and insistence on having a decisive say over
decision-making, insecurity for workers and for all would be complete.
In that respect, ABI workers are intensifying their
work to mobilize the organized support of workers in Quebec and Canada,
as well as elsewhere. At the end of 2018, more than 300 union
locals in Quebec, Canada, the U.S. and Australia were sending financial
assistance to ABI workers in support of their struggle and that
mobilization is being stepped up.
Workers are turning their attention towards ABI, as
this struggle is everyone's struggle, for their rights as well as their
Crane Operators, Allies and Experts All Say No!
to Irresponsible New Regulations
Crane operators demonstrate against changes to regulations on training,
May 5, 2018.
Between December 17-19, 2018, three days of
hearings were held by the committee set up by the Quebec government to
look into the impact on
health and safety of regulatory changes to the training of crane
operators in Quebec.
The hearings, set up by the previous Couillard Liberal
government, came as a result of the courageous actions by crane
operators to oppose a new anti-worker regulation imposed by the Quebec
Construction Commission (CCQ) and the Quebec government, which poses a
threat to safety.
Following their many
actions and denunciations, crane workers refused to show up for work
during an entire week last June, demanding nothing less than the
complete withdrawal of the new regulation. They did so because they saw
it as a serious erosion, both in terms of quantity as well as quality,
of the training formerly required by workers
to become crane operators. The government, at the request of the CCQ,
had abolished the obligatory 870 hours of training required for
obtaining a Diploma of Vocational Studies (DVS). The DVS is now
optional, and new direct training of 150 hours has been
introduced, now provided on site and under the responsibility of
The CCQ and the government have also created an 80-hour course for
the operation of boom trucks with a maximum capacity of 30 tonnes,
following which the worker who successfully completes the training
becomes a qualified driver of such trucks. It is precisely that type of
crane that overturns the most frequently and causes the
most damage. Crane operators are facing repressive measures such as a
decision by the Administrative Labour Tribunal declaring they
participated in an illegal strike, while the CCQ continues to threaten
to take action against them for the illegal strike as well as for
intimidation. The courageous position of the crane operators has
support of the vast majority of workers as well as the population and
is within that context that the committee was set up.
At the December hearings, those who intervened included
the crane operators' union, which represents the vast majority of
Quebec's crane operators; the crane operators' collective; construction
unions; the school that provides the vocational training for crane
operators; the union representing those who teach the training courses;
construction companies; as well as crane operation health and safety
experts. Intervenors were given 25 minutes to present their views,
with their submissions being followed by a 30-minute exchange with
The great majority of intervenors were of the opinion
that the new regulation has to be completely overhauled and that
compulsory crane operator vocational training must be maintained. They
opposed the new regulation as a violation of safety standards and in
particular raised the need for the adequate training of crane
is central to
the safety of not only crane operators, but other workers and the
public at large. They specifically referred back to the Canadian
Standards Association's Z 150 standard that all Quebec crane
workers are subject to. The standard specifies the safety requirements
relating to mobile cranes to ensure the safety of workers and the
public and serves
as a guide to manufacturers and those who purchase cranes, as well as
construction companies and governments and regulatory bodies, so that
the safety standards established through the Z 150 code are
Notably, the code specifies that mobile cranes must be
operated exclusively by qualified persons and that the mandatory
qualifications of crane operators must include the relevant training
and experience for their proper operation, as well as overall knowledge
of crane construction, along with sufficient knowledge of electricity
Those who intervened noted that the new regulation clearly does not
uphold any of this.
Only two associations representing construction
companies supported the new regulation. One of them was disingenuous
indeed. It argued that it was better to have the new regulation and
training in place than to have no regulation or training at all. It
added that many construction
companies purchase boom trucks and have them operated by unqualified
workers, which is clearly illegal. It should be noted that the CCQ has
taken no legal or other action to put an end to this illegal situation.
The representatives of that association now claim that this will all be
legal as there will be training, never mind that the workers do not
consider it adequate or vocational, despite the fact that boom trucks
precisely those that overturn so easily and are used in zones where the
public circulates most often.
Crane operators are determined to have their two
demands met: that the new regulation be withdrawn and obligatory crane
operator training be maintained and that a roundtable be created which
includes all concerned parties, including teachers, to look into the
problems linked to the crane operator sector and construction site
The committee will now be holding in camera
meetings with various parties and must submit its report to the
Minister of Labour by February 28.
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