April 25, 2014 - No. 48
Concerns of Public Sector and
Forestry Workers over
Their Working and Living Conditions
conditions for all!"; "For a secure income that covers our needs and
gives us our dignity and rights!"
Sector Workers in
• Public Sector Workers' Working and Living
Conditions - Pierre Chénier
• Wages Are at the Heart of the Problems
- Donald Rheault, president of the CSN Abitibi
-Témiscamingue Central Council, Nord-du-Québec
• Deterioration of Quebec Forestry Workers'
Living and Working Conditions
• Brazil Hosts International Meeting on Global
• Cuba to Chair World Health Summit
Concerns of Public Sector Workers in
Public Sector Workers' Working and Living Conditions
The collective agreements of more than 400,000 public
and broader public sector workers in health care, social services,
education, post-secondary education and other public services will
expire on March 31, 2015. The unions are committed to working as a
common front to present their demands by the end
of 2014. The living and working conditions of these workers are the
conditions under which these services are delivered to the Quebeckers
who depend on them. We must ensure that these workers have living and
working conditions that are commensurate with the work they carry out
"Our wages are
stolen to finance private services!"
It has become customary for the ruling circles and their
parties to denigrate the public and broader public sector services and
the workers in these sectors as "a cost" and their pensions as "a
burden" to society. They say this cost must be reduced for the
well-being of society. Their cuts to these sectors lead to the
deterioration of the services. The crisis which they themselves create
in these sectors is then used to call for the complete privatization of
public services as the solution.
According to the perverse logic of the parties of the
rich, we must "first create wealth" before we can invest in social
programs and services. In fact, what they call "creating wealth"
consists of nothing more than transferring ever greater portions of the
social wealth to private monopoly interests. The impression
they create is that there is no alternative to the destruction of
social programs and services.
For the working class, social programs and public
services are part of the wealth workers create through their work. The
more these services adequately meet the needs of workers and the
general population, the stronger the economy will be. The opposite also
applies: the more services and social programs are
impoverished, the more impoverished the economy becomes and the greater
its inability to create wealth. Social programs and public services are
an essential component for the humanization of society.
Wages Are at the Heart of the Problems
TML is posting below an interview regarding
the situation of Quebec's public sector workers. It was originally
published in Chantier politique, the online paper of the
Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec (PMLQ).
Chantier politique: In your
opinion, what are the main problems facing workers in the public and
broader public sectors right now?
Donald Rheault: Workers' wages are a
We have a lot of difficulty in the public sector with retention of
workers, especially certified maintenance workers and craftsmen. There
is unfair competition with the private sector. The difference in pay on
average is around 30 per cent.
An electrician working in the public sector earns on average 30 per
cent less than he would earn in the construction sector. There are jobs
where the situation is worse, where the wage gap is upwards of 35 per
cent. Consequently, we have trouble attracting specialized workers for
our school boards and hospitals.
It is a problem of dramatic
proportions. In my own school board, we
had job postings for plumbers for two years. They were unable to find a
plumber. The school board turned to the private sector to subcontract
the job. The contractor wanted $75 an hour when we could have paid a
plumber the industry standard
in the range of $20-22 per hour.
There's no question that a worker is better off working
subcontractor in the private sector. The pay is higher. We are
witnessing a migration from the public to the private sector,
especially with mining in Abitibi. For the past two years,
our skilled workers have been leaving for the mining
sector. They're leaving the sector and no longer applying to work in
our sector as the wage gap is so large. We have cases here in Amos
where plumbers come to work for us as subcontractors but they don't
apply to work directly in the public sector when they see the wage
rate. They stay in the private sector.
This is the trend everywhere in the health care or
sectors. Public sector wages have not followed the upward trend
necessary to ensure the retention of the workforce. Year after year,
come negotiation time, we lose purchasing power. We lose wages while
the private sector gains.
This is a problem experienced throughout Quebec. Whether
North Shore, in the heart of Quebec or in Montreal, there is the same
CP: Are lower wages linked to
privatization in your opinion?
DR: Yes. We are always faced with this
that if you don't have the wages, you can't attract people and if you
can't attract anyone you still have to give the job to someone. There's
no doubt that this contributes to opening the public sector to the
private sector. There are hospitals
where employment agencies hang around and tell the employers that if
find employees, they will do it for them. But workers from the agencies
are not covered by our bargaining units; they have different working
conditions, conditions that are substandard if everything is taken into
account. There are
some workers whose contracts with
hospitals provide better working conditions than the public sector and
they remain in the private sector.
In the public sector, we have people in nursing homes
shifts and day shifts, as well as four-hour shifts. People want job
stability and better hours, so if the agency is able to provide that,
that is where people will go. They will go through the agencies to get
hired to work in the public sector.
Take the example of a hospital that needs a medical
employer wants to pay $17 an hour for a 25-hour a week job. They can't
find anyone. The agency will go see the employer and say that it can
find someone for the position, but they will have to pay a little more
money than planned through
the agency. For the agency to find someone they must pay $18-$19 an
hour instead of $17 and it asks the hospital for more than 25 hours of
work per week. The hospital, to get rid of the problem, will give the
contract to the agency. The person hired through the agency will have a
higher wage, but no pension or
salary benefits. In the agencies, there is not much unionization. The
worker is on their own to negotiate the terms. In conditions of extreme
employee shortages, workers who go through agencies may end up with a
slightly higher salary, but obviously it's another story with regards
to benefits or pensions. The public
sector employers are handing off their responsibilities for employees
by filling positions through employment agencies.
Employment agencies live off of the labour shortages and
that exist in the public sector. Wages are a major issue. We must stop
the hemorrhage there. It's a problem that has many ramifications.
Deterioration of Quebec Forestry Workers'
Living and Working Conditions
Protests by Quebec
forestry workers: "Protect our jobs, pensions and communities!";
"Reimburse Fraser Paper workers and retirees!"
According to the union Unifor, in Quebec the
unionization rate in
fallen from 78 per cent in 1986 to 28 per cent in 2009 and the downward
trend continues. Over the past few decades forestry monopolies have
gotten rid of their fleets of trucks and forestry machinery. The
purchase and maintenance of trucks
and machines has fallen mainly on the workers' shoulders. They suddenly
become "independent" and "owners," an obvious fraud as their livelihood
is still dependent on the monopolies and they own nothing but their
labour, insecurity and debt.
For thousands of forestry workers, this change has meant
the loss of
their pensions and benefits. It has also meant the loss of their union
membership because their legal employment relationship with a company
ends under the pretext of their so-called independence. Lay-offs and
outright closures have resulted
in further massive de-unionization in the sector.
De-unionization is one of the main instruments used to
the deterioration of working conditions in forestry. This deterioration
has intensified since the adoption of the new forestry regime, which
came into force on April 1, 2013, following the adoption of Bill
7, An Act to amend the Sustainable
Forest Development Act and other legislative provisions.
The law was passed unanimously despite repeated objections by forestry
workers who said that this new system would accelerate de-unionization
and worsen working conditions.
Before the introduction of the new regime, the volume of
exploitation was allocated through Timber Supply and Forest Management
Agreements (TSFMAs). These have been replaced with supply guarantees. A
key aspect is that now 25 per cent and sometimes more of the wood that
was formerly allocated
by the government for logging under the TSFMAs is sold at auction.
This was done in the name of diversifying the ownership
timber, putting it into more hands, not just those of the large
corporations. But diversification without addressing the domination of
the industry by a few monopolies is a fraud and it is the workers who
are paying the price. Large companies have
the means to directly monopolize the auctions. They then declare they
have the right to hire the workers they choose under conditions they
dictate for the timber they acquire at auction. That means the work is
not necessarily done by their unionized workers. They recruit workers
on the labour market and unionized
workers are transformed into non-unionized contract labour for short or
long term contracts. Forestry workers say that they leave the forest
unionized with benefits and pensions on Friday and return unorganized
with nothing but their declining wages on Monday.
In other cases, large companies leave the wood marketed
to others, but control the auctioned wood once it is cut, tightening
the noose on contractors who must find buyers for their timber. Again,
it is the contract workers who suffer. This is a mass of workers who
have no job security, who do not
know how much wood they will cut or move in the coming year, and who
are unable to plan how they will recoup the cost of their machinery.
The parties in the National Assembly have perpetrated a
claiming that the new system is balanced and fair while ignoring the
deterioration of living and working conditions in the sector. Faced
with this problem, unions are demanding that labour laws reflect the
reality of forestry work. This includes
recognizing the employment relationship that is masked by the timber
auctions, in order to ensure that workers remain unionized even when
they become contractors on the so-called free market. This demand must
be supported because it is a way to reduce arbitrariness and protect
some unionized jobs and thus conditions
that are superior to those of non-union work. Further measures must be
considered that will block the tendency of de-unionization in the
sector, which was already significant under the old TSFMA regime.
It is conceivable that automatic unionization could be
guaranteed to all workers in the sector who so desire. This would
reduce competition between workers and slow the decline in their
working and living conditions. Whichever way one looks at the problem,
the status quo, where the industry is
dominated by a few monopolies that wreak havoc in the sector and in the
lives of workers and their communities, cannot continue.
Brazil Hosts International Meeting on
From April 23 to 24, Brazil hosted an international
meeting to establish a global Internet governance agreement,
NETmundial, at Sao Paulo's Cultural Center.
Delegates included representatives of civil society,
international organizations and institutions, government leaders, as
well as the founder of Thought Works and promoter of opensource
software Roy Singham, Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells and Tim
Berners-Lee, considered the founder of the World Wide Web. The Sao
Paulo meeting aimed to develop ideas and
generate discussion on the importance of Internet rights, as well as
seeking agreement on rules for the use of cyberspace.
The meeting was called by the Brazilian government last
year. Gilberto Carvalho, Secretary General of the Presidency of Brazil,
invited a variety of interested parties to discuss "the direction of
the Internet in Brazil and the world, in this new democratic digital
era." The impetus for the meeting was the speech
by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff that opened the current session
of the UN General Assembly last fall, in which she denounced U.S. cyber
espionage and demanded the creation of an Internet regulatory
framework. Leaked documents on top secret U.S. government spying
programs, revealed that the U.S.
National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation
had been spying on millions of American and European phone
records and the Internet data, as well as emails and other data of
Brazilian citizens and corporations, including those of President
The agenda for the two-day exchange included the
development of a document to describe principles for governance and use
of Internet in Brazil. Delegates worked toward advancing
multi-sector Internet governance, and its development
without hegemonic control. The essential goal set out before the
meeting was to reach an agreement on a resolution to limit United
States dominance in the administration of cyberspace. According to the
president of the Brazilian Internet
Steering Committee Demi Getschko, the idea is to promote a kind of
Universal Declaration on
Internet Human Rights which includes principles
such as freedom of expression, privacy, transparency and collective
governance. Spying activities by the United States using global
communication platforms, including the World Wide Web, was severely
criticized by participants in the meeting.
During the meeting, Tim Berners-Lee defended the
proposal of President
Rousseff for the creation of an international body to oversee the
Internet's technical functions in order to democratize the use of the
Internet and protect fundamental human rights, such as privacy. He also
welcomed the adoption of a law by the Brazilian government,
amounting to a web user's bill of rights. The legislation, dubbed
Brazil's "Internet Constitution," sets out rights and duties for users
and provider for the exploitation of the Web. The new Brazilian law
prohibits the sale or disposal to others of personal data, while
companies are obliged to store for at least six months
all the data captured by their servers.
On the second day of proceedings, delegates met to
finalize the details of a non-binding resolution that establishes
guidelines for action to achieve global Internet governance.
consensus on measures to ensure the principles, rights and duties for
both Internet users and service providers, as well as
greater international participation in the management of the World Wide
Web, currently overseen by the United States. The inviolability of the
data, equality in the use of this virtual space and the free flow of
information are claims included in the final declaration of the
On April 25, the meeting's final declaration, the
Multistakeholder Statement," was released. The first heading of the
first section of
the statement concerning "Internet Governance Principles" is entitled
Rights and Shared Values." It reads as follows:
"Human rights are universal as reflected in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that should underpin Internet
governance principles. Rights that people have offline must
also be protected online, in accordance with international
human rights legal obligations, including the International
Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with
"Those rights include, but are not limited to:
"- Freedom of expression: Everyone has the right
to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to
hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart
information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
"- Freedom of association: Everyone has the right
to peaceful assembly and association online, including through social
networks and platforms.
"- Privacy: The right to privacy must be
protected. This includes not being subject to arbitrary or unlawful
surveillance, collection, treatment and use of personal data. The right
to the protection of the law against such interference should be
"- Procedures, practices and legislation regarding the
surveillance of communications, their interception and collection of
personal data, including mass surveillance, interception and
collection, should be reviewed, with a view to upholding the right to
privacy by ensuring the full and effective implementation of
all obligations under international human rights law.
"- Accessibility: persons with disabilities
should enjoy full access to online resources. Promote the design,
development, production and distribution of accessible information,
technologies and systems on the internet.
"- Freedom of information and access to information: Everyone
right to access, share, create and distribute
information on the Internet, consistent with the rights of authors and
creators as established in law.
"- Development: all people have a right to
development and the Internet has a vital role to play in helping to
achieve the full realization of internationally agreed sustainable
development goals. It is a vital tool for giving people living in
poverty the means to participate in development processes."
To view the statement in its entirety, click here.
Cuba to Chair World Health Summit
Cuba will chair, for the first time, the 6th World
Summit, taking place May 19-24, 2015, in Geneva, the Cuban
Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) recently announced.
Dr. Antonio González, head of MINSAP's department
of international organizations, explained that Cuba has been chosen in
large part because of the results and impact of its health initiatives,
within the country and internationally.
General visits the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana, January
28, 2014. Ban highlighted Cuban health results, including a low
infant mortality rate, a higher life expectancy and universal health
coverage, which he considered an example to many around the world.
(Radio Cadena Agramonte)
Cuba has achieved virtually all of the UN's Millennium
Development Goals. The infant mortality rate in 2013 was 4.2 for every
1,000 live births, the lowest in the Americas -- including the U.S. and
Canada; the rate of maternal mortality was 21 per 1,000, one of the
lowest in Latin America, he said.
In addition, Cuba has been able to control AIDS,
tuberculosis and malaria epidemics, Dr. González pointed
out, adding that AIDS is not an epidemiological problem as in
other countries, and anti-retroviral medicines are available to those
who need them. Regarding malaria, Cuba was acknowledged
by the World Health Organization (WHO) for having eradicated it during
the 1960s, he explained.
Through vaccination campaigns, Cuba has been able to
eradicate other transmittable illnesses such as polio, diphtheria,
whooping cough, neonatal tetanus and rubella, with a vaccination
regimen designed to protect against 13 diseases, said Dr.
Dr. González -- who will be presiding over the
conference -- said that the Summit's agenda was prepared in February
2013, by the WHO 134th Executive Council, which includes 34 countries
throughout the world. He added that 67 issues and 17 resolutions will
be under consideration, with two work commissions
meeting, to discuss health techniques and administrative issues.
During the last visit to Cuba of WHO Director Dr.
Margaret Chan, she described Cuba as an exemplary health care model.
She praised the important contribution made by Cuban health workers
abroad, and the country's efforts to train medical personnel from other
countries, thus improving health indicators in
those countries as well.
WHO Director Dr. Margaret
Chan visits the Latin American School of Medicine in October 2009.
During another visit to Cuba in March 2012 she personally thanked
Cuba's health care providers "for the health-care you provide on a
daily basis so selflessly and professionally, something I wish was true
all around the world, including in far richer countries than Cuba."
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