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October 1, 2014 - No. 79

Provincial By-Elections Announced in Calgary and Edmonton

All Out to Occupy the Space for Change by Developing Independent
Working Class Politics





Provincial By-Elections Announced in Calgary and Edmonton
All Out to Occupy the Space for Change by Developing Independent Working Class Politics - Peggy Morton 
Alberta Emergency Medical Services Workers Speak Out

Scrap the Temporary Foreign Worker Program!
Condemn the Harper Dictatorship's State-Organized Worker Trafficking and Attacks on the Unemployed!
More Evidence of Bogus "Labour Shortage"

Education Is a Right! Increase Investments in Public Education!
Who Decides at Athabasca University? - Dougal MacDonald 

Coming Events
No to U.S. and Canadian Troops in Iraq and Bombing of Iraq and Syria!





Provincial By-Elections Announced in Calgary and Edmonton

All Out to Occupy the Space for Change by Developing Independent Working Class Politics

 
Alberta workers rally to denounce PC government's attacks on pensions,
Edmonton March 2, 2014.

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice has announced four by-elections to be held on October 27. Prentice who has not been elected to the Legislature, will run in Calgary-Foothills. This seat is now vacant as Len Webber, who is presently sitting as an independent after leaving the PC caucus in March, has resigned after winning the Conservative nomination in Calgary-Confederation for the next federal election. Education Minister Gordon Dirks and Health Minister Stephen Mandel will run in the upcoming by-elections in Calgary-Elbow and Edmonton-Whitemud respectively, formerly held by the last two premiers Alison Redford and Dave Hancock, who both resigned their seats. Neither Minister has a seat in the Legislature. There will also be a by-election in Calgary-West as Ken Hughes, an early contender for the leadership who withdrew and backed Prentice, is resigning and returning to the private sector.

The by-elections will be used to claim legitimacy for the Prentice coup and his fraudulent reset. They are an attempt to mask the reality that the corruption of the former Premier is not a matter of Redford or her party but stems from the outmoded relations of production, the anti-social austerity agenda and destruction of the public authority. They are an opportunity to take a stand against the fraudulent "new government" of Jim Prentice which represents the direct takeover of the governing institutions by the powerful global monopolies. The resources of the people of Alberta will now be used even more to benefit this or that monopoly or monopoly group as they vie to concentrate economic and political power in their hands.

Prentice has been installed in power to gain access to global markets for the oil sands, further wreck the public authority and any regulatory restraints, and go much further in integrating Alberta into the United States of North American Monopolies. The politicization of the private interests of the oil and gas monopolies is presented as being identical to the interests of workers and the general interests of society. This is not true and must be opposed. The politicization of private interests disinforms the polity and leaves it vulnerable and disorganized in the face of mounting attacks. This is why it is so important to step up the ideological offensive against all attempts of the Prentice government to present itself as legitimate in any way. This requires a staunch defence of the rights of all.

The installation of two unelected Ministers, Gordon Dirks in Education and Stephen Mandel in Health makes the by-elections also an opportunity to take a stand against the wrecking and privatization of health care and education, and to affirm that public health care and education are a right. Minister of Health Mandel, a former property developer, is mandated by Prentice to carry out Prentice's plan to greatly increase funding to private entities for seniors' "supportive housing." Dirks is the president of a private religious school and has been put in charge of the promise to put trailers in communities and call them schools, further degrading public education.

Public sector workers with the support of other sectors of the working class have taken a stand in defence of their rights and forced the Redford government to retreat on Bills 45 and 46 and its assault on pensions. Let's organize now to keep that momentum going and to make sure that the pro-social program and new direction for the economy are advanced in the course of the by-elections. Let's ensure that the anti-social austerity agenda of the PCs and Wildrose is deprived of any standing.

Calgary-Elbow and Edmonton-Whitemud are not a slam dunk for the PCs. Edmonton-Whitemud voters turfed out PC Premier Don Getty in 1989, for example, despite his party winning the general election.

Say No! to all attempts to destroy the public authority and impose monopoly right! Occupy the space for change so as to deprive the monopolies and their salesmen of the ability to block the people's striving for empowerment. The alternative is to fight for pro-social solutions to the problems created by the ruling elites' destruction of social programs and pay the rich schemes. The economy needs a new direction, not the destructive politics of the ruling elite!

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Alberta Emergency Medical Services
Workers Speak Out

The by-election in Edmonton-Whitemud, where the unelected Minister of Health Stephen Mandel is seeking a seat, is an opportunity for health care workers to go all out to defeat the Tories and Wildrose and their anti-social austerity agenda. Working to defeat the PCs and Wildrose is a way to take a stand against the privatization, underfunding and dismantling of the public health care system. The by-election is an opportunity to put forward pro-social solutions to the public health care system, including Alberta's emergency medical services. In doing so we uphold the right to comprehensive public health care for all and demand government provide that right with a guarantee.

The Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) represents Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers across the province. The Association demands that the unacceptable wait times for patients and working conditions for EMS staff be addressed. HSAA President Elisabeth Ballerman explains that in 2012 her organization conducted a province-wide survey of EMS practitioners, which verified that ambulance services lack adequate resources, resulting in a serious impact on patient care and unacceptable working conditions for EMS workers.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) took over all ambulance services in Alberta in 2009 from the municipalities. This further disenfranchised the workers and imposed arrangements on communities that did not meet their needs. The process was halted in 2010 in the face of escalating response times and since then a patchwork system has emerged, which has utterly failed to meet the needs of urban and rural communities alike.

The Minister of Health at that time responded to the HSAA survey by asking the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) to conduct a review of ground ambulance services. The HQCA report was released in January 2013. It made five broad recommendations, none of which have been fully implemented, Ballerman says.

HSAA released the results of a new survey on September 25. "EMS practitioners from across Alberta identified seven key issues that needed to be addressed in order to create and maintain a positive work environment. Respondents were overwhelmingly concerned about the lack of resources, poor EMS management, the lack of career development opportunities, low employee morale, the inability to take time off, the dispatch system, and patient, public and EMS practitioner's safety," Ballerman says.

The percentage of EMS workers taking part in the survey who reported that conditions had "deteriorated somewhat or deteriorated a great deal" was the following:

Resources -- 66 per cent
Management -- 62 per cent
Career development -- 51 per cent
Employee morale -- 81 per cent
Ability to take time off -- 68 per cent
Dispatch -- 63 per cent
Safety -- 44 per cent

"The results of this survey should be of grave concern to the AHS leadership, our new health Minister, the Prentice government, and indeed all Albertans," Ballerman says. "The survey demonstrates the concern of EMS professionals throughout the province of their ability to provide the quality of care that Albertans should be able to expect is significantly compromised."

The population of Alberta has grown by about 100,000 a year since 2009, while the number of ambulances and stations has remained virtually unchanged. Hospitals are running at 105-110 per cent occupancy. They cannot expedite transfer of patients. As a result, on average it takes one full hour for EMS workers to transfer care of patients to hospital staff. During this time, ambulances are not available to respond to emergencies.

EMS responders are intimately familiar of what is required to ensure patient safety and provide the working conditions needed to uphold the rights of patients and EMS workers alike. Emergency providers do their duty in this dysfunctional system, but the government refuses to do the same. Not only are the EMS practitioners and the communities they serve denied adequate resources, but also, the human factor is blocked and those who are capable of actually solving problems are denied any real role in decision-making.

Together with emergency physicians, nurses and other staff, EMS providers are quite capable of organizing and delivering the kind of emergency response that is a fundamental part of the right to health care, and which quite literally is a matter of life and death. What is lacking is political power in the hands of the working people.

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Scrap the Temporary Foreign Worker Program!

Condemn the Harper Dictatorship's State-Organized Worker Trafficking and Attacks on the Unemployed!

The monopoly media are filled these days with Jason Kenney claiming to be in the corner of Canadian workers and saying that employers have become too reliant on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). The media are highlighting a series of tweets between Jason Kenney and Mark Milke, a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute.

Milke has been very active in the past year spreading virulent anti-worker disinformation about public sector pensions. He has now shifted his attention to demanding that Alberta employers not be restricted in any way in the number of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) they hire. He says hotels in Banff and Jasper are not able to function without trafficked workers from abroad.

Kenney responded by goading Milke that as a free-marketer, he should not favour government intervention. Rather, a "free market" solution is for wages to rise, Kenney said, and asked Milke to show him evidence of a labour shortage.

The Harper dictatorship has criminalized workers fighting to defend their wages, benefits and working conditions. It has launched unprecedented attacks on the federal public sector workers aimed at gutting sick leave provisions, privatizing management of sick leave and degrading their pensions. When Kenney states that the TFWP is driving down wages and is a form of "quasi-indentured labour," it is clear he is up to something and workers should not be complacent.

Kenny suggests TFWs are creating a glut of workers yet only a few months ago, the Harperites used the large number of online ads for workers on Kijiji, as part of their bogus statistics claiming a labour shortage. This seeming change of tune from shortage to glut may be connected with cutting social spending on the unemployed.

One aim of the Harper government is to further reduce the number of people on EI -- not the number of unemployed but those eligible for EI. Only 38 per cent of unemployed workers now receive EI benefits. The Harper dictatorship recently announced cuts to employers' EI contributions for small businesses, which will starve the EI benefit fund and be another weapon to justify even more attacks on EI benefit recipients.

Kenney gave an example in the Atlantic Provinces where fish plant workers were unemployed while the fish plants hired TFWs. He said both workers and employers need to be "nudged." The "nudge" refers to the "job matching service" created through the Canada Job Bank for purposes of trying to force those on EI to accept jobs below their normal salary, and/or travel longer distances to work or lose their EI benefits.

A bait and switch fraud is also at play, the kind of thing for which the Harperites are infamous. New regulations actually make it easier to hire TFWs in skilled trades, with a guaranteed 10-day turnaround time for approvals. While the changes to the TFWP may reduce the number of TFWs in the fast food, retail trade and hotel industries, employers in those sectors can use international mobility programs (IMPs), which are exempt from Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs). Employers do not have to show an attempt to hire Canadians or pay the prevailing wage rate to hire workers under an IMP. According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 69 per cent of all TFWs working in Canada on December 21, 2013 had work permits issued under the IMP, which means without an LMIA.

The International Experience Program allows employers to hire young workers between the ages of 18 to 35 from 32 countries, mostly in Europe. It has quietly been changed from one year to "up to two years." Workers are not tied to one employer, but employers can easily bind them in practice through their ability to request an extension. The global monopolies have access to the intercompany transfer provisions, as well as agreements under NAFTA and other free trade agreements, which also have no requirements for an LMIA.

Kenney now admits that workers in the TFWP have "quasi-indentured status" to cover up past and future crimes against workers' rights, not to correct them. The changes Kenney has made favour a revolving door of TFWs who are not able to put down roots in Canada and who are made even more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

Many workers now in Canada have paid thousands of dollars to modern-day wage-slave traffickers with whom the employers are in cahoots within this state-organized international trade of workers. This violates the principle of a modern society to recognize the rights of all. This worker trafficking must be stopped, the perpetrators punished, and the employers forced to reimburse the victims. Anyone currently working in Canada must have full rights to live here in peace without threat of deportation, unemployment and loss of livelihood. The EI social program must be strengthened not weakened with the aim to eliminate the labour market altogether as a weapon of exploitation and class privilege. The Harper government should be thrown out of office to show that Canadians will not tolerate worker trafficking and attacks on the rights of workers!

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More Evidence of Bogus "Labour Shortage"

Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), and representatives of Ironworkers Local 720 held a press conference in Edmonton on September 26 to provide evidence of the consequences for Alberta workers if Premier Jim Prentice succeeds in expanding the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). Prentice recently stated that he wants to meet with Harper after dealing with provincial issues, including a by-election to get himself a seat in the Alberta Legislature. Labour policy, including the demand by business to reverse changes and expand the Temporary Foreign Worker Program will be at the top of the agenda, Prentice said.

"With the population pressure we're under, with the job creation pressure that we're under in this province, I've heard loud and clear over the summer from business people that the changes on temporary foreign workers are going to be very, very difficult," Prentice said recently.

The AFL presented information acquired through several Access to Information requests. It reported that 12,162 businesses in Canada used the TFWP in 2013. Temporary foreign workers (TFWs) comprised more than 30 per cent of the workforce in 2,578 businesses and more than 50 per cent of the workforce in 1,123 businesses. The majority of businesses using the TFWP are based in Alberta, followed by British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan.

Canadians are familiar with the use of TFWs to depress wages in the fast food, hotel and restaurant industries. Even Jason Kenney has admitted that real wages in the fast food industry have actually declined in Alberta. Less well known is the large scale use of TFWs in trucking/transport, residential construction and IT, particularly in Ontario and Quebec, the AFL reported.

The list of companies with more than 30 per cent of their workforce comprised of TFWs exposes the myth that mainly small businesses use the program, and shows that the use of TWFs has become the standard practice of large monopolies. "Merit Contractors" (non-union) like Flint, Stuart Olson, Kiewit and PCL are all significant users of the TFWP.[1]

"There are a lot of fast food franchises on this list, but there are also a lot of big names in industries like construction and energy," McGowan said. "Albertans deserve to know why the federal government thinks it's okay for companies like Kiewit, Stuart Olson, Lafarge and Ensign Drilling to fill more than 30 per cent of their jobs with TFWs. And I think Canadians in places like Ontario and Quebec deserve to know why the federal government is letting companies like Facebook, Amazon, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Infosys fill more than 50 per cent of their jobs with TFWs," he said.

"A company called Supreme International was given approval to pay 28 TFW welders $19.25 an hour, which is $10.75 below the prevailing wage for welders in Alberta, and only about half of what a Canadian welder makes in Fort McMurray. Kiewet Energy Construction was given TFW permits for 100 industrial electricians and 100 ironworkers without even disclosing how much those TFWs would be paid. In June, the federal government introduced changes that will make it harder for low-wage employers to get access to TFWs. That's a step in the right direction. But what these documents show is that the problem is not solved; it's just moving up the wage ladder", McGowan said.

The documents obtained by the AFL offer further proof that employers are trying to drive down wages through the use of temporary foreign workers. The response of the Workers' Opposition is to oppose all violations of rights and to fight to defeat the Harper dictatorship and its low-wage agenda. Attacks on any section of workers must not be permitted. Rights belong to people by virtue of being human; rights must be enshrined in the fundamental law of the land, and all forms of worker trafficking made illegal. Abolish the Temporary Foreign Worker Program! Rights and Status for All! Our security lies in the fight to defend the rights of all!

Note

1. The following large, mainly global monopolies are users of the TFWP.

Telecommunications and IT: Shaw Cable Systems, Calgary; Bell Connections, Nokia Siemens Networks Canada, Mississauga; Infosys Ltd, Toronto.

Construction: Lafarge Canada, Inland Concrete, Stuart Olson Industrial Services, Calgary; Merit Group Inc., Calgary; Fortis LGS Structures Inc., Edmonton

Oilfield: Ensign Drilling Partnership, Calgary; Sinopec Canada Energy, Calgary; Kiewit Energy Fabricators Corp, Calgary

Other: Loblaw, Regina, Saskatchewan; PricewaterhouseCoopers Management Services LP, Toronto

(With files from Alberta Federation of Labour, CBC)

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Education Is a Right! Increase Investments in Public Education!

Who Decides at Athabasca University?

Athabasca University (AU) is an online university. It has four Alberta campuses in Athabasca, ST. Alberta, Edmonton and Calgary and offers online or distance learning to over 40,000 students, including 7,800 full course equivalents.

The General Faculty Council (GFC) at AU's Edmonton campus held the second of two special meetings on September 17. The meeting addressed the important issue of "Who decides?" at AU.

As set out in the Alberta Post-Secondary Learning Act, the GFC is responsible for academic and student affairs at AU subject to Board of Governors' approval. The 53-member GFC is mainly populated by fourteen appointed administrators, 28 elected full-time academic staff, and five elected tutors (part-time academic faculty).

At both GFC meetings, full-time faculty and tutors spearheaded a resolution demanding that the academic decision-making power currently usurped by the administration must be returned to the GFC. At the first special GFC meeting on August 28, the provincially-legislated Chair of the meeting, interim AU President Peter MacKinnon, stopped a vote on the decision-making resolution by moving adjournment, exercising what amounted to a veto.[1]

Between meetings, the administration attempted to have the mover withdraw the motion. Continuing to oppose the resolution, even after a "yes" vote on September 17, McKinnon now declares it to be only "advice" that does not need to be acted upon, which also amounts to a veto.

The question of "Who decides?" at AU is directly related to the administration's persistent attempts to arbitrarily impose a "call centre" model on all the AU faculties without GFC assent. This is being done under the hoax that such a decision is an administrative matter and not an academic one.

The main aim of imposing a call centre (AU administration calls it the "student success centre") across all university faculties is to reduce the pay of the part-time tutors who do the bulk of the online teaching. The attack on tutors' livelihoods is part of the administration's abject capitulation to the savage March 13, 2013 provincial budget cuts to the operating budgets of all of Alberta's universities, colleges and technical schools.

Specifically, the call centre model will eliminate the salaried part of tutor pay, known as "block pay," which is based on the number of students registered in a tutor's online class. Exactly how much a tutor's pay will be reduced is unclear but previous experience with the Faculty of Business, which had a call centre imposed in the 1990s, shows the cut could be 50 per cent or more. Losing block pay will also eliminate the fact that it helps stabilize tutors' overall pay by serving as a buffer to the ebb and flow of the submission of student work to tutors for marking.

Currently at AU, except for the Faculty of Business, almost all online classes are organized according to the original tutor-learner model inspired by Britain's Open University. Students register and are assigned in blocks to instructors who interact personally with each class member as required to assist learning. That is what the fixed monthly block pay compensates. Tutors also receive additional pay for marking exams and assignments. AU wants to replace the tutor-learner model with a call centre system, which separates students from their tutors and requires them to navigate layers of bureaucracy to receive any academic help.

The administration claims that tutor block pay must be eliminated because "tutor costs are becoming unaffordable." The administration is also falsely implying that block pay should be eliminated because it is "undeserved" and that somehow tutors, who are all part-time, are overpaid.

AU administration wrongly considers tutors to be costs rather than what they really are: producers of much of the value generated by the university through teaching their students, who in turn contribute to the economy and society. Education is an investment that produces value in the concrete form of educated students and workers. Education value should be returned to the centres of education, following its consumption and normal exchange within the economy. Education is not a cost. Tutors are not a cost. They are producers of value.

The call centre system of paying tutors requires tutors, renamed "academic experts," to fill out monthly timesheets detailing every interaction relating to their students and to submit the timesheets for administration approval. Valuable instructional time is wasted filling out the timesheets, and tutors can easily overlook claims for work to which they are entitled. Administrators examine tutor timesheets and can reject claimed items, which has already occurred in the Faculty of Business and given rise to tutor grievances.

Since the AU administration first decided to arbitrarily impose a call centre in all faculties, the tutors, who are organized into CUPE Local 3911, and their allies, have campaigned vigorously against both the dictatorial decision-making and the call centre itself. As everyone knows, instructors' working conditions are students' learning conditions. Mandating that a call centre must be imposed at AU will damage teaching and learning, downgrade services to students and undermine the quality of the education that the university delivers.

The ongoing campaign by tutors to have a say and to oppose the call centre includes informing and mobilizing members, building alliances, being active in committees, lodging grievances, taking actions such as participating in pickets and marches, informing the public through various media and assisting the General Faculty Council to regain control over its right to decide. Tutors have established the Protectlearning at AU website (www.protectlearningatau.ca) with its comprehensive arguments against the call system and the related petition now has nearly 1,000 signatures.

Note

1. McKinnon was previously president of the University of Saskatchewan where he unsuccessfully vetoed the unanimous decision of a committee granting tenure to a sociology professor.

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Coming Events

No to U.S. and Canadian Troops in Iraq and
Bombing of Iraq and Syria!


Halifax
Weekly Anti-War Picket


Fridays -- 4:00-5:00 pm
Corner of Spring Garden Rd. and Barrington St.
Organized by: No Harbour for War
For information: noharbourforwar@hotmail.com



Windsor
Rally and Speak-Out:
Stop the U.S.-Led Destruction of Iraq and Syria Now!


Saturday, October 4 -- 11:00 am
Meet at City Hall Square -- Speak Out starts at 11:45 am
Organized by: Windsor Peace Coalition
For information: windsorpeace@hotmail.com of 226-975-2010

The Windsor Peace Coalition calls on all those in Windsor and Essex County who stand for peace and justice to join us in saying NO! to the U.S.-led destruction of Iraq and Syria.

The only "debate" about it in Parliament is over how Canada will be involved in a new US-led war in the region. Canadians don't want debates on how best to invade, destabilize and interfere in other countries' affairs; we want to end it.

It is brutally ironic that October 7 marks the 13th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan that was launched under bogus pretexts and which Canada is still embroiled in today through NATO.

Don't let the warmongers in Parliament speak in your name! Don't let them embroil us in another war of aggression under bogus pretexts that will only lead to more chaos and violence and crimes against the people of the world!

We call on all unions, political parties, community groups and everyone else to speak out NOW! Spread the word far and wide to co-workers, friends and family and through social and other media. Join in!

Invest in our Communities, Not in War!
Anti-War Picket every Saturday -- 11:00 am-12:00 noon
Corner of Ottawa St. and Walker Rd.


Edmonton
Anti-War Picket


Friday, October 10 -- 4:30 p.m.
109 Street and 88 Avenue
Organized by: Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism (ECAWAR)
For information: www.ecawar.org



Halifax
Rally to Oppose the Halifax War Conference

Saturday, November 22 -- 1:00 pm
Halifax Peace & Freedom Park (formerly Cornwallis Park) Hollis & South Sts.

Facebook

The 6th annual Halifax International Security Forum will be convened on November 21-23 as a platform for warmongering and empire building of U.S. imperialism and the NATO bloc, in which the Harper Government is fully embroiled.

Warmongers from more than 50 countries will join Canadian Defence Minister Rob Nicholson and some 300 others at the Washington, DC based Forum "to learn from each other, share opinions, generate new ideas, and put them into action."

The first 2009 forum was dedicated to popularizing NATO's then new 'security doctrine.' Ensuing forums have provided a stage to justify NATO's 'humanitarian intervention' in Libya and Africa, Syria and Iran. Closely following NATO's so-called "summit" in September at Newport, in Wales this forum will no doubt further NATO's dark plans to attack and destroy the Assad government in Damascus under the guise of destroying ISIL "Islamic terrorism," or for NATO schemes to use Ukraine as a battering ram and platform on which to foster major aggression against Russia.

It is unacceptable that Halifax, or any Canadian city, be used as a venue to plan further crimes against the peace and the peoples of the world. Bring your banners, bring your music and statements, and most of all bring your friends to oppose this war conference.

Hands off Syria, Iraq & Iran!
Hands off Palestine & Ukraine!
War Criminals -- Out of Halifax!
Canada Out of NATO! Dismantle NATO!
We Need an Anti-War Government!
No Harbour for War!

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