October 3 Quebec Election

Make the Voice of the Working Class Heard!

– Pierre Chénier –

In this election, the Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec is championing the workers' demands. The parties in the National Assembly and the mainstream media are silent on the struggles that workers wage for their rights and the rights of all.

Currently, the Anglo-Swiss monopoly Glencore is dumping its arsenic and other polluting products into the air, particularly in Rouyn-Noranda, with complete impunity. Where is the government when Glencore must be compelled to submit to official environmental standards? This leads us to believe that these standards exist only on paper, just like the safety management systems in the railway industry which are a private prerogative of the major railway companies. Following industry lobbying, the Government of Quebec this April increased the daily limit on nickel emissions, allowing Glencore and others to dump five times more nickel dust on Quebec. Glencore's fly-in/fly-out workers in Nunavik have just finished a months-long strike against this same Glencore to obtain living and working conditions that they consider acceptable. They have been fighting the systematic use of subcontracting which prevents young workers from moving up the training and salary scales so that it becomes more and more difficult to attract and retain them.

Workers at the Lachine plant of British monopoly Rolls-Royce have just completed a months-long lockout by their employer, which wanted to destroy their defined-benefit pension plan. The U.S. monopoly Ash Grove has locked out workers at its Joliette cement plant for 16 months in order to impose conditions that make them disposable labour without stable working conditions. The mixture used to make the cement is being imported during the lockout, while workers at the Joliette cement plant normally produced it.

None of this has even been mentioned by the monopoly media or cartel parties during the election and neither has a word been said about the struggles of health care workers for conditions that allow them to defend their health and care for patients in a humane and professional manner. Meanwhile, health care workers and their unions have put forward solutions, such as a Quebec-wide law on safe health care professional-to-patient ratios, which must be discussed to build public opinion because they come from those who deliver the services, who care for us and who save lives, often at the risk of their own lives.

Instead of being at the centre of the election, the workers are told, "Vote for me and you will see what will happen to you" because election promises are made with total impunity and nothing obliges the government to be held accountable when promises are broken. The old idea that the role of the workers is to compare the platforms of the parties in the National Assembly and to choose among them on this basis, does not release the initiative of the workers or give them any control over any decisions nor about what kind of Quebec is built.

We are told that this exclusion of workers is in fact normal because the real sphere of activity for workers is the negotiation of collective agreements. This is where they protect themselves, it is said, obviously only as long as they are unionized. We know that the overall rate of unionization in Quebec is approximately 31 per cent.

This too is more than problematic because the big private interests that govern Quebec and their government are brutally attacking negotiations as a means for workers to put forward their demands and obtain conditions that they consider acceptable. Dictate replaces negotiation. The large mining-metallurgical monopolies mentioned earlier in this article all have ways of moving production to other parts of their empire in the event of disputes. It is precisely against this and other forms of their dictate that the workers are now carrying out campaigns of support, including financial support, for the workers on strike or who are locked out. These campaigns are also aimed at workers in unions other than those to which the strikers or locked-out workers belong. This is one way to tackle the problem of the destruction of negotiations.

Hundreds of thousands of health and social service workers took almost three years to sign their collective agreements, towards the end of 2021. These are coming up for renewal in 2023, and few of those agreements seriously changed their terms and it looks like the fight is still up for grabs. A striking example is the hours of care that the health professionals obtained in their collective agreement which are still not in force even though the collective agreement expires next March.

Workers are taking it upon themselves to make their voices heard in a way that is effective in making their situation known, exchanging information with others and diligently working to build public opinion for the solutions they propose for the problems they and society face. Among other actions, they participate in virtual or in-person meetings where issues are brought to the table and workers present their concerns and discuss solutions.

This directly prepares the ground for establishing a regime that gives the workers real control over political and economic power. This is how they will be able to mobilize the human factor/social consciousness at the head of a national project which serves the interests of the people.

Making the independent voice of the working class heard requires constant attention and work, which is also carried out at election time to develop workers' initiative.

Pierre Chénier is the leader of the PMLQ and its candidate in Marie-Victorin.

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 24 - October 3, 2022

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