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December 8, 2016

Resistance of Teachers and Education Workers in Nova Scotia

All Out to Defeat the Vicious Anti-Social Offensive Which Targets Teachers, Education Workers and Public Education


Teachers' rally in Halifax, December 6, 2016.

Resistance of Teachers and Education Workers in Nova Scotia

All Out to Defeat the Vicious Anti-Social Offensive Which Targets Teachers, Education Workers
and Public Education

Teachers rally in Yarmouth, December 6, 2016.

As a result of the resistance of teachers and education workers in Nova Scotia, joined by other working people and students, the Liberal government of Stephen McNeil has backed down on its threats to pass legislation to impose contracts on teachers who are beginning a work-to-rule campaign by withdrawing voluntary extra-curricular activities. The government has also been forced to back down on its threat to lock students out of school while debating this legislation.

On December 5 when the government and school boards locked students out of school, parents and students rallied at the Legislature in Halifax. Even when the government backed down, large rallies of teachers joined by other working people were held in Halifax, Yarmouth and Antigonish the following day, reiterating the demand: Negotiate, Don't Dictate!

Students and parents rally in support of teachers, December 5, 2016.

Teachers' resistance in Nova Scotia is taking place at a time teachers and education workers across the country are resisting attacks on their rights. The Liberal majority government in Nova Scotia has joined those in Ontario, BC and Quebec in looking for new ways to impose a fraudulent austerity agenda whose aim is to pay the rich, under the hoax of high ideals. The resistance of working people has put a spoke in their wheels time and again and the battle continues.

Teachers rally in Antigonish, December 6, 2016.

The recent British Columbia Supreme Court ruling against the BC Liberals and similar ruling against the Ontario Liberals on their use of Bill 115 (the 2012 "Putting Students First Act") reaffirmed that governments are operating outside the law in attacking the wages and working conditions of teachers and education workers. The resistance of the teachers and education workers to this dictate and their resulting victories in the courts means that the threats of the Nova Scotia Liberals are seen to be all the more illegitimate. Teachers and education workers are firm: Negotiate, Don't Dictate!

The McNeil government's threats have not achieved their aim of getting the teachers to capitulate, especially on how they will use their voluntary labour, and it must now resort to more desperate measures. It is the resistance of the teachers, education workers, students and parents that expose the real aims of the anti-social offensive to privatize education to benefit the rich. The experience across the country shows the necessity to step up the fight for the rights of all on this front of life as well.

Ontario and BC governments have been concocting schemes to achieve "legally" what they could not "illegally." This takes the form of pushing teachers and education workers to give up their rights "voluntarily" through what is called negotiation. Following Liberal government defeats in major court cases, these governments are now taking negotiations over remedies to teachers as an opportunity to quell teachers and education workers' resistance and eliminate their ability to say No!

BC teachers send message of solidarity to Nova Scotia teachers.

In Ontario, the Wynne Liberal government wants elementary and secondary teachers and education workers' unions to negotiate extensions to their province-wide collective agreements, rather than through standard collective bargaining. With these moves the government is seeking to forestall an open fight with teachers and education workers before the provincial election currently scheduled for October 2018.[1] By extending contracts the government wants the provincial education unions to relinquish the right to local bargaining between school boards and local unions "voluntarily" with the promise of "gains." Eliminating local bargaining and undermining locally-elected unions and school boards was one of the main aims of the McGuinty Liberal government's Bill 115, which gave the Minister of Education broad arbitrary powers to interfere in or override local negotiations and collective agreements.

During the fight against Bill 115 in 2012, the Ontario Labour Relations Board was used to criminalize workers' resistance by ruling that the coordinated withdrawal of extracurricular activities by teachers and education workers constituted an illegal strike. The Nova Scotia Liberals' attempt to do the same through the legislature has been blocked, and they will now seek other avenues to attack teachers, education workers, students and parents.

Workers' Forum expresses confidence that the determination of teachers and education workers to defend their own rights also defends the rights of Canadians to a system of public education worthy of a modern Canada. Teachers, education workers, parents and students in Nova Scotia make their province and all of Canada proud.


1. The Liberals have indicated intentions to reschedule the Ontario election to June 2018, which would put it close to the August 2017 expiry of province-wide contracts for teachers and education workers.

(Photos: Sarah Fiander, Nova Scotia NDP, ewok_baby, S.L. Morse)

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Government Forced to Back Down

Halifax, December 6, 2016.

Two days after the Nova Scotia Liberal government gave notice on Saturday, December 3 that it would recall the legislature to impose contracts on teachers, the resistance of teachers, education workers and students forced it to back down. The swiftness of the reversal, the unity of working people and the panic that broke out in the ranks of the Nova Scotia Liberals shows the acute legitimacy crisis in which the anti-social offensive and austerity agenda are mired.

Along with imposing contracts, the government threatened to lock students out of schools beginning Monday, December 5 under the pretext of "ensuring students' safety." On this it also had to back down, announcing that the schools would be open on Tuesday, December 6. Large numbers of students had showed up to schools on December 5, defying the order. Also instrumental in blocking the school closures were the many parents and students who protested alongside teachers at the Nova Scotia legislature. Parents laid the blame squarely on the government and refused to blame teachers, who they recognize are defending students' learning conditions. For example, a Facebook group called Nova Scotia Parents for Teachers has more than 17,000 members and is actively discussing how to oppose the government's schemes.

Students and parents rally in support of teachers, December 5, 2016.

The government backing down also comes in the context of the decisions of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) to initiate a work-to-rule campaign on December 5 as part of negotiations for a new collective agreement. The work-to-rule action means that teachers are following the existing collective agreement and not taking on additional unpaid and extracurricular duties. The union had given the government one week's notice, rather than the required 72 hours, for the work-to-rule action in order to ensure that the government, school boards and families could make adequate arrangements.

NTSU President Liette Doucet explained that the teachers have "determined that limiting our work will help to demonstrate the scope of activities that teachers do for students that go above and beyond, and those that prevent them from directly teaching students. Voluntary extra-curricular activities and scheduled field trips will not continue during this job action. ...public school members will not arrive early or stay late after the instructional day; complete clerical duties; complete data collection and entry; or attend meetings non-essential to lesson planning and implementation."

Public Sector Unions Stand As One

The fight of Nova Scotia teachers was taken up by other public sector workers dealing with the same attacks from the government. The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union President, Jason MacLean said, "First, the Premier of this province made a mess out of our health care system, and now, he's moved on to meddle with our public education system and is locking kids out of their own schools. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union to oppose Stephen McNeil's ongoing assault against public sector workers' rights." The news release added: "In coming days, we may be forced to ask our members to take unprecedented action against this government. We are asking all 31,000 of our members to be prepared to stand up when the time comes."

Nurses stand with teachers, December 6, 2016.

Canadian Union of Public Employees (Nova Scotia) President Nan McFadgen issued a statement stating: "Imposing a collective agreement on our teachers is undemocratic. Bill 75 is thinly veiled union busting legislation that will not withstand legal scrutiny." She pointed out that while Bill 75 may specifically target teachers, "it signals the end of fair collective bargaining in Nova Scotia."

"Our members support the rights of teachers to bargain fairly and they are upset that children have been made pawns by a government that refuses to respect workers' rights in this province. Never before has our provincial government attacked unions like this.

"CUPE Nova Scotia will fight to safeguard our right to collectively bargain and we call on CUPE members to do the same. We are asking our 19,000 members to be ready to participate as never before.

Nova Scotia Federation of Labour President Danny Cavanagh stated: "This Liberal government's choices will see all taxpayers pay a hefty price for these bad decisions if it imposes a contract on the teachers. The recent BC Supreme Court decision was a clear victory for BC's teachers, when it declared as unconstitutional and invalid the legislation that stripped teachers of collective bargaining rights in 2002.

"We have trusted our teachers for more then 100 years in this province when it comes to our kids, their education and safety and this government must start listening to teachers, parents and students -- the only way to improve the conditions in classrooms and our education system is to return to the bargaining table and work out a solution."

(Photos: NSTU Yarmouth Local, S.L. Morse)

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In December 2015 the Nova Scotia Liberal government passed Bill 148, the Public Services Sustainability Act. Under the hoax of guaranteeing the sustainability of public services, Bill 148 attacks those who provide the services.[1] It imposes a ceiling on wage increases for all provincial public sector workers of 0 per cent, 0 per cent, 1 per cent and 1.5 per cent per year over four years and 0.5 per cent on the last day of the contract. If negotiations end up in arbitration, the bill binds the arbitrator to these parameters in terms of wage increases. Despite the bill's passage the government has yet to enact the legislation, preferring instead to use it as a threat hanging over public sector workers' heads. However, the threat is not working.

Public school teachers have thus far rejected two tentative agreements negotiated between the government and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) since this round of negotiations opened on September 29, 2015. In the most recent vote, 70 per cent of NSTU members rejected the latest tentative agreement. The vote reflected teachers' refusal to accept government dictate in negotiations. In spite of fears that the rejection might provoke the government to enact the anti-worker legislation, on October 25 the union reported that 96 per cent of the 9,300 public school members of the NTSU voted in favour of job action.

NSTU president Liette Doucet says that teachers are looking for more quality time with students. "Teachers haven't been genuinely consulted in government decisions affecting classrooms and schools and as a result we are spending less time doing the things that matter most to students." She also says free and fair collective bargaining and maintaining benefits are important. "With Bill 148, a negotiated benefit has been taken away, along with our ability to negotiate a fair and reasonable salary package. Teachers go above and beyond to ensure student needs are met, and we want to be valued and recognized by government for our contribution."

On November 17, the union and the government entered conciliation, however the union indicated that it was not giving up its plans for job action. When talks broke down on November 25 it announced the job action would commence on Monday, December 5.


1. See Worker's Forum October 13, 2016.

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Quebec Federation of Labour Holds Triennial Convention in Montreal

Delegates Speak Passionately in Favour of
Campaigns that Defend the Rights of All

The 31st Constitutional Congress of the Quebec Federation of Labour (FTQ) was held in Montreal from November 28 to December 2. The FTQ is the largest union central in Quebec, with approximately 600,000 members, about 60 per cent of whom are from all the major sectors of industrial production. There were 809 registered delegates, 578 men and 231 women, coming from 229 locals, 12 regional councils and 28 affiliated unions. Including observers, guests and media representatives, the total number of people attending the Congress was about 1100. Daniel Boyer and Serge Cadieux were re-elected by acclamation as President and General Secretary of the federation.

The theme of the Congress was "Shaping the Future Together" and the two main sub-themes were the fight against social inequalities and climate change and the transition to a green economy including transition with respect to jobs. The Congress held commissions on the issue of social inequalities and adopted a plan of action to that effect, and it also adopted a policy statement on climate change entitled "Change Quebec, not Climate." The program of the FTQ is to hold a "social dialogue" with the government. This is why it demands better labour laws while workers are forced to deal with the reality of the need to defeat the attacks against them through the laws that are already being enacted fast and furious. This is also why on the agenda of the FTQ's social dialogue, delegates from industrial and other sectors and the regions remained silent, but spoke eloquently on the necessity to uphold the rights of all on all fronts where the attacks are taking place.

Social inequalities are the result of the unequal distribution of the resources of society among its members, the FTQ said. This explanation fails to analyze the cause of social inequalities, which is the economic, political and social system based on exploitation and oppression. It merely blames the political choices made by those in power which, according to the FTQ, create unequal access not only to income, but also to jobs, health, education, political decisions, etc. On this basis, the FTQ channels the various struggles of the workers and the people into a general declaration against social inequalities and makes this the basis of its calls which seek to induce governments to adopt laws and put in place policies that reduce inequalities.

Policy objectives put before the Convention on this issue by the FTQ include the fight against tax evasion and tax havens, calls for massive reinvestment of government in health, education and social services, and labour laws which would "ensure a better balance between workers and trade unions and employers and governments."

On the issue of climate change, the FTQ called on the government to implement an appropriate transition to a green economy that ensures the quality of the environment while not penalizing workers and their jobs.The FTQ took up the call for the government to establish an industrial strategy which, among other things, assesses the impacts of greenhouse gas reduction measures on industries, provides businesses with financial support during the period of transition, increases the transformation through secondary manufacturing of natural resources etc. As in the case of the statement on social inequalities, the policy paper does not give recognition to the struggles the working people are waging against specific projects the oligopolies are putting forward which harm the environment and the security of the communities and do not consult impacted communities.

In this vein, one of the themes that permeated the Congress is what is called the political action of the FTQ to build alliances with other trade unions and other organizations to achieve the desired legislative or regulatory changes. This political action also aims at ensuring the defeat of the Liberal government of Philippe Couillard in the 2018 general election.

The spirited interventions of the workers on resolutions called for the development of campaigns in which the FTQ puts all its weight behind defending those who are attacked in order to defeat the offensive against the affirmation of the workers' rights. This included an emergency resolution presented by the Montreal Blue Collar Union to demand the repeal of the anti-labour Bill 24 (formerly Bill 110), which is an attack on municipal workers and their right to negotiate their working conditions so as to serve narrow private interests (see interview with union president in this issue). The resolution asks the officers of the FTQ to meet the opposition parties in the National Assembly to get them to commit to repeal this regressive law once in power. Several workers intervened to say that this law cannot be considered a fait accompli that workers have to live with. They reject the law, even though it has been passed, as an attack on all workers. This demands a response from all workers regardless of the union they belong to, delegates said.

A vigorous discussion took place on the resolution calling for the minimum wage to be raised to $15 an hour. Such a wage is a bare minimum for workers to just meet their basic needs under present conditions, delegates pointed out. Health care and textile workers spoke on the phenomenon of the working poor who are found everywhere and even, in ever increasing numbers, in unionized sectors. For example, workers who work in privatized health services such as seniors' care are working hard to attend to the needs of the seniors and do so out of dedication to vulnerable members of society, but are treated in an undignified way with respect to the low wages and working conditions that are not commensurate with the work they do. Women workers who organize amongst these workers spoke powerfully about their efforts to organize to immediately improve their conditions so that they live and work in dignity.

Delegates also spoke eloquently on the resolution demanding the end of two-tier working conditions, in particular as regards pension funds, by which newly hired workers have to work side by side with their older co-workers under very inferior conditions. Delegates showed their appreciation for workers at Ciment Lafarge who waged a successful three-month strike to block the imposition of a defined contribution pension plan for new hires, as well as the efforts of workers in other workplaces to block similar efforts. Several young people spoke of this struggle as an important battle for the very defence of trade unions themselves.

Delegates spoke passionately on the resolution calling for an immediate end to the strangulation of public early childhood care through cuts and privatization. The resolution called for an immediate end to privatization and cuts in services and a massive reinvestment in the network of Early Childhood Centres (see interview with a CPE worker in this issue). Delegates made it clear that it is unacceptable that child welfare be transformed into a profit machine and that the advances for women that have resulted from the establishment of public care for young children must be defended and expanded.

Throughout the convention, lively interventions pressed for practical campaigns which put the full weight of the FTQ behind the defence of workers who are under attack and uphold the rights of all so as to defeat the anti-social offensive of the rich and their governments. Without such a fight, society's path to progress will remain tightly shut posing great dangers to the well-being of the people as well as harm to the natural environment.

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Montreal Blue Collar Workers
"Everyone Must Stand Together No Matter What Union You Belong To"

Chantal Racette is President of the Syndicat des cols bleus regroupés de Montréal


Photo of Montreal blue collar workers posted to Local's facebook page.

Workers' Forum: The FTQ Congress unanimously adopted an emergency resolution submitted by the Montreal blue collar workers calling for the repeal of Bill 24 (formerly Bill 110) against municipal workers. The law incorporates the special law which decrees working conditions into the municipal sector labor relations system, violating the right of the municipal workers to negotiate their working conditions. The Montreal blue collar workers have been calling for the withdrawal of this legislation from the outset. Can you tell us more about that?

Chantal Racette: The Syndicat des cols bleus regroupés de Montréal is Local 301 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and we first intervened at the CUPE's National Convention in Vancouver in November 2015 which passed an emergency resolution calling for the bill to be withdrawn. We did this because, in our opinion, this law takes us back 50 years, to the detriment of the hard battles that our predecessors have won. Although the bill has been amended, as far as our union is concerned the amendments do not make that bill acceptable. It must be withdrawn.

Our union has 24 collective agreements and also has pension plans. Anybody who has ever negotiated knows that it's inconceivable to negotiate a collective agreement in 150 days unless you have an employer that always says yes, and that's not happening (the law requires the appointment of a mediator by the Minister of Municipal Affairs if there is no agreement on the 150th day following the start of the legal strike period, which triggers the process leading to decree of the working conditions -- Ed note).

To give an example, just for Montreal, there was a time, when Jean Lapierre was the president of the union, when it took 54 months of negotiations to come to an agreement. With legislation such as this, municipal workers will have to limit themselves during negotiations and they will ultimately pay the price. At some point, everyone must stand up; you advance; you defend your members. We, the blue collar union, are used to doing things like that and we will continue to act in this way.

We are asking for the complete withdrawal of the law. We fought hard against the previous legislation that attacked our pension plans. We should have been together, all the workers in Quebec, defending the pension plans in the municipal sector. We saw it right here in the FTQ Convention with the case of Brault and Martineau and Ciment Lafarge where the employer attacked the pension plan. When the employers or the government want to make a major attack on a particular issue, first they take on the bigger target and then they extend their attacks to others. You have to stand, everybody together, no matter what union you belong to.

WF: How do you see the impact this law will have on the blue collar workers in Montreal?

CR: Currently we have a job floor in Montreal that gives us a minimum of union jobs. I think this is going to be their next target. The city already contracts out more of our jobs externally. For example, they have given many of our security officer jobs to a non-profit organization called the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires which happens to be headed by the former director of the Police Department of the City of Montreal!

We are going through a situation where our jobs are disappearing, whether it's snow removal, garbage collection, sidewalk maintenance and so on. Take the case of the large French multinational company Derichebourg, which has already been sued for collusion and corruption, and to which the city has awarded three waste collection contracts in the boroughs. Before, with respect to waste at the City of Montreal, it was about 50-50 between internal and external jobs. We've lost a lot in the recent period. With Bill 24, it will be much easier for the City of Montreal to send our jobs to the private sector.

WF: Do you want to add anything else?

CR: The blue collar workers reflect the society in which we live. We are more than 6,000 workers and with the retirees we are more than 11,000. We are here to provide a service to the citizens, not to fill our pockets. Citizens need to be aware of this. The media slanders us to push people to celebrate if we take a beating. Take the Charbonneau Commission, the inquiry into the granting and administration of government contracts in the construction industry. It seems to have already been forgotten. If city work had been done by the blue collar workers, contractors and politicians would not have filled their pockets with our money.

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Early Childhood Education Workers
"We Are Calling for a Halt to Cuts and Privatization
and Reinvestment in the Network"

Sonia Charette is an early childhood education worker and Vice-President of United Steelworkers Local 9291


One day strike by Quebec day care workers, July 7, 2014.

Workers' Forum: During the FTQ Congress several early childhood workers denounced the suffocation of the Early Childhood Centres (CPE) and the privatization of the network and called for immediate corrective measures. Can you tell us more about the situation in the network?

Sonia Charette: The privatization of early childhood centres started with the tax credits that are given to those who attend private daycares. On a weekly basis this is more expensive for parents, but when they file their tax return with the tax credit they are entitled to they realize that it costs them less to send their child to a private daycare than to a CPE. The problem has been amplified with the modulation of services. Now, parents pay according to income. If they earn more than $50,000 they can pay up to $20 per day for a child in the CPE. We have parents who had to borrow to pay for the service with the modulation of services, so they found that it was more advantageous to go to private day care because of the tax credit. Currently there is a recall list to recall children when there are vacancies. This is a central list for Quebec, and there is no recall list for CPE, it is completely emptied. The parents have gone to the private sector.

It is a deliberate policy of the government. Since the Liberals have been in power, they cut services so parents have had enough and are wondering why they would pay more when services have been cut. Our CPE is almost 40 years old, and we were always proud to say that we integrate children with special needs. We cannot do it anymore because it takes a surplus educator to take care of these children and we can no longer afford a surplus educator.

In the last 10 years $330 million has been cut from the CPE network. The government had announced that for next year there would be another cut of $120 million but at the moment they are in seduction mode so maybe they will not apply this cut. We have already used all our means; for example we have accepted a reopening of the collective agreement; all the educators, including the boss, have put their shoulders to the wheel doing one hour of volunteer work. We do the same number of hours as before but on our pay we get paid an hour less to save the children and buy some material for the CPE with our own money.

The goal is clearly to privatize services. Parents complain and we have a hard time surviving, and the places we lose in CPE are offered to the private sector. In percentage terms, in the past 3 years there has been a jump of 1300 per cent in places awarded to the private sector and there has not been an increase in the CPE. Private daycares are less supervised. They are not governed by the same laws and regulations and do not have the same standards. We are obliged to have trained educators at a ratio of 2 to 3 in place, that is to say two out of three educators who have technical training in early childhood education. The private sector does not have these requirements.

From the point of view of working conditions, we feel that we are going back 25 years. We had a good pension plan and we are in negotiations now and we are threatened with losing our defined benefit plan for a defined contribution plan. In all of this, it is the children who are the biggest losers.

WF: What are the demands of early childhood workers?

SC: We are calling for the government to end the cuts and make significant reinvestments in the Early Childhood Centres. Minimally, we are calling for it to immediately reinvest the money it makes with the modulation of services in the network. We also call for the government to stop privatizing the network. The creation of the Early Childhood Centres marked a great advance in the lives of women, allowing them to leave the house and go to work, and it also put an end to the terrible black market in childcare where women were working underground without receipts, looking after 10 or 15 children. We must not allow this progress to be wiped out.

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The Fight Against Inferior Working Conditions
for Young Workers
"Young People Must Get Involved, That Is the Key Thing "

Vincent Barrette is a young worker at the CEZinc Refinery in Valleyfield, Quebec and a member of United Steelworkers Local 6486


The FTQ Congress passed a resolution against collective agreement clauses which create disparity of treatment between workers, mainly with respect to pension plans. There is a lot of pressure from employers in unionized workplaces in Quebec to put new workers on a defined contribution pension plan rather than being part of the defined benefit pension plan to which the other workers belong. The defined benefit plan we have at CEZinc. is fully funded by the employer while a defined contribution plan would be funded jointly by the employee and the employer. We calculated that if we had a two-tier pension plan, a worker on a DC plan would have to pay about the equivalent of a lifetime home payment to get a pension similar to mine.

In recent years, people who have been hired at CEZinc have been mostly young people between the ages of 18 and 35. There is a renewal of the workforce at the moment, especially with many older workers retiring. Last year, it was calculated that 15 per cent of our workforce had fewer than five years of experience at the plant. Most of these were young people aged 35 and under. Over the next five years, there will be a turnover of another 35 per cent. We know that there is a wave of young people who are coming, so we have to give ourselves the means to ensure fair and equitable working conditions for all workers.

The disparity in treatment in pension plans creates an injury to new employees who arrive in our industries, who are not entitled to the same employment benefits as those who are already there. One of the fundamental principles of trade unionism is mobilization in order to be able to wage an effective struggle to maintain a balance of power with the employer. For that, your members must be behind you. Opening the door to disparities in treatment in our collective agreements breaks this balance of power. It is difficult to mobilize members who already feel when they arrive that they are not represented by the union because they are not entitled to the same benefits as other workers. In addition, disparity of treatment in collective agreements does not only apply to pension plans, but can apply to all benefits.

Steelworkers are fighting against disparities in treatment. Steelworkers from the cement factory Ciment Lafarge went on a three-month strike last winter so that new workers would have the same benefits they do. In industrial workplaces, improvements in working conditions have been won through hard fights and it takes a hard fight to keep them. There are health and safety issues that are very big because of the products we work with. I work with antimony, which can have fatal effects if it is inhaled. There is manganese, which causes Parkinson's disease. It is not for nothing that we have good working conditions and we have earned them dearly. Steelworkers have a motto that one does not want to leave behind for others less than what one has achieved. The resolution that passed yesterday tells all employers that, across all affiliates of the FTQ, two-tier clauses are not acceptable. I would feel bad doing a job alongside someone who does not have the same working conditions. To fight for a defined benefit pension plan is to fight to ensure that people who are coming feel included in the union.

Young workers must get involved, that is the key thing. They must take their place so that the workplaces are revitalized. That place exists. The unions, the affiliates of the FTQ, want to make room for the young people, so it is important that young workers push a bit. Be active in your workplaces, look after your interests because otherwise the companies will do it and it will not be to your advantage. We have the working conditions we have because we fought for them. It's up to young workers to take their place so that this place will not be left vacant, so that it cannot be taken by insidious means by the employers who will exert a stranglehold on the unions. Do not open the door to that. Young people must take their place in their unions, on the work floor, everywhere, to build a strong trade union movement that ensures intergenerational equity.

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Sale of Seniors' Care Facilities

No to Foreign Ownership of Seniors' Care!
Yes to Public Control and Modern Seniors' Care!

The sale of Vancouver-based Retirement Concepts, a Canadian private seniors' care corporation to a foreign buyer, Beijing-based Anbang Insurance is now before the federal government for review.

The proposed purchase is being met with strong opposition and the demand that the federal government reject the deal as being completely against the public interest and that the BC and Alberta governments also reject the deal.

Retirement Concepts owns 25 facilities classified as independent living, assisted living and complex care. Most are in BC with two in Calgary and one in Montreal, as well as significant property holdings which could be used for expansion.

The sale price is said to be in excess of $1 billion, and is under review by the federal government's Investment Review Division because it exceeds the $600-million threshold which triggers automatic review under the Canada Investment Act. The Hospital Employees' Union, which represents close to 1,900 workers at 12 Retirement Concepts locations in BC strongly opposes the sale and is calling on both the provincial and federal governments to reject it.

"Residential care and assisted living services are a critical part of the continuum of care in this province," Hospital Employees' Union (HEU) secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside said. "Selling BC seniors' care facilities to an offshore insurance company is not in the interests of BC health care workers, seniors, or our health care system. Allowing this sale to proceed would represent a major loss of accountability and control over the provision of seniors' care. And it would send a clear signal to global investors that seniors' care and other health services in this province are for sale to the highest bidder. Unfettered foreign investment in our health care system is the wrong direction for British Columbians."

"This sale is another alarming sign of how private continuing care decisions are driven by profit motives instead of what's best for patient care," said Friends of Medicare Executive Director Sandra Azocar. "A distant and multi-billion dollar insurance corporation is about the exact opposite of who we need responsible for the care of our loved ones in Alberta."

"Ultimately we want to see a long-term phase out of private care in Alberta, and this is why. We believe companies like Retirement Concepts and now Anbang Insurance Group do not see their role as providing quality care to patients, but as an easy path to a lucrative investment portfolio," added Azocar. "Still we must insist that this sale be rejected so that we can refocus our system on care that is responsive and driven by local needs, and ultimately by the public sector."

"We want to see Ottawa reject this deal. Our continuing care system should not be open for the benefit of international investors," Azocar said. "At the same time we need to hear from our provincial government that they will advocate in the interests of Alberta patients and oppose the sale as well, while taking steps to move our continuing care system out of the hands of profiteers. We can better invest our limited public funds into public care instead of profit driven portfolios."

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The Clash of Rights

The sale of 25 seniors' care retirement homes, assisted living and long-term care facilities by the Canadian company Retirement Concepts to the Beijing-based foreign monopoly Anbang Insurance must be rejected. Instead what is needed is to restrict and eventually eliminate the role of private interests entirely from seniors' care.

Governments are handing over more and more seniors' care and health care to private interests such as Retirement Concepts, which receives the largest amount of public funding of any private corporation in seniors' care. They in turn consider it their monopoly right to sell to the highest bidder.

According to the Investment Canada Act, foreign takeovers beyond a certain threshold (in 2016 the threshold is enterprise value over $600 million) must be reviewed by the federal government and must provide a "net benefit" to Canada.

What possible benefit could come from such a sale which puts the care of seniors in the hands of a huge global monopoly. For the global monopoly involved, this is a purchase of commercial real estate, with the motive of making money and increasing their investment in the shortest possible time. The investment has nothing whatsoever to do with looking after the well-being of seniors, or in providing modern and humane seniors homes and care, or any other benefit to Canadians.

Under the proposed sale, Retirement Concepts would continue to hold a minority share and a contract for managing the facilities. The sale adds yet another claimant and layer of private profit and will inevitably lead to further attacks on the living conditions of seniors and the working conditions of the workers and further plunder of the public treasury.

Privately owned and operated seniors' care facilities are publicly funded, that is through the added value created by the working class and claimed by governments, as well as by the fees which seniors must pay for food, accommodation and a growing portion of personal and health care and medical supplies not covered by public health care. The workers who provide care and services create immense value for the society.

Private monopoly interests are claiming an increasing share of this added-value. Permitting layer upon layer of parasites to profit from health care and seniors' care does immense damage. In this case, a foreign owner will make its claim for private profit. This is added to the claim of the current owners who would retain a minority share and management role. In turn they frequently contract out services, giving rise to yet more claims for private profit from the added value created by the working class. In addition there are the claims of the drug companies, private insurers and on and on. The public treasury is plundered to pay the rich, while the living conditions of seniors and the working conditions of the staff who care for them are under constant attack.

Rejection of this proposed sale is a no-brainer under any conditions. The damage done by the neo-liberal agenda of handing over seniors' care to private interests is well documented and well known. No benefit exists from such a sale, which only adds to the damage done by privatization by putting control in the hands of a foreign corporation. Seniors' care is not a private matter but a public concern over which Canadians must exercise sovereign public control.

The neo-liberal agenda of privatization of health care and seniors' care is clashing with the modern demand for a society in which rights are provided with a guarantee. Health care and seniors' care are modern rights for all, rights that people have by virtue of being human. The old outlook, that the right to private profit should prevail over the rights of the actual producers and the public interest, is clashing with the demand for a modern society based on affirming and guaranteeing the rights of all, not just those with wealth and privilege.

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