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February 9, 2017

Use of Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act
Against Steelworkers

 Exposure of CCAA as Legalized Theft


Use of Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act Against Steelworkers
Exposure of CCAA as Legalized Theft

Who Controls Resource Extraction and for Whose Benefit
Saskatchewan Uranium Workers Reel from Layoffs and Other
  - K.C. Adams

Resistance of Teachers and Education Workers to Anti-Social Offensive
Nova Scotia Teachers Vote on Tentative Agreement - Mira Katz

Fight of Cold Lake Seniors' Care Workers
Workers Defend Their Rights and Quality Care for Seniors - Peggy Askin
Uphold the Rights of Seniors and Their Caregivers

Use of Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act Against Steelworkers

Exposure of CCAA as Legalized Theft

Mike Da Prat President of USW Local 2251 at Essar Steel Algoma
writes an open letter

In his February 3 open letter, Local 2251 President Mike Da Prat details the history of the three times his membership has been subjected to the bankruptcy process of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).

Mike shows that the police powers of the CCAA were used in the first two instances to make deep cuts to the workforce and force concessions from steelworkers, a form of legalized theft of what belongs to workers by right. Those concessions and cuts in the number of workers were forced without any concern for the well-being of the workers involved or the impact this would have on the economy and community of Sault Ste. Marie.

The cuts and concessions were made to solve a short-term problem for the oligarch investors in the steel industry, a problem related to their aim for a constantly higher rate of profit. They were not made to solve the basic problems confronting the steel industry, which arise from its socialized nature in contradiction with its private ownership and control. The socialized nature of modern industrial mass production demands a modern socialized form of ownership and control and an aim to serve the actual producers and the well-being of all members of the country and their economy and nation-building project.

Mike writes, "Our local union has met with a number of interested parties including the one that left. Every one of these parties with the exception of one, wanted to make deep cuts to jobs, workers, and benefits including some which affect our retirees.

"Each and every one of them stated that the rationale for these deep cuts being permanent were to ensure a viable company into the future which would survive the next downturn. The rationale of the bidders is simply a myth to lure workers into making huge sacrifices for their immediate profit."

Mike shows that each time in CCAA has not produced a viable company able to survive the next downturn but simply more legalized theft, crises and attacks on the actual producers, their community and the Canadian economy. Algoma Steel emerged from CCAA restructuring in 2001 with workers having been forced to make concessions and suffer deep cuts to the workforce.

Mike writes of the situation in 2007 during an upswing in the economy just before the crisis exploded in 2008: "The company was sold; along with rich dividends the lenders and bondholders made huge profits. Subsequent to the sale, the company was again leveraged to the point that when the market dipped the company, now known as Essar Steel Algoma, had to be restructured.

"In 2013, we gave concessions and in 2015 we found ourselves in another CCAA. A pattern clearly emerges. There is no long term solution. The best that one can hope for is to negotiate to stabilize the company with snap back provisions and improvements in language that will allow the employees to prepare for early negotiations or further CCAAs become necessary due to market conditions.

"The discussions that Local Union 2251 has had with interested parties and the proposals tabled by the company are designed for one thing only. They are designed for an entity to purchase the assets and then sell them to some other party making huge profits. In order to do this, they must strip the workers and the retirees of what they have worked for all their lives." (WF Emphasis)

Throughout the world, rising productivity of steel mills has meant fewer workers producing similar amounts of steel. However, the increased investment in fixed transferred-value (machines, computers etc) has put downward pressure on the rate of profit. Essentially, each ton of produced steel contains more transferred-value (old already-produced value) from machines and material in comparison with less new value from active steelworkers. More invested social wealth gives rise to less profit. Profit only comes from new value not the old existing transferred-value from machines and material consumed in the production process. This results in a drop in the rate of profit, which is the ratio between invested social wealth and the amount of added-value within the new value steelworkers produce. The downward pressure on the rate of profit comes into contradiction with the aim of the steel oligopolies and their rich investors. Their aim is a constantly rising rate of profit; their aim is not the production of steel for nation-building to meet the needs and well-being of the people.

The steel oligopolies and investors have no solutions to this dilemma of a falling rate of profit other than attacking steelworkers and wrecking the economy. The naturally occurring contradiction of modern socialized production with the narrow aim for private profit needs real new solutions. To constantly attack the wages, benefits and pensions of steelworkers and salaried employees, redistribute assets from one oligarch to another depending on who has the upper hand in CCAA, and periodically to wreck the productive forces and begin anew are not solutions.

These attacks are not solutions at all because they fail to recognize the basic problem that a completely socialized sector of the economy such as the industrial mass production of steel cannot be run without planning and control over supply to meet demand, and control of the market price for steel within a particular nation-building economy and project such as Canada, the United States, Mexico or any sovereign country for that matter. This contradiction cannot be sorted out unless the actual producers, the working class, through state institutions can regulate the amount of steel produced and imported and its market price in conformity with the apparent demand and the price of production within their particular sovereign economy. The price of production must include an average rate of profit and Canadian-standard wages, benefits and pensions agreeable to steelworkers and salaried employees.

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Who Controls Resource Extraction and for Whose Benefit

Saskatchewan Uranium Workers Reel from
Layoffs and Other Attacks

Lack of control of their basic economy and dependence on resource sales abroad without investing value at home to diversify the economy plague the peoples of Northern Saskatchewan and throughout the Prairies

Workers and local communities in Saskatchewan and the Prairies generally are suffering under Canada's economic model of dependence on raw material exports. The oligopolies in control of the economy refuse to invest the added-value workers produce in extended reproduction of the local economies. This failure to diversify and strengthen the economy of the Prairies leaves it vulnerable to disruption from factors beyond the control of the working people.

Cameco Corporation, which controls almost the entire uranium sector, has announced layoffs of 120 workers at mines and mills in McArthur River, Key Lake and Cigar Lake in Northern Saskatchewan. Those three facilities will continue with reduced production from 1,100 workers. The current layoffs are in addition to 500 workers fired last year when the company put the Rabbit Lake mine-mill into non-operational mode.

The formerly state-owned Rabbit Lake mine opened in 1975 with 600 workers as the world's second-largest uranium mine and mill. The latest estimate of recoverable uranium is 28 million kilograms within the dormant mine site of the now privatized operation. Once workers mine and mill the natural resource it would be worth billions of dollars. Cameco says 150 workers will keep the Rabbit Lake mine site and infrastructure operational for a possible restart "when market conditions and prices recover." In 2015, workers at the Cameco mines and mills in the Athabasca Basin, including the McClean Lake mill Denison Mines controls, produced 18 per cent of the world's refined uranium.

Cameco also announced it will attack the working conditions, wages and rights of the remaining mine and mill workers. The company will unilaterally change the work schedules at the remote mines and make it more difficult for workers to travel to and from work. It plans to discontinue air service for Cameco employees from Île-à-la-Crosse, La Loche and Beauval. Workers who live in or near those communities will now have to make their own way to La Ronge or Buffalo Narrows for air service to the mines. One look at a map shows how difficult and expensive that will be. The layoffs and schedule and travel changes will force great hardship on workers throughout the North whose communities are mostly Dene (Chipewyan), Cree (Woodland) and other Indigenous Nations and Métis settlements.

Cameco also threatened to eliminate the existing 10 per cent allowance for workers in the company's northernmost operations. In the typical anti-worker lingo of the financial oligarchy, "the allowance in effect since 2008 is currently under review to determine if it is still appropriate in the current labour market." Cameco executives are callously referring to the current situation where jobs have dried up in other major sectors of the Prairie economy such as oil and gas extraction, coal and potash mining, and even forestry, adding to the insecurity and suffering of laid-off uranium and other workers and their vulnerability to attacks on their rights.

The international financial oligarchy owns and controls Cameco through stock listed in New York and Toronto. The current oligopoly was originally comprised of two state-owned-enterprises controlled by the Saskatchewan and federal governments. A torturous sellout through privatization began in 1988.

The institutional owners of the company, who mostly do not live in Saskatchewan, claim much of the added-value workers produce. This value mostly leaves the Prairie economy. Some of the added-value Cameco workers have produced has gone to purchase other uranium mines and mills in the United States and Kazakhstan and into gold mining in Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia through a spinoff company called Centerra Gold Inc. This exported value enriches the global oligarchs and their empire-building but does nothing to strengthen the economy of Northern Saskatchewan.

Crisis in the Uranium Sector

Cameco announced the current layoffs and those last year in the context of a sharp drop in demand and fall in the global market price for uranium. Exports to Japan were disrupted after the 2011 earthquake/tsunami disaster, which destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant controlled by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc (TEPCO). Before the 2011 tsunami, the global price per pound of uranium was U.S.$72 but has now fallen to U.S.$26.

This past week, TEPCO declared a force majeure and cancelled the remaining years of its Cameco uranium purchase contract worth $1.3 billion. Cameco rejects the cancellation and is preparing a lawsuit. The long-term contract stretching until 2028 was arranged before the tsunami disaster and at prices far higher than today. TEPCO wants out of the remaining years at the high price and contracted amount of social product, as its needs for uranium have not recovered. All 12 of its nuclear plants are now on shutdown. Only two of the 21 nuclear plants in Japan are currently operational amid mounting popular opposition to nuclear power due to the seismic dangers inherent to Japan's geology. Many of the plants are built over or near active earthquake fault lines and at sea level for easy access to water such as the Fukushima plant destroyed by the 2011 tsunami resulting in high levels of radiation spreading far and wide.

The Issue of Who Controls Resource Extraction and
For Whose Benefit

The Athabasca Basin, which contains arguably Mother Earth's richest and most easily recoverable deposits of uranium, lies squarely within the traditional territory of the Dene and Cree peoples. Ancient oral history in the Na-Dené language group (also known as Athabaskan) describes the geography of the uranium deposits along with descriptions of how to avoid the most active dangerous regions. For thousands of years, the zones bearing uranium where the sandstone surface is thin, and even glow at night, were variously described as "dead zones" or "no-go areas" that hunters, foragers and travelers should avoid.

To have a natural resource controlled and exploited for the benefit of the global financial oligarchy can only be considered criminal, backward and intolerable in modern Canada. Those resources belong to the Indigenous peoples in fraternal cooperation with the working class of Canada for the mutual benefit of all and the general interests of society. In addition to providing employment for the peoples who live in the communities surrounding the Athabasca Basin, the added-value workers produce through the mining of the uranium resource should largely remain in the local economies throughout the North. The enormous added-value should become the basis for extended reproduction of the economies throughout the North making them viable, diverse, and as far as possible self-reliant and capable of surviving disruption in any of the particular sectors.

As it stands, the bulk of the benefit to the North from miners producing uranium value is in their claim for wages, benefits and pensions, the reproduced-value. Reproduced-value, which goes to sustain and reproduce those particular workers, is never sufficient for extended reproduction of any economy. Besides, when the economy is not all-sided and under the control of the actual producers, even reproduced-value remains uncertain as the layoffs at Cameco underscore.

The added-value workers produce must mostly be poured back into the economy and society and not allowed to leave. The peoples of the North are deprived of this added-value, which leaves their communities un- or under-developed and incapable of providing security and a modern living standard, infrastructure and vibrant culture for the inhabitants, especially the youth and seniors. This must change! To gain control over their lives and economy, the working people and their allies in the North must organize to assert control over the politics, land, natural resources and the basic sectors of their economy.

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Resistance of Teachers and Education Workers to Anti-Social Offensive

Nova Scotia Teachers Vote on Tentative Agreement

Teachers rally rejects Nova Scotia government's attempts to legislate parameters of contracts,
December 6, 2016.

On February 8 and 9 Nova Scotia's 9,300 teachers, specialists, administrators, speech language pathologists, school counsellors and school psychologists who are members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) vote on a third tentative agreement reached between their union and the Liberal government headed by Premier Stephen McNeil. The previous two were rejected strongly. The vote is also taking place amidst widespread support in Nova Scotia from parents, students and the general public for the stand of the teachers and educational support staff to improve their working conditions as a contribution to improving students' learning conditions. Specifically, the demand of teachers to have the right to negotiate class sizes and other aspects of the learning environment is clearly seen as a means to defend public education from governments' ongoing attempts to under-fund and privatize the system. The vote also took place in the face of the government of Nova Scotia's ongoing attempts to force teachers, along with the entire public sector in Nova Scotia, to accept legislated parameters on what can and cannot be negotiated, with the threat of imposed contracts if they do not.

In the lead-up to the vote there has been much discussion amongst teachers in the media about whether the agreement reflects what has been established in public opinion about the importance of improved working conditions and their connection to learning conditions. Whatever the result may be, Nova Scotia teachers and education workers have made an indelible mark on their province in refusing to give up their demands for improvements in public education. They have proven that refusing to accept dictate and fraud is the first step to affirming the rights of all.

Province Steps Up Blackmail

After the tentative agreement was reached on January 20 the union instructed its members to end their work-to-rule action which saw teachers focus strictly on their teaching duties according to the letter of their contracts. However, shortly thereafter the government threw the entire agreement into doubt, publicly interpreting one of the provisions in a self-serving manner that did not reflect the union's understanding of it. This related to the provision for two personal days which the government declared publicly would not be able to be used at the discretion of teachers and support staff covered by the agreement, something which defies the very notion of personal days. Despite the fact that many teachers indicated these days were an attempt to buy them off while not addressing the key issue of class sizes, they nonetheless saw that even what was agreed to between their union and the government could not be trusted. In response, and in spite of the tentative agreement, on January 27 the union resumed its work-to-rule campaign, issuing a scathing press release under the title, "Teachers have lost trust in Premier."

University Presidents Collude With Province

On January 30, just after NSTU members were forced to resume their work-to-rule campaign the presidents of five of Nova Scotia's Universities -- Acadia, Cape Breton, Mount Saint Vincent, St. Francis Xavier and Sainte-Anne -- filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia against the NSTU and asked that an injunction be issued to force the province's teachers to supervise student teachers, something that was not being done as part of the work-to-rule action. Rather than blaming the government for undermining the agreement that had been reached the presidents instead sought to increase the pressure on the teachers to submit. They did so in the most self-serving fashion, claiming they were acting to defend student teachers, when in fact it is the teachers' resistance which is defending their profession.

The teachers, who are in a legal strike position, refused to submit and affirmed that it is their right to suspend this supervision and have rejected the attempt of the university presidents to dictate how they can resist. Showing the spirit of Nova Scotians to stand with the teachers, the union representing faculty at Nova Scotia universities (ANSUT) called on the universities to drop their lawsuit and stop interfering in the negotiations between the province and the teachers. Marc Lamoureux, president of ANSUT, called the suit "an intrusion by a third party in the collective bargaining process." "We need to remember that the NSTU has followed all the normal steps, including mediation, to obtain a fair and reasonable settlement," Lamoureux said. He also questioned why the universities were taking legal action against the NSTU and not the province.

NTSU President Linda Doucet said in a statement thanking the university teachers that "NSTU public school members are taking this stand to prevent the continued deterioration of learning conditions in our schools," adding "The government needs to be willing to make long overdue investments. This will also improve workplace conditions for those in the profession today, and those entering in the future." She said the university presidents were attacking the labour rights of all Nova Scotians and that the erosion of teachers' collective rights, including the ability to negotiate fair contracts, would discourage many from pursuing a teaching career in Nova Scotia.

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Fight of Cold Lake Seniors' Care Workers

Workers Defend Their Rights and
Quality Care for Seniors

People rally at the Points West Living Alberta Corporate Office in Edmonton to demand the company lift the lockout of its employees in Cold Lake and stop attacking their wages and working conditions and the living conditions of the seniors in their care, February 3, 2017.

Workers at Point West Living Continuing Care Facility in Cold Lake Alberta have been locked out since December 16, 2016. The workers are fighting for adequate staffing, an end to arbitrary scheduling, and proper training and employee development, as well as wages commensurate with their credentials and the important work they perform. They are fighting for Canadian-standard working conditions, which are important factors in the living conditions the seniors they care for expect and deserve.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees points out that the problems at Cold Lake Points of Living are not uncommon at private care facilities across Alberta and indeed across Canada. Lax regulations governing continuing care regulations allow them to persist in abusing their employees and residents. Although private providers like Points West Living receive millions of dollars of state funding, they are not held to high standards of care for residents and how they treat their staff. They are not even required to disclose publicly the ways they use their state funding.

Points West has consistently refused to negotiate in good faith with their workers and locked them out last December 20. After over 50 days on the picket line the workers continue militantly to defend their rights and the rights of the seniors under their care. They are receiving broad support from workers, Indigenous peoples and the entire community for their stand in defence of their rights and quality care for seniors.

The Points West workers are acutely aware that their working conditions are significant factors in the seniors' living conditions. In defending their rights they are defending the rights of all. In a section on their website Humans of Cold Lake, one worker says, "No. It's not easy. Since day one it's been a struggle, and we knew it would be. Everything worthwhile usually is. Changing the way private-for-profit health care works is no small undertaking. Not that we started out with aspirations this big, but the more you learn about the system the more invested in change you become. When you really care about the quality of life for people who cannot speak for themselves, then you become their advocate."

Working people applaud the resolve of this collective of seniors' care workers to defend their rights and the rights and dignity of seniors, and to fight for a modern community where social love is not just an abstraction but concretely evident in the way society looks after its most vulnerable members.

Seniors' care workers themselves through doing their work are in the best position to know what working conditions they need and what living conditions those in their care require. The workers themselves should have a deciding say over both their working conditions and the living conditions they provide the seniors. Otherwise, some other competing aspect takes hold disconnected from the actual work such as the thirst for private profit, which imperils the rights and dignity of both workers and the seniors in their care.

All Out to Uphold the Rights and Dignity of Seniors and the Workers Who Care for them!
Demand Point West Living Lift the Lockout Immediately and
Meet the Just Demands of Their Employees!

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Uphold the Rights of Seniors and Their Caregivers

The lockout of Points West caregivers is a shameful retrogressive
blight on Alberta society

The resolve of the Points West workers in Cold Lake to defend their rights has not only exposed the many problems at Points West Living facilities across Alberta, it also reveals a deeper crisis in Alberta's seniors' care system. The system is mired in retrogression and needs stern workers' opposition and a progressive agenda to turn it around.

Private operators are ensconced in seniors' care for their own profit. The province is providing funds to sustain the aim of private profit. The private operators such as Points West Living are pocketing state funds to inflate their private profits without any transparency or accountability.

A Clash of Aims

Retrogression in society has introduced the aim of private profit in seniors' care in contradiction with the aim to provide quality care for seniors. If the aim of Points West Living and others is something other than quality care for seniors, such as private profit, then why are provincial funds being provided to prop up their private profits in contradiction with the aim to provide quality care for seniors?

If the aim is something other than quality care for seniors, such as private profit, then why does the province tolerate such an aim and even encourage it. The province is putting at risk the rights and living conditions of vulnerable people and stomping on the rights and dignity of workers providing the care. This retrogression must stop!

Stand with Points West Living Workers in Cold Lake
in Their Just Struggle

The struggle of the workers at Points West Living in Cold Lake has reinvigorated the call to restrict private ownership and control of seniors' care and to recognize and defend the rights of workers and those under their care.

In standing firm for modern working conditions including proper staffing levels, the workers are taking the lead in fighting for conditions that not only are their working conditions but the living conditions of those under their care.

The shameful lockout at Points West Living in Cold Lake and use of scab replacement workers marks the ninth time workers in private continuing care facilities have been locked out or forced to go on strike since Alberta Health Services (AHS) was formed in 2008.

Losing Ground: Alberta's Elder Care Crisis

The report Losing Ground: Alberta's Elder Care Crisis issued by the Parkland Institute compares the level of care provided in public, private, and voluntary provider facilities. The study finds that public facilities provide on average an additional hour of direct care compared to other ownership types. Private facilities provide below-average levels of care across all categories of nursing staff. This relates directly to their aim for private profit.

The study, which updates a 2013 Parkland report, finds that while long-term care (LTC) beds in Alberta have increased by just 2.6 per cent since 2010, the number of designated supportive living (DSL) spaces have grown by 92.3 per cent, and now account for 40 per cent of all elder care beds. DSL spaces are less regulated than LTC beds, provide fewer services and shift the burden of payment for services onto the seniors who require care. At the same time, as is the case across the country, public spaces are being closed while more facilities organized for private profit are replacing them.

Points West Living is one of these rapidly expanding private operators. It has nine facilities in Alberta, and is buying up smaller owners. In the year before Points West acquired Connecting Care for approximately $100 million, Points West profits increased 46 per cent, rising from $864,593 in 2013 to $1,262,636 in 2014. A familiar pattern is occurring that frequently ends with a sale to and control by global oligopolies. This was the case with the sale of BC-based Retirement Concepts to the global oligopoly Anbang.

Friends of Medicare said recently, "It is unacceptable to see new private providers being given grants for millions of dollars when these [lockouts and attacks on workers' rights and the level of care] are the actions they take. We believe the Ministry of Health needs to reconsider its ongoing relationship with providers like Points West Living."

The organization's Executive Director Sandra Azocar said, "Patients develop an important relationship with support and caregiver staff, and should not be subject to a continuous cycle of labour strife. This is a result of a broken funding model that lacks transparency for public dollars handed to private providers, and is greatly lacking in accountability for money intended to hire and retain quality staff. This situation is one of many potential labour disputes brewing in Alberta. Our seniors deserve better and it's time we talked seriously about phasing out private care for the stability and quality the public sector provides."

Immediate steps could be taken to restrict private owners of seniors' care and gradually turn private facilities into public facilities with the determined and sole aim to provide quality care for seniors and to recognize and respect the rights of workers. No new private facilities should be permitted while new public facilities should be opened where required. The province should bring forward a law prohibiting scab replacement workers during any dispute at a place of work. All provincial funds for private operators should immediately be halted during a lockout or strike at any worksite. The financial records of any company receiving state funds should be available for all to see, with severe penalties for obscuring the transparency of accounts or tampering with them. This should include all companies not just seniors' care operators.

The highest level of operating standards should be mandatory for all seniors' care facilities both public and private. The private operators should be required to maintain at minimum the same level of staffing and hours of care as public facilities. Province-wide standard pay, benefits, pensions and working conditions should be established for all seniors' care facilities acceptable to those who do the work.

Visit www.pwlprobe.com for more information or to send a letter to Points West Living and government representatives.

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