November 1, 2018

BC Forestry Workers Step Up Fight for the Dignity of Labour

Firm Opposition to Anti-Labour Concessions in Northern
and Southern Interior


Workers at CANFOR sawmill in Price George picket during one-day strike, October 25, 2018.

BC Forestry Workers Step Up Fight for the Dignity of Labour
Firm Opposition to Anti-Labour Concessions in Northern and Southern Interior

Lockout at Bécancour Aluminum Smelter
Aluminum Workers Fight for Their Dignity and Rights

Quebec Liquor Board Workers' Fight for Modern Working Conditions
Unannounced Strike Against Unjust Disciplinary Measures and for
Meaningful Negotiations

Rotating Strikes at Post Office
Postal Workers Ready to Strike When Called

For Your Information
Data on Nova Scotia's Economy and Workforce

BC Forestry Workers Step Up Fight for the Dignity of Labour

Firm Opposition to Anti-Labour Concessions in Northern and Southern Interior

Workers on picket line at Canfor sawmill and chip plant in Prince George, October 25, 2018.

BC forestry workers are stepping up their fight against anti-labour concessions and for their dignity and rights.

On October 25, workers at Canfor's Prince George sawmill and chip plant in Northern BC held a one-day strike. This action is part of the rotating strikes that USW Local 1-2017 began on October 17 with a picket line at Tolko's Lakeview Lumber in Williams Lake. The aim of the rotating strikes is to force sawmill owners represented by the Council on Northern Interior Forest Employment Relations (CONIFER) to withdraw their demands for anti-labour concessions. As part of the workers' job action, all CONIFER operations are under an overtime ban. Concessions that employers are demanding include a new hire rate starting at 85 per cent of job rate, the doubling of the probation period for new employees from 30 to 60 days, and the shifting of the cost of benefits to workers.

Workers point out that Canfor announced a profit of $125.3 million for the third quarter, raising the year-to-date total to $407.3 million. West Fraser, another company which is represented by CONIFER, posted profits of $238 million for the third quarter, pushing its year-to-date total to $781 million. Although both figures are down from the previous quarter, they are part of an upswing in profits that has been the case in forestry in BC for a number of years now. Forestry monopolies exercise blackmail against forestry workers and communities in order to extort concessions, using the ups and downs of the industry as a pretext, in this case with the dictate that they need anti-labour concessions in order to face the "long-term realities of a cyclical industry." Workers reject these self-serving arguments and demand working conditions and wages that are commensurate with the work they do. These are claims on the social wealth they produce, which cannot be subordinated to the drive for narrow private profit of the forestry monopolies and the wrecking they cause to the industry.

Forestry workers from Northern British Columbia are planning further rotating strikes which they do not announce in advance so that they are as effective as possible. "We are not releasing information," said Brian O'Rourke, President of USW Local 1-2017. "If we did, in all reality the employer has injunctions waiting for us at the gate when we show up. So we are telling our members, if you come to work and there's a picket line, join in and participate and show your solidarity and we'll go from there."

Update on concessions demanded by the IFLRA in southern interior. Click to enlarge.

There are no talks taking place at this time between USW Local 1-2017 and CONIFER.

In the Southern Interior, forestry workers held votes over a 10 day period resulting in a strike mandate for the USW Locals that represent them: USW Local 1-405 (Cranbrook), USW 1-423 (Kelowna) and USW1-417 (Kamloops). On Friday, October 27, the USW Locals reported that the members voted 98 per cent in favour of the strike. The bargaining committee returned to Kelowna on Tuesday, October 30, in an effort to negotiate a contract with the Interior Forest Labour Relations Association (IFLRA) -- Southern Employer, according to a bulletin released by Local 1-405.

Roughly 800 members are employed in those operations across the East and West Kootenays, and 3,500 across the southern interior of the province.

USW locals are also facing a concession list from the IFLRA that includes changes to health and welfare benefits, the extension of the probationary period and more.

Both the southern Interior and Northern BC agreements expired on June 30.

(Photos: T. Tate)

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Lockout at Bécancour Aluminum Smelter

Aluminum Workers Fight for Their Dignity and Rights

Announcement for rally in support of ABI workers, at 11:30 am on November 28, 2018, outside
Hydro Quebec offices in Montreal. Click to enlarge.

The Alcoa/Rio Tinto cartel has locked out 1,030 aluminum workers at the Bécancour Aluminum Smelter (ABI) since January. The global oligarchs have unleashed their supranational strength against the workers to extract extensive concessions that will damage not only the individual workers involved but also the economy, the Bécancour community, Quebec and Canada.

The workers organized into United Steelworkers Local 9700 confront a global power that controls much of the aluminum and alumina production worldwide. The oligarchs are using this power over the productive forces and social wealth to force workers to submit to their dictate and in consequence seize even greater private profits from the value workers produce.

In this struggle, the aluminum workers are receiving great assistance from fellow workers throughout Quebec and Canada but nothing from governments. In fact the Quebec government has directly assisted the Alcoa/Rio Tinto oligarchs by allowing them to renege on their Hydro-Québec contract to pay the state company a monthly agreed amount. The total the anti-social cartel has saved from the government orchestrated manoeuvre now surpasses $175 million since the lockout began. Growing numbers of working people are denouncing the Quebec government for this treacherous anti-social capitulation to the oligarchs and demand that it cease immediately and do its duty to the people and force the aluminum oligarchs to abide by the hydro contract and in addition pay back all that they have so far refused to pay.

Delegates at USW District 3, Western Canada, convention send message of solidarity to
locked-out ABI workers, October 30, 2018.

The aluminum workers also face the international intrigue of the big powers especially U.S. imperialism that has enacted 10 per cent tariffs on aluminum imports. This has increased the market price of aluminum dramatically in the U.S. and worldwide, allowing the Alcoa oligarchs to restart idled aluminum production facilities that had been unproductive compared with their Quebec smelters.

Adding to the global intrigue is the doubling of the market price of alumina since 2016. To make one ton of aluminum requires two tons of alumina. Alcoa specifically is benefitting from these price rises as its workers also produce alumina. Alcoa's global profits from refining alumina now account for 70 per cent of its aluminum business according to the Financial Post. While profiting already from the 10 per cent U.S. tariffs, Alcoa has cynically said it opposes them and has applied to the U.S. for exemptions on imports from one of the three smelters in Quebec that it operates, but not Bécancour. While Rio Tinto owns 30 per cent of the Bécancour smelter, Alcoa with its 70 per cent control is the operator.

The Alcoa/Rio Tinto dictators want to fatten their coffers even more and expand their global empire with these attacks on the Bécancour workers. If successful, the concessions it seeks from them will undoubtedly be sought from other aluminum workers in Quebec and BC.

Within the battle, the oligarchs have engaged in a social media campaign to demoralize the locked out workers and force them to give in to the concessions but the Bécancour workers are standing firm. The workers denounce the rants in Facebook and elsewhere that call on them to drop to their knees and accept a minimum wage and no pension if that is what it takes for the oligarchs to allow them to work.

The Bécancour workers denounce the slurs and are maintaining their 24-hour-a-day picket line and mobile pickets wherever and whenever company managers show their faces. They have called upon the Québec and Canadian working class to go all out in their support for their just cause, as the struggle of one section of the class is a crucial part of the struggle of all. They refuse to have their and their community's dignity besmirched and their standard of living and working conditions dragged into the mud. Within this struggle for their rights, a special target is the Quebec government, which has pointedly sided with the global oligarchs' private interests in opposition to the interests of its own working people and the national and public interest.

All Out to Support the Bécancour Aluminum Workers!
Their Struggle Is the Struggle of the Entire Working People for Dignity and Rights!

(Photos: Metallos)

Quebec Liquor Board Workers' Fight for Modern Working Conditions

Unannounced Strike Against Unjust Disciplinary Measures and for Meaningful Negotiations

During the afternoon of October 26, the 5,500 or so members of the Syndicat des employé(e)s de magasins et de bureaux de la SAQ staged a half-day strike. The unannounced strike is part of the fight that SAQ workers have been waging since January 2017 to oppose precarious working conditions and demand wages corresponding to a modern standard. Their collective agreement expired January 2017 and no significant headway has been made at the bargaining table.

The strike action was staged in response to disciplinary measures undertaken by the SAQ against union members' tactics in various outlets to draw attention to their just demands. For example, some of them had donned Halloween costumes denouncing the holding of "ghost" negotiations instead of genuine discussions based on their demands. The union decided that enough was enough and that rather than fighting the penalties imposed on individual members, in a show of solidarity all SAQ workers in all of Quebec's outlets would walk out. The union is demanding that management engage in serious negotiations so that a collective agreement acceptable to its members can be signed.

Close to 70 per cent of SAQ workers are employed on a part-time or casual basis, often working for only a few hours every week, while being on call almost every day. This causes a lot of issues with family life. Instead of presenting an offer that would reduce such instability, SAQ management is also trying to impose precarious working conditions on regular employees.

Wages on the other hand are being eroded, as they are not even being kept on par with the cost of living. The union reports that since January of 2018, over 500 SAQ workers have left their jobs, in search of more stable working conditions and better wages. Management claims it cannot offer more as it has not been mandated to do so, forced as it is to respect the government-imposed "financial framework." This spiral of irresponsibility is unacceptable for SAQ workers as well as for society as a whole. It only intensifies the increasing penetration of precarious working conditions in the economy. It is simply unacceptable that a suitable arrangement cannot be found in a modern society that would allow all workers to live in dignity. First and foremost, it is those who do the work who must be the ones determining such conditions.

Added to all this is the threat of the privatization of the Quebec Liquor Board, as the Party which now forms the majority Quebec government, Coalition Avenir Québec, made no secret over the years of its intent to privatize the SAQ, either partly or fully.

Determined to fight against the precariousness of their conditions, over 2,500 SAQ union outlet and office members held a general membership meeting on September 28, where they voted 96 per cent in favour of a new 18-day strike mandate, to be used when the union deems necessary.

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Rotating Strikes at Post Office

Postal Workers Ready to Strike When Called

Hospital Employees Union members join postal workers on Burnaby, BC picket line,
October 26, 2018.

Across the country, postal workers are into their second week of rotating strikes. The October 30 negotiations update from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) points out that while workers are holding their pickets for "improved health and safety, better working conditions, more permanent work and less precarious employment, improved staffing, fair compensation for all and equality, your negotiating committee has been battling hard and working long hours to make this happen. So far, none of these important demands have been resolved." The union reiterates that workers' "health and safety is not negotiable. We must have improved working conditions so that Canada Post no longer has over five times the number of disabling injuries as the rest of the federal sector." Workers' health and safety is a longstanding and significant issue that contributed to workers going on strike in 2011. Workers' Forum calls on everyone to continue their support for the postal workers' just demands.

Saint John, New Brunswick

Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec; Sherbrooke, Quebec

Magog, Quebec

Montreal, Quebec

Ottawa, Ontario

Peterborough, Ontario

Oshawa, Ontario

Pickering, Ontario

Sudbury, Ontario

Sudbury, Ontario: Chelmsford, Ontario

Espanola, Ontario; Garson, Ontario

Wikwemkoong, Ontario; Innisfil, Ontario

Durham East, Ontario

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Manitoba Federation of Labour joins CUPW on Winnipeg picket line

Brandon, Manitoba

Virden, Manitoba

Saskatchewan Federation of Labour Convention

Red Deer, Alberta

North Fraser, BC

Kelowna, BC

Mission, BC

Richmond, BC

Vancouver, BC

Coquitlam, CUPW solidarity action -- We are ready to strike when we are called

Pacific Region solidarity action

(Photos: CUPW, CUPW Montreal Local, MFL.)

For Your Information

Data on Nova Scotia's Economy and Workforce

Workers' Forum is providing below information on Nova Scotia's economy and workforce, as well as that of neighbouring Maritime provinces. The aim is to combat the disinformation spread by the monopoly media and cartel political parties about the economy which obscures the integral role of workers in producing all the social wealth.


The Nova Scotia gross domestic product in 2017 was $33.470 billion at basic prices calculated in 2007 dollars.

The GDPs of the individual Maritime provinces are by far the smallest in Canada (all figures from 2017):

Nova Scotia = $33.470 billion

New Brunswick = $27.363 billion

Newfoundland and Labrador = $26.773 billion

Prince Edward Island = $4.883 billion

Combined Maritime GDP = $92.489 billion

The combined Maritime GDP is larger than the individual GDPs of Saskatchewan ($60.591 billion) and Manitoba ($57.250 billion).

The total GDP for Canada = $1.732 trillion

Nova Scotia's per cent of Canada's GDP = 1.9 per cent

Division of Nova Scotia's economy into sectors reported as GDP -- 2017[1]

Goods-Producing Industries' GDP

This category includes all sectors within the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) from 11 to 33.[2]

Nova Scotia goods-producing GDP = $6.540 billion

Goods-producing industries' GDP is 19.5 per cent of the total Nova Scotia GDP of $33.47 billion

Service-producing industries' GDP makes up the other main category at 80.5 per cent.

Although Nova Scotia's total GDP is the largest of the Maritime provinces, its goods-producing GDP is second smallest.

Largest goods producing GDP is Newfoundland and Labrador = $13.234 billion

Second largest is New Brunswick = $6.659 billion

Third is Nova Scotia = $6.540 billion

Smallest is Prince Edward Island = $1.143 billion

Main Goods-Producing Sectors

Energy sector

Much of the goods-producing sector in Newfoundland and Labrador and to a lesser extent New Brunswick is the energy sector, which includes oil and gas extraction, petroleum refineries and utilities, mainly electric power generation and transmission. (North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes 211, 2121, 21229, 213111, 213118, 2211, 2212, 32411, 486)

Newfoundland and Labrador = $7.233 billion (Of this $6.077 billion is oil and gas extraction; $338 million petroleum refineries; and, $577 million electric power generation and transmission.)

New Brunswick = $1.731 billion (negligible oil and gas extraction while petroleum refineries is $770 million; and, electric power generation and transmission is $969 million.)

Nova Scotia = $983 million or 2.9 per cent of total NS GDP (Of this energy sector $278 million is oil and gas extraction while petroleum refineries is $0 with the last reported refinery production in 2013; and, electric power generation and transmission = $490 million.)

Manufacturing GDP (2017) -- This includes all manufacturing classifications from 31 through 33 in the NAICS.

Nova Scotia manufacturing GDP = $2.644 billion or 7.9 per cent of total GDP -- second largest in Maritimes

New Brunswick manufacturing GDP = $3.041 billion

Newfoundland and Labrador = $968.2 million

Prince Edward Island = $522.8 million

Construction GDP (NAICS 23 -- note that construction has its own classification within the goods-producing category and is not considered a subsection of manufacturing)

Nova Scotia = $1.905 billion (5.69 per cent of total NS GDP and second largest in Maritimes)

Newfoundland and Labrador = $2.54 billion

New Brunswick = $1.519 billion

Prince Edward Island = $261.8 million

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting GDP (NAICS 11)

Nova Scotia = $746.6 million (2.23 per cent of total GDP and second largest in Maritimes behind New Brunswick)

New Brunswick = $890.2 million

Newfoundland and Labrador = $307.5 million

Prince Edward Island = $276.7 million

Population and Workforce

Nova Scotia population = 959,942 or 2.6 per cent of the Canadian population of 37,058,856.

Nova Scotia's population is 2.6 per cent of Canada's population yet its GDP is only 1.9 per cent of the total GDP. This reveals a structural economic weakness.

Nova Scotia workforce (all figures from 2017)

Total workforce = 490,100

Total employed workers = 449,000

The workforce number from Statscan includes all civilians, non-institutionalized persons 15 years of age and over who, during the reference week, were employed or unemployed and had looked for work in the last four weeks.

Nova Scotia workforce participation rate = 61.8 per cent

National Canada-wide average workforce participation rate = 65.8 per cent

Participation rate is the total number of individuals 15 years and older who are employed plus all unemployed who have looked for work in the past four weeks when the survey was completed, as a proportion of the total population 15 years and older.

Unemployed Nova Scotia workers (Unemployed in the workforce who have searched for work in the last four weeks) = 41,000

Unemployed total definition from Statscan: Number of persons who, during the reference week, were without work, had looked for work in the past four weeks, and were available for work.

Unemployment rate for the Nova Scotia workforce = 8.4 per cent

Unemployment rate for Canadian workforce = 6.3 per cent

(To be continued: The Nova Scotia service-producing industries and its sectors, which total $26.9 billion or 80.5 per cent of the NS GDP: service-producing NAICS codes 41-91; also explored is the division of work within the Nova Scotia economy according to employment numbers in each sector.)


1. Caution has to be exercised when using Gross Domestic Product as identifying productive activity. For example, Statscan lists Nova Scotia retail trade as contributing $2.392 billion to the Nova Scotia GDP as part of the service-producing category. This makes it 7.15 per cent of the total GDP quite similar to that of the manufacturing sector. But the retail sector in the main circulates already produced social product and does not produce anything new, any "gross domestic product."

The retail sector along with many other sectors considered contributing to the gross domestic product are features of the current transitional economic system, where production is under the control of a financial oligarchy and meant for exchange for money in a domestic and international market and not directly for use and certainly not according to a plan the actual producers devise. The unproductive sectors are necessary within this particular economic commodity stage in the development of the economy of industrial mass production. The unproductive sectors survive by consuming social product transferred from the productive sectors.

The unproductive sectors have exploded in size during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as the imperialist system has degenerated into parasitism and decay. Trading of so-called derivatives, which are supposed to represent already produced social product, totals trillions of dollars a day on markets around the world most of it now done using powerful computers. The traders compound the problems by borrowing to make trades. All this intensifies the contradictions of a socialized economy whose parts are owned and controlled by competing private interests whose aim is their narrow self-interest. This unresolved contradiction is propelling the world towards increasingly more dangerous economic crises and wars.

Production of social product for use and its direct distribution as means of production and consumption under the control of the working people themselves is the next stage in development of the economy. This requires the empowerment of the people through democratic renewal of the political process so that they can deprive the global oligarchs who now own and control the socialized economy of their power to block progress and stop people from finding and implementing solutions for society's economic and social problems, and from developing new human relations in conformity with the socialized economy and modern era.

2. The NAICS divides and groups the economy into broad sectors from All industries T001 through to Aboriginal public administration 914, with multiple sub-sectors, industry groups, industries and Canadian industries each with their own number.

Statscan writes, "NAICS Canada 2017 Version 1.0 consists of 20 sectors, 102 subsectors, 322 industry groups, 708 industries and 923 Canadian industries."

Sectors within the goods-producing industries sector (T002)

Sector 11 -- Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting

Sector 21 -- Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction

Sector 22 -- Utilities

Sector 23 -- Construction

Sector 31-33 -- Manufacturing

For the complete list and explanation of the sectors click here.

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