May 23, 2019
Intensify for Mass Family Solidarity March
with Locked-Out ABI Workers
All Out to Make
the May 25 March in
Trois-Rivières a Grand Success!
Outside the Cogeco
Amphitheatre at 100 Draveurs Avenue
For information and buses from across
• ABI Workers
Mobilize Public Opinion to Support Their Just Cause
• We All Have Common Cause with the ABI Workers
- André Jacob, Director, Education and
Organization, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Quebec Region
Vale Breaks Off
Contract Talks with Steelworkers at Voisey's Bay in Labrador
• Company Refuses to Address Health, Safety and
Fighting for Their Dignity and Rights
• Interview - Peter Page, Executive
Network of Injured Workers Groups
The Fight for Airport
Workers' Health and Safety
• Working Conditions at Toronto's Pearson
Airport Must Improve!
Preparations Intensify for Mass Family
Solidarity March with
Locked-Out ABI Workers
ABI workers and allies demonstrated in the
Pittsburgh on May 8, 2019 where Alcoa's annual meeting of shareholders
was being held.
Enthusiasm continues to mount amongst workers and their
allies as the mass solidarity march for ABI locked out workers draws
closer. Through our own efforts and unity in action let us make the
march in Trois-Rivières this Saturday, May 25 at 10:30 am a
significant event in defence of the working class and its rights!
The United Steelworkers report that preparations are
going well. Many workers and people from different walks of life have
already registered by reserving their seats on buses being provided by
the Quebec Federation of Labour (FTQ). The buses will depart from
several Quebec cities with contingents of workers having registered
from as far
away as Chibougamau in Northern Quebec, Rouyn-Noranda in Abitibi and
various places on the North Shore.
The Ontario Steelworkers have announced their
participation in the march. They have faced similar intransigence and
dictate of the global monopolies that refuse to negotiate acceptable
arrangements with their workers along with state-organized repressive
measures such as court-ordered injunctions to deny effective picketing
to seize workers' pensions. They have organized buses to make the
journey to Trois-Rivières and report bus seat reservations
continue to come in with others planning to car pool.
As the event is family-oriented, the march itself will
last about an hour to be followed by a lunch with hot dogs. This will
allow people to socialize in a convivial atmosphere and engage in
discussion as to the way forward for the working class in the face of
the state-supported global power of the financial oligarchy.
For more information on the march or to book seats on a
ABI workers and their allies are continuing their
efforts to explain to everyone their conflict with Alcoa/Rio
Tinto and to mobilize financial and other support for their
struggle. In the battle to lift the lockout and reach an acceptable
collective agreement, the ABI workers and their union USW Local 9700
are reaching out to all working people, youth and students to assist
On May 15, a representative of ABI workers spoke at a
conference organized in Brussels, Belgium by the IndustriALL Global
Union. He presented the chronology of the conflict and explained the
need for the support of all workers in these terms: "After 16 months of
conflict, we are reaching out for help. We need to step up the level of
pressure on these global companies. Not only are they intent on
impoverishing us, they are also demanding major concessions. [...] The
pressure should not be on the workers. It's time for us to unite and
exert pressure of equal force. This conflict has created an incredible
wave of solidarity. Without that solidarity we would not be here today.
is due in large part to financial support, which has allowed us to
A delegation of ABI workers spoke at the Canadian Union
of Public Employees' (CUPE) Quebec Convention held May 14-17. Directly
from the floor, close to $200,000 was raised, to be shared between ABI
workers and the University of Montreal's Maintenance Employees' Union
(CUPE) presently on strike.
Over recent weeks, ABI workers have received financial
and other support from many unions with some increasing the amounts
they were already providing. Additional support has arrived from
several sections of the Quebec Union of Public and Parapublic Employees
(SFPQ), the Alliance of Professional and Technical Personnel in Health
Social Services (APTS), several Unifor locals, and Steelworkers from
Matagami in North-of-Quebec and Fermont on the North Shore.
The fight of ABI workers is our fight. Let us go all out
to affirm our solidarity with their just cause by spreading the word
that the working class must stand together in the face of the financial
oligarchy and its political representatives. Continue to gather
financial support for the ABI workers locked out from their aluminum
participate in large numbers in the family solidarity march on
Saturday, May 25 in Trois-Rivières.
Locked-out ABI workers rally at Quebec National Assembly March 27, 2019.
The struggle of the ABI workers must be supported
because the unions are being attacked by the political class and the
people in power who run the economy. For example, with regard to CUPW,
we are continuously under special legislation. The unions are left with
their hands tied, where they can no longer manoeuvre because their
denied through legislative provisions. That is what we are experiencing.
In the case of ABI, you have an employer who can take a
position because the main, economic cost of that position is borne by
the Quebec government. It is us Quebeckers who are footing the bill for
ABI's electricity contract. When I went to the demonstration in front
of the National Assembly with the workers of ABI, that was the issue at
hand and Premier Legault is clearly not willing to take up his
responsibility. In addition, Alcoa is a global empire, so it can have
its aluminum produced elsewhere while we pay it to continue the lockout.
As for CUPW, we are under
special legislation, which prevents us from undertaking pressure
tactics, and our ongoing arbitration is constantly being postponed. It
is May now and we have just learned that it has been postponed until
December. We began our job actions in October 2018; then in November
the government passed back-to-work legislation preventing us from
waging job actions. As soon as a CUPW member would undertake a job
action against Canada Post that affected mail delivery, we were hit
with a fine of $50,000 a day, per member. We no longer have the right
to undertake pressure tactics; our issues have been dragging on over
time. That is where it becomes important to have other unions come out
and assist and undertake job actions, as was the case with us.
As for the ABI workers, they have been locked out for
sixteen months. In such a long fight, the financial aspect becomes very
important. We gave them money and often had the union president come to
our locals to explain where the conflict was at. Our locals participate
in their picket lines. It is important, as there is no limit to the
we can provide them.
We must reinforce our union strength and fight for each
Vale Breaks Off Contract Talks with
Steelworkers at Voisey's Bay in Labrador
Workers in Voisey's Bay during their 2009-2010 strike against Vale and
its imposition of "final
offers" and refusal to bargain at that time.
The United Steelworkers union (USW) reports that the
Brazilian mining corporation Vale has broken off contract talks with
USW Local 9508. The
local represents 250 production and maintenance workers at Vale's
Voisey's Bay mining operations in Labrador. The workers have been
extracting minerals in an open-pit mine and operating a
concentrator since 2005.
Workers at the facility produce two types of
nickel-cobalt-copper concentrate and a copper concentrate. The nickel
concentrate workers produce at Voisey's Bay is currently transported
and processed by another collective of workers at Vale's
hydro-metallurgical processing facility in Long Harbour, Newfoundland.
Voisey's Bay is a fly-in/fly-out operation. It includes
Benefit Agreements (IBAs) with the Nunatsiavut Government representing
the Inuit of Labrador, and with the Sheshatshiu First Nation and the
Mushuau First Nation representing the Innu, on whose land the ore and
mine/mill are located. The IBAs are said to establish specific
employment commitments for the Innu and the Inuit, and relations with
Indigenous businesses so that they provide the operation with goods and
The workers' collective agreement expired on March 31
and Vale broke
off contract talks on May 15. Steelworkers report that Vale ended the
talks despite the appointment of a provincial conciliation officer to
assist in the negotiations. The officer will now submit a report to the
province's Labour Minister as part of a process that will see the
parties in a legal strike/lockout position within the next few weeks.
"We started bargaining in February and we still haven't
been able to
get the company to negotiate seriously on any of the key issues," said
USW Staff Representative Boyd Bussey.
According to the Steelworkers, Vale has been unwilling
important issues, such as health and safety concerns that have become
even more crucial as the company develops underground mining operations
at Voisey's Bay. In 2018, Vale announced it was moving ahead with the
construction of an underground mine at the site, extending
expected operations by at least 15 years, until 2035. First ore from
the underground section is due in 2021.
Steelworkers point out that an underground mine carries
and different hazards than surface mining, including incidents such as
explosions, increased risks from exposure, environmental emergencies
and other issues of importance to those who do the work. The fact that
Vale has broken off contract talks and refuses to discuss and
address health and safety concerns with the workers is unacceptable and
does not bode well.
will follow the situation closely and report on developments, as they
indicate a possible pattern of dictate and reckless moves similar to
those at play in the lockouts at the ABI smelter owned by the Alcoa/Rio
Tinto cartel in Bécancour, Quebec and the Brunswick smelter in
Belledune, New Brunswick owned by
Vale's refusal to negotiate also brings back memories of
18-month strike at Voisey's Bay operations that ended in January 2011,
during which Vale shamelessly used scores of strike-breaking
mercenaries to impose anti-worker concessions on issues such as
pensions and wages.
That strike was part of the strike action of Vale Inco
workers in Sudbury and Port Colborne, Ontario, where the company used
similar provocative strike-breaking tactics to extort anti-worker
concessions. The result is that the company seizes an even greater
amount of the social wealth workers produce leaving less in the local
and regional communities and economies. Meanwhile, its thirst for more
Workers do not want a repeat scenario and are demanding
negotiations where they have a decisive say in determining their
working conditions, as it is they who do the work in difficult
Injured Workers Fighting for Their
Dignity and Rights
On the eve of Injured
Workers' Day June 1, Workers' Forum spoke to Peter Page, the Executive
the Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups (ONIWG) about the
concerns and the work
of the organization at this time and particularly its campaign
"Workers' Comp Is a
Workers' Forum: What are the main issues
you are bringing forward in the
"Workers' Comp Is a Right" Campaign, as we approach Injured Workers'
Peter Page: We began our "Workers' Comp Is
a Right!" campaign in the
fall of 2017. Our goal is to educate and mobilize the public about the
right to workers'
compensation, as well as to remind our politicians and employers about
compromise that led to the compensation system.
The historical compromise was a deal struck between the
workers and the employers whereby
we gave up our right to sue in exchange for compensation. Basically, if
you are injured
because of a workplace accident, you must receive compensation for as
long as the disability
lasts. In exchange, you give up your right to pursue litigation against
What is happening is that governments and employers are
reneging on this deal. They are not
holding up their end of the deal. Workers are still not allowed to sue
government and the workers' compensation system are not providing the
benefits for injured
workers that they should.
At the moment, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board
(WSIB) has a fully funded
system, with almost $40 billion in their bank account and that is
growing. There is more than
enough money to provide for injured workers. Yet we continue to have
our benefits cut
through the Board's policy changes.
They create policies, which make it difficult for
injured workers to receive compensation,
such as "pre-existing conditions," or with things like deeming. Deeming
continues to be an
issue. Deeming is where the Board takes benefits away from a worker.
The Board says either
you go out and find a job whether it exists or not, or we will deduct
off your present
compensation benefits the minimum wage or more, such as whatever we
deem you should be
able to earn.
We have proof that a lot of injured workers do not
return to the workforce. In fact they wind
up on something other than workers' compensation such as the Ontario
Program (ODSP), Canada Pension Plan Disability, or income assistance.
This is downloading
the compensation, which is supposed to be assumed by the employers
according to the
historical compromise, onto the public treasury of Ontario.
Also, the Board is stalling
on many outstanding issues of importance such as the General Electric
workers in Peterborough who were exposed for decades to toxic
chemicals; the mining workers in Northern Ontario who were forced to
inhale MacIntyre Powder, which was supposed to prevent silicosis, but
then they died of cancers or other occupational diseases; or many other
occupational disease cases.
The Board says it is going to look into GE, review all
the claims at GE, but at the end of the
day it really does nothing. It allows a few claims to show that
something is being done but
the number of occupational diseases is increasing. The number of
workers being poisoned in
the workplace is increasing. The Board does not recognize this. It is
protecting the employers
and the government while workers are being killed, maimed and poisoned
by their employers.
The Board and others are now saying they are doing this to make
"Ontario open for business,"
at the direct cost of the well-being and rights of workers. It is an
attack not only on injured
workers but on all workers and their rights.
Basically the Board is implementing policies designed to
deny injured workers their
It is underfunding the Office of the Worker Adviser
(OWA), which is a component of the
workers' compensation system that is there to help injured workers
navigate the bureaucracy
of the system.
Injured workers now have to navigate the system by
themselves. If they are not unionized
they have to try to seek help and the waiting time for the OWA can be
six, seven, eight
months before it even looks at your case.
The WSIB is also making it harder for workers to appeal,
to actually get a judgement. Some
workers take five, six, seven, even eight years to receive a ruling
from the WSIB. They often
win their claim only partially, not fully.
It is all causing a backlog of injured workers who are
not receiving the compensation benefits
they deserve. And if they are not getting benefits, that money is going
into the coffers of the
WF: As part of its anti-social offensive
against the people of Ontario, the
Ford government is moving very fast in its attacks, some of which have
a direct impact on
PP: Yes. The
Ford government has recently cut funding to Legal Aid
Ontario (LAO) by 30 per cent. They are lawyers who do a lot of
compensation case work.
The Ford government has shamefully used immigration as an excuse to cut
the funding of
LAO saying that the money spent for defending immigrants' rights should
be a federal issue
and the federal government should pay for it, not the province of
Ontario. Because of the cuts
to the legal aid community, the lawyers are going to have to prioritize
what they can do. They
might say that they are going to do a minimal amount of compensation
cases as they take too
long; it takes up too much of their time. It will become another issue
access to justice for injured workers.
The Ford government has cut the budget of the Ministry
Prevention Office, a $16
million cut. The government is also cutting the research part of the
WSIB from $8.5 million
last year to $6.8 million this year. This research is done by health
and safety organizations or
by Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) and is
important for the
health and safety of workers. The research is particularly important
for migrant workers who
have to deal with pesticides and various chemicals they use in the
industries where they
Our rights were slowly eroded by the previous Liberal
government and now the Ford
government is doing it blatantly and very fast.
WF: What is the thrust of the "Workers'
Comp Is a Right Campaign" at this
PP: The title of the campaign says it all. We have a right to
and a right to be able to live our lives in dignity and not in poverty.
Because you went to
work and got injured should not mean that you are forced into poverty.
So many of our
injured workers are being forced onto the welfare system. This means
the Workplace Safety
and Insurance Board and the employers are not meeting their social
responsibilities either to
injured workers or the public treasury. This is an attack on our rights
and goes against the
historical compromise that gave rise to the compensation system.
We are fighting all the
points of attack upon injured workers I have mentioned. At the same
time we are staying within a smaller framework rather than trying to
fight every aspect. We
are sticking to a few basic demands: "No cuts based on phantom jobs!";
"Listen to injured
workers' receiving treatment from healthcare professionals!"; "Stop
cutting benefits based on
We are demanding full compensation for injured workers.
We are fighting for justice for all
injured workers. We are working to hold the government and the WSIB to
presenting the truth of what is happening. They have to change these
policies that are
detrimental to the workers, which may at some point be illegal.
Over the last year we visited many MPPs' offices across
the province, over 70 MPPs in the
fall alone. We continue to have meetings. Because of the new
government, now we have to
re-educate the new people in government because they all act as if they
never heard of
compensation before. None of the governments ever talk about workers'
sometimes talk about labour issues but workers' comp seems to be a
non-issue for them. We
made the NDP see that it is an issue worthy of being brought up in the
We also work to make the general public aware of what is
happening to the compensation
system. It is a system you may never have to use and hopefully never
have to use, but when
you do have to access it, it is not going to be there so that you
receive the benefits you need.
We are making the general public aware that the compensation system has
to be there for you
in your time of need.
The Fight for Airport Workers' Health and
Toronto Airport Workers Council is joined in its May Day rally, May 1,
2019 by delegations of
airport workers from around the world.
Airport workers and their organizations from Britain,
Canada, Indonesia, south Korea, Thailand and the USA recently gathered
in Toronto to discuss problems facing airport workers around the world.
They met during the week in conjunction with the annual Day of Mourning
on April 28, for workers killed, injured and sickened from
conditions at their workplace, and May Day, the International Day of
Unity and Struggle of Workers to Uphold Their Rights and Dignity.
Airport workers at Toronto's Pearson airport have established a
tradition to mark both important days with actions with analysis.
The International Transport Federation organized the
gathering of airport workers during the week. The Federation connects
transport workers' unions from 147 countries. One of the biggest
concerns discussed was airport workers' health and safety.
May 1, 2019 final session of airport workers organizing event before
May Day rally.
The Toronto Airport Workers' Council, which represents
workers from six unions as well as non-union workers at Pearson
Airport, took part in the meetings. The participants shared their
experiences with all in attendance and expressed the urgent need to
improve working conditions at Pearson Airport.
"We were able to find out through some of the workshops
that we participated in that the three top issues are outsourcing,
including contract flipping, wages, with low wages a problem at all of
their airports, and health and safety," said Dan Janssen, co-leader of
the Toronto Airport Workers' Council and Vice-President of IAMAW Local
speaking to Workers' Forum.
"Health and safety of airport workers is a big issue
around the world, especially since such a race to the bottom is taking
place," he added. "When you outsource a labour force, what ends up
happening is that wages are often lowered and working conditions also
end up going down. We thought it was important to bring everybody
one space to talk about how we can tackle these common issues. A start
is by bringing awareness of them. So we are planning an action
September 1 at Toronto Pearson International Airport to bring attention
to these issues, and we are asking workers at other airports around the
world to hold an action on the same day, which is the Sunday before
Labour Day. It is important that we show that we are all in this
together, all airport workers, that it is a global movement for better
Group photo, April 30, 2019 of airport workers attending airport
workers' organizing event.
Increase of Lost-Time Injuries at Pearson Airport
The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) 2018
Annual Report indicates a 7.8 per cent yearly increase in lost-time
injuries at Pearson Airport over 2017.
Dan Janssen spoke to Workers'
Forum regarding this situation:
"This is a 7.8 per cent increase. It is considerable and
it has affected over 180 workers. What we have been doing at the
Toronto Airport Workers' Council in order to tackle with the issues is
to think outside the box. For a number of years now we have been asking
the Toronto Airport to meet with airport workers and health and safety
together in the same room so that we can have conversations and talk
about safety culture.
"The Airport Authority finally agreed in the fall of
last year and we had our first Toronto Pearson Workers' Safety Forum in
January. At that meeting, there were 12 union reps, two from each of
the unions that are represented on the Toronto Airport Workers'
Council, as well as various managers from the airport authority, all
"We pointed out what is happening in the workplace that
has an impact on workers' safety: an increased pressure to perform, the
amount of hours that workers are working, the multiple jobs that they
are working. We also identified air quality as an issue in our
airports. Ramp workers in particular are exposed to some pretty bad
air, the air
created by jet fuel, for example, or from the ground support equipment
that we are using. So far, we have only had two Toronto Pearson
Workers' Health and Safety Forums and it feels that we are heading in
the right direction."
The Toronto Airport Workers' Council at Pearson Airport
is waging a campaign to defend and improve the health and safety of
airport workers by changing the working conditions for the better.
Janssen said, "When workers are treated well at the work
place, when they are paid well, when they do not need to work multiple
jobs, and have conditions that support a healthy work environment, you
are going to have a safe environment as well.
"When you are a contract worker, especially for those
where it is a three year tender, and you are coming up to your third
year, your stress increases because you are worrying about what is
going to happen to your wages and your benefits when the next contract
is re-tendered. Are you going to end up with a brand new employer,
uniform, doing exactly the same job for lower wages? We need protection
in the Canada Labour Code for
workers when a contract is retendered.
That protection needs to be in place for wages, benefits, pensions, so
that workers do not have that stress hanging over their heads.
Otherwise priority cannot be on the safety of the aircraft, the
passengers, and the workers. We have all these conditions of contract
work at Pearson Airport. Working conditions at Pearson Airport have to
Korean airport workers speak at organizing event in Toronto, April 29,
2019. One of the major issues they are organizing against is
contracting out of jobs.
1. The six unions that are
represented on the Toronto Airport Workers' Council are Unifor, the
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW),
Teamsters Local Union 419, Public Service Alliance of Canada-Customs
and Immigration Union (PSAC-CIU), Canadian
Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and Services Employees International
2. Contract flipping is a
regressive practice of employers to award contracts to a new service
provider every few years. Workers lose their jobs and must then
re-apply, almost always losing any wage increases, seniority and
benefits earned with their previous employer.
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