November 20, 2019

Over 3,000 Canadian National Railway Workers On Strike

All Out to Support the Just Demands
of CN Rail Workers!

Terrace, BC, November 19, 2019.

Glencore Empire Announces Closure of Belledune Lead Smelter 
in New Brunswick

Manufacturing Yes! Nation-Wrecking No!
An Act Meant to Intimidate the Working Class
Decision to Close Smelter Should Not Be in the Hands of Global
Private Interests

Reaction of Local Officials and Politicians
Glencore Global Cartel

Over 3,000 Canadian National Railway Workers On Strike

All Out to Support the Just Demands
of CN Rail Workers!

Picket lines in Port Robinson (left) and Prince George.

At 12:01 am Eastern Standard Time on November 19, about 3,200 Canadian National Railway conductors, trainpersons and yard workers went on strike, mainly over issues of workers' health and safety, which are also issues of public health and safety. The workers are members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), which served the legally required 72-hour strike notice during the evening of November 15. The TCRC reports that it was unable to reach a deal with CN, as the company remains unwilling to address the workers' concerns.

The labour contract of these workers expired on July 23. The monopoly media are reporting that talks are ongoing with CN at this time.

Picket line goes up in Saskatoon, as strike begins on November 19, 2019.

In a press release dated November 16, the TCRC explained:

"CN currently requires TCRC members to operate trains alone from outside of the locomotive, hanging on to moving trains with one hand while operating a remotely controlled locomotive with the other. Railroaders are expected to do this in rain and in freezing temperatures, sometimes for distances of up to about 17 miles.

"The union's demands to cease these dangerous practices have fallen on deaf ears and the company has refused to come to a satisfactory agreement at the negotiations table to adjust their operating practices in the interest of safety.

"The company also wants to make it more difficult to take time off and make employees work longer hours, in an attempt to get more work done with fewer people and to reduce staffing levels.

"'Fatigue has been recognized by the Transportation Safety Board as a major safety problem in this industry. Too many railroaders are operating trains when they should be resting,' explained the president of the TCRC, Lyndon Isaak. 'For the safety of all Canadians, we cannot allow CN to make it even harder for our members to get the rest they need.'

"Moreover, CN is demanding that the union accept a lifetime cap on prescription drug coverage which would be tantamount to denying workers -- and their families -- proper treatment for some forms of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and other diseases.

"Wages are not a major sticking point in these negotiations."

Montreal, November 19, 2019.

These are long-standing concerns of the rail workers, for which they have been presenting demands that remain unaddressed by the rail monopolies and the federal government.

Already, the monopoly media are playing their dirty role of paving the way for the Trudeau government to pass back-to-work legislation so that the just struggle of the workers is criminalized and the burning issues they are raising are once again swept under the rug, while workers and the public are placed at great risk. Just 12 hours after the CN workers went on strike, the Kenney government in Alberta called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to immediately recall Parliament and enact back-to-work legislation (Parliament is not scheduled to convene until December 5). In calling for the criminalization of the striking workers and the important issues they are raising, the Kenney government shamefully invoked the failure to build pipelines, saying this puts extra pressure on CN to transport oil by rail, and also claimed to be defending farmers, saying they need to transport their crops and are already facing problems with bad weather and the trade dispute with China.

This must not be permitted to happen. All workers and the public at large must express their support for the just demand of the CN workers for a negotiated contract that addresses their concerns and demands.


Thunder Bay




(Photos: Teamsters Canada Rail Conference)

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Glencore Empire Announces Closure of Belledune Lead Smelter
in New Brunswick

Manufacturing Yes! Nation-Wrecking No!

Locked-out workers from Belledune picket Glencore properties in Montreal November 13, 2019.

The Glencore global empire in a surprise attack issued a statement on November 13 announcing the permanent closure of the Belledune Lead Smelter plant it controls. The 420 workers at the smelter, local townspeople, officials and politicians were not consulted and received the news with utter shock. No discussion of the shutdown occurred in advance while in fact many in the region believed that the recent investment in an acid plant at the smelter signalled a continuation of production for the foreseeable future.

Two-hundred and eighty members of USW Local 7085 have been locked out of the Belledune Smelter since April 24. They were in Montreal picketing Glencore properties to explain their situation to fellow workers when they received the news. Glencore has been demanding concessions from them that would weaken the workers' health and safety regime at the plant.

Needless to say, the news of the shutdown was like a dagger to the heart of all concerned, as the small community of 1,400 in northern New Brunswick has very little other employment. The loss of associated work and direct reproduced-value with the final closure at the end of the year will be a great blow to the town and region.

The area has suffered two major shutdowns in recent years. Xstrata, which is now part of the Glencore Empire, closed its nearby lead/zinc Brunswick Mine in 2013 resulting in a loss of over 900 jobs. Prior to that in 2005, the Smurfit-Stone corrugated paper mill in neighbouring Bathurst shut down with a loss of almost 500 jobs. Workers at those two sites and the Belledune smelter have produced enormous quantities of added-value over the years, most of which has not been invested in the region but rather seized and removed by the global financial oligarchy as private profit, leaving the local economy extremely weak.

Working people in New Brunswick and across Canada are commenting that these actions, which put the private interests of the international financial oligarchy ahead of all other considerations and turn the lives of people upside down, are no way to run a modern economy. These workplaces are the economic foundation of a community and its people and future. Decisions about the economy and its extended reproduction, diversity and stability are everyone's concern and it is their right to have a say and to chart a course forward. A new direction for the economy is necessary and the organized working people and their allies must bring it into being.

(Photos: Metallos)

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An Act Meant to Intimidate the Working Class

Community rally June 4, 2019, supports the locked-out workers at the Belledune smelter.

The 280 members of United Steelworkers Local 7085 have been locked out of their Belledune smelter since April 24. The Glencore cartel locked out the workers to force them to accept concessions on health and safety and other issues. Local 7085 led by its President Bart Dempsey has waged a determined struggle against the giant global company. The locked out workers have gained respect and support from Canadians for their just stand in defence of their rights. In fact, members of Local 7085 were in Montreal reaching out to fellow workers at three Glencore facilities the morning of the announced shutdown.

Many believe the sudden closure of the plant is meant to intimidate Glencore workers at all its facilities and dissuade them and others from organizing struggles in defence of their rights. The intimidation comes at a time workers across Canada are finding new ways to deal with the power and vast social wealth of global giants such as Glencore.

ABI aluminum smelter workers in Bécancour, Quebec put up a determined two-year fight under conditions of a brutal lockout to reach terms of employment they could accept. USW Local 9700 at the smelter took their members' fight against the financial oligarchy to workers throughout the world. The United Steelworkers National Policy Conference held in Vancouver last April announced a worldwide campaign against the Alcoa/Rio Tinto lockout of the Bécancour workers. The global campaign focused on exposing the anti-worker practices of Alcoa, which owns 75 per cent of ABI, and the anti-worker comments of the Quebec government and its collusion in allowing the cartel to avoid paying for its contracted electricity during the lockout.[1]

Similarly, Belledune workers were gaining strength and support during the lockout for their just stand in defence of their rights. Many believe that the Glencore oligarchs are terrified to see the Belledune workers' spirit of resistance spread throughout their empire and want to destroy it at the source, as an example to others not to defend their rights. As can be seen around the world, the imperialists destroy through anarchy and violence what they cannot control. This must be stopped!


1. "Steelworkers Launch Global Campaign to Force Alcoa to Negotiate a Collective Agreement Acceptable to the Workers," Workers' Forum, April 11, 2019 

(Photo: USW District 6)

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Decision to Close Smelter Should Not Be in the Hands of Global Private Interests

Glencore said the lockout and its dispute with workers are "unrelated to the permanent closure" of the smelter. It said this despite the fact that the cartel planned to invest $65 million in the smelter and had already spent $20 million to build a new acid plant.

Without prior discussion or providing any proof, Glencore cited poor business results and financial forecasts as reasons for the shutdown. This method is very convenient because the cartel believes the power of property ownership and the control this entails allows the oligarchs to say and do whatever they want, including what to do with the added-value workers have produced over the years; whether to invest that value in the plant and community or not, and whether to continue production at the smelter or destroy it.

The imperialist right of global private interests to decide denies workers and community members and officials any say in decisions concerning the socialized economy. It deprives them of the modern right to agree or not to agree to such important decisions as where to invest the added-value workers produce, and whether or not to destroy a productive facility. This must change!

Without providing any verifiable evidence, Glencore spokesperson Alexis Segal told CBC News, "We need to be very clear that the plant was not making money for the last three years. In fact, the plant lost in average over the last three years $30 million per year. And after this last budget cycle it was evident that things would not be improved in the coming years either."

Glencore Zinc & Lead Assets head Chris Eskdale said: "The decision to cease lead smelting operations at our Brunswick Smelter was a very difficult one. Despite years of efforts by committed employees and a strong management team, the smelter has been uneconomic since the closure of the Brunswick Mine in 2013.

"We have thoroughly assessed all our options and come to the unavoidable conclusion that the smelter is simply not sustainable, regardless of the recent labour dispute."

"Uneconomic since 2013!" What nonsense! This begs the question why Glencore as recently as this year planned to develop the smelter and continue its transition to a custom smelter with an investment of $64 million in an acid plant. The first phase, worth about $20 million, has already been completed. Both the investment and the shutdown remain company secrets, with workers and others most closely affected left in the dark without a voice.

Glencore officials trotted out the usual explanation of increased international competition, particularly from several new lead smelters in China. This flies in the face of nation-building and the development of a self-reliant diverse economy that does not base itself on competing in the world. Such an economy invests in its people and extended reproduction and diversity of the economy adding strength to the overall economy through building up the collective efforts of all its regions and sectors through planning and increased investments in manufacturing, refining natural resources, expanding social programs and free public services and trading with others in friendship for mutual benefit and development.

Canada needs not only primary smelting but also custom smelters to increase the country's capacity to recycle lead and other finite resources. The country cannot continue simply to extract finite raw material such as lead and zinc at maximum speed until the resource is exhausted as Xstrata did at Brunswick Mine #12. Finite resources must be mined carefully with the social wealth they bring invested in other sectors and the people, and keeping the future always in mind, not just immediate profits as the imperialists do.

The last primary lead smelter in Canada is now Teck Resources' Trail Operations in BC. The last U.S. primary lead smelter closed in December 2013 when Doe Run shut its smelter in Missouri. Does this mean that the imperialists have other schemes currently underway to extend their theft of the lead, zinc, lithium other resources and capacity to work including smelting in weaker countries within the imperialist system of states such as Bolivia? Is Glencore involved in the recent coup in Bolivia where the government of Evo Morales nationalized three of its facilities to serve the Bolivian people and is said to have driven a hard bargain with foreign investors? Bolivia is known to have vast reserves of lead and lithium both necessary in the production of batteries, which are now in great demand.[1] Facts are stubborn things that do not easily disappear; they become widely known if the people organize and fight to defend their interests.

Canadians must denounce the Glencore closure and attack on the economy of New Brunswick and intimidation of the working class. The rights of the workers must be put in first place and they must have a decisive voice on how this unfolds.


1. With estimated 9,000,000 metric tons, Bolivia holds about 43 per cent of the world's known lithium reserves; most of those are in the Salar de Uyuni. Lithium is concentrated in the brine under the salt crust at a relatively high concentration of about 0.3 per cent.

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Reaction of Local Officials and Politicians

Locked-out Belledune smelter workers maintain picket lines November 16, 2019, after plant closure announced.

Belledune Mayor Joe Noel described the closure as "quite a blow," not only to the village, but the entire region because the smelter is one of the biggest employers and provides work to many contractors. "If the employees can't find trades work in the area and can't be retrained, they're going to leave," he said. "We're struggling to try and get our population up now. So this is definitely not going to help that. We don't want anyone to say goodbye to New Brunswick [...] and we will continue to work to make sure that we move that region forward," he said.

Noel said his priority is to ensure that the employees are given a proper severance, that their pensions are looked after and that those who were close to retirement get the opportunity to retire "with a good pension, like they expected to."

Noel said the town will lose about $800,000 in tax revenue, or 16 per cent of its total budget, when the smelter closes, adding he's not sure how the area will make up the loss. "That's not something you can do on the turn of a dime. That's going to take some time and some planning," he said. Noel said the region needs to take advantage of its natural resources. "I think we have to do everything we can to use them to the best of our ability and make them profitable," he said.

The problem facing the mayor and the entire region is who reaps the profits of ventures such as Glencore's or any other. The local economy needs the profits from the added-value workers produce to be reinvested in the local economy, community and nation-building not torn away as the international financial oligarchy does when it seizes the added-value as enterprise profit, interest profit and rent profit.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs called an emergency meeting with Glencore Canada on the evening of November 13 after the company announced earlier in the day that it was closing its lead smelter.

Trevor Holder, the Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour attended the meeting and told Information Morning Fredericton, "It is very clear coming out of that meeting that they [Glencore] are leaving. There is no way to change their mind. There are some people that we may need to retrain, if that's possible. There are some folks that may be able to transition into other opportunities."

Holder said a timeline hasn't been established yet, but the appropriate groups and departments will be meeting in the next few weeks to discuss solutions. "I think what's important right now is that we move forward as a province and we work with the community up there," he said.

Bathurst Mayor Paolo Fongemie told Radio-Canada that the Belledune Smelter was a big client of NB Power and a great contributor of property tax, so everybody in the province loses with the closure. He wants the province to develop an economic strategy for the northern region. He called on the provincial government to immediately establish a labour force adjustment committee for the 420 Brunswick Smelter employees who will soon be out of work.

Fongemie said northern New Brunswick used to be a "strong industrial region," but with the impending smelter closure, the government is now one of its biggest employers through hospitals, Service Canada and the community college. He reminded everyone that the smelter marks the third major plant closure in the Chaleur region in the past 15 years, resulting in a total loss of roughly 2,000 well-paying trades jobs. "We were able to manage to overcome the first two" said Fongemie, referring to the Bathurst mill shutdown in 2005 and the Brunswick Mine being shuttered in 2013. "We will overcome this one also because that's who we are [in] the northern part of the province. You know, we just pull up our sleeves and we work hard together and resiliency is part of [our] DNA, but it's still frustrating."

The closure of the Belledune smelter, which opened in 1966, will not only affect the 420 smelter employees and their families. It will cause widespread "collateral damage" in the town, Fongemie said. Many contractors and truck drivers rely on the plant for business and the Trevali mine sells its ore to Glencore for the smelter. Other area businesses benefit from the spin-off effect of having those workers spend their wages in the region.

Denis Caron, the CEO of the Port of Belledune said the port was built for the smelter in 1968. He said he is "overwhelmed" by news of the impending closure. Caron had been "hopeful" the smelter would keep producing, given Glencore's recent investments in the plant. The company spent about $20 million on the first phase of an estimated $64 million acid plant upgrade. "I thought perhaps that there could be maybe a temporary closure but we certainly weren't expecting this," said Caron. The province has promised the Port of Belledune $7 million to help with expansion plans as it continues to grow but the closure of the smelter will reduce business by at least 10 per cent with a loss of $1 million in annual income. He said only two other clients use the port. About 24 different bulk products from around the world were shipped through the port last year, totalling about three million tonnes but that included the smelter business. He said he is hopeful some of the smelter warehouses can be saved and used in conjunction with the port. "I mean, it [the smelter] is very close to the port. And you know I think there's going to be some opportunities [...] I think that that has to be explored, definitely."

(With files from CBC News, Shift, Radio-Canada, Information Morning Fredericton, and Wikipedia. Photos: Metallos)

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Glencore Global Cartel

Glencore is a monster cartel of the international financial oligarchy that has brought under its control many companies operating in mining, energy, agriculture, shipping, marketing and finance in fifty countries. Glencore plc has its headquarters in Baar, Switzerland and its registered address in Saint Helier, Jersey. 

Glencore operates as a supranational entity of private interests exercising dictate over governments and the states where it does business. Wherever the financial oligarchy does not exercise control, it uses its social wealth, connections and the military power of the imperialists to seize control through regime change, invasion, sanctions, blockades, assassinations, anarchy, violent subversive clashes with governments with no aim other than to cause disorder and weaken the existing state, and any other means deemed necessary to serve its private interests.

One hundred and fifty-eight thousand Glencore workers around the world produced value calculated as realized gross income worth U.S.$219.754 billion in 2018. Glencore says it owns fixed and circulating assets worth U.S.$128.485 billion, with which workers extract natural resources, ship commodities and engage in office work and finance. Marketed stock in the company is held in order of degree by Qatar Investment Authority, Ivan Glasenberg, Harris Associates, BlackRock, Daniel Maté, Telis Mistakidis, Norges Bank and others.

According to Wikipedia, the present cartel was created through a merger of Glencore with Xstrata in 2013 and is ranked tenth in the Fortune Global 500 list of the world's largest companies.

Before the merger, Glencore was already the largest company in Switzerland and the world's largest commodities trading company, with a 2010 global market share of 60 per cent in internationally tradable zinc, 50 per cent in copper, 9 per cent in the grain market and 3 per cent in the oil market. It supplied metals, minerals, crude oil, oil products, coal, natural gas and agricultural products to international customers in the automotive, power generation, steel production and food processing industries.

Xstrata's operations have been merged into Glencore. It continues as a major producer of coal and the world's largest exporter of thermal coal, copper, nickel, primary vanadium and zinc and the world's largest producer of ferrochrome. Its operations in 19 countries across Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, North America and South America became part of the Glencore Empire. Before the merger Xstrata was the 16th-largest company traded on the London Stock Exchange.

According to company information, the core Xstrata mining activity has been broadened into a "Private Investment Company" with interests held in diverse sectors and 51 portfolio companies in 30 countries. Wikipedia defines a portfolio company as a company or entity in which a venture capital firm, a buyout firm, or a holding company invests.

Glencore's website states:

"Glencore is one of the world's largest global diversified natural resource companies and a major producer and marketer of more than 60 commodities. The Group's operations comprise around 150 mining and metallurgical sites and oil production assets.

"With a strong footprint in both established and emerging regions for natural resources, Glencore's industrial and marketing activities are supported by a global network of offices located in over 35 countries.

"Glencore's customers are industrial consumers, such as those in the automotive, steel, power generation, battery manufacturing and oil sectors. We also provide financing, logistics and other services to producers and consumers of commodities. Glencore's companies employ around 158,000 people, including contractors."

Besides the Belledune smelter, Glencore controls eight other plants in Canada outside New Brunswick.

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