March 5, 2020

Alberta Working Class Affirms the Rights of All

March for What Matters a Great Success

Edmonton, February 27

Quebec Government Imposes Anti-Social Restructuring in Education
Increased Concentration of Powers in the Hands of the Minister
- Geneviève Royer

Government Seeks to Eliminate Teachers' Role in Decision-Making
Constitutional Argument to Oppose Bill 40
Teachers Oppose Bill 40 En Masse

Lockout at FCL Refinery in Regina
FCL Workers Continue Their Determined Struggle for a New Contract Without Concessions

Alberta Working Class Affirms the Rights of All

March for What Matters a Great Success

Edmonton, February 27

As the United Conservative Party government of Jason Kenney brought down its anti-social and anti-worker budget on February 27, thousands of people converged on the legislature. March for What Matters was conceived by a group of Edmonton teachers who issued the call for people to "March for What Matters." And march they did. Teachers in their thousands, education workers, parents, health care workers, doctors, youth and students, seniors, artists, Indigenous people, and working people from every sector came to speak out on what matters to them and to society.

The march began at the Edmonton Convention Centre where the Greater Edmonton Teachers' Convention was taking place and proceeded down Jasper Avenue and then to the legislature. More and more people joined as they finished work or school, with at least 10,000 people assembling at the legislature to hear speaker after speaker express the resolve of their collectives to oppose the Kenney government's stepped up anti-social offensive, to call for increased funding for social programs, and to oppose attacks on the right to speak and organize such as Bill 1.

Edmonton, February 27

March For What Matters actions were also held in Calgary and across the province on February 29, showing the same energy, determination and spirit. In Calgary, the first rallying point was Western Canada High School, where educators and public sector workers spoke about the right to public education, children's right to a future, and against the mass layoffs just announced for the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. "We need teachers, we need books, we need the money that Kenney took," they chanted. The next rallying point was the Sheldon Chumir Urgent Care Centre where health care union leaders spoke about the impact of the anti-social offensive on those in care and their families, and called for adequate funding for health care. As more people joined, the march grew to more than 2,000 people as it proceeded to City Hall, where a sea of signs expressed what matters and the claims that people are laying. Rallies also took place on March 29 in Banff, Fort MacMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Red Deer, and Slave Lake.

Claims from whatever quarter that paying the rich will "stimulate the economy" and bring prosperity are in tatters. The UCP's determination to restructure Alberta so no vestige of a public authority is left is meeting a wall of resistance. March for What Matters actions expressed the growing resistance and deep commitment of the people of Alberta to oppose Kenney's wrecking, and to speak in their own name about what matters, including increased funding for education, health and social programs. Congratulations to the organizers and all who participated!

Calgary, February 29

Red Deer, February 29

Grande Prairie, February 29

Fort McMurray, February 29

Slave Lake, February 29

(Photos: WF, J. Gale, R. King, D. Clarke Hoffart, T. Russell, L. Jones )

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Quebec Government Imposes Anti-Social Restructuring in Education

Increased Concentration of Powers
in the Hands of the Minister

Protest at the National Assembly November 4, 2019. Bill 40 was tabled on October 1, 2019 and passed under closure on February 7, 2020 (FAE)

The Legault government invoked closure on February 7, to adopt Bill 40 named An Act to amend mainly the Education Act with regard to school organization and governance. This is the fourth piece of legislation that the CAQ government has adopted through this procedure. The others are: the Act respecting the laicity of the State; and, the Act to increase Québec's socio-economic prosperity and adequately meet labour market needs through successful immigrant integration (both imposed on June 15, 2019); and, the Act to simplify the process for establishing electricity distribution rates (December 8, 2019).

Bill 40 modifies 76 laws, 6 codes and two charters. At the time of its introduction last October, the bill was 90 pages long and contained over 300 articles. The Education Minister added 160 pages of amendments just four days prior to its forced adoption. One amendment immediately removed the 600 elected members of the French-language school boards, instead of awaiting the scheduled date of their removal according to the bill at the end of February.

Bill 40 replaces school boards with service centres, which will now be responsible for assigning staff to the various education establishments, distributing grants, approving their budgets, organizing school transportation, child care, and services for students in difficulty etc. Formerly, the councils of commissioners, the school board governing body elected through universal suffrage was responsible for those decisions. Their election mandate also included informing the community of their decisions.

The elected councils of commissioners have now been replaced by a service centre board of directors whose members work without pay and must undergo compulsory training. Each french-speaking service centre board of directors is to be composed of 8 parents, four community members, who meet criteria laid down in the Act, and four school staff members.

English-language service centres boards are to be composed of between 8 to 17 parents, 4 community representatives and 4 school staff members. The parents and community representatives, at least in the English-language centres, will continue to be elected through universal suffrage. No mention appears in Bill 40 as to how the other service centre boards of directors either French or English language will be chosen. The bill says, "[the] government may, by regulation, determine the terms, conditions and standards for designating the members of a French-language school service centre's board of directors and for designating the members of an English-language school service centre's board of directors."

As was the case under the former school board system, teachers, parents or "community members" sitting on the service centre governing board will have no control over the financial resources to be allocated to each of the schools comprising the service centre. The director general and managers will propose and elaborate resource allocation but even they have little or no say regarding the sums of money the Minister will make available to the service centres.

At the end of the day, the main change other than the disappearance of officials elected through universal suffrage is the increased power placed in the hands of the Minister. He or she may "prescribe the criteria and terms applicable to the division of a French-language school service centre's territory into districts, [prescribe] the criteria and procedures applicable to the division of the territory of a French-language school service centre into districts, [and] prescribe that a school service centre cease to exist or establish a new school service centre [...] and determine objectives or targets for the administration."

Another last-minute amendment included just before closure and adoption obliges Quebec municipalities to cede land free of charge to the Ministry for the building of new schools. This allows unelected managers to intervene in municipal taxation and opens possibilities for corruption to serve private economic interests.

Bill 40 is one of the many anti-social laws of governments that eliminate intermediate levels of decision-making from the past to concentrate decision-making in the hands of the government executive. Many believe that the law will allow large-scale privatization and corruption, as the minister has the power to decide upon services, how they are to be offered and the allocation of state funds. One example has been raised of private firms to be entrusted with the responsibility of resource-sharing among service centres.

Quebec teachers and their allies are calling for an education system where they and all those concerned with education and the direction of society play decisive roles in affirming the right to education for all at the highest possible level. At present, a minority that has seized control of the economy and the state is dictating all decisions regarding the direction of education and other political, economic and social matters. The people organized in their collectives and as individuals must find ways to deprive the tiny minority of oligarchs of their power to impose their will on the majority, the economy and society.

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Government Seeks to Eliminate Teachers'
Role in Decision-Making

Bill 40 expresses the determination of successive governments to deny Quebec teachers any role in the establishment of new arrangements for governance in education even though teachers are those who have the expertise in the education of Quebec students and first-hand knowledge of the problems that need to be resolved.

Bill 40 directly interferes with teachers' working conditions without their consent and without negotiations. In particular, it imposes continuing training for teachers and requires that the school director ensure "all teachers fulfill their continuing education obligation." The bill imposes unilaterally a new condition that teachers are expected to fulfill while those same teachers are right in the midst of negotiations for a new collective agreement.

The Autonomous Teachers' Federation (FAE), which is very active in opposition to Bill 40, says that all terms of employment must be negotiated. In this regard, the FAE is considering filing a legal challenge on the grounds that the unilateral imposition of terms of employment is unconstitutional. Terms of employment should be the subject of negotiations under the Act respecting collective bargaining in the sectors of education, social affairs and government agencies.

Bill 40 pursues the denial of the rights of teachers to make decisions about the performance of their duties. The government is giving itself the right to decide according to its own agenda and to impose its decisions on teachers without their consent and even if they are opposed.

Teachers also condemn the attacks on their dignity and the integrity of their work that Bill 40 represents. For example, one of the new powers of the Minister of Education is to "more easily obtain students' results on the examinations that the Minister imposes at the elementary and secondary levels, and communicate with school service centre employees and parents in the school network."

The bill intensifies the pressure that is already being exerted on teachers. The law allows a school director in the name of academic success to modify students' results albeit in "consultation" with teachers. This perverts the evaluation of learning and the progress of students, and infringes upon the professional judgment of teachers and the quality of education, which cannot be reduced to exam results. The law also creates a "commitment-to-student-success committee" whose mandate is to examine the results of the students and "to promote, among the institutions of the school service centre, educational practices, including evaluation practices, that are based on research."

According to this legislation, the performance of an individual teacher, and by extension the academic success of the students, is to be measured by the teacher's adoption of behaviours and practices that are prescribed by the government. This sidelines the collective working conditions of the teachers, for example class sizes, and the educator's training, experience and outlook in both teaching and the evaluation of students progress and what is needed to improve education generally.

Teachers have been asking for over 15 years that class sizes be reduced so that they can work with and guide young people through their learning process. The government has steadily rejected all such demands for collective improvements in the conditions, and claims instead that the success of students depends on a teacher adopting the right behaviour and approach.

This bill denies the rich experience and accumulated knowledge of teachers, which is reflected in their claims such as the importance of class size and the importance of having trained people in the class room to assist those with special needs and to have knowledgeable librarians and others capable of guiding students in their learning and research.

The bill imposes conditions that are said to emanate from studies but teachers played no role in that research and were not even approached for their views, both individually and collectively. The results of the supposed research have nothing to with the direct experience of teachers and in fact contradict their experience and thought material on education and the needs of their students.

Teachers, who are directly responsible for the education of the youth, are demanding respect with regard to the pedagogical approach society and the government adopt towards the youth and the direction of education generally.

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Constitutional Argument to Oppose Bill 40

The Quebec English School Boards Association is launching a legal challenge to Bill 40. The bill dictates how parents will be selected to sit on the boards of the service centres. According to the Association, this directive contravenes the right of the English-speaking community to manage and control the minority language educational institutions. This right is contained in Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Federation of Quebec School Boards maintains that Bill 40 by eliminating universal suffrage only for French-language school boards contravenes Section 22 of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, which states: "Every person legally capable and qualified has the right to be a candidate and to vote at an election."

The Federation also points out that since school taxes will henceforth be collected by service centers where no one is elected by universal suffrage, this contravenes the principle of "no taxation without representation" guaranteed by Section 53 of the Constitution Act, 1867 and applicable in Quebec through its Section 90.

Presidents of the school boards of Bas-Saint-Laurent, Gaspésie and Îles-de-la-Madeleine in a letter to the Minister of Education dated February 7, stress that through Bill 40: "Only the Minister can develop policies, which constitutes the greatest centralization in the history of the Ministry of Education. Regions, schools, small schools: all will lose decision-making power with this bill. The Gaspé and Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac are far from Quebec when the time comes to make decisions! Imagine a policy of maintaining or closing a school decided in Quebec! The realities of the regions are very far from the offices of officials of the Quebec Ministry of Education in Quebec."

(Sources: Quebec English School Boards Association, Brief of the Federation of Quebec School Boards, Le Soir)

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Teachers Oppose Bill 40 En Masse

Since the introduction of Bill 40 last October and even after the law was adopted under closure on February 7, the nearly 100,000 teachers in Quebec have been very active in denouncing and challenging the law and to inform the people of its anti-social character. Teachers are confronting the Minister of Education wherever he appears, calling him to account for his anti-education activities and reaffirming their determination not to be silent.

Parents have also organized many actions to challenge the law and defend the people's education. As soon as the bill was introduced, many parents' organizations asked the Minister to postpone it so that the entire population could have the time needed to judge its relevance or not.

The School Together movement uniting 4,000 parents announced on February 21, it had tabled a report to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights arguing that the Quebec government with Bill 40 is increasing school segregation and violating its human rights obligations. The UN Committee will hold its meeting in mid-March.

Teachers demonstrate on December 9, 2019 in front of the office of the MNA for
Soulanges, Marilyne Picard.

Teachers at the office of CAQ MNA Nadine Girault in the Laurentians on December 11, 2019.

Teachers demonstrate on January 30, 2020 during a CAQ caucus meeting.

Left to right: Press conference held by Sylvain Mallette, President of Autonomous Teachers' Federation on February 13, 2020. Teachers confront Education Minister Jean-François Roberge one by one during his visit to the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal on February 21, 2020.

Above photos show teachers taking a stand in their respective schools:
Quebec, Saint-Hyacinthe, Montreal and the Outaouais.

(Photos: FAE, FSE-CSQ)

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Lockout at FCL Refinery in Regina

FCL Workers Continue Their Determined Struggle
for a New Contract Without Concessions

Rally January 20, 2020 in Regina in support of Co-op Refinery workers.

Federated Co-operatives Limited workers and supporters picketed the annual meeting of FCL in Saskatoon on February 29 and the following day. They denounced the company's unjust demand for concessions, lockout of workers and use of scab mercenaries to operate the FCL Regina refinery.

The company locked out the 730 members of Unifor Local 594 last December 5. In a provocative anti-worker move, the company built a multi-million dollar camp for scab mercenaries on the refinery grounds prior to the lockout.

Right from December 5, the company in concert with the courts and Regina police power have tried to make Local 549's picket line ineffective and allow the refinery to operate with scabs and a constant flow of trucks.

Earlier on February 26, Local 594 members attended a picket of Co-op facilities in Yorkton and denounced the court proceedings that day for Unifor National President and 14 other union members in Regina on trumped-up charges of mischief. The fifteen union members were recently arrested during a police attack on the Regina picket line. At the time, workers were lawfully pursuing their right to enforce an effective picket line and block fuel trucks from entering the Co-op Refinery Complex. The police assault followed the unjust issuance of a court injunction in December to render any picket line ineffective and allow the refinery to operate with scab mercenaries, and for trucks to enter and exit at will. Brandishing the unjust injunction, a judge has also fined Unifor twice for breaching the anti-worker court order.

Executives of FCL want to gut the workers' Pension Plan and eliminate the jointly funded Savings Plan. The attack amounts to an equivalent reduction of wages of 17.5 per cent and a significant weakening of defined pension benefits and savings upon retirement. The company has shamelessly tried to bribe workers with an increase in wages just over the cost of living during a four year contract if the workers agree to the concessions on the pension and savings plans. In effect, the company wants to increase profits on the backs of workers by attacking their pensions. This is unacceptable and working people across the country should stand with Regina co-op workers in rejecting the concessions with contempt.

Workers of Local 549 and their supporters call on Canadians to join the nationwide boycott of Co-op gas, groceries, and services as long as FCL demands anti-worker concessions and continues the unjust lockout and use of scabs.

Join with One Voice and Say NO to Anti-Worker Concessions!
Defend the Pensions Workers Have and Fight for Pension Security for All!
Stand Shoulder to Shoulder with Fellow Workers Fighting Injustice
at the FCL Regina Refinery!

For further information on the co-op boycott and other issues concerning the unjust lockout see

(Photo: Unifor 594)

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