September 8, 2021 - No. 80

75th Anniversary of USW Local 1005

Congratulations to Hamilton
Steelworkers, Local 1005 and
Their Fight for the Rights of All

Nova Scotia
• Canada Post Attacks Cape Breton Delivery Drivers

Government Provocations Against New Brunswick Public Sector Workers
Workers Holding Strike Votes to Defend Their Rights


Government Withdraws Five Anti-Social Bills

All Out to Reverse the Anti-Social Offensive

Treasury Board Attack on Nurses in Barrie, Ontario
• Criminalization of Health Care Workers and Attempts to Turn Us Against Them

75th Anniversary of USW Local 1005

Congratulations to Hamilton Steelworkers, Local 1005 and Their Fight for the Rights of All

On September 2, USW Local 1005 commemorated the local's founding 75 years ago at Sam Lawrence Park on Hamilton Mountain. Sam Lawrence was the Mayor of Hamilton in 1946 who supported the great strike of '46. The workers chose orange T-Shirts for this year's commemoration and Labour Day parade in support of the Every Child Matters mobilization of the Indigenous peoples.

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Nova Scotia

Canada Post Attacks Cape Breton Delivery Drivers

Gordie MacDonald, President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers Local 117 in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia reports that Canada Post is firing delivery drivers in the Local and replacing them with new hires. Thirteen drivers in and around Sydney, one in Antigonish and several more in St. Stephen, New Brunswick have been notified that their jobs have been eliminated. One driver has delivered parcels for Canada Post for thirty years.

The drivers waged a struggle to improve their terms of employment in 2018 and gained some improvements in wages and conditions. Canada Post wants to fire the workers both to take revenge for their strike and to drive terms of employment back down to the 2018 level or lower. They were receiving $14.30 an hour in 2018 and managed to improve that by $2 an hour and had paid sick days, holiday pay and other benefits reinstated.

Canada Post says it has the right to attack these workers because they are classified as contract workers without the same rights to security of employment as in-house workers. Canada Post simply changes the owners of the so-called contract and attacks the workers. The new contract owners do not bring anything to Canada Post as the work is essentially the responsibility of the delivery workers themselves. Such is the disgusting farce that workers are considered disposable and can be cast aside and replaced with cheaper versions using corrupt methods such as contracting out that have no place in a modern country.

CUPW Local 117 demands the workers not be fired and instead be hired directly by Canada Post as in-house workers, which is the only right thing to do. The delivery workers must have the same wages, benefits and pensions as other Canada Post workers. That is a just solution.

Contracting out by major corporations such as Canada Post is a corrupt anti-worker travesty that must be stopped. Gordie MacDonald told CBC that because of "contract flipping" the union has to fight for workers every time the contract is switched from one company to another. The workers may never build up any security of employment or pension. The ruling elite would like to see all workers in this insecure vulnerable position without rights so as to better exploit and attack them with impunity as they are doing in this situation. It must not pass!

MacDonald said COVID-19 public health restrictions have kept many people at home, creating a huge spike in the parcel delivery business, and the pandemic is still going on. "A year ago, we were calling them heroes," he said of the drivers. "We were calling them frontline workers. We were boosting them up and putting them on pedestals, and here today, Canada Post decides they're going to sweep them out the door to save a few dollars on their backs."

"We're really trying to avoid any kind of illegal work stoppage at the moment," MacDonald said. "They want their jobs. They want to continue doing the same work."

Workers' Forum stands with the CUPW Local 117 delivery workers. Call or email Canada Post and demand the firings be reversed, contracting out jobs must be stopped and the workers must be hired on a permanent basis with the same wages, benefits, pensions and job security as other in-house postal workers.

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Government Provocations Against New Brunswick Public Sector Workers

Workers Holding Strike Votes to Defend Their Rights

Press Conference, September 3, 2021 in Fredericton to denounce government's demands
for concessions.

On September 3, the Canadian Union of Public Employees -- New Brunswick (CUPE-NB) announced that the New Brunswick Government has flatly refused workers' demands for wages they deem acceptable to stop their continued impoverishment and to address the retention and recruitment problem in the public sector.

Union and government negotiating teams recently met for five days at a centralized negotiating table over the demands of 22,000 members. The government dismissed the workers' demands for a significant wage increase. CUPE reports that the government persisted in offering unacceptable wages and that its offer was also made conditional on workers making concessions on other matters.

The government offered a 1.25 per cent increase per year over a four year contract and 2 per cent per year for the next two years if the union agreed to a six year contract. The offer is similar to one that nurses, represented by the New Brunswick Nurses Union, overwhelmingly rejected a few weeks ago. This is well below inflation and is an actual wage cut, which is what public sector workers have faced for the last 15 years. Successive governments have imposed wage freezes and wage caps. CUPE-NB President Steve Drost told the media that years of wage increases that have not kept pace with the cost of living have forced many public employees to take on second jobs or leave their jobs altogether. Others can't keep up with rents that are rising far faster than their wages, he said.

Meanwhile, the government made its offer conditional on concessions in pensions, severance pay and moving some unionized positions to management positions. The government asked that members of some locals give up their defined benefit pension plan for a shared risk model. It also asked that the severance package that some locals have in their collective agreement be eliminated for new workers. CUPE-NB President Steve Drost explained that these severance packages were negotiated in the past in exchange for workers foregoing wage increases. In a conversation with Workers' Forum, he called the government's position "unacceptable, a divide and conquer approach and an insult to workers."

On September 3, the government walked away from the bargaining table, slandering workers that they are the ones who do not want to negotiate and are harming New Brunswick taxpayers. Given that it is government pay-the-rich schemes which are harming taxpayers and undermining public services, these arguments are contemptible. The government wants to have a free hand to further privatize health care and public services to enrich narrow private interests. In defending their demands workers are defending public right.

Labour Day marked the end of the 100 day CUPE-NB campaign to get satisfaction for their wage demands. Over 22,000 workers will be taking strike votes in the coming weeks across the province.

Workers' Forum fully supports the fight of New Brunswick public sector workers for wages and working conditions they deem acceptable. Workers' defence of the dignity of labour is defence of the public and its right to modern quality public services. The government`s insensitivity to the problem of retention and recruitment in the public sector and of workers leaving the sector and even the province shows that it considers workers disposable, which puts workers and the public at risk. Let us go all out to support the just struggle of the New Brunswick public sector workers!

(Photos: CUPE-NB)

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Government Withdraws Five Anti-Social Bills

On the day Kelvin Goertzen was sworn in as the interim Premier of Manitoba, he announced that five anti-social bills that had been presented to the legislature in the spring session would be withdrawn.

Goertzen takes over from Brian Pallister who resigned as leader of the ruling Conservative Party. The next provincial election will be in two years and Goertzen will remain as Premier until he is replaced by a new Conservative leader. The timing of the choosing of a new Conservative leader has not been announced.

The five bills had been deferred to the fall session of the legislature. They were met with broad opposition with workers, environmental activists and others determined to have them withdrawn.

The legislation that has been withdrawn is Bills 16, 35, 40, 57, and 64.

Bill 16 would have stripped away workers' right to have their contract settled by an independent arbitrator after 60 days of a strike or lockout.

Bill 40 would have opened the door to large-scale privatization of liquor sales in Manitoba.

Bill 35 would have allowed the provincial cabinet instead of the non-partisan Public Utilities Board to determine hydro rates.

Bill 64 would have abolished elected school boards.

Bill 57, the Protection of Critical Infrastructure Act, would have prepared the ground for all-out criminalization of workers, environmentalists, social justice advocates, Indigenous people and anyone fighting for their rights under the guise of prohibiting 'interference' with critical infrastructure. The definition of critical infrastructure in the legislation was so broad that it criminalized the right to speak and organize on everything from pipelines, railways, personal care homes and any infrastructure the use or presence of which "makes a significant contribution to the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Manitobans."

Although the bills have been withdrawn there is no guarantee that they will not be reintroduced in future as the government continues on its anti-social course of restructuring to hand over everything to narrow private interests and to criminalize all opposition. Manitobans have not been passive since the bills were introduced and remain vigilant.

(Photos: MGEU)

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All Out to Reverse the Anti-Social Offensive

Treasury Board Attack on Nurses in Barrie, Ontario

The Ontario Treasury Board has invoked anti-worker legislation Bill 124 to reject as invalid a negotiated first collective agreement between Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie and Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) health-care professionals.

The ONA denounced the decision as, "A devastating day for Ontario labour." ONA President Vicki McKenna, RN said on September 2, "Treasury Board has informed ONA and Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie that it is denying an exemption from its wage-suppression legislation, Bill 124, that both parties jointly requested. The Ford government goes further and now says that a freely negotiated settlement is inconsistent with the purpose of its, likely unconstitutional, legislation. ONA believes this is just another demonstration of this government's disrespect and disregard of female-dominated health-care professionals and this supports our position that Bill 124 interferes with the right to freely collectively bargain -- a key argument in ONA's Constitutional challenge of the bill."

President McKenna said, "This fight is not over and we will continue to advocate to the Ontario government for the right of health-care professionals to their well-deserved, hard-earned and freely negotiated compensation."

Workers' Forum denounces the criminalization of workers' struggles and demands. Nurses have every right to negotiate wages and working conditions with their employers and freely decide if a negotiated agreement is acceptable or not.

Nurses and other health care workers are the backbone in our collective fight against the pandemic. This backward decision and the entire anti-worker Bill 124 are anti-social. The reactionary Ford government passed Bill 124 in 2019 to directly target the right of registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and health-care professionals to negotiate wages and working conditions with their employers. The Bill dictates wage increases be held to a maximum of one per cent total compensation per year for three years. The Bill even overrides the decisions of arbitrators. The ONA writes, "Because of Bill 124, the arbitrator who recently released the new collective agreement for hospital-sector members clearly stated that Bill 124 tied his hands with regard to monetary issues."

Bill 124 and the attack on Barrie nurses prove the Ontario government is anti-social, in the service of narrow private interests. Any government or state institution which thinks it can attack the working class with impunity is not fit to govern.

In the federal election the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada has put forward an explicit program to Defend the Dignity of Labour! Negotiate Don't Dictate! Defend the Claims Workers Are Entitled to Make by Right! Oppose the Criminalization of Workers' Struggles and Demands!

Our Security Lies in Our Fight for the Rights of All!

(Photo: OCHU)

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Criminalization of Health Care Workers and
Attempts to Turn Us Against Them

The Premier of Quebec, François Legault, began his press briefing on September 7 by saying that he would like to talk to Quebeckers about education, the economy, projects, but he has no choice but to rule out these subjects "if we do not collectively manage the fourth wave."

First of all, it should be noted that nothing is managed collectively in the public sector. Working in the public sector as a teacher, the only thing that is collective is the dictates of this government that impose collective suffering, which we oppose and have opposed long before the pandemic.

When Legault and his Minister of Health say that "we cannot accept that there are workers who put vulnerable people at risk" and that their conclusion is to suspend health care workers who are not vaccinated by October 15 without pay, this is just another example of rule by decree. It has nothing to do with the efforts and demands of public sector workers to control the pandemic, and their need to have working conditions and adequate equipment to treat and cure sick people.

The government stirs up passions and the monopoly media do everything they can to create feelings of hysteria and confusion. It is very irresponsible.

What is in the hands of the people of Quebec is to refuse to divide into camps, for or against the mandatory vaccine, and to maintain that a science-based public discussion that informs and educates us collectively is what makes it possible to take an informed decision for the well-being of all. It also demonstrates that our security relies on the efforts of the workers and people to ensure the arrangements that are necessary to guarantee the health of everyone.

A teacher from East Montreal

(Photos: WF, Coalition Solidairite Sante. Translated from the original french by WF.)

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