September 15, 2021 - No. 83
Our Security Lies in Empowering the People
Whose Fight Upholds the Rights of All
COVID Contagion in Montreal Schools
Montreal demonstration for a safe return to
school in 2020 -- a year later schools return facing a fourth wave of COVID-19.
• Escalating COVID-19 Crisis in Alberta
• Workers Must Take the Lead to Deal with State of Health Care System
- Peggy Morton
• On the Situation Facing Ontario Public Sector Workers
- Interview, Fred Hahn, Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario
• BC Hospitality Workers Ratify Hard Fought New Contract with Hospitality Employers
• BC Governments Sell-off of Public Lands to Powerful Private Interests
- K.C. Adams
Our Security Lies in Empowering the People
Whose Fight Upholds the Rights of All
Quebec has begun using rapid testing to detect cases of COVID-19 in 72 schools in four targeted places in Montreal and Laval.
All four have a high number of active cases of COVID-19, including
the Montreal neighbourhoods of Parc-Extension, Saint-Michel and
Montréal-Nord, as well as Chomedey in Laval.
About 20 per cent of schools in Quebec are reporting cases of
COVID-19, which accounts for about 600 schools and more than 1,000
COVID-19 case counts continue to soar in Alberta. On September 13
Alberta reported 4,740 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, for a
total of 18,395 active cases across Alberta, or 43 per cent of all
active cases in Canada.
Hospitals are overwhelmed and ICUs are
already operating far above capacity. Physicians, infectious disease
specialists, and other health care workers and their unions are speaking
out about the crisis and putting forward definite measures that must be
The health care system is facing serious staff shortages
compounded by the burnout, injuries and resignations as the government
continues to attack the rights of the workers, including planned wage
rollbacks and layoffs of thousands of workers. Edmonton has cancelled
more than 70 per cent of all scheduled surgeries, while Calgary
postponed all "elective" admissions. There is deep concern that the
health care system will collapse if cases, hospital admissions and ICU
admissions continue to double every 14 days as they are now doing.
Edmonton rally in support of health care workers, August 12,
The United Conservative Party (UCP) government in Alberta is out of
control, characterized by irrationality, chaos, revenge-seeking and
total disregard for the people's well-being. The Premier, his Minister
of Health and the Chief Medical Officer of Health disappeared for a
month while the fourth wave surged.
The government refuses to take responsibility for falsely declaring
the pandemic over, removing all health measures to contain COVID-19,
and telling Albertans not to worry, that they would have the best
summer ever. Instead the government is blaming those who followed its
advice and failed to get a first or second vaccination. As always, the
cards played are division, diversion and deception. The
irresponsible actions of a small number of ideologically-driven people
who harass patients and health care workers are being used to suggest
that all actions, which would include the picket lines of the workers
themselves, should not be permitted outside hospitals. According to
this, problems are solved through police powers, not by providing them
with viable solutions as decided by the people concerned.
the pandemic, workers have refused to be overwhelmed by feelings of
helplessness in the face of a government which refuses to act to
safeguard the people. Now more than ever is the time to uphold the
stand that Our Security Lies in the Defence of the Rights of All! This
is the time to once again take the lead, as workers have
done throughout the pandemic.
Albertans have gone all out to take up social responsibility --
Protect Our Province (@POPAlberta) brings together doctors, scientists,
ICU nurses, teachers and advocates for education and others and
provides regular podcasts which give a wide range of information and
advocacy for Albertans.
Support Our Students (SOS) took up responsibility to keep everyone
informed about school outbreaks when the government failed to do so.
More than 430,000 Albertans visited the tracker a total of four million
times. SOS continues to organize to make schools safe at a time the
Kenney government has abandoned even the responsibility for
contact tracing in schools and does not report cases until at least 10
per cent of kids are affected. As well as putting forward comprehensive
measures for schools, the site is a valuable resource for sharing the
initiatives people are taking to protect our students.
Workers are refusing to submit to arbitrary measures in many forms.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) has forced the Alberta
government to back off its unreasonable return to worksite demand.
Provincial government workers who have been working at home can now
continue to do so. All the health care unions are
standing firm against the demands for wage rollbacks and attacks on
wages and working conditions and fighting to end privatization and
solve the problems of understaffing.
Unions are indicating that if and when the government implements the
outstanding sections of Bill 32, the UCP's omnibus anti-worker
legislation passed in July 2020, they will not comply. These provisions
require unions to seek approval from each and every union member for
what are called "political activities and other causes" to be defined
as whatever the government says they are.
Canadians stand with the health care workers. They are taking
initiatives within their collectives to work out together what they can
do to make their workplaces and communities safer. Do not permit the
government to use the situation to impose more arbitrary police powers
on the workers!
Our Security Lies in the Fight for the Rights of All!
Fred Hahn is the President of CUPE Ontario,
which represents over 280,000 workers in health care, municipalities,
school boards, social services and universities.
Ontario hospital workers who have been on the front lines protecting
people's health and safety in the conditions
of the pandemic are now facing concessionary demands from the Ontario
government and the Ontario Hospital Association. How do you assess this?
Fred Hahn: Actually the Ontario Hospital Association has tabled pages and pages of concessions.
During the pandemic, under the emergency orders, most of our
members' collective agreements, not just those of hospital workers,
were suspended. Employers were given carte blanche to reassign people,
to change their shifts, to not pay overtime. It looks as if, based on
some of the concessions that have been tabled, hospital employers like
those things and want to make them permanent. The concessions they want
are about job security, job posting provisions, shift requirements,
overtime, many things that have been in the collective agreements for a
long time but with which employers did not have to comply for months.
It appears that employers are trying to make changes which our
hospital workers and those in the Service Employees International
Union are not going to agree to. The emergency measures literally gave
complete control to the employer. The employer could tell a worker that
they would have to work 12 days in a row with no overtime
payment, that they would be working in that location over there where
they had never worked before. Employers were empowered to do such
things and much more.
our collective agreements we have job posting language that makes it
clear when you apply for a job what the shifts are, where you work, that
if you work extra you get overtime. If there is a reorganization of the
work there are abundant procedures spelled out and there are job
security provisions that relate to reorganizations. These are important.
The employer wants to make changes to some of those provisions, putting
limits on workers' rights. All of their proposals are for concessions,
and our members are not going to agree to them.
It is insulting to our workers. This is something that we have
experienced in every sector. This round is about hospital workers whose
central bargaining has just started. But we have seen this in municipal
bargaining. We have seen it in social service bargaining. In every case
in which employers have had enhanced rights in the pandemic, they are
trying to bargain concessions to keep them.
I am happy to tell you that in every single round of bargaining in
any sector in which an employer has tried to impose concessions we have
successfully defeated them and we will do so in the hospital sector as
We have an additional problem in the current situation because of
specific legislation passed by the Ford Conservatives, Bill 124, that
imposes a restriction on collective bargaining, that dictates that
increases in compensation must not exceed one per cent per year. This
is not just about wages. All compensation is included in that one per
For example, hospital workers are seeking improvements to language
around personal protective equipment and safety at work. Those
improvements are considered a cost. According to this law, if you
bargain for enhanced safety measures that cost money, that would reduce
your wage increase. Enhanced safety at work, enhanced staffing
levels -- which is a real challenge in health care -- these
are also considered costs that fall within the one percent.
As another example, we are trying to negotiate paid sick days for
part-time and casual workers. That alone, according to the government
officials, is way more than one per cent. That is what the employer has
are shocked when we tell them what is in the law. That is why it is so
important that we are organizing, not just working out bargaining
strategies, but that we get the word out, that we inform the public and
make everyone aware of what this law means.
One of our most important demands is that Bill 124 be repealed
because it is an attack against all public sector workers. In the
meantime, during this round of bargaining, we are demanding that the
bill be suspended. The government made changes many times during the
pandemic, including providing for pandemic pay that was over $1 an
hour. They did that by regulation so they can do it again in this
WF: Do you want to add anything in conclusion?
FH: After this year and a half of
the pandemic, we are seeing a change in our members, in our neighbours
and in workers generally. Workers, having been through the pandemic
where they could literally lose their lives, are saying that enough is
enough, that we have to do things differently in our workplaces.
individually, they realize their worth and that they deserve more. They
do not want to go back to conditions where their health, including
their mental health, are not looked after, where wages are insufficient
and they are not treated with respect.
For example, for more than a decade our union has spoken out about
long-term care, against privatization, about the need to get rid of
profit in seniors' care. Now there is much more awareness about this
problem, more energy. Our job is to channel that energy and realize the
possibility of bringing about significant changes.
The union representing hospitality workers in hotels, motels, pubs
and liquor stores in 14 communities in BC, UNITE HERE Local 40,
announced in a press release on September 13 that a new four-year
collective agreement with Hospitality Industrial Relations (HIR) has
been reached. Workers voted 80 per cent in favour of the new
agreement. The new contract covers over 1,000 hospitality workers in
Vancouver, Victoria, Coquitlam, Richmond, New Westminster, North
Vancouver, Abbotsford, Harrison Hot Springs, Kamloops, Castlegar, Port
Alberni, Mackenzie, Prince Rupert, and Fort St. John.
Since the beginning of the pandemic it has been known that recall
rights in the collective agreement and under the province's Labour
Standards Act were insufficient to protect workers' jobs in the
conditions of extended closures of businesses. While a few employers
agreed to extend recall rights so that workers would be able to return
jobs when businesses reopened, most did not.
The union reports that "This contract includes an extension of recall
rights for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic -- through to July 1,
2023 or when the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the pandemic
is over. After an 18-month effort, BC's hospitality workers, represented
by UNITE HERE Local 40, have achieved a new standard securing the right
of workers to return to their jobs as business recovers... As well as
winning unlimited recall rights to cover future crises such as pandemics
and natural disasters, they won longer recall protection for regular
seasonal layoffs, increasing from six months to 12." Workers also
defeated attempts by employers to force concessions and the agreement
protects pension, health care, severance pay and workload provisions
This victory was won through sustained militant actions by workers
in many communities with rallies and pickets and a hunger strike at the
legislature in August 2020. They called on the NDP government to
extend the recall period provided in the Labour Standards Act not just
for themselves but for thousands of workers in a similar
situation. To their shame government ministers and MLAs refused to
meet with the workers and did not lift a finger or speak a word in
support of their just demands.
The greater the public awareness of the unjust actions of employers
and the just cause of the workers, the greater the public support. City
Councils in New Westminster, Burnaby and Victoria passed motions in
support of the workers' demands and withdrew their business from hotels
that did not guarantee workers' jobs on reopening. The BC
Federation of Labour did the same. Municipal and federal politicians,
union leaders and workers from many unions joined the hospitality
workers' rallies and pickets.
Stephanie Fung, a spokesperson for UNITE HERE Local 40 told Workers
Forum that the union is relieved and excited at the successful
conclusion of bargaining with HIR and said that this success was due to
all the actions of the workers themselves. She said that negotiations
continue with some of the other ten hotels that are not part of the
HIR to guarantee workers' recall rights and settle contracts. She said
"if HIR can agree to protect the workers there is no reason the other
ten can't, so we will keep on fighting."
Workers' Forum congratulates the BC hospitality workers and their
union for this success in their determined and principled fight for
their rights and the rights of all workers. We stand with the workers
at the hotels not covered by this agreement where the fight for the
workers' rights continues.
BC cartel party governments sold off 164 BC schools, health centres
and hospitals, and agricultural and industrial lots between 2013 and
2019. The sell-off program called the "Release of Assets for Economic
Generation" began with the Liberal Party government in power in 2013,
and continued with the NDP/Green Party
coalition government in 2017, although it changed the name of the
program to "Surplus Public Properties," and still exists with the NDP
majority government today. In 2019, the "Surplus Public Properties"
list included 69 properties. The sell-off of public property continued
despite Jinny Sims of the NDP/Green Party coalition government stating
in a 2019 Vancouver Sun article, "It is increasingly difficult to find
affordable land in BC's fastest-growing cities to build new public
In the six year period from 2013 to 2019, which forms the basis of a
Postmedia investigation, the market value of the public lands sold off
exceeded one billion dollars.
The sell-off of public property reveals several issues of particular concern:
- the private buyers in many cases made outsized profits in short order after they purchased the public property;
- private developers used their influence on municipal councils to
subdivide the large public land parcels they bought leading to
immediate dramatic increases in the land value;
- some of the public property was resold at much higher prices on the same day as the initial purchase from the government;
- some of the buyers of public property made large contributions to
the Liberal and NDP cartel parties that were or became the party
governments selling the public land;
- some of the public property after being sold as "surplus" was
immediately leased back from the buyer by the government in power for
years on end;
- the sell-off of schools and hospitals was done even though the
population in BC is growing and the province is lacking facilities and
land on which to build, especially schools and health centres.
Vancouver health centres, North Shore schools, and acres of
agricultural land in Surrey are among the 164 pieces of public property
deemed "surplus" and sold during the six years. By 2019, the Ministry of
Education had 48 fewer properties, many of them former schools in
cities such as Salmon Arm, Langley and Nanaimo. A dozen health-related
properties are now gone, including hospitals, medical centres and a
Vancouver ambulance station, along with recreational areas, city lots
and large and small acreages of industrial land. Prices per sale ranged
from $16,000 to $217 million with the government using the $1 billion it
received as general revenue.
Sales were throughout BC including:
Surrey -- 21
Prince George -- 15
Delta -- eight
Burnaby and Salmon Arm -- seven each
North Vancouver and New Westminster -- six each
The sell-off of public property to private interests in BC was done
legally according to existing business law. It should be noted the
practice is not unusual with all BC cartel parties engaging in the
practice once in government. Over 1,500 such transactions occurred
between 1981 and 2018. Many details of particular sell-offs could be
characterized as corruption as described in subsequent parts of this
series but as everything is legal according to existing law the
corruption is "perfectly legal" even though immoral and contrary to the
To be continued -- Part Two: Sell-Off of Public Property and Subsequent Soaring Property Values and Profit for Buyers
(To access articles individually click on the black headline.)
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