No. 35October 15, 2019
A rally took place outside the Fiera Foods plant on October 2, bringing together workers, activists, and community members to honour the memory of Enrico Miranda, a maintenance worker killed at the plant on September 25, and to demand the company be held to account.
The Jane Finch Action Against Poverty and the Workers’ Action Centre organized the rally to honour Enrico and offer support to his friends, family, and co-workers. Some 100 people participated, including activists from the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Unifor, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers’ Federation, $15 and Fairness, the Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups and the South Asian Women’s Rights Organization. Representatives of the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Toronto and York Region Labour Council were also present.
The inhumanity of large corporations like Fiera Foods is such that after Enrico’s death, production at the plant continued and workers were ordered to finish their shifts. Then, one week later, on the day of the rally to honour Enrico and hold the company to account, rather than have workers come to work and see the determination of fellow workers in defence of their rights and discuss with them a way forward, Fiera management cancelled two shifts and told workers to stay home, without pay.
The rally and its speakers demanded the Ontario government take immediate action to hold employers like Fiera Foods accountable for the safety of the trafficked temp agency workers they hire. Calls rang out for those in control of Fiera Foods to be investigated for criminal negligence causing death under the “Westray provisions” of the Criminal Code. Others denounced the Ford government for refusing to put into effect a provision in Ontario Bill 148, passed last year, which would make employers like Fiera Foods responsible for workers’ compensation payments when workers are injured on the job, whether they are permanent or temporary.
Fiera and other companies hide behind the façade of paying the agencies that supply them temp workers for the trafficked workers’ capacity to work. Workers’ rights advocates argue that the use of trafficked temp workers, who have no legal direct connection with the company where they actually work, drives down all workers’ wages and benefits, and weakens the possibility to unite and fight to improve their working conditions. Companies that use trafficked temp workers refuse to take any direct responsibility for their working conditions, often using them for the most dangerous work. They spout the fiction that temp workers are working for the traffickers and not for the companies where they actually work. This anti-worker farce and form of precarious work must not be allowed to continue, workers demand.
Workers also denounced the Ford government for using its Bill 47 to end proactive workplace investigations, reduce employers’ fines for labour code violations, repeal requirements that temporary and permanent workers be paid the same, and to cut $19 million from the Ministry of Labour’s Prevention Office budget.
Activists from the Workers’ Action Centre and Jane Finch Action Against Poverty leafleted near the Fiera plant on October 3 to talk directly to workers from the plant and offer their assistance. They are continuing such outreach actions, leafleting the night shift as they left the plant October 11.
(Photos: RU, $15 and Fairness)
– Normand Chouinard –
Workers’ health and safety are very serious concern for the entire Canadian working class, but the cartel parties competing for power never seriously address these as matters integral to the social responsibility of those political forces that claim to represent the citizenry. The cartel parties look at health and safety as issues concerning “workers,” which fall under the control of the unions, the work milieu in general, labour law, or worse still, as an individual matter.
Let’s be clear! The health and safety of workers is not an issue of a private nature or solely to be categorized as having to do with the workplace and labour law. The health and safety of workers is a matter of human rights. Modern society recognizes the working class as the productive force that creates the value required by the economy and society to exist and develop. Workers fulfil their duty to work, therefore the economy and society’s duty and social responsibility are to guarantee the rights of the working class, the modern productive force, including their right to healthy and safe working conditions.
All political parties must take a clear stand on this and be accountable for their words, actions and decisions. Workers must not hesitate to demand that politicians be held accountable during the election process and in government, and that accountability become a permanent political practice.
Workers are well aware that in the neo-liberal world of the anti-social offensive imposed on the people by the financial oligarchy, all the productive forces — the material, natural and human resources — are placed in the service of the supranational monopolies. In this situation, the financial oligarchy strives to deprive the people of the rights they have by virtue of being human. For the ruling elite, rights pose themselves as blocks to their empire-building. The financial oligarchy considers the health and safety of working people as something to be sacrificed to protect and expand its wealth and power.
Truckers Are a Striking Example of this Reality
Day of Mourning ceremony organized in Mauricie, Quebec, April 28, 2018 to honour truckers who died on the job.
Canadian truckers are experiencing another very trying year. The number of road accidents involving transport workers that result in deaths or injuries continues to rise. In Quebec alone, from 2016 to 2018, the annual number of fatalities in collisions involving heavy goods vehicles jumped from 52 to 72, including truckers. This year, with 15 trucker deaths recorded to date, may turn out to be one of the worst years ever for transport workers killed on the job. Close to 11,000 collisions occurred Canada-wide involving large trucks in 2018, an increase of 12 per cent compared to 2011.
The simplistic explanation for the increase in accidents is the expansion of the truck fleet on the road during times of economic growth. Marc Cadieux, President of the Quebec Trucking Association went so far as to say, “If next year we fall into a recession, we won’t be on the road as much and our track record [of accidents, injuries and fatalities] will improve.”
Canadian truckers refuse to accept this superficial and, one could say, criminal analysis that their security is compromised during periods of economic growth to satisfy the drive of the supranational monopolies for wealth and power. Workers refuse to consider their lives as fair game in the empire-building of the financial oligarchy. Their deaths and those of others, as “road kill,” cannot be explained away as normal or logical statistics that result from more trucks being on the road. Such anti-social pragmatic notions regarding the rights of the people are unacceptable and must not pass! Solutions can and must be found!
Truckers demand working conditions that guarantee that at the end of the day, they will return home to their families. Transport workers, just like all other workers, do not see themselves as statistics and fair game to be sacrificed on the altar of maximum profit for the rich oligarchs. Their right to healthy and safe working conditions must be guaranteed under all conditions and circumstances.
During the election, let us ensure that wherever they can, transport workers speak out without hesitation for the rights of the living and in memory of those killed on the job. Workers demand accountability in politics and refuse to accept the silent complicity of the representatives of the rich in the House of Commons.
Empower Yourself Now!
Normand Chouinard is a transport worker and the MLPC candidate in La Prairie, Quebec.
(Photos: STTP camoniers)
– Louis Lang –
The cartel parties with seats in Parliament have differences amongst themselves when it comes to making promises about vague generalities but they are in unanimous agreement that issues of concern for the people are not to be discussed.
The article in Renewal Update No. 28 entitled, “The Role of the ‘Leaders Debates’ in Confounding What Is at Stake in this Election” hits the nail right on the head when it points out that the “leaders’ debates” and media coverage of the election are exclusionary, present no alternative and have nothing to say about matters that concern the people.
The article says, “The people persist in rejecting the anti-social offensive with strikes and other actions. They oppose the destruction of manufacturing jobs, the pillage of the natural resources and the undermining of social programs and the public services on which so many Canadians depend.”
In the fantasyland of the cartel party leaders, the problems created by the anti-social offensive do not merit discussion. Not one word has been said about how Canada Post and the Liberal government abused postal workers and their rights in the last round of negotiations. The Crown corporation and Trudeau government refused to negotiate for months and when they did speak had only proposals for roll-backs in wages and benefits and working conditions.
Postal workers expressed in action their frustration with this refusal to negotiate by organizing rotating strikes last fall. The Liberal government, instead of instructing Canada Post to negotiate, imposed back-to-work legislation, criminalizing the just struggle of postal workers for their claims on what belongs to them by right.
Should this problem of a ruling elite refusing to negotiate terms of employment with the working class not be something discussed in an election? Instead of negotiations, workers are facing dictate, prolonged lockouts and criminalization. Postal workers have been raising these problems for years and insist they must be discussed during elections because they concern all Canadians.
Privatization to Pay the Rich
At Canada Post, privatization has already occurred. Both Liberal and Conservative governments have imposed measures to deregulate various postal services. Canada Post has lost its state-mandated monopoly on package distribution to global monopolies like FedEx, UPS and DHL. This deprives Canada Post and Canadians of much needed added-value that could go both into renewing the post office and towards general state revenue for investments in social programs. The corporation has also reduced direct home delivery and closed many retail outlets, handing over the best locations to private companies such as Shoppers Drug Mart and London Drugs.
The backward trend towards privatization to pay the rich is accompanied with constant downward pressure on working conditions and the claims of workers on the value they produce in the form of wages, benefits and pensions. A formidable weapon in this attack is the government use of legislation to criminalize workers, like the Trudeau government did last winter, forcing postal workers to end their rotating strikes under threat of imprisonment and heavy fines.
The struggle of postal workers for their rights extends into every community across the country and reflects in many ways the fight of working people for an economy that favours them and not the rich. The fight to defend postal workers’ rights and a public post office is part of the fight to defend the principle of a universal postal service to which all Canadians are equally entitled. This is a matter that concerns all Canadians.
The cartel parties want to cover up the striving of the people to provide solutions to the problems they face and for a new direction for the economy and democratic renewal of politics. To counter this refusal, workers must speak in their own name and organize their own forums and media to discuss the important matters of concern facing the people and society.
Louis Lang is a former President of Ottawa Local 580 of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and the MLPC candidate in Pontiac, Quebec.
– Yvon Breton –
The September 27 demonstrations in Canada and around the world calling for immediate action on climate change brought forth the absurdity of a situation where the vast majority of the people demand one thing in a very clear voice and the tiny minority who hold power continue to do another. Many placards have appeared in the marches across Canada linking the lack of action in the face of climate change to the lack of power of the people.
Whatever the outcome of the October 21 election may be, it is clear that the measures needed to turn things around in the battle against climate change will not be implemented. Following his meeting with Greta Thunberg, Prime Minister Trudeau said that his government may not be doing enough to protect the environment but a Conservative government would be much worse. To say that a different government would do much worse is of no consolation.
The crisis of representative democracy is such that those running for re-election openly say that they will not abide by the will of the people and will continue to abide by the will of a tiny rich minority whose narrow and private interests must prevail at all times. Not to speak of the fact that those who would “do worse” can be brought in at the whim of the rich minority. One camp, with the complicity of the media, can simply publish damning photos or evidence against the other camp and a “switch in orientation” can be effected without the will of the people having any impact whatsoever.
In the marches on September 27, talk about having an impact was widespread. Marchers felt the historic character of being able to gather such a broad unity around such an important issue and pronounce such a clear verdict of the people. The real impact is that neither the current Liberal government nor the Conservatives or any others who have claims to represent the people can now pretend that they are abiding by the will of the people, that they “represent” Canadians. This has forced Trudeau to go around like a shameless arrogant corrupt politician who can only reply that “the other party is worse” and Andrew Scheer to simply disappear for the day.
The other impact is that it gives the youth and workers confidence in their ability to speak for themselves. It shows what it means to speak for themselves, as opposed to giving the authority to someone else to speak on their behalf. Those they authorize to speak for them will necessarily betray them time after time because the time is now for the people to organize to themselves become the decision-makers in all things that affect their lives. That is what is meant by humanizing the social and natural environment. The youth provided what the face of the democratic personality looks like, that is the personality of modern social human beings.
(Photos: RU, U. Lemerise)
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