February 6, 2012 - No. 22
The Battle for Toronto
• The Battle
for Toronto - David Greig
to Account to Defend Canadians
• Stop the Theft of Caterpillar EMD Means of
Production and Livelihoods!
• Labour Leaders Condemn EMD Closure and
Government Refusal to Protect Canadians and the Economy
• EMD Petition Tabled in Parliament Prior to
University of Toronto
• Teaching Assistants Set Strike Date for
February 24 - Christine Nugent
The Battle for Toronto
Thousands in Toronto participate in rally
to oppose cuts to social programs, September 26, 2011.
Torontonians awoke Sunday morning to the news that a
tentative agreement had been reached between the City of Toronto and
workers of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 416.
Details of the proposed settlement have not been
released yet but Mark Ferguson, President of Local 416 said the union
made numerous concessions. At the same time Mayor Rob Ford and
his gang were not able to follow through with their "take it or
leave it" hooliganism to unilaterally change the contract to
clear the decks for unconstrained privatization. That is an important
point, not only for the remaining 24,000 municipal workers still in
contract negotiations, but for the entire workers' movement and its
allies. The Battle for Toronto is whether Ford and his gang
succeed in wrecking public services and privatizing public assets or
the workers' movement and its allies prevail and humanize the social
environment in Toronto. The workers' movement must ensure the outcome
favours the workers and defends the rights of all.
One year ago, the City of Toronto administration headed by
multi-millionaire anti-social warrior Rob Ford as mayor had just
With a monopoly media supported campaign of deception about defending
the generic taxpayer he had managed to collect the votes of barely 24
of Toronto residents and with that, claim an "overwhelming mandate"
together with his brother and other like-minded city council
representatives of private monopoly right, to implement the agenda that
has followed. Overflowing with arrogance, this regime was rapidly
moving to impose its retrograde version of transit development,
initiate its attack on public housing and sanitation, and had announced
its general aim of cutting, privatizing or selling off "everything
that's not nailed down." It was already clear the thousands of city
workers would be the main targets of this agenda that sought to portray
their livelihoods as the alleged "gravy" Ford has evoked ad nauseum.
This agenda's aim is to put what has remained public directly in the
hands of big private interests and usurp the just claims of the people,
and the claims of workers on the product of their labour. This includes
destruction of a Canadian standard for their remuneration and security
through these and other means to "pay the rich." But this is not just
special Ford brothers' perversity. On the contrary, it is in line with
the drive of private monopoly interest across Canada at the various
levels of government and internationally. Both the Harper government,
before and after its May 2011 majority, and the McGuinty provincial
government, re-elected in October 2011, pursue
the same sort of objectives. The Ford regime's agenda is very much the
Toronto version of the
agenda affirmed by the G8 and G20, the IMF and by Harper's recent
words in Davos attacking existing standards and benefits as
unaffordable and calling for the degradation of services and
But right from those days about a year ago, the people of Toronto took
up the fight to halt and reverse the reckless course of the city
government. Whether it was in defence of public housing, against
privatization of garbage collection, contracting out of custodial work,
trampling the rights of transit workers and degrading that service, or
in opposition to the cuts to recreational and cultural amenities, the
public libraries, homeless shelters, daycare, nutrition programs or
public health, thousands of Toronto residents went into action. They
packed public, city council and council committee meetings, made
official deputations long into the nights, dominated the city's
official "service review," and swelled mass rallies in April, September
and on January 17. This mobilization has already become a major problem
for the Ford regime, obliging it to abandon some retrogressive measures
for the moment, contributing to some defeats in council, and division
and crisis within the regime and its shrinking council majority. All
that is left of the supposed "overwhelming mandate" to cut, sell or
privatize public services and assets are empty assertions about unknown
voices telling the mayor to "stay the course," talk of a "silent
majority" in the infamous tradition of Dick Nixon and naked exercise
of power by those in office.
Right from the 2010 election campaign, Ford and company have sought to
divide and set the people and workers against each other especially on
the basis that since so many must survive with low incomes and lack of
benefits and security, then those workers who have a degree of
remuneration and guarantees in line with a Canadian standard must be
deprived of that as well, this being somehow necessary and beneficial.
But in the course of the struggle against this regime's anti-social
agenda the reality behind its rhetoric has been increasingly exposed on
this and other issues and people's consciousness is growing.
In fact, the just claims of all workers and those who are not rich are
under attack, whether by destroying a standard for remuneration,
targeting their defence organizations, cutting jobs and putting
downward pressure on all workers, eliminating and degrading public
services and programs on which people depend, and increasing user
fees. The intended beneficiaries are big private and often monopoly
business interests, certainly not any workers or the poor. The task
facing society is affirmation of the rights of all, including a
of security and well-being for all as humans and as workers who produce
the wealth and provide the services society needs.
The city workers, especially the about 30,000 whose contracts expired
on December 31, including the 6,000 outside workers of Local 416 who as
of February 3 faced imminent unilateral imposition of utterly
unacceptable terms and conditions of work, are engaged in a just
struggle that is an integral and crucial part of the people's fight
against the city's anti-social agenda. Their effort to defend their job
security is an important and obvious obstacle to the regime's
privatization, contracting out and elimination of public services and
programs. The regime's negotiators are adamant on this point in order
to have maximum freedom to put the workers on the street and redirect
their former pay to contracts with big private interests and otherwise
pay the rich. Hence, the defence of the workers' job security is
defence of public services and programs.
As the providers of public services and programs these workers have a
just claim to a level of security and well-being in line with a
Canadian standard and the work they perform, and this favours the
stability and quality of the services as well. Likewise, defence of
this standard for terms and conditions of work favours and is part of
the struggle for such a standard for all workers. Furthermore, the
strength and very existence of the union as the workers' defence
organization is at stake here, and victory for the city workers favours
continuation and growth of organization for all workers -- the means to
also achieve their rights, in the face of the drive inspired by private
interest to reduce workers to bare subsistence and
powerlessness. Fight to defend the standard we have; fight to extend
that standard to all!
What has developed here is in a real sense the Battle for Toronto. Is
this Toronto to be or go on being a city of the rich, the financiers,
speculators and domestic and foreign monopolies represented by the Ford
regime and the other levels of government where workers and other
people are powerless and degraded? Or will the workers' and people's
fight continue to advance, to limit, defeat and reverse the Ford
regime's agenda as part of Canadians' whole fight against
neoliberal retrogression and monopoly right. The latter is the only
acceptable outcome. At this time, this means above all uniting with the
city workers to defeat the Ford regime.
Hold Governments to Account to Defend
Stop the Theft of Caterpillar EMD Means of
Production and Livelihoods!
Ontario Political Forum
joins with other Canadians in
roundly denouncing the U.S. monopoly Caterpillar for announcing the
destruction of the Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) factory in London,
Ontario. The workers' movement has taken a clear stand that this U.S.
monopoly has no right to destroy EMD and that the Canadian government
has the social responsibility to say "No!" and stay Caterpillar's
This wrecking of a modern and productive plant by a U.S.
monopoly is akin to the U.S. military attacking London with bombs
and destroying the plant in war. How can it be viewed otherwise than as
an act of economic warfare? The recent history of this sordid affair is
well-known to all and the government must be held to account to protect
Canada and its productive facilities. In 2005, GM sold EMD to U.S.
parasites Greenbriar Equity Group and Berkshire Partners who in turn
flipped the company to Caterpillar for a reported big score in 2010,
which in turn planned to steal the means of production and livelihoods
and move them to Indiana. How can the government allow this foreign
manipulation of our productive economy? Does it not have the
responsibility to protect Canadians and their economy?
Does this mean that any monopoly that has amassed enough
money from their global operations can just waltz into Canada and steal
the means of production and livelihoods? This cannot be allowed to
pass! Is this not what U.S. Steel did to Stelco? Because of Canada's
size relative to the big imperialist powers, Canada's economy,
livelihoods have become
sitting ducks for destruction by any monopoly that has enough cash.
Canadians have said, "Enough!" and hold governments to account to
defend Canada or get out
of the way and let workers and their allies run the country and defend
our economy and way of life.
Manufacturing Yes! Nation-Wrecking No!
Stop the U.S. Theft of EMD Means of Production and Livelihoods!
Hold Governments to Account to Defend Canadians!
Canada-Wide Pickets in
Support of EMD Workers
On January 26, CAW
organized pickets across the country in support of locked-out EMD
workers. From top:
Dartmouth, Montreal, Toronto, Sudbury, Maidstone, St.
Catharines, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver.
Labour Leaders Condemn EMD Closure
Protect Canadians and the Economy
Trade union leaders condemned the
callous decision of Caterpillar to close Electro Motive Diesel (EMD) in
London, moving the technology and patents to the U.S. and damaging the
Canadian Auto Worker President Ken Lewenza said: "The Stephen Harper
government is entirely in the pocket of the corporate elite and has
shown absolute disregard for Canadian workers and their families. I am
disgusted at this government and its indifference towards the suffering
of workers and the unemployed. The Harper government was elected by
Canadians, but only seems able to represent multi-national
Tim Carrie, President of CAW Local 27 which represents over 5,500
workers in the London area said: "Even though we predicted that the
plant could close, it's devastating when it actually happens. This is
truly rotten behaviour. Now we're going to do everything that we can
for our members."
CAW Electro-Motive chairperson Bob Scott said that members learned in
the morning that the plant would close -- the company gave the union
absolutely no advance notice. "Imagine the shock that our members felt
at hearing about losing their job, on the radio," Scott said. "It's
unbelievable that Caterpillar would string our members along and lock
them out in the cold for six weeks, when it had no intention of
reopening the plant. This is absolutely sickening behaviour on the part
of this corporation."
Dave Coles, President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers
Union of Canada (CEP) pledged his union's support to the CAW and its
members. "This decision is a slap in the face to Canada which gave
Electro-Motive tax breaks to protect jobs. It's an act of corporate
aggression against Canada and we should retaliate with an immediate
tariff against Caterpillar products imported to Canada. The Ontario and
federal governments should take the same action in this situation as
former Premier Danny Williams did at AbitibiBowater in Newfoundland --
they should seize the Caterpillar assets in London and ensure that all
community and worker obligations are fully met.
"Why do we have governments, if not to protect Canadians against this
kind of corporate aggression?" Coles said. "There will be a strong
labour response to Caterpillar's aggression against Canada and CEP is
prepared to throw its full support behind any actions that the CAW and
central labour bodies take to achieve justice for these workers."
Ontario Federation of Labour President Sid Ryan said, "The real
question is why they were allowed to do it. What should shock every
Canadian is the fact that the Harper government is allowing
multi-national corporations to gobble up Canadian manufacturing, strip
our innovation and technology and then ship jobs and production to
"As Prime Minister," Ryan said "it is Stephen Harper's role to defend
Canadian jobs and our standard of living. He has a responsibility to
strengthen the Investment Canada Act
to require foreign corporations to
demonstrate a 'net Canadian benefit' before being allowed to acquire
Canadian companies. Instead, Harper has rewarded greedy corporations
with publicly-funded corporate tax cuts that further enhance profits
while delivering no jobs or growth to our economy. Harper's message to
the world is that Canada is open for business for corporate robber
Ken Neumann, United Steelworkers (USW) National Director for Canada
said: "There is no longer any argument -- coordinated corporate attacks
on working families are being aided and abetted by the federal
Conservatives and the Ontario Liberal government. Stephen Harper's
Conservatives and Dalton McGuinty's Liberals are absolutely useless to
workers whose livelihoods are threatened by multinational corporations.
We see it in London today, just as we witnessed the attacks by U.S.
Steel on Hamilton and Nanticoke families and by Brazil-based Vale
against thousands of Sudbury and Port Colborne families."
Neumann continued: "The Harper Conservatives, along with Quebec's
Liberal government, have also forsaken nearly 800 workers in Alma,
Que., who have been locked out of their jobs by foreign resource giant
Rio Tinto in a brazen attempt to eliminate decent jobs. With income
inequality continuing to worsen in our society, working families need
their governments to stand up for them more than ever. Instead, the
federal Conservatives and provincial Liberals consent to repeated
corporate attacks on our working and living standards."
EMD Petition Tabled in Parliament Prior to
MP Irene Mathyssen (London-Fanshawe, NDP) presented a
petition in the
House of Commons, a day before Caterpillar's closure announcement. She
explained that the petition calls on the Government of Canada to
conditions of sale of Electro-Motive to Progress Rail, investigate the
bad faith bargaining by Progress Rail,
award employment insurance benefits to locked out workers and request
that a constructive dismissal package be made available.
Excerpt From Hansard,
February 2, 2012
"[...] I have a petition from several of my constituents
and members of the
community in regard to the lockout of Electro-Motive workers by
Progress Rail, Caterpillar.
"The company refuses to negotiate in good faith. It has
asked the workers to take a more than 50% cut in their wages and a
significant cut to their benefits. It is seeking to undermine their
pensions that they have paid into all of their lives.
"The workers are petitioning the Government of Canada to
investigate the conditions of sale of Electro-Motive to Progress Rail,
investigate the bad faith bargaining by Progress Rail, award employment
insurance benefits to locked out workers and request that a
constructive dismissal package be made available.
"These workers have devoted their lives to making this a
profitable corporation. Profitable it is; $1.14 billion in the last
quarter and profits are up 60%. These workers need and demand justice."
University of Toronto
Teaching Assistants Set Strike Date for February 24
CUPE Local 3902
30 membership meeting rejects tentative agreement.
The University of Toronto administration has created
conditions for uncertainty and disruption in the lives of the
institution's faculty and students. They have refused to resolve the
issues facing 4,200 student instructors, teaching assistants, lab
demonstrators and other contracted education workers at the U of T. The
collective agreement for students who work as instructors and TAs
expired on April 30, 2011.
They are represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
Local 3902. Their elected bargaining committee has been meeting with
the university since
July 2011 to negotiate a new collective agreement
to fix graduate funding, protect research fellowships, improve
tutorials and labs, and support senior students.
The employer continued to stall at the bargaining table forcing their
union to hold a strike vote in November. The membership voted 91 per
favour of a strike should the administration not address their key
The U of T administration has been wreaking havoc in the learning
conditions of students and the working conditions of education workers.
Support for Upper Year
The following points from Local 3902 explain the
outstanding issues facing the negotiations in terms of the support for
required for upper year students to complete their studies:
- Average number of
years it takes to
finish a PhD at U of T: 6
- Funding-package guarantee (salary)
for graduate students in years 5 or 6: $0.00
- Upon entering the university many
were told that they would get a Guaranteed Doctoral Completion Grant to
sustain them after the four to five years of guaranteed funding. In
April of 2010, the Administration eliminated that Grant. This grant had
been in place for 10 years.
- Tuition and fees paid by domestic
graduate students at U of T: $8,041 (increasing at 4%) per year
- Tuition and fees paid by
international students at U of T: $17,922.36 (increasing at 5%) per year
For the international students who make up 25% of the
membership, it's impossible to accept work off campus or even to take
on loans and without work or funding, these students face deportation.
By comparison, tuition and fees paid by graduate students at McGill
The Need to Decrease
Local 3902 also points the difficult working conditions
facing instructors and the need to decrease tutorial sizes:
- Percentage of tutorials with more
than 50 students: 24.3%
- Percentage of tutorials with more
than 35 students: 41.8%
- Number of tutorials with more than
100 students: 100
- Percentage of tutorials with fewer
than 20 students in 2006: 40%
- Percentage today: 23%
Local 3902 states, "Good teaching becomes impossible with tutorials
this big." Teaching assistants are often forced to work as virtual
slave labour, working extra hours without
pay, in order to offer even the most minimal support to their students.
Graduate Research Funding
Graduate students are accepted to U of T to do
original research, Local 3902 points out. But research grants
(fellowships) that once
funded graduate research are being taken away by the U of T
administration. The union provides the following facts as context for
the living conditions of graduate students:
Low-income cut-off (poverty line) for a family of one in Toronto
Funding-package guarantee (salary) of graduate-student workers in years
1-4: $15,000 plus fees
Average salary of top 50 U of T Administrators: $304,077.33 (+
$5,574.67 fringe benefits)
Prepared by CUPE 3902.
According to U of T's website on faculty-research and
academic reputation, the university "actively contribute[s] to a
innovative society, from research discovery to market-ready product: U
of T ranks fourth overall for commercialization among North American
public universities, third in the world in published academic research
-- U of T researchers are among the world's most productive, and give
students the extraordinary opportunity to learn from leading minds."
Local 3902 is calling on the university provide the
necessary support for graduate students in terms of their wages and
working conditions, whether research or teaching, and also improve
learning conditions of students by lowering class sizes.
On December 5, the university, with the arrogance of
those who deem themselves entitled, walked away from the bargaining
table and filed for conciliation.
The union reported that they disagreed with the
university's assessment. From its perspective, there was still a
great deal to be accomplished at the bargaining table, and it saw no
reason it could not work productively, with or without a third-party
Talks continued with a conciliator in January. The union
called a January 30 membership meeting to discuss presenting a
tentative agreement for a ratification vote. Upon hearing that their
outstanding issues had not effectively been addressed by the employer's
last offer, the members decided by a 96 per cent majority not to send
agreement to a ratification vote. Not one of the nearly 300
members present spoke in favour of the administration's last offer,
members lined up by the dozens to speak against it.
The members also unanimously passed a motion of
confidence in the bargaining team, urging them to go back to the
bargaining table and negotiate a better contract with the employer.
They unanimously set a strike date of February 24th.
As students and as education workers, Local 3902 Unit 1
vows to continue meeting with the administration.
"We have been trying to negotiate a fair contract for
seven months," said James Nugent, the bargaining team's chief
spokesperson. "We've been fighting for better learning conditions for
our students and better working conditions for our members. Last night,
our members sent us back to the bargaining table to keep fighting for
those things, and that's what we intend to do."
Support for U of T
Students Support their TAs
Click here for
video produced by the Ontario Public Interest Research Group
(OPIRG)-Toronto in support of the University of Toronto Teaching
The University of Toronto Faculty Association, on
January 30, issued a
letter to Provost Cheryl Misak in support of a fair contract for CUPE
3902 members. The letter suggests that CUPE members "are raising
important and legitimate issues in negotiations…that point to widely
shared concerns about the quality of teaching at the U of T and about
the manner in which our graduate students should be treated as both
students and employees."
The faculty made it very clear that they will not do the work of the
education workers in the event of a strike. The faculty letter says
that faculty "do not have to and should not take on additional work."
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