August 7, 2012 - No. 44
The McGuinty Liberal government is set to announce the
date for the by-election in Kitchener-Waterloo any day. The by-election
has to be held by the end of October. It is called to replace
Conservative MPP Elizabeth
Witmer. Witmer had to step down due to her appointment by Premier
chair of the Workplace Safety Insurance
Board. Witmer was the Minister of Labour under the Harris government
which is responsible for implementing regressive measures that
affected the lives of injured workers.
The riding of Kitchener-Waterloo, according to the
October 2011 Election Ontario figures, has 98,268 electors. In the
provincial election, 21,665 voted for the Progressive Conservatives,
17,837 voted for Liberals, 8,250 for the NDP, 1,308 for the Green
Party, 316 for an Independent candidate and 316 for the Freedom Party.
This means that in that riding, of the total number of electors, 70 per
cent either did not vote or voted for neither the Liberals nor the
Conservatives. In other words, their defeat can be achieved if a strong
political force is organized with this aim in mind. All out to defeat
the Liberals and the Conservatives in the upcoming by-election!
Besides the Kitchener-Waterloo by-election, a
by-election must also be
held in the riding of Vaughan, to replace Greg Sorbara (Liberal) who
months after being elected. According to a media interview, Sorbara,
who is also Liberal Party Campaign
Chair and Chair of the Ontario Liberal Fund, said that "he needed to
put all of his energies to ensure that the Liberal Party policy
proposals, political organization and financial resources are in order
to contest and win the next election."
He does not say what he means by "the next election" but
he did say
that the Liberal Party faced difficult times in the Legislature in May
and June. That was when the politicians passed the anti-people
The announcement of who will be the Liberal candidates
Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughan is expected to be made on Thursday,
August 9. The date for the by-elections has not been set yet but the
Kitchener-Waterloo by-election must take place before the end of
October and there are rumours that the vote will be held on the same
day in both ridings.
After the election in October 2011, the Liberals had 53
seats and with the election of Dave Levac as Speaker, they had 52 votes
in the 107-seat Legislature. The Liberals now have 52 seats and one of
those is the Speaker. The Progressive Conservatives have 36
seats, the NDP 17 and there are the two vacancies where by-elections
must be held.
A win in both ridings would give the Liberals a
Speaker, who can only vote if there is a tie, traditionally sides with
the government but, by tradition, it is not seen well if the Speaker
were to vote no confidence in the government. This means that, even if
the Liberals were to win in Kitchener-Waterloo
as well as Vaughan, the Liberal government would still fall short of an
So what are the implications of the by-elections for the
workers? In the opinion of Ontario Political Forum,
by providing themselves with the aim to defeat the Liberals and the
Conservatives and working towards this goal, the workers will smash the
reluctance to participate actively and directly in
the political domain on the basis of their own independent politics and
aim and this will contribute to building a political opposition capable
of defending the rights of the workers and people in Ontario. It is an
The riding of Kitchener-Waterloo, with a population of
126,740, takes in the City of Waterloo and part of the north end of
Kitchener. Waterloo is considered a technology hub with a number of
high tech companies located there. There are two universities located
in the riding, Wilfred Laurier University and the University of
The Kitchener area has been affected by the destruction
of manufacturing which is taking place with Budd Automotive shutting
down its Kitchener frame plant which employed 1,500 workers in 2008.
Many other manufacturers, including Electrohome and Kaufman shoe have
also closed their operations in the area. In October 2011 Maple Leaf
Consumer Foods announced it will be closing its Kitchener manufacturing
plant (the former Schneider's plant) which employs 1,200 workers within
headquarters of the three largest insurance companies in Canada are
located in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding, as well as the headquarters
of Research in
Motion. While the people bear the brunt of the destruction of
manufacturing and layoffs in the region, it is these private interests
which the McGuinty Liberals and
serve in a manner that is harmful to the public
good. The former Conservative MPP Elizabeth Witmer, who has now joined
the Liberal government's agency the Workplace Safety Insurance Board,
is certainly a representative of these private interests in the
Legislature, as will be the candidates both the Liberals and
Conservatives put up for election.
In this regard, the upcoming by-election in
Kitchener-Waterloo is an
opportunity to oppose the neoliberal agenda of the McGuinty Liberals
and the Hudak Progressive Conservatives, both proponents of the lie
that workers, the producers of wealth in society and the providers of
services, are the cause of the economic
crisis. These politicians are instrumental in allowing the wrecking of
our economy and workers' lives. This is shown by the role they play in
allowing the demise of manufacturing, phony bankruptcies, and putting
thousands of workers into the streets. These politicians stand for
providing monopoly right with a guarantee
at the expense of public right and this must not pass!
A political force can be built in Kitchener-Waterloo
this neoliberal agenda of the rich and their political representatives
and there is no time to waste in showing what this force is made of.
The arrogance of these politicians knows no bounds as
the people with their anti-social, neoliberal agenda. The attacks on
the workers and their livelihoods, their organizations and social
programs, such as health care, social services and education, all
needed in a modern society, mean that the workers
and their allies cannot entrust their fate to anyone. They must become
decisive in mounting an effective resistance to these attacks and
organizing for change. Workers in Ontario have opened a path by
breaking new ground in mounting effective resistance and mobilizing
their members and communities in various
ways. Now is the time to take things further. The by-election is a good
place to start!
Harper Government Hands Out Money
to Cover Up Youth
The recent mass layoff of RIM employees
has affected thousands of workers in the Kitchener area, many of whom
are youth. RIM was supposed to be Canada's "model company," the
"knowledge-based economy," the "Canada brand" for the future. The youth
are asking: Isn't this
supposed to be the employment sector of the future? What happened?
The government takes no responsibility to solve the
making sure Canada's economic base is sound and sustainable and that
all citizens and residents are guaranteed a livelihood. Neither the
workers nor the youth exercise any control over the direction of the
economy nor do they have a say in how
to make sure their right to a livelihood can be provided with a
Instead of dealing with these crucial issues, now the
Government has announced that it is giving the Argus Residence for
Young People in Cambridge, which borders Kitchener where the mass
layoffs took place, more than $446,000 from the Skills Link program.
The program provides funding to help
youth overcome barriers to employment. It is directed at youth who have
disabilities, are single parents, of Aboriginal descent or recent
immigrants, live in rural and remote areas or have dropped out of high
Skills Link is part of the Government of Canada's Youth
Strategy (YES). The fact is that jobs do not await the youth who
acquire the skills, as seen in the case of the laid off RIM employees,
but the fact they have skills will be used to let the government off
the hook from funding education and
providing jobs or looking after the well-being of the youth when they
have no jobs, including paying off the student debts of those who lost
their jobs through no fault of their own.
The announcement was made by Gary Goodyear,
Minister of State
(Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for
Southern Ontario) and Member of Parliament for Cambridge, on behalf of
Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development. It is
"to help them gain the
skills, knowledge and experience they need to enter and succeed in the
job market," Goodyear said, ignoring the irony that mass layoffs have
just taken place with Canada's "most successful" employer.
It is political posturing at the expense of the hardship
youth in this area and in the face of the growing opposition to the
Harper, Hudak, McGuinty service to monopoly right.
The youth in this area have a self-interest in taking up
political opposition that changes the direction of the economy to make
sure public right, not monopoly right is upheld. Many area youth have
joined the work to defeat the insecurity, chaos and disruptions to
their lives caused by the neoliberal
agenda and the regime where they have to beg for handouts from federal
and provincial governments whose aim is not the well-being of the youth
but to make political hay.
Discussion on Need to Defend the
Interests of Working People
Government Uses Kitchener-Waterloo By-Election as
Backdrop to Issue More Threats Against
Teachers and Education Workers
On August 2, Dalton McGuinty started an early
anti-social crusade in
Kitchener, the location of the first announced by-election, upping the
ante in the government's campaign to wreck education in Ontario by
denying the rights of the teachers and education workers, undermining
existing arrangements at the local
board level and vilifying anyone who stands in the way.
At a newly renovated elementary school in Kitchener, the
announced that he has the power to recall the Legislature for an
emergency session before Labour Day in order to introduce legislation
that, as the press is reporting, "will force teachers back to the
classroom." Talk to any teacher or their organizations
and you will learn that they had every intention of returning to the
classroom; they are not on strike!
Will he recall the Legislature before August 31, the day
teachers and education workers' collective agreements expire in order
to impose the government's will on the boards, the teachers and the
education workers and their organizations? Will McGuinty count on the
Hudak Conservatives to join in passing
anti-worker, anti-union legislation?
"We are running out of
runway. School is about to begin. I'm calling
on all of our school boards and teacher groups to do everything they
possibly can at their level now to see if they might secure agreements
based on the road map we set out...," McGuinty said. He has been
preparing conditions for an all-out
takeover of the education system to ensure the success of the
implementation of the government's austerity budget. The government
threats and bullying has led to school boards, teachers and education
workers and their organizations all lining up against these latest
anti-social measures. The government's aim is to
attack the unions and their right to collective bargaining and deny the
people any say.
It is a matter of principle for the people to be able to
exercise their right to participate in making the decisions which
affect their lives. The space for change must be occupied on this front
by making sure the representatives of the private interests which seek
to trump the public interest are deprived
of their ability to do so.
The upcoming by-elections in Kitchener-Waterloo and
Vaughan are an
opportunity for teachers and education workers to take up building the
political opposition by defeating the McGuinty Liberals and the Hudak
Conservatives due to their attacks on teachers, education workers and
workers from all sectors of
the economy as well as their right to organize. These political parties
must be held to account for their anti-worker agenda and doing so will
put the teachers and education workers in a better position to hold
governments to account so that they take up social responsibility for
society and make sure the system of
education is provided adequate public funding and given pride of place
to contribute to forming a healthy and vibrant younger generation.
Workers' Centre of CPC(M-L) Monthly Meeting
At the monthly political forum held by the Workers'
Centre of the
Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) on August 4 lively
discussion took place on recent developments in Ontario including the
government's refusal to negotiate with teachers and education workers,
the release of the Progressive Conservative
(PC) Caucus' White Paper Paths to Prosperity: Flexible Labour
the situation concerning injured workers and the upcoming by-elections
in Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughan. The meeting took on added importance
as it also served to reaffirm the decision to contribute to the
campaign to end
the marginalization of injured workers by mobilizing the maximum number
of people to help to sell and distribute the newspaper Justice for
in Kitchener-Waterloo and other Ontario cities. It is important to
target Kitchener-Waterloo when defending injured workers given that
in the Ontario Legislature is vacant because McGuinty picked
Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Elizabeth Witmer, a PC and former Labour
Minister under the Harris government, to be the new chair of the
Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and her program contributes to
demeaning injured workers. The overall aim
of the intervention is to end the marginalization of the entire polity
by developing confidence that an independent political force can be
built in an organized way that opposes all aspects of the neoliberal
agenda of the rich and their political representatives.
The Justice for Injured Workers
newspaper produced by the Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups.
To get a copy, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speakers presented on recent developments and how they
the political space which belongs to everyone by right is increasingly
being used to deliver retrogression as evidenced in the Liberal
government's austerity budget. Particular concern was raised about the
pressure put on people not to find an
alternative to the current situation and instead to choose among the
political parties which becomes an exercise in selecting the least-bad
candidate and party. Such is the case now as Hudak's all-out assault on
labour rights in the PC White Paper allegedly makes McGuinty's assault
on labour rights look "less bad."
The discussion made the point that the McGuinty government is carrying
out the anti-social offensive of behalf of the same financial oligarchy
that Hudak serves. The issue is that whoever emerges as the champion
for the pay-the-rich schemes and can get elected is who the financial
oligarchy wants to govern on
their behalf. There is no better example of the anti-labour attacks the
rich are unleashing in Ontario than the McGuinty government's refusal
to negotiate with teachers and education workers, among other things.
In this regard, McGuinty inherited the course set by the Harris
government in 1995.
A representative of the injured workers gave the example
McGuinty's government did nothing to revoke Bill 99, introduced by the
Harris government, which reduced employers' WSIB rates by about 30 per
cent between 1996 and 2001 leaving a $12 billion funding gap. In
addition, McGuinty's appointment
of Elizabeth Witmer as the new chair of the WSIB reinstates the same
person who, as Minister of Labour during the Harris regime, initiated
the retrogression at the WSIB.
The meeting pointed out the importance of workers and
organizing their own politics for the upcoming by-elections and
resisting sectarian politics introduced by the parties and aided by the
monopoly media. In this way, a truly independent and new politics of
workers and people can be built.
For more information on this work and how to get
involved, contact Ontario Political Forum, email@example.com.
Discussion on Progressive Conservatives'
Fraudulent Consultation to Promote Anti-Worker,
Workers in Ontario and their organizations are
considering the significance and impact of the labour relations policy
paper released this summer by the Ontario Progressive
Conservative (PC) Party, Paths to Prosperity: Flexible Labour
Markets. In this policy outline, which they call a "White Paper,"
the PCs advocate a complete revamping of
Ontario labour legislation to replicate anti-worker, anti-union "right
to work" legislation enacted in several American states, that workers
in those jurisdictions call "right to be slaves" laws.
According to the PCs, changes in labour relations laws
are necessary because these laws block wages from being pushed low
enough for Ontario to compete in retaining and attracting
international investors. The PCs use the closing of Electro-Motive
Diesel in London, Ontario as their "poster child" for these assertions.
Shortly after it purchased Electro-Motive the
aggressive American monopoly Caterpillar organized a phony lockout of
the unionized workers then closed the plant and transferred production
to Indiana, a "right to work" state where
Caterpillar pays locomotive builders much lower wages.
"The recent loss of the Caterpillar locomotive plant in
London was just one example of Ontario's new reality. International
corporations won't pay a significant premium to employ
Ontario workers. Increasing productivity [lower wages] is essential to
attract and retain both domestic and international business
operations," says the PC policy document.
Changes advocated by the PCs fall into three categories:
changes to union security provisions and union governance; elimination
of prevailing wage protection for construction workers
on government construction/maintenance projects and changes to the
Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) and the Workplace Safety and
Insurance Board (WSIB). The changes being
promoted by the PCs are aimed at smashing workers' defence
organizations and forcing workers to accept the dictate of private and
public sector employers over wages, working
conditions, health and safety and compensation for workers injured on
Trade union security provisions, known as the Rand
Formula, which require all workers in a bargaining unit benefiting from
collective bargaining to pay
union dues, would be eliminated. Employers' collection of union dues
union members through the payroll check-off system would be eliminated.
These measures would put workers'
organizations under constant financial pressure and put the
collectivity of the workers under pressure of employer interference and
blackmail. Other measures put forward by the PCs with
rhetoric about "transparency" would subject unions to increased outside
supervision and regulation, despite unions being self-financing and
self-organized free associations of workers. Both
private and public sector would be stripped of union security and
subject to outside intervention in their operations.
Prevailing Construction Wages
Another category of changes proposed by the PCs is
inspired by the Harper government's repeal of the Fair Wage Act
recent omnibus budget. Repeal of the Fair Wage Act abolished
a one hundred-year-old government policy aimed at creating stability in
the construction sector through
establishing prevailing construction wage rates for government
contracts. The PCs would prohibit building trades unions from making
project and maintenance agreements for labour
supply to provincial and municipal institutions and enterprises based
on prevailing wage rates. These changes are promoted as "open
tendering" but what the changes would result in is
opening government capital and maintenance contracts to low-wage
racketeers from the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) and
Merit Contractors and closing them to
unionized building trades workers. Project costs would not decrease;
just the relative shares going to contractors and workers would change
as wages were driven down. Apprentice
training and job site safety would also decline while the chronic
instability of the construction sector would be increased.
Labour Relations and Workplace Safety and Insurance
The section of the PC policy paper on "reform of
workplace agencies" is very vague about the changes
proposed for the OLRB but the intent is clearly to remove the OLRB as
an obstacle to employers imposing their dictate on workers or
collectives of workers. The PCs say that the OLRB,
which supervises collective bargaining and administers the Employment
Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act,
is irrelevant in Ontario's "new
reality" because "... workers prefer to negotiate their terms and
conditions of employment directly with their employer. Both employees
and employers are able to rely on common law and
the existing judicial system for protection." They advocate removing
the quasi-legal status of cases before the OLRB, throwing 60 years of
precedents out the window and reducing OLRB
decisions to "adjudications."
The OLRB according to the PCs needs to be severely
narrowed in its scope of consideration and forced to consider the
"impact of their decisions on workplace productivity and on
economic growth." The PCs have made no secret of the fact that public
sector workers classified as essential workers and interest arbitration
in essential worker contract settlements are
targets of their proposals for changes to the OLRB. Earlier PC
proposals on forcing interest arbitrators to consider the government
budget policy in their decisions have already been
adopted by the McGuinty government.
Changes proposed by the PCs to WSIB amount to a
wholesale conversion of the workers' compensation system into an
insurance scheme run by private insurance companies. It would
complete the process begun by the Harris government when it changed the
name of the Workmen's Compensation Board to Workplace Safety and
Insurance Board in 1998. This was
followed by the cutting of employer assessments by one-third and
drastic cuts to benefits to injured workers. The Harris "reforms" and
movement to convert workers compensation to an
insurance scheme has been continued by the McGuinty government.
Under the new PC proposal employers would be allowed to
"shop" for cheaper rates from private insurers and allowed to opt out
of the WSIB. It says, "The WSIB would serve as an
insurer of last resort, providing coverage to those businesses that
cannot obtain insurance elsewhere." In other words, private insurers
would skim the low risk employers and leave the
high risk employers in the public system. No details are provided about
how employers who opt out would be prevented from abandoning their
share of liability for existing WSIB claims.
Private insurers would have the incentive of profit to drive down
benefits and abuse injured workers. WSIB would be put in a position of
"competing" with private insurers and this
competition would be yet another excuse for further cutting benefits to
Steelworkers Discuss "Paths to Prosperity"
Proposed by Ontario PCs
Local 1005 United Steelworkers, organized at U.S.
Steel's plant in Hamilton, at their weekly Thursday Meetings where they
discuss matters which affect their lives, took up discussion on the
so-called White Paper entitled Paths
to Prosperity: Flexible Labour Markets issued by the Progressive
Conservative Caucus led by Tim Hudak. A report on what the workers had
to say is excerpted below from their newsletter Information Update.
* * *
"We can't let this go unchallenged," one worker said.
"It is called a White Paper because Hudak was criticized during the
election for not having a plan, so now
he can say he has a plan," another pointed out.
"How can anyone make statements like the ones in the
White Paper?" one person said. "Do they want to take us back to the
'20s and '30s?"
"They slam the unions for not being transparent but we
issue monthly financial statements which are public, and any member can
ask and see the reports," another person said.
"Meanwhile, everything the government does is secret and you have to
resort to freedom of information requests to find out what is going on.
And what do you get? Like the secret deal
between U.S. Steel and the federal government, where we can only see
two-thirds of a page of a 31-page document. These politicians have a
lot of nerve."
In discussing the Hudak plan, amongst other things,
workers concluded that Hudak is trying to appeal to lower income
workers in Ontario. He's trying to convince them that if the
wages of the organized workers are reduced, there will be more wages
for the lower income workers. So instead of working at minimum wage,
they will get $12 an hour if they can only
get the higher paid workers to take a cut.
The logic is totally absurd. It doesn't hold water
because once the unions are destroyed, these workers will get nothing
from Hudak. It was also pointed out that Hudak's plan is
appealing to the rich, that if he gets elected he will implement these
measures to ensure that the rich can make a big score.
"I read it twice," one of the workers said. "It is clear
that he is pushing one side of the story. What I am interested in is
what he doesn't tell us, what we have to read between the
"Both Harper and McGuinty have declared that Ontario is
open for business, and while they do this they are attacking our
ability to collectively bargain and attacking the unions. They
are attacking our standard of living, and then at the end they let
these foreign multinationals pack up and leave," one worker pointed out
to highlight why the Thursday Meeting thinks it is
important to find out what the reactionary political parties are
"Hudak talks about more openness from the union, but
when foreign companies come here they don't have to disclose anything,
and many of them get taxpayers' dollars to set up
shop or even pay them to stay. Then when it comes to money for health
care they don't have any, and then they run lotteries and fundraisers
for hospitals or to buy medical equipment," a
retiree pointed out.
Another retiree commented on the ongoing reports about
the Pan Am Games and how it is a waste of taxpayers' money to have to
pay unionized wages to build the
infrastructure for the games.
"Hudak's White Paper is being quoted all the time and he
is on a
speaking tour to promote the hiring of non-unionized construction
workers, and they are actually promoting
that this will save the 'taxpayer' 40 per cent off the cost of the
games," the retiree pointed out. "It almost seems like Hudak is running
an election campaign," another
In this vein, the discussion concluded that Hudak is
trying to destroy
any organizations that workers have, claiming that this is the path to
Prosperity for whom? The steelworkers have found that,
"If we have an organization we are much stronger, we can discuss
things, and sort things out. Hudak just wants us to be
individuals with no voice."
Reject Anti-Worker Blackmail and
Plans to Smash Unions
What started off allegedly as measures by all levels of
government to contain temporary government revenue deficits resulting
from the 2009 recession are now being revealed as part
of a crusade by the rich to drive down the standard of living of the
working class and the entire Canadian people. This is the significance
of Stephen Harper's call in January at the World
Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland for a "major transformation" of
Canadian society to make Canada more attractive for investment by the
international financial oligarchy.
According to the outlook of the rich, reducing the standard of living
of the people to attract international capital is the only economic
strategy available to Canada.
The main obstacle to the
kind of transformation the
small rich minority with political power want to impose on the society
is the self-defence organizations of the working class.
Smashing the organized resistance of the workers to drive down the
Canadian standard of living is the highest priority for the rich and is
at the centre of all their politics.
Smashing the organized resistance of the working class
is the context for the "White Paper" on labour relations recently
released by the Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) Party,
"Paths to Prosperity: Flexible Labour Markets." It includes measures
completing the destruction of the equilibrium established between
capital and labour in the post-WWII period and
for further pushing the transformation of Canada.
Proposals in the PCs' White
Paper would eliminate trade
union security provisions known as the Rand Formula which were central
to the equilibrium of the post-war social contract.
Harris-era changes to the labour relations arbitration system, which
were ruled illegal at the time, are here revived. Other changes
proposed in the White Paper would strike down worker
protections of even longer standing. Prevailing wage regulations that
limit provincial and municipal contracts being used to drive down
construction wages would be eliminated. Injured
workers' compensation would be eliminated as a social program financed
by a payroll tax on employers, and leave injured workers at the mercy
of a privatized workplace insurance
"White Papers" are usually studies prepared by
governments as trial balloons before unpopular legislation is
introduced, a kind of wish list of the rich aimed at manipulating
opinion. The Ontario PC White Paper is indeed such a wish list. It
reveals the intentions of the rich referred to in Harper's statements
about imposing a "major transformation." A clear
warning to all working people is contained in the PC paper that more is
in play in today's politics than the usual "deficit reduction" politics
that have followed previous recessions.
An important element of the White Paper is that it
captures the whole workers' movement in the dragnet being used against
the public sector workers. It concentrates attention on
stepping up the attack on the organizations of public sector workers
but declares open season on all workers' organizations in both the
public and private sectors.
The PC Party is only the Official Opposition in Ontario
but its outrageous paper serves the same role as a government White
Paper by attempting to prepare the ground for future
unpopular legislative action. Besides this strategic role, the PCs are
also in play as part of the immediate tactics of the rich to crush the
The PCs' all-out attack on unions has been launched at
exactly the time hundreds of thousands of education and health care
workers are mobilizing to resist the McGuinty
government's austerity agenda. Public sector workers are already under
threat that the government will impose contracts by legislation if
workers don't accept cuts to their livelihoods and
the services they deliver. Now the White Paper adds the threat of
dismantling workers' organizations to the anti-worker blackmail.
The terms of this blackmail by the rich were made
explicit in one of their newspapers recently. The Globe and Mail
editorial, "For Their Own Good, Ontario's Unions Need to Give
Some Ground," reads like a note from a mafia gangster: "Mr. McGuinty's
Liberals are surely aware that, if they're not tough enough on labour,
the public could turn to Tim Hudak's
Progressive Conservatives. That prospect should provide an incentive
for unions to accept concessions now. Mr. Hudak recently released a
White Paper which proposed a full-scale war on
organized labour -- including an elimination of the Rand Formula, which
would make union dues optional rather than mandatory."
For workers, concessions are no solution. Submitting to
this blackmail is a dead end for workers, whether it is McGuinty's
threat of legislated settlements or the PCs' call for
"full-scale war on organized labour." The content and outcome are the
same for workers whether the form of attacks is McGuinty's stealth and
gradualism to grind down the workers'
resistance or the belligerent confrontational method of the PCs.
The PC White Paper does contain a useful message for the
working class, a confirmation that the anti-social, anti-worker
offensive of the rich is a no-holds-barred assault. The White Paper
also reveals that the entire working class and all workers'
organizations are under attack in a campaign of the rich that goes far
beyond the issue of forcing public sector workers to
submit to McGuinty's deficit reduction targets.
The rich are determined to reduce the standard of living
of the working people to the minimum level possible by any means
necessary. Strategic alignment with McGuinty by making
concessions is no protection against this determination. Giving in only
leads to more demands by the blackmailer. Continued mobilization of
resistance among public sector workers and
rallying the maximum support of workers from all sectors around public
sector workers' resistance is the required response to the threats of
the rich and self-serving politicians.
Some Retrogression Is Never Enough
As we have seen at Air Canada, Canada Post,
Electro-Motive Diesel, GM and in many other cases, the private
monopolies and governments at their service, particularly the Harper
regime and various provincial ones like McGuinty's, are continuing and
sharpening a decades long assault on the rights and well-being of
workers and on human society. In these
circumstances, Ontario's PC Party via its recent "Paths to Prosperity"
White Paper is demanding this assault go even further and promises to
do exactly that if it takes over the Ontario
All the White Paper's
measures, which the PC Party
declares it will impose when it takes power, are about "flexible labour
markets," the unrestricted operation of the labour market to
the great detriment of workers caught therein and the immense benefit
of those who employ and exploit workers, especially the big private
monopolies. The meaning and consequences of
an unrestricted labour market are not a mystery, and certainly not
"paths to prosperity" for workers or human society: in such, workers as
isolated and essentially defenceless individuals
face the immense power of the employers in possession of the wealth
she/he and other workers have already produced, backed up by the power
of state and government. In this situation,
similar to what existed at the beginning of the struggles of the
working class for its emancipation in the nineteenth century, the
remuneration for labour naturally tended toward bare
subsistence and the status of a worker approached that of a slave,
albeit not to a single owner. In today's circumstances, in which the
wealth and power of the owners of capital and their
state has grown, the same tendency is already operating to the extent
this neoliberal ideal of a "free" labour market already exists
especially in the wake of about three decades of
Reaganite/Thatcherite (and Mulroney, Chretien, Martin, Rae, Harris,
Harper, McGuinty, etc.) retrogression.
Central to the workers'
struggles has always been the
effort to restrict operation of the labour market in their interests
and that of society. Our response to the abject and defenceless
status of the isolated individual worker was to bring into play the
power of workers as united collectives and as a class: their strength
in numbers, their common interests, the fact that they
produce the wealth upon which society relies for existence, and the
consciousness that grows with this. To unite in a union and in the
workers' movement to fight together to settle terms
of work, to restrict competition between workers in order to achieve
better standards for all, to oblige governments to institute social
programmes, etc., restricts the labour market and the
larger market of the capitalist economy of which it is part.
As much as this benefited workers and the general
conditions in society, such restriction of the market is for Hudak and
other neoliberals an anathema and key to them is the reversal,
the tearing down, of whatever restrictions were achieved, giving even
freer rein to private capital, which means above all to the private
monopolies: the law of the jungle that suits the
latter with "free" individual workers as quasi slaves. This is the
essential point about the PC White Paper. It is important to note that
these neoliberals and their ideologues only accept the
action of the "free" individual using her/his property within the rules
of the "free" market, and a state that upholds the unrestricted
operation of it. As such, since it would interfere with
the market, they consider a united struggle of a collective, of workers
especially, for social justice, to be anti-social or criminal
activity. The logic of their document, which targets
united action of the working class and things that action accomplished,
is in line with the eventual outright prohibition of such organization
1. "Though common interests of
those whose position is affected by
the same circumstances are likely to produce strong
common opinions about what they deserve, and will provide a motive for
common action to achieve their ends, any such group action to secure a
particular income or position for its
members creates an obstacle to the integration of the Great Society
[Hayek's neoliberal utopia -- OPF Ed.
Note] and is therefore anti-
social in the true sense of the word." (Law,
Legislation and Liberty (Volume 2), "The Mirage of Social
Friedrich Hayek, the University of Chicago Press, 1976, p. 137.)
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