On Monday, October 1, members of CUPE Local 1065, representing hospital workers at Joseph Brant Hospital, teachers from OSSTF District 21, elementary teachers and others will join Local 1005 USW at 3:30 pm at King and James Streets to express their opposition to the McGuinty government's attacks on teachers, education workers, students, public education and now the entire public sector through the proposed Protecting Public Services Act. Join in!
Windsor and Essex County Students
High school students in public schools in Windsor and Essex County have called a board-wide walkout for Wednesday October 3rd, 2012 at or around 11am to protest the Putting Students First Act and to show their support for their teachers. The call for the walk-out states:
"The Government of Ontario has passed a bill called Bill 115 or, the 'putting students first act.' This has stripped our teachers of their basic rights as Canadians. They are not allowed to strike, taking away nearly any chance of negotiating with the government.
"This is after the government made significant changes to their benefits as well as initiating a wage freeze. Teachers have lost half of their 20 sick days and can no longer cash in the ones they do not use when they retire."
Concerning the loss of extra-curricular activities the students point out: "This loss of sports and other activities will have many ill-effects on students and our school experience in general. Any graduating students hoping to add sports to their post-secondary applications will lose that ability and many students that are very dedicated to their sports will be devastated. This may lead to some students who only attend school for their sports to drop out.
"We will not be letting this happen and ask that all Greater Essex County District School Board students show their support for their teachers and tell McGuinty that we will not stand for his ignorant and closed-minded ways of dealing with the issues affecting us today. We ask that all student's show their support by wearing black and walking out of class on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 at or around 11am. Simply stand up, leave the building and assemble on your school's front lawn. Sign making is optional. IF YOU ARE ON A SPORTS TEAM, WEAR YOUR JERSEY OR SCHOOL SPIRITWEAR. OTHERWISE, WEAR BLACK."
Belle River: 10:50 am
Leamington: 10:50 am
Kingsville: 10:50 am
Herman: 11:00 am
Sandwich: 11:00 am
General Amherst: 11:00 am
Essex: 11:00 am
Harrow: 11:00 am
Riverside: 11:00 am
Century: 11:00 am
Western: 11:00 am
Kennedy: 11:15 am
Forster: 11:15 am
Walkerville: 11:15 am
Vincent Massey: 11:30 am
In the Legislature
Workers in the public sector and their organizations and workers across Ontario in every sector are denouncing a new legislative attack on workers' rights by the McGuinty government and are mobilizing to resist.
After the early reconvening of the Legislature to strip teachers and education workers of their collective bargaining rights with Bill 115, the Putting Students First Act, the McGuinty government is broadening its all-out offensive against workers' rights and workers' organizations. On September 26, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan released draft legislation that would give the government absolute power to dictate the terms of 2,300 collective agreements in the broader public sector. The legislation would strip 480,000 more workers across the sector of collective bargaining rights.
With the upside down name, the Protecting Public Services Act, the legislation has a purpose exactly the opposite of what the name implies. It is part of the McGuinty government's effort to squeeze $13 billion out of social programs, to wreck public services and to drive down the wages and working conditions of the people who deliver and defend these services. The draft legislation is an omnibus bill with two new anti-worker labour laws and changes to six existing laws on arbitration of disputes in collective bargaining of workers with essential service designation.
Non-union public sector workers, who have already had their wages frozen since 2010, will face another two years of frozen wages and loss of real after-inflation wages. Collective agreements negotiated between unionized public sector workers and their employers will be subject to veto by the government if they don't include a wage freeze or if they restrict contracting out, job cuts and other "alternative service delivery" schemes. Changes to the arbitration system will make it easier for the government to use the courts to overrule arbitration decisions.
Bearing the main brunt of this attack will be more than 250,000 workers in the health care sector, a group which includes thousands of long-term care workers and personal support workers who are among the lowest paid workers in Ontario. Other large groups of affected workers will be those directly employed by Ontario government ministries, by crown corporations like the LCBO, college and university teachers and support staff and power workers employed by the public electricity enterprises Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation. Workers employed by non-profit social agencies and other organizations receiving $1 million or more in Ontario government funding will also be impacted.
It is the collective rights of workers and their organizations that are the real target of attack in Duncan's legislation. Working class organization and resistance stands in the way of those whom neo-liberal politicians like Duncan represent: the privileged minority seeking to dismantle social programs and to wreck and privatize public services. As with Bill 115, the aim of the legislation is to deprive workers of any say on their wages, working conditions and the way they deliver services. The McGuinty government is again using its political power in an unjust and undemocratic way to impose the will of the rich on the workers.Since the introduction of Bill 115, teachers and education workers have been effectively developing resistance and organizing against it in every city and town in Ontario. (See Ontario Political Forum No. 51 and No. 52.) The attacks on workers in the broad public sector in the Protecting Public Services Act will bring another half-million workers into this battle to defend workers' rights and the rights of all.
On September 26, Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan published a draft of legislation the government intends to introduce, the Protecting Public Services Act. The legislation is an omnibus bill that includes two new laws and changes to six other acts on interest arbitration for collective bargaining in the essential services sector. The two new acts are: the Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 2012, and the Respecting Collective Bargaining Act (Public Sector), 2012. This legislation strips half a million workers in the broader public sector of their collective bargaining rights and imposes another two-year wage freeze on the wages of non-unionized workers in the sector.
The Public Sector Compensation Restraint Act, 2012, is Schedule 1 of the omnibus bill. It starts off with an Occupy-style flourish by capping executive salaries at half a million dollars a year. The media is making a great deal out this symbolic "sacrifice" that is somehow supposed to justify attacking ordinary working people on the basis of "everyone doing their part to reduce the fiscal deficit." But as a grand gesture this measure is full of loopholes since it only applies to new hires, and executives can also be exempted if they can make a "business case" for getting salaries over the cap.
The real harm from this part of the bill falls on the thousands of workers working in the broader public sector without union protection whose pay will be frozen for at least two more years. These workers can't join unions because of employer subterfuge and because many of them are relegated to contract, part-time, casual and other precarious work arrangements. They have already been under a wage freeze for the past two years and will be subjected to another two years of declining real income. There will be no opportunity for these workers to make a "business case" for a subsistence livelihood.
Schedule 2 of the omnibus bill contains the Respecting Collective Bargaining Act (Public Sector) Act, which despite its name is an act that tramples workers' collective bargaining rights. This part of the legislation affects the overwhelming majority of public sector workers, those who are members of unions. While the Act will create hardship for thousands of unorganized public sector workers, the real thrust of the legislation is against the 480,000 unionized workers and their organizations.
The largest group of affected workers will be 250,000 workers in the health care sector, a group which includes thousands of long-term care workers and personal support workers who are among the lowest paid workers in Ontario. Other large groups of affected workers will be those directly employed by the Ontario government ministries, by crown corporations like the LCBO, college and university teachers and support staff and power workers employed by the public electricity enterprises Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation. Workers employed by social agencies and other non-profit organizations receiving $1 million or more in Ontario government funding will also be impacted.
The Respecting Collective Bargaining Act does not (yet) for the most part apply to employers that are municipalities or municipal agencies, except in the case of municipal long-term care homes and municipal health agencies. Since most emergency services (paramedic/ambulance, fire fighters and police) are municipal services, these services are not affected. Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) workers are also employed by a municipal agency.
Changes to the arbitration acts in Schedules 3-8 of the omnibus bill will affect these workers though. Arbitrators will have to provide written reasons showing that their decisions reflect the priorities of the government set out in existing legislation. This will make it easier for the government to use the courts to overrule arbitration decisions it doesn't like.
Deception is the hallmark of the Respecting Collective Bargaining Act, not just in its name but in every section and subsection. The immediate outcome the government expects from the legislation is collective agreements that include a wage freeze, alternative service delivery (privatization and outsourcing) and whatever other cuts that can be managed. But the legislation doesn't come right out and lay down a minimum two year wage freeze for unionized workers the way Schedule 1 does for non-unionized workers. Instead, it sets up a mockery of a collective bargaining process in which there is no other possible outcome but reduced real wages, job cuts and degraded services.
The deception is legal chicanery connected to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As McGuinty has repeatedly told Conservative leader Tim Hudak in the Ontario Legislature, if you want to suppress workers' rights, "the Supreme Court has laid down a series of steps you have to follow." Before the Supreme Court will validate legislation suppressing people's rights, politicians are required to perform a charade. They have to pretend to consult with people affected by the legislation, pretend to be acting in a reasonable way and to pretend that an urgent issue of public interest is at stake. This charade is what the Respecting Collective Bargaining Act is all about.
Under the legislation, the government will set a "mandate" for collective bargaining for each group and class of workers in the public sector, the eventual outcome that must be achieved. This is very similar to the way "parameters" were set for teachers and education workers at the Provincial Bargaining Table where union negotiators were stonewalled by Ministry of Education lawyers. Employers will be given ministerial instructions to follow in negotiations, "criteria" that reflect government objectives, like a pay freeze as well as sector-specific objectives like alternative service delivery, etc. Employers and the union will meet for negotiations, but a government minister will be standing by with veto power over any agreement reached by the parties.
If an agreement is reached, it must be submitted to the Minister for approval. If he or she likes it, it is confirmed as a valid agreement. If not, the Minister sends it back to the parties for amendments. If the parties still don't come to an agreement acceptable to the Minister, there are some consultations, and then the Minister imposes an agreement on the parties. In the case where members of the bargaining unit are essential services workers and an arbitrator is used, the Minister can quash the arbitrator's decision and send the arbitrator packing. This is how McGuinty "respects collective bargaining."
It seems unbelievable to many people that the Supreme Court would ever bless this ridiculous farce as legitimate. Even Dwight Duncan deadpanned to reporters, "There's constitutional risk with this, there's no question." But Duncan was being coy. He and McGuinty have been to the Supreme Court before and know how it works. In the 2008 Fraser case, the McGuinty government received the Supreme Court's blessing for a disgraceful Ontario law excluding migrant farm workers from collective bargaining. They know how low the Grandees of the Court have set the bar when it comes to workers' rights.
1. The legislation's Schedules 3-8 make changes to the arbitration legislation affecting essential services workers, the Ambulance Services Collective Bargaining Act, Fire Protection and Prevention Act, Hospital Labour Disputes Arbitration Act, Police Services Act, Toronto Transit Commission Labour Disputes Resolution Act and Ontario Provincial Police Collective Bargaining Act.
Schemes to Pay the Rich Through Infrastructure Projects
A number of major projects to develop the City of Toronto's inadequate transit services are planned or underway. Metrolinx, a provincial agency created in 2006 to oversee and coordinate transit development in the whole urban area from Hamilton to Oshawa, has considerable decision-making power over these projects and the province is providing 100 per cent funding for four of them -- light rapid transit routes (LRTs) to be completed eight to ten years from now.
On September 19, Metrolinx informed the city government these LRTs will be operated and maintained by private business(es) rather than Toronto's existing public transit body, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). The decision also involves privatized design, construction and finance, a so-called Alternate Finance and Procurement model. These are major corridors deep within the city and the existing TTC public system of bus, streetcar and subway routes. As usual, the Metrolinx pretext for this dictate cites supposed efficiencies of costs and timelines, and the ability to allocate risks to the private "partner(s)".
Being a provincial government agency, Metrolinx implements its part of the increasingly blatant neo-liberal agenda of the McGuinty regime that is generally in line with the version of the same pursued by Harper's federal government and Mayor Ford's city administration. Its essence is to hand over to big private business interests what has remained public in spite of recent decades of government measures in the same direction, and more generally, to pay the rich at the expense of workers, the people and human society. Accordingly, private monopoly interest is well represented on Metrolinx's board of directors and its chair, Robert Prichard, is also chair of the Bank of Montreal, the Torys business law firm, a director of Onex Corp. and George Weston Ltd., and a past CEO of Torstar Corp.
Other important parts of transit in Metrolinx's region of authority are already of the "public private partnership" (P3) kind, like that of York Region where transit workers were under attack earlier this year by three private operators, and the "GO" commuter service that became part of Metrolinx in 2009.
Of utmost importance when private businesses take over public functions is the fact they do so to make profit and expand their wealth. Provision of transit as a truly public service involves paying for the costs of the service, the wages of the workers who build, maintain and operate it, the salaries of its management, and purchases of goods and services that go into providing public transit. To the extent private businesses expand into what was previously public transit, its construction and finance (already pervasive), and now maintenance and operation as well, they demand, indeed require, their profit margin, their claim. And that claim arises not from something they produce that provides transit (transit construction, maintenance and operation workers fulfil that function as before); rather, it arises from their possession of the wealth they invested in the P3, allowing them to exact this tribute which must come on top of the costs of providing the service.
Where will this additional and unproductive claim come from? Four sources or a combination of them are at hand: 1. Off of the backs of workers: lower wages, benefits and fewer jobs; and more intense and unsafe work for the workers who build, maintain and operate the service than otherwise would be the case. 2. The corollary of number 1, transferring to profit some of what would have been spent on the service, degrading it, including its maintenance and safety. 3. Making the users pay by increasing the already expensive fare prices. 4. Another case of directly "Paying the Rich": increased government subsidy to guarantee private business profit, (and not to provide the service itself, a positive and necessary use of state funds).
Related concerns about this Metrolinx dictate also arise. What is the future these neo-liberals have planned for the whole of Toronto's public transit? The decision revealed September 19 presents a frankly incongruent picture for Toronto with four LRTs partly separate from each other as well as apart from the TTC system that surrounds them. To mention only one complication, what will happen when one or more of these LRTs has a shutdown? Since the routes will no longer be part of the TTC system and responsibility, who will provide emergency alternate buses? Is the private operator going to keep backup buses and drivers on reserve?
We do know a great deal about the thinking and general aims of the neo-liberals in power. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's brother, councillor Doug Ford once expressed a major aspect of it in crude terms: to cut, sell off or privatize "everything (public) that's not nailed down". By eight or ten years down the road, do the Metrolinx and other neo-liberals in power not in fact intend to make their transit plan for Toronto congruent by privatizing the whole TTC?
On September 20, the federal Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty and Ontario Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli made a joint announcement on the construction of a $400 million GO Transit rail maintenance and storage facility, the GO East Rail Maintenance Facility.
The rail yard and maintenance facility is part of an $11.5 billion transit expansion project the Ontario government commissioned Metrolinx to carry out in the Oshawa, Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Hamilton regions. The Metrolinx $8.2 billion Eglinton LRT/subway project in Toronto is also part of this initiative, The GO East facility will be built in Flaherty's Whitby-Oshawa riding.
The federal government will contribute $93 million to the project through P3 Canada. The Ontario government share of the project will be $300 million, provided through Metrolinx, the Ontario crown corporation that owns GO Transit.
Metrolinx and the Ontario government financing agency Infrastructure Ontario have announced that they will be financing the provincial share of the project through what they call "Alternative Financing and Procurement (AFP)" arrangements. This is also known as P3 or private-public-partnership financing.
On September 24 Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario issued a call for infrastructure consortiums to apply as qualifying bidders for the project. The winning bidder will design, build, finance and maintain the East Rail Maintenance Facility.
There will be a fierce scramble among the global infrastructure monopolies with capacity to finance and build a project of this size. The project is attractive to the monopolies because Metrolinx is a government agency which means future revenues from the project will have either an explicit or implicit government guarantee.
The winning bidder will have control of one of the most important industrial enterprises in Southern Ontario. GO East Rail Maintenance Facility will have a space of 600,000 square feet that can provide daily maintenance for up to 22 twelve-car passenger trains. It will include: 18 storage tracks; an electrical substation for power supply; progressive maintenance bays used for train inspection and maintenance; a coach shop; a diesel shop; a paint shop; a wheel shop; locomotive and train wash buildings; a fuelling station and staff offices.
While the maintenance of the GO East Rail facilities will be part of the contract with Metrolinx, it is not known if the project will include maintenance of the trains. Metrolinx-GO trains are currently maintained in the Willowbrook yard in Mimico (West Toronto). The international monopoly Bombardier with headquarters in Berlin currently has a lucrative five-year contract for maintenance of GO trains.
1. Under these AFP or P3 arrangements, a consortium made up of global monopolies in financing, engineering and construction/maintenance take ownership of a public infrastructure and either collect a revenue stream from service users or collect "lease back" fees from the government. Almost all infrastructure projects are financed in this way now because it enables global monopolies to extract additional profits from projects. Under P3 arrangements, the monopolies make their usual profits from interest on bonds, by providing engineering, construction and maintenance services and by selling equipment and materials. But they extract additional tribute in the form of "return on equity ownership." The thin justification for this extra looting is that construction and ownership "risk" is assumed by the consortium and the money tied up in the project is a "loss of opportunity."
Toronto transit workers employed by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) are opposing employer proposals for work of the bus cleaners in maintenance garages to be contracted out to private companies. TTC staff has recommended cutting 159 positions. Forty-four positions would be cut at two garages immediately and the other positions eliminated as attrition openings allowed.
The staff report says eliminating the positions would cut costs by $4.29 million a year. It recommended contracting out the work to Hallcon Corporation and Topnotch Buildings. A decision on the contracting out plan was to be made at the September 27 meeting of the Commission.
According to media reports, the TTC had attempted to impose a two-tier wage structure on bus cleaners which was rejected by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 11, the union representing TTC workers. Although the positions would be eliminated by attrition, the workers are opposing the cuts because they would weaken their organization. TTC workers and ATU 113 are considering what action they will take if management eliminates the positions.
ATU 113 President Bob Kinnear is quoted in media reports as saying that workers are considering working to rule if the TTC goes ahead with its contracting out plans. Several other ways of resisting the job cuts were also mentioned. If the union refused to authorize certain overtime requests, for example, it would cost the TTC $10-13 million a year, far more than it says it would save with the job cuts.
TTC workers are also under pressure from the attacks of
the McGuinty government and its partners the Hudak Conservatives on
workers across the broader public sector. TTC workers were deemed to be
essential service workers last year by the McGuinty government and
stripped of their right to strike. Now the
Liberals and Conservatives are scheming to overthrow the existing
essential services arbitration system which would further strip workers
of collective bargaining rights. TTC workers would be affected by the
anti-worker Ability to Pay Act, a Conservative private
member's bill expected to be voted on October 4.
1. Hallcon Corporation is a company formerly based in Toronto which provides train and transit maintenance services at various locations in Canada and the United States. It was bought out last year by Southfield Capital, a Connecticut financial group. Southfield bought Hallcon as a platform for expanding into the transit and commuter rail services. At the time of the buy-out Southfield told investors that the investment would enable it to "take advantage of the favorable macroeconomic trends within the North American rail industry, which include considerable private and public investment towards freight and commuter rail and a concerted push among rail operators towards outsourcing non-core activities."
Note to Our Readers
The technical and editorial staff of Ontario Political Forum are pleased to present you with the first issue of Volume 2 of this publication. We started publication one year ago during the Ontario provincial election. The aim was to fulfil the need of Ontario workers for information so that our consciousness and organization cannot be smashed and we are not left to fend for ourselves in the face of the ever more vicious anti-social offensive launched by the ruling elites in business and government.
What disinforms us -- destroys our consciousness and organization -- is the fact that everything the governments and monopolies are up to turns over the public authority to private interests while we, the public, get depoliticized. This means we are not only declared persona non-grata but we are thrown to the wolves so that all our assets can be stolen to make big scores for the native and foreign financial oligarchs.
Today, secret deals are commonplace. Shock-and-awe diversionary tactics are used to smash previous public protection for our well-being and social programs while every attempt is also made to smash unions and deprive us of having a voice of any kind. The governments of Ontario and Canada and the political parties which form part of a cartel party system usurp power through fraudulent elections. They use both minority and majority governments to keep the people disempowered.
Ontario Political Forum is a voice which helps to unite the working people and their families, organize them and open society's path to progress. Congratulations to all those who have lent a hand to publish and distribute Ontario Political Forum in the last year. Best wishes for success in the coming year!
We call on our readers to help this project by distributing the paper to all those whose interests it serves, sending your reports, photographs, views, comments and letters. We also request your help in financing the paper. Please send contributions to help sustain the publication in the coming year, starting now. Any cheques above $20.00 made out by individuals to the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada (MLPC) dated prior to December 31, 2012 entitle the donor to a tax credit. We are presently soliciting amounts of $250.00 which will return a tax credit for $190 on next year's income tax return. If you will owe the government more than $190 dollars in income taxes, give us the money instead. You can contribute a total of $1,200 under the Canada Elections Act and receive a tax credit of $625. By making a financial contribution to the MLPC, you will be helping a worthy cause! Send cheque or money order to MLPC, P.O. Box 666, Station C, Montreal, QC H2L 4K4.
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