Nortel Pensioners Rally at Queen's Park
Nortel Pensioners Rally at Queen's Park
Justice for Nortel Pensioners and Disabled Workers!
Past and present Nortel workers rally in Ottawa, October 21, 2010.
(Photo: Marc Lavoie)
They report that their situation is going to become increasingly untenable. Many pensioners are facing the prospect of having to find a job, which is an assault on their dignity and will be nearly impossible. Many are sick and the cost of their medical bills will often be higher than the pension they will receive. Some have already sold their homes, downsizing their quality of life in their retirement. For LTD workers, the termination of their benefits will cause further tragedies to them and their families. This is unconscionable in a country like Canada which produces so much social wealth. It is an indictment of the economic and political system and of successive Canadian governments that workers at the end of their working lives and when sick or disabled are forced to advocate for what belongs to them by right.
The federal government is duty bound to intervene immediately to guarantee that these losses in pensions and terminations of benefits do not take place. The pensioners and LTD workers are supporting private Bill C-501 regarding pensioners, now before a parliamentary committee. They are also supporting Bill S-216 which has been initiated in the Senate and deals with the LTD employees. The parties in parliament must pass these bills immediately to alleviate the plight of the former Nortel employees and of all those facing a similar situation.
The Harper government shamelessly argues that it does not want to create a precedent by rescuing these employees and that although their situation is difficult, there are more urgent bills to pass. This is the same government which repeatedly claims it is "Supporting Families and Communities and Standing Up for Those Who Helped Build Canada." This is precisely what the retirees and disabled did. They helped to build Canada and Nortel.
Pensions and benefits must be recognized as a right of all by providing them with a guarantee. We must defend the pensions we have and fight for the pensions we need. All Canadians should be provided with a defined benefit pension plan guaranteed by the government. Saving plans which are used as money-capital by the rich to be invested on global markets are not pensions in the modern sense. Pensions must become a social program which is paid from the pooled added-value of the country gathered as taxation from corporations.
Calling All Former
Employees to Rally at Queen's Park, September 15
On Sept. 30, 2010, the Nortel Defined Benefit Pension Plans will become orphans. The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) will then take over as required by current law.
Unless the Ontario government takes prompt action, Nortel's pensioners will then lose 36% of their pensions and possibly even more. A major part of their loss occurs because, under current regulations, FSCO will simply wind-up the pension funds by converting them to annuities. This forever locks-in the existing pension deficit and it adds major penalties, because the cost of annuities is presently at the worst they have even been in 25 years with no relief in sight. It is the worst possible outcome for Nortel's pensioners, who will also be hit with the loss of their health and life insurance benefits.
Nortel Retirees and Former Employees Protection Canada (NRPC) is demanding that the Ontario government change its regulations and stop these automatic wind-ups. The added benefit of having members of the CFP organization supporting regulation changes is putting even more pressure on the government to bring changes. After all, it's our money and it's our pension. It should also be our call.
Instead of locking-in the losses and buying expensive annuities, the plans should be professionally invested for the benefit of the pensioners rather than the insurance companies. Alternatives should be available, to allow for the continuation of a much higher monthly pension and give the funds a chance to recover in value as the economy improves. It will provide more money for pensioners, save unnecessary disbursements from the PBGF (Ontario's "Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund") and also save costs to the Ontario taxpayer by keeping pensioners out of the social security system. In 2008, the government's own study of pensions recommended a similar approach but no action has yet been taken.
The money left in an "Orphan" Pension Funds is the property of the pensioners. It does not belong to the government of Ontario (FSCO). Pensioners must be allowed to decide how their money is managed!
On September 30, Nortel's pension plans will be placed in the hands of your government. Twenty thousand former employees across Canada, including a large number who are elderly and in poor health, will be affected by your decisions. We are reminding you that our pension plans represent our retirement savings. It is our money, not the Ontario government's and we intend to have a say in how it is managed. The time for some fresh thinking and action by your government on protection of pensions and pensioners is long overdue.
We discovered in 2009 that our pension plan is seriously under-funded. The latest information from Nortel indicates that we will lose at least 35% of our pensions. This estimate may prove highly optimistic for reasons described below. Given a choice in the matter, we would prefer that the assets in Nortel's estate were the main source for reducing our loss, not the public purse. The actions of the Federal government in favouring foreign claimants over Canadian workers in bankruptcy court make this unlikely, unless there is a sudden change of heart on the part of Federal Minister of Industry, Tony Clement. And now the Ontario government, having already allowed Nortel the opportunity to neglect its funding responsibilities, seems intent on making matters much worse for its retirees.
Over the past year we have purposefully and consistently asked your government NOT to wind up our $2.5 Billion Pension Fund and NOT to attempt to buy us annuities with the proceeds. The negative impact of Wind-up-by-Annuity is recognized in the 2008 report of the Ontario Expert Commission on Pensions when it recommended that your government "investigate strategies for reducing the cost of annuities and the influence of the annuities market." It is clear that Wind-up-by-Annuity will erode even more of our pension incomes. Experienced actuaries and academics tell us that liquidating a very large fund like ours could cause a systemic failure of the Canadian annuity market, which typically can only supply between $200 Million and $500 Million worth of contracts per year. At best winding up our plan will cause a steep rise in annuity prices, which might lead to the purchase of lower quality products. Furthermore, outrageous as it may seem, we will be forced to pay the costs of this destructive process from our pension fund! [...]
For further information:
Don Sproule, NRPC National Chair firstname.lastname@example.org 613-266-9336
Anne Clark Stewart, NRPC Media email@example.com 613-270-8022
Tony Marsh, NRPC Media firstname.lastname@example.org 613-832-4817
Shannon Devine, CAW Communications 416-302-1699
9th Anniversary of 9/11
At this time of renewed grief for all those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and for the many hundreds of thousands who have died as a result of U.S. aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq and peoples worldwide, Voice of Revolution extends its deepest sympathies to all those who have lost loved ones. We express our deepest sympathies to the families of all those killed and disappeared in the infamous coup that took place in Chile on September 11, 1973, and to the Chilean people. Thirty-six years later the U.S. continues to organize and back violent coups d'etats as it did in Haiti and more recently in Honduras.
The September 11 anniversary is a time of reflection, particularly concerning the U.S. "war of terror" launched after these attacks. Nine years later, peoples here and abroad find themselves still facing the crimes of U.S. aggression and occupation. The promised security is non-existent as war is escalated and extended and economic insecurity deepens. Far from there being an end to racist government profiling and hysteria against Muslims, Arabs and immigrants, it has been whipped up to a fever pitch.
The timing and content of this hysteria, focused by the government and monopoly media on a pastor planning to burn the Qur'an, is not accidental. Conditions here and worldwide are calling out for change that favors the people. The U.S. government and the imperialist system it protects continually show themselves incapable of such change. On the contrary, use of violence and war against the peoples is increasing. Anger with the current system of democracy, where the demands of the majority to end war and poverty carry no sway, is increasing.
To divert this anger away from the U.S. imperialist system and its government and provide justification for increased repression, hysteria is unleashed, like that currently whipped up around the pastor's plans to burn the Qur'an. Two things are taking place simultaneously.
Firstly, it is made to appear that the problem lies with individuals and groups of "extremists," like the pastor, who is now being branded by the government as "un-American." Together with this is the notion that anything that might put U.S. troops "in harms way," is also "un-American." Obama states that what the pastor proposes "is completely contrary to our values as Americans; that this country has been built on the notions of religious freedom and religious tolerance." And that "this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform." Then the military interferes in civilian matters, with General Petraeus also saying the action will put the troops in "harms way."
We are being asked to accept a completely irrational logic. It is not the aggressive wars that put civilians and soldiers in harms way. It is not the government and its mass detention of Arabs, its Guantánamo and Bagram concentration camps with their desecration of the Qur'an as part of torture, the years-long hysteria that there are "homegrown" terrorists and the trumped up cases directed against Arabs guilty of no crime. It is not the government and its provision of impunity for violence that is the source of the anti-Muslim hysteria. Instead it is a pastor and other "un-American extremists" who are the problem. In this way, the ground is being laid by the government to target anyone whose actions can be said to put the troops in "harms way." This could mean anti-war activists, longshoremen refusing to load war cargo or veterans organizing against recruitment, to name just a few examples.
Secondly, not only is there an attempt to remove the government as the legitimate target of the peoples' anger and rejection -- it is now being made the savior in the situation, where it is claimed that Obama saved the day. The government portrays itself as the promoter of tolerance, protecting the people and the world from "extremists." In reality it ensures impunity for violence against Muslims, immigrants and protesters. It is a sophisticated effort to disarm and disorient the people.
People must be wary of a government that talks about tolerance when it is precisely those with power that decide who will and will not be tolerated. State Department spokesman Crowley perhaps said this most directly. Speaking about the pastor he said, "We think that these are provocative acts." He added, "We would like to see more Americans stand up and say that this is inconsistent with our American values; in fact, these actions themselves are un-American."
The government's dictate is clear: accept "American values" or face violence and repression. The government is going to decide what is and is not American, what will and will not be "tolerated." Unable to solve any problem, it resorts to demanding that everyone adhere to the "American values" of aggressive war, genocide, racism, exploitation and impoverishment. It wants "to see more Americans stand up" in defense of the government and against those it brands as "un-American" or else face the consequences. When coupled with the content of branding actions that could put troops in "harms way," as "un-American," the danger to the peoples is grave indeed. It is an effort to split and divide the people and keep in power a government and system incapable of solving any problem.
This dangerous direction of the government and the imperialist system it defends must be rejected as anti-people and anti-social, pushing society backward not forward. To block this direction while advancing change that favors the people, it is the anti-war, pro-social agenda of the people that must be brought to center stage. It is the struggle for the people's agenda that can and must move society forward. This fight can be waged by organizing to discuss the modern democracy we require where the people are empowered to decide. It can be done by strengthening our action with analysis of the tactics and social forms needed in these times. We need our own organizations engaging people in decision making and fighting for our pro-social agenda of people's empowerment. Let all stand up to advance and defend the people's agenda!
* Voice of Revolution is a publication of the U.S. Marxist-Leninist Organization.
September 11, 2010 marks the ninth anniversary of 9/11, a defining date of the 21st century. On September 11, 2001, some three thousand people lost their lives in planned terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and elsewhere in the United States. On this anniversary it is fitting that that people all around the world remember all those who lost their lives both during and immediately after these criminal acts, as well as the families of those who lost loved ones.
Horrendous as these attacks were they merely paved the way for even more horrendous acts of state terrorism. Anglo-American imperialism, headed by Bush and Blair, used 9/11 as well as 7/7 in Britain, as the justification for its "war on terror." In the last nine years crimes of even greater magnitude have been perpetrated, particularly the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Approximately 7,000 invading troops have lost their lives in these wars of aggression but it is indeed telling that no official figures exist for civilian deaths, although it is estimated that tens of thousands of men, women and children have lost their lives and whole regions have been laid to waste. It is no accident that on the eve of this anniversary, the war criminal Blair has emerged to once again justify the crimes of Anglo-American imperialism and to brazenly declare that there are no regrets, as well as to promote the possibility of aggression against Iran.
Today just as in the past, the chieftains of Anglo-American imperialism continue to use the events of 9/11, as well as 7/7, to justify the wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan on the basis that such crimes have been and continue to be committed in order to "keep the streets of Britain safe." On this basis, they attempt to present themselves as the greatest defenders of peace and the rule of law while planning new criminal aggression against Iran, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Cuba and other countries. Indeed, in the aftermath of 9/11 Anglo-American imperialism announced it would continue its warmongering, continue to flout international law and attack the rights of the people and that by so doing it was upholding what it referred to as "universal values."
The events of 9/11, as well as other attacks in Britain and elsewhere, were presented in such a way as to create a climate of fear and passivity and to whip up Islamophobia, in order that people should lose their bearings and turn against each other, rather than addressing the source of the major problems in the world. But in the last nine years the peoples of the world have not been passive in the face of the lies and terror of the big powers and the chieftains of Anglo-American imperialism in particular. It is even impossible for the war criminal Blair to appear on the streets of Britain to promote his memoirs, so great is the hatred and anger of the people of Britain. The vast majority of people in Britain, as in other countries, have opposed the invasion of Iraq, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and the warmongering threats against and interference in other countries. The people of Britain have demonstrated that they are totally opposed to state terrorism, acts of repression and the denial of rights, whether at home or abroad.
On the ninth anniversary of the terrorist acts of September 2001, it is timely to remember all those who have lost their lives as a result of such crimes, especially those who are the victims of the war crimes and state terrorism of Anglo-American imperialism, its allies and rivals. At the same time it is necessary to salute all those both in Britain and worldwide who are struggling to stay the hands of the warmongers, those fighting against aggression and for national sovereignty, and to combat all disinformation which seeks to justify aggression and divert the people's struggles against war and state terrorism. In Britain, it is necessary to redouble our efforts to struggle for an anti-war government. Only such a government, a government of the working class and people, can have the power to guarantee an end to war and aggression and build a new society in which it is the people's anti-war agenda which prevails.
* Workers' Daily the on-line publication of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist).
Since the events of 9/11, imams and prominent members of the Muslim community have increasingly felt compelled to apologize for and condemn the acts of some Muslims who are arrested under anti-terrorism laws. They have usually done so even before finding out all the facts about the cases in question, and have mostly relied upon early information which, at best, has been selectively filtered by the security apparatus, or at worst, maliciously leaked to the media by "unknown sources."
I see two clear problems with this apologetic reaction.
First, these apologies imply that the arrested individuals are guilty, not just before a fair trial, but before any clear details of the case are released, exchanging the presumption of innocence for the attitudes of a lynch mob.
Secondly, even if you were to accept guilt without a trial, what message is being sent by Muslims apologizing for such a terrible crime? Do Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, or Buddhists apologize for the actions of adherents who are alleged to have committed serious crimes? An apology suggests that there is fault to be found simply in being Muslim, when in fact, Muslims are no different than any other people: Muslims value the same peace and security, and have the same worries about the safety and well-being of their families...
(Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen.)
Jon Elmer, a Canadian journalist based in Bethlehem, writing for Le Monde Diplomatique, notes in a September 2010 article entitled, "Canada, A Peaceable Kingdom No More" that the myth of Canada as a peacekeeping nation has been abandoned by the powers that be, ever since Canada joined the war on Afghanistan in 2001. Specifically, Elmer points out that Canada has transformed its military capabilities to favour expeditionary counter-insurgency. He writes:
"'Transformation' is a military buzzword for the reorientation of forces toward the complex insurgencies that now define the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and, according to planners, will dominate the 21st century. The U.S. defence secretary Robert Gates has said that such wars require the use of the 'full range of instruments of national power' -- defence, diplomacy and development aid. Gates told the U.S. Institute for Peace, Washington, on 15 October 2008 that Afghanistan was a 'laboratory' for the changes.
"James Mattis, U.S. general and Nato Supreme Allied Commander responsible for transformation, told military professionals last year that 'Canadian Forces stand once again in the front rank of war fighters, as role models. [Your expeditionary soldiering] is a force that all troop contributing nations in Afghanistan look on with awe and confidence.'
"Mattis co-authored the U.S. army counterinsurgency field manual, FM 3-24. General Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and Nato commander in Afghanistan, said last year that Canada's transformation 'foreshadowed' the U.S. integration of civilian and military capabilities: 'We are leveraging the example of Canadian operations to date to help move the rest of the force.'
"Canada's military is active across the globe, from its Special Forces operatives training Jamaican forces to hunt drug runners, to its forces countering the heart of the counterinsurgency in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Canada has at least 18 expeditionary deployments. 'The sun never sets on the Canadian Forces,' said General Walter Natynczyk, the Canadian Forces Chief of Defence Staff, invoking the classic imperial posture."
Elmer notes that: "While Canada's peacekeeping mythology served a useful domestic political function, the military was always keen to point out that Canada has a long history of expeditionary adventures. Canadian troops participated in the scorched earth and concentration camp strategies under the leadership of British forces during the Boer war in 1900 at the beginning of the 20th century, and closed it in 1999 flying bombing missions over Serbia.
"Canadian Forces flew combat missions during the 1991 Gulf war and its navy enforced the decade-long sanctions regime on Iraq. Canadian soldiers were in Somalia in 1993 and present to clear up the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. In 2004 Canadian commandos were up front during the overthrow of Haiti's president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
"Since September 2001, Canada has stood shoulder to shoulder with U.S. interests in the global war on terrorism. Visiting the White House in 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the alliance the 'strongest relationship of any two countries, not just on the planet, but in the history of mankind.' The former U.S. ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, noted in May 2007 that 'no two militaries are more closely united than those of the United States and Canada. Our forces work and train together all over the world.'
"Since 2001, the focus of Canadian operations has been between the Horn of Africa and Pakistan, which the Pentagon calls Central Command (Centcom), informally the 'arc of instability.' Canadian warships have patrolled the coast of Somalia, effecting a policy Nato's top naval commander described as 'throwing a perimeter fence' around the Gulf of Aden to protect vital oil shipping routes from piracy. The navy operates with U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups off the coast of Iran, guarding the Straits of Hormuz and serving as a launching platform for the bombing raids in Iraq."
Canada's role in Anglo-American imperialism includes nefarious activity in the Middle East. Elmer points out:
"During Israel's bombardment of Lebanon in 2006, Canada played a critical diplomatic function in blocking ceasefire resolutions at the G8 summit while calling Israel's attack 'measured.' In the West Bank and Gaza, Canada has had an integral role in the establishment of Palestinian security forces under the auspices of U.S. General Keith Dayton. More than half his operational staff are Canadian officers, whom the general called his 'road warriors' and his 'eyes and ears' on the West Bank. The Palestinian security forces have been tasked with shutting down Hamas's civilian infrastructure, attacking charities, mosques, and forcing the elected government underground. There have been 1,000 arrests, including teachers, health workers and journalists and widespread human rights abuses, including torture that has resulted in several deaths in custody.
"In Iraq, Canadian generals have assumed deputy command roles for operations by U.S. forces. The exchanges are not simply a gesture of goodwill but a crucial launch pad for senior command roles in Canada. Canada's current armed forces chief, General Walter Natynczyk, served first as deputy director of strategy, policy and plans and then as deputy commanding general during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"When the U.S. and UK launched the war in 2003 without a final UN resolution, Canada declined to formally join the coalition. But, as U.S. ambassador Paul Cellucci noted in 2003, in the first week of the war, 'the Canadian naval vessels, aircraft and personnel in the Persian Gulf who are fighting terrorism will provide more support indirectly to this war in Iraq than most of the 46 countries that are fully supporting our efforts there.' Peter Devlin, Canada's head of the army -- another general who served in a deputy commanding role in Iraq -- observed that countries like Canada were an important part of the public relations strategy, providing 'greater legitimacy to the effort here in Iraq.'
"Canada's role in the war in Afghanistan remains its most important so far. Canada has restructured its armed forces since 2002 -- from its training and procurement of weaponry to doctrine and operational deployments. Canadian Forces have embraced the 'whole of government' counterinsurgency model of political warfare, issuing its first field manual for this in 2008. A key training base in Wainwright, Alberta, has been transformed into a 'failed state' city, where soldiers use new technology to simulate house-to-house urban battles.
"Canada's military has significantly upgraded its materiel to match the shift. Israeli-leased Heron drones, heavy-lift and attack helicopters, and strategic long haul C17 jets have been added, so Canada can deploy anywhere at a moment's notice, a capability shared by only four nations.
"As former head of the Canadian army, Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, noted in 2007: 'Let's not kid ourselves, the resources are not for Afghanistan alone. In the near future, we'll be going somewhere similar to Afghanistan, doing the same sorts of things.' He is now Canada's Chief of Transformation, and a leading candidate for the next Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
"The present CDS, General Natynczyk, pointed out that Afghanistan 'has defined the Canadian Forces in this decade and, with the experience of our young veterans, will for decades to come. Veterans from this operational experience are seeing the 'new normal' of complex, multinational operations in dangerous, rapidly changing parts of the world... When the Canadian Forces withdraw from Afghanistan in 2011, I have no doubt that our services will be called upon in troubled regions elsewhere as the Government chooses.'
"Harper told U.S. policymakers shortly after he was elected prime minister in 2006: 'Make no mistake, Canada intends to be a player.'"
(To view the original item, click here -- PDF.)
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