January 19, 2012 - No. 3
Defend the York Region Transit Workers'
Outrageous Attack Against York Region
• Defend the Workers'
Rights! - Jim Nugent
Stand as One with Rio Tinto Workers
• Crucial Defence of Workers' Rights and
Equilibrium in Production of Aluminum - K.C. Adams
London Day of Action in Support of Electro-Motive Workers
• Enough Is Enough! All Out to Make the Day of
Action a Success!
Auto Workers on Front Line of Resistance to Assaults on Labour
• Changes at Windsor Minivan Assembly Plant
• Chicken Little Routine in the Auto Sector
- Enver Villamizar
Outrageous Attack Against York Region
Defend the Workers' Rights!
On January 17, the municipal government of York Region
announced a decision that eliminates the jobs of 90 striking transit
workers employed by York Transit contractor First Canada. York
Region's action is a vicious, vengeful attack on the collective
bargaining rights of the transit workers on strike against
York Transit. It is also an attack on the entire Canadian working class
which is trying to re-establish an equilibrium in labour relations in
the face of attempts by the rich to drive down the standard of Canadian
wages and working conditions.
The announcement on January 17 said York Region will be
terminating the contract of First Canada to operate 29 bus routes for
York Transit and will be appointing a new contractor for these routes
at its January 26 council meeting. This contract otherwise would have
expired in July. The livelihoods of 90 bus
drivers employed by First Canada will be affected by this decision.
This unilateral decision by York Region to sack workers
during a legal strike makes a total mockery of Ontario's collective
bargaining system. First Canada workers and other York Transit workers
have followed the letter of the law throughout negotiations and during
their 12-week legal strike. Every proscription
on workers in the Labour Relations
Act has been adhered to. York
Transit workers even requested that York Region submit the dispute to
the Ministry of Labour for binding arbitration when it became obvious
that the companies were not negotiating. But York Region's response
has been to take extralegal action
against the workers, actions outside of and in complete contempt of the
Labour Relations Act.
If the decision of York Region to sack the First
Canada workers is allowed to stand, it means that the entire Labour
Relations Act is a meaningless absurdity with regard to
public services. Blackmail and intimidation
about switching contractors can be used to impose slave agreements on
public service workers employed by contractors -- if workers resist,
services contracts can be manipulated and workers dismissed.
First Canada workers have been on strike since October
24 along with 500 other York Transit workers employed by the
contractors Veolia Transit and Miller Transit. In its announcement,
York Region made it very clear that the drivers working on the First
Canada contracted routes were being punished for not
knuckling under to wage and benefit terms dictated by First Canada.
There was also a thinly veiled threat to workers at Veolia and Miller
in the announcement about First Canada. York Region says these workers
could face similar action if they don't accept the contractors'
dictates on wages and benefits immediately.
The announcement included a blustering declaration by the York Region
Chairperson that he would use every means he could to keep transit
wages and benefits below the standard for the transit sector.
The timing of the announcement of the York Region
decision about First Canada itself was intended to manipulate workers
voting in an Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) ordered vote on an
offer by Veolia Transit. The vote was the same day as the announcement.
Despite the blackmail of York Region,
the workers overwhelmingly rejected Veolia's offer, just as Miller
Transit's offer was soundly rejected in an OLRB forced vote a week
earlier. Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113 President Bob
Kinnear denounced this attempt to
intimidate Veolia workers during the vote. "York Region is saying to
the employees, 'You better take this
offer or potentially you could be out of a job,' and that's not a way
to conduct labour relations."
The ATU has charged York Region with unfair labour
at the Labour Relations Board for its attempt to interfere in the
outcome of the OLRB vote at Veolia. York Region should be charged over
this illegal blackmail of Veolia workers, but what will happen to the
90 striking First Canada workers is another
matter and would still be unresolved. This is of obvious concern to the
workers on strike against First Canada who may lose their jobs and to
all the York Transit workers struggling for an acceptable collective
agreement. But it is also of serious concern to the entire working
The actions being taken
against its transit workers by
York Region are based on the fraudulent and ridiculous assertion by the
York politicians that the negotiations and strike "are none of our
business" since transit services are contracted out. It is this
irresponsible position of York politicians that has blocked
any movement toward a mutually acceptable compromise throughout the
negotiations and strike. This position is the means the politicians
have used for avoiding any meaningful negotiations with workers in
order to keep York Transit wages and benefits locked-in at sub-standard
The working class cannot accept that contracting out
public services relieves governments of their responsibility for
services and for the workers who provide them. Workers' right to have a
say in wages and working conditions through collective bargaining is
not extinguished when governments hire contractors
to manage their public services. Nor should contracting out extinguish
the protection of workers' jobs from reprisals during collective
bargaining, strikes or lockouts. The Labour
Relations Act needs to be
extended to prohibit the kind of vicious attack on workers' rights the
York Region government has carried out
against its transit workers. In the case of the 90 men and women
driving the buses for York Transit on the First Canada contract
routes -- this work is their work, no matter to whom York Region
contract. They have a right to these jobs. They have a right to
negotiate their wages and conditions without reprisals.
They deserve the support of all workers in defence of these rights.
Stand as One with Rio Tinto Workers
Crucial Defence of Workers' Rights and Equilibrium in
Production of Aluminum
Alma workers on the
picket line, January 16, 2012. (STAA)
The global monopoly Rio Tinto has locked out 780
aluminum workers of Alma's Local 9490 USW. This unjust lockout is an
attack on the rights of the working class. The executives of Rio Tinto
want to destroy the workers' defence collective by employing more and
more non-union contract workers whose claim
on average amounts to only 44 per cent of the claim of Local 9490
workers on the aluminum they produce.
The attack to eliminate Local 9490 creates
disequilibrium among those human and natural forces necessary to
produce aluminum. With their lockout to force greater hiring of
contract workers, Rio Tinto executives hope to enrich the owners they
represent by taking more of the value of aluminum production out
of Alma and the region. This must not pass and will not pass because
Canadians stand as one with their fellow workers of Alma Local 9490 and
the people of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean.
Six main natural and social factors come together to
produce aluminum in Alma and the region:
- The working class or human
factor of which members of
Local 9490 are an important contingent;
- Local electrical power production from the force of
the Saguenay and Peribonca Rivers;
- The deep Saguenay River that can handle ocean
freighters right up to La Baie;
- Bauxite (alumina) from abroad;
- A modern socialized economy and social and political
infrastructure allowing humans to produce within a coherent collective;
- Modern machinery for aluminum mass production.
For aluminum production to occur, equilibrium of mutual
benefit must exist among all factors. Rio Tinto executives, as
representatives of the owners of the machinery of mass production, are
but one factor in this process. For them to impose their will on one or
more of the other factors throws the whole into
disequilibrium. Canadians must stand as one against the disequilibrium
created by Rio Tinto executives with this unjust lockout.
Led by the determination and unity of members of Local
9490, Canadians should mobilize themselves and those other factors of
aluminum production over which they can exercise some control to oppose
the disequilibrium of Rio Tinto executives. Aluminum production can
take place in Canada only within an
equilibrium based on recognition of the rights of the working class and
for the mutual benefit of all factors involved.
Canadians will hold governments to account to defend
equilibrium in aluminum production by taking measures to isolate the
disruptive factor represented by the executives of Rio Tinto. The
representatives of the ownership of the machinery of mass production
must be shown that it cannot extort and damage
the interests of other factors involved in aluminum production, in
particular in this case the human factor. Canadians, led by the working
class and its pro-social view and desire to establish equilibrium that
serves the socialized economy and people, cannot and will not accept
the lockout and other destructive activities
of Rio Tinto executives.
The modern world needs aluminum and the
Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean Region is well positioned to meet this demand.
Canadians standing as one tell the disruptors of equilibrium within the
mass production of aluminum that the lockout must stop and the just
demands of Local 9490 for a reduction in contracting out
must be met. That is the only socially responsible way to re-establish
equilibrium and guarantee production of aluminum in the region.
If Rio Tinto executives
refuse to be part of the mutual
benefit accruing to all factors derived from equilibrium in the mass
production of aluminum based on the recognition of the rights of the
working class and people of the region, then those factors in the
production process over which the people can exercise
control will take action to defend their interests and equilibrium.
Within this struggle, governments must be held to account so that
factors under the control of the people put pressure on Rio Tinto
executives to come to their senses for the mutual benefit of all.
The human factor and other natural and social factors of
the region are decisive in aluminum production. If necessary, the other
factors in the production process over which the people can exercise
control including the human factor, electrical power, Saguenay River
and its ports, and the social and political infrastructure
must take action such as depriving Rio Tinto executives of those
factors to produce aluminum. Without those factors, the machinery
cannot manufacture aluminum.
If the executives continue in their anti-social ways,
their particular ownership of the machinery of mass production can be
made an issue over which the people have a right to decide in a manner
that serves the working class and people of the region. Other
representatives or owners of machinery who welcome
equilibrium can be found including the people themselves represented by
their governments. Others outside the Rio Tinto Empire are quite
capable of managing the machinery and distribution of aluminum in a
socially responsible manner.
Stand as one to end the lockout! Alma aluminum
production must resume based on justice, equilibrium and the rights of
the working class and people of the region!
Manufacturing Yes! Nation-Wrecking No!
It Can Be Done! It Must Be Done!
London Day of Action in Support of
Enough Is Enough!
All Out to Make the Day of Action a Success!
January 21 -- 11:00
Victoria Park (Wellington St.
The Ontario Federation of Labour, one of the organizers
of the London Day of Action, reports that the mobilization has received
a very positive response. Some 70 buses are expected to travel from 14
communities as far away as Niagara, Ottawa and Sudbury, the OFL
says. It says thousands more people
are expected to travel by car. "There are even reports of supporters
driving in from the GE Plant in Erie, Pennsylvania and the Caterpillar
plant in La Grange, Illinois to support their locked-out Canadian
counterparts," the OFL writes.
According to OFL President
Sid Ryan, the issue facing
the workers is government support for corporate greed. "Prime Minister
Harper has made it clear that he is on the side of corporations that
are exploiting weak federal regulations and lax labour laws to rob
Canadians of their jobs and their livelihoods," Ryan
said. "Our message to the Harper government, Caterpillar and every
other company is simple: it won't be business as usual until community
needs come before corporate greed."
"The audacity of Caterpillar in demanding a $30 million
annual cut from these workers, their families and our city has inspired
the community to come together to say 'enough is enough,'" said Patti
Dalton, President of the London and District Labour Council.
"Caterpillar thought they could simply bulldoze
the 500 employees at their London plant, but they didn't anticipate how
passionately other Canadian workers and community members would support
Reports inform that in the first nine months of 2011
Caterpillar's profits were up 95 per cent, to $3.4 billion. Industry
reports says that this year Caterpillar expects to see its
highest sales and largest profits in the company's 86-year history.
The outgoing CEO James Owens received $22.5 million for
six months work last year and a defined-benefit pension worth $18.7
All of this substantiates the fact that Electro-Motive's
parent corporation Caterpillar wants unfettered management rights at
all its plants to do as it pleases and its assault against the workers
in London is a clear attempt to smash their union so that the workers
are reduced to slave labour status.
TML calls on its readers to go all out to join
the auto workers in London to say Enough Is Enough!
Auto Workers on Front Line of Resistance
to Assaults on Labour
Changes at Windsor Minivan Assembly Plant
The contracts for the "Big
3" automakers (Chrysler,
General Motors and Ford) in Canada will expire on September 17. Workers
in Windsor at Chrysler's minivan assembly plant report that in the last
year there has been increasing pressure so as to disorient and
destabilize them. The increased pressure in the last
year is on top of changes which were put in place to increase
exploitation when Fiat took control of Chrysler in 2009.
When Fiat took over Chrysler, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne
became Chrysler's CEO. Marchionne holds both Canadian and Italian
citizenship. His post-secondary education includes a Master of Business
Administration from the University of Windsor in 1980. At the time of
the last negotiations with Chrysler
workers in 2009, his studies in Windsor were used to present him as
being in touch with and concerned about local realities. During these
negotiations, the workers were forced to give up a reported $19 per
hour, per worker in concessions in order to pave the way for the
provincial and federal governments' bailout
of Chrysler. Since Fiat took over, in addition to the massive
concessions, there have been a number of developments in working
conditions that workers are starting to recognize as part of a pattern.
Chrysler produces all of its minivan models, as well as
the Volkswagen Routan minivan at its Windsor Assembly Plant (WAP). The
minivans assembled by the workers in Windsor are Chrysler's most
popular products. As a result of this popularity Chrysler's Big 3
competitors have stopped producing rival minivans.
This means the WAP is the only facility producing minivans in Canada
and the U.S. for the Big 3. The plant currently employs 4,607 hourly
employees and 181 salaried employees on three shifts.
In the last year there has been more than a month of
unscheduled "down-time," including entire weeks at a time. The company
claims the down-time is due to "parts shortages" or "inventory
adjustments." The workers point out that "parts shortages" is a straw
man. They explain
that the just-in-time production model where parts are shipped as
needed by various tiers of parts suppliers in Canada, the U.S., Mexico
or Asia results in the shortages, and that by stocking parts or making
them "in-house" this problem could easily be sorted out.
The company has scheduled overtime work on every
Saturday for the last year. However in all but a few cases it has
cancelled the shift a few days prior, or in one case, a few hours
before the workers were set to arrive. These workers are kept waiting
for the company to decide,
constantly unsure if they are going to work or not.
There has also been intensified exploitation of workers
along with increasing attempts to divide the union.
Under the ownership of Cerberus Capital Management
(2007-2009) workers were organized into "cells." Each cell was made up
of four to five workers and assigned a cell leader who would coordinate
cell's work as well as look out for any issues that might arise in
production. Cell leaders are union members who are
paid slightly more than a regular line worker. They are overseen by a
head cell leader called a super leader who is also a union member.
Under Cerberus the cell leaders would work with a company supervisor to
deal with any issues arising on the line. At the time, Chrysler also
had personnel to fill in for absent
employees, as well as relief personnel to fill in if a lineworker had
to leave the line for any reason. Under Fiat, many supervisors were let
go, and the number of people in some cells has risen to eight with cell
leaders being given an increased work load, including a substantial
amount of paperwork such as logging down-time,
reporting issues on the line and proposing new "efficiencies." The
fill-in personnel have also been eliminated and filling in has become
the responsibility of the cell leader. Workers report that this
arrangement into cells leads to divisions amongst the workers as "cell
leaders" are encouraged to work with management
to "deal with" certain employees. Workers note that the lines between
management and the union are being blurred by the restructuring imposed
by the company.
The amount of rest during a shift has also decreased
under Fiat. Previously, on a 7.5-hour shift workers had two breaks: 12
and 14 minutes respectively, along with a 24-minute lunch for a total
of 50 minutes of rest. Now they get two 9-minute breaks and a 22-minute
lunch; a total of 40 minutes rest. Workers
explain that the breaks are not enough time for them to leave their job
and get back in time in order to go to the washroom, let alone to have
a short rest or eat a snack.
Chicken Little Routine in the Auto Sector
Claiming that the sky is going to fall if workers don't
accept the dictate of the monopolies has become the method of choice to
block workers from discussing their options in a calm atmosphere and
organizing to defend their interests. This "Chicken Little" routine is
also being played out in the auto industry.
However, workers are gaining experience in recognizing and opposing it.
On January 5, Windsor Star auto
Chris Vander Doelen wrote an editorial entitled "CAW playing chicken,
sleepwalking to disaster." In it he claimed that some members of the
Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) are "concerned" that the union is "playing
chicken" with the possibility of plant
closures. According to Vander Doelen, they are "concerned" the CAW is
being "hardline" because it is not immediately accepting the dictate by
Caterpillar at the Electro-Motive plant in London, and that it has
publicly opposed statements by Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne calling
for autoworkers' wages in Canada
to be tied to "company performance." Vander Doelen backs up his claims
about plant closures sourcing "rumours," "observers" and "cynics," so
as to create the impression that these claims are not just his own
threats. "Rumours have been circulating for months among the automotive
engineering fraternity that one
of Chrysler's two Canadian plants will be on the chopping block this
summer if the CAW refuses to give up the cost reductions Marchionne
says Chrysler still needs to survive," he wrote, adding:
"Most observers believe Brampton is the plant most
vulnerable because its huge GTA site is worth millions to developers,
while Toronto traffic is beginning to strangle just-in-time delivery
"But cynics (or mischief makers) also point to the
mothballed St. Louis minivan plant as an easy way to replace Windsor
Assembly, should talks with the CAW go as sour as those at
The workers immediately called Vander Doelen's bluff
using the comments section of the Windsor Star website to
point out that both St. Louis Assembly plants are completely shutdown
(the plant property has been sold and the facilities dismantled). In an
effort to save face, so as to keep up his the-sky-is-falling threats,
Vander Doelen issued a "correction" at the very end of
an editorial one week later. "Correction: I had a brain spasm in last
week's column about the CAW's bargaining challenges. Minivan production
could never be started in St. Louis again because both of those plants,
which both once built minivans,
have been demolished.
"It's Saltillo, Mexico, which could build the vans now,
What Vander Doelen exposed in his "correction" is that
he is the "cynic" or "mischief maker" that he cites as the source for
his false claim that production could be moved to St. Louis. Is he also
the source who believes the Brampton plant is vulnerable to closure, as
well as the source of "current and former CAW
members" who he claims in his editorial are "concerned" about the
Lack of journalistic integrity aside, Vander Doelen has
now been exposed as an agent of the "Chicken Little" routine and the
ongoing attempts to create panic and confusion in the community. It is
yet to be seen whether his threats about Chrysler moving minivan
production to Saltillo, Mexico are also part of
the routine. Autoworkers are sure to put the "Chicken Little" attempt
to panic them in the barnyard where it belongs.
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