The people must resist the hoax that giving monopolies unrestricted right to control and exploit the people's resources and workplaces under the banner of neoliberal open investment, globalization and monopoly collusion and competition will somehow generate a "net benefit." The Vale takeover of Inco, U.S. Steel's seizure of Stelco, Caterpillar's wrecking of EMD and Rio Tinto buying Alcan are glaring examples of global private investments in Quebec and Canada that do not benefit the people but on the contrary cry out for the restriction of monopoly right and the assertion of sovereignty, public right and strict control over investment so that it benefits the people.
The Rio Tinto lockout scandal in Alma goes to the heart of the necessity to stand up against monopoly right, to stand up and declare the people's control over their resources and basic workplaces, to stand up and fight for the people's resources and the fruit of their labour so that resources and people's work to transform those resources into use-value benefit the people and their society and serve the public interest within an atmosphere of equilibrium with capital investment.
Rio Tinto's Phony Alma Lockout
According to reports from experts in aluminum
production, Rio Tinto in collusion with the largest global monopolies
are limiting aluminum production worldwide to boost prices. Rio Tinto
chose to use this planned period of reduced production to lock out
in Alma and demand concessions from them that will eventually destroy
their union and the established standard of living and working
conditions for all Quebec aluminum workers. Concessions extorted
from Alma workers are to become the template for all other aluminum
workers under the anti-social fraud of "being
Rio Tinto is reportedly engaged in global monopoly collusion to boost prices, which can distort the economy and become a factor causing economic crises. Within this global reduction of aluminum production, Rio Tinto is manipulating the situation to attack the rights of Quebec workers and extort concessions from them. The monopoly cynically says the Alma lockout is a labour dispute while most everyone sees this as a phony lockout combining global manipulation of prices with an opportunist attack on Alma workers and the public interest. Since the phony lockout began a little over two months ago, aluminum prices have swelled $300 to $2,173 per tonne representing a sharp increase in global income for Rio Tinto's aluminum sales from its remaining production.
Global manipulation of prices is a destructive practice of unrestricted monopoly right. Just last spring, the London Metal Exchange (LME) responding to complaints from major aluminum buyers issued an order to Rio Tinto and other producers to stop obstructing the delivery of aluminum. Apparently, the aluminum monopolies had colluded in a plan to manipulate the global market by deliberately delaying shipments. The price had jumped to $2,500 per tonne and only settled back to a more normal average after buyers publicly complained and the LME and others threatened action.
The people should understand that monopolies both collude and compete to have their way. Only through united action of the people to restrict monopoly right and hold authorities to account in all jurisdictions to defend public interest can the people establish equilibrium that benefits the nation and serves the public good.
In Quebec, the Charest government has the social responsibility to come to the defence of the public interest and force Rio Tinto to lift its lockout of Alma workers and establish equilibrium based on the recognition of workers' rights to organize all aluminum workers into a defence collective within their workplace at the established wages, benefits and working conditions.
Rio Tinto Abuses the People's Water Resource
Rio Tinto has locked out Alma workers and is using the opportunity to sell the people's electricity to Hydro-Quebec. This hostile action is contrary to the original spirit and understanding of the agreement giving Rio Tinto access to Quebec's hydro-electrical capacity. The Quebec government granted Rio Tinto the use of the people's water, dams and power plants for the sole purpose of serving industrial development and the provision of productive livelihoods and value to the people. Rio Tinto assaults the dignity and well-being of the Quebec people by diverting the people's hydro-electricity away from aluminum production into Hydro-Quebec's grid for a quick score. To finance its phony lockout and reduction of aluminum production, which forms part of the global collusion to manipulate prices in favour of the aluminum monopolies, Rio Tinto demands $15 million a month from Hydro-Quebec in payment for electricity that Rio Tinto is unjustly selling instead of using to produce aluminum.
The Quebec government is duty-bound to put an end to this scandal and tell Rio Tinto executives that the company must adjust its electrical output and use it for the sole purpose of producing aluminum and any "excess" electricity goes into the national grid without charge. Hydro-Quebec must no longer buy any Rio Tinto electricity under any circumstance!
The monopoly's use of Quebec's resources and workplaces is a privilege based on equilibrium and widely recognized agreements and expectations that bring benefit to the people and not grief and disequilibrium.
Uphold the Dignity of Quebec!
Marc Maltais (left) and Guy Farrell.
Their visit was jointly sponsored by the Engineering
Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) and the Maritime Union of New
Zealand (MUNZ) who are affiliated with the USW through the Mining and
The delegation visited Invercargill on March 8 and met with workers from the nearby Tiwai Point Smelter, which is majority owned by Rio Tinto Alcan. On March 9, the delegation rallied with representatives and members of New Zealand trade unions outside Rio Tinto's offices in Wellington. New Zealand press coverage of the visit included a televised interview with Guy Farrell.
The Alma workers have pointed out that their fight is not calling for charity but that it should be taken up by all workers in defence of their own interests, rights and working conditions. This was reaffirmed as the delegation's visit to New Zealand came shortly after mass firings were announced by Ports of Auckland (POAL), the company administering Auckland's commercial freight and cruise ship harbour facilities. POAL was formed in 1988 after the Auckland Harbour Board was converted into a private company by an act of Parliament.
At left, Joe Fleetwood, National Secretary of the
Maritime Union of New Zealand.
In a February 23 press release announcing the visit of the Alma delegation, Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Joe Fleetwood said the Alma workers are facing the same tactics POAL management are using against union members: "Employers are attempting to pressure their workforces into accepting contracting out around the world, and that's why we have to all stand together for secure jobs."
(3 News, Otago Daily Times, EPMU, Wikipedia; photos: Métallos, MUNZ)
At 1:30 am on March 14, the Harper government passed Bill C-33, An Act to provide for the continuation and resumption of air service operations. The bill passed 155 to 124 after just a few hours of debate subject to a Harper government closure motion. The bill makes it illegal for Air Canada pilots and Air Canada technical maintenance and operations support staff to engage in actions in defence of their working and living conditions that involve a work disruption at the airline. The Harper government did not even wait for the rulings of the Canadian Industrial Relations Board (CIRB), to which it had referred both labour disputes on March 8. The bill feigns neutrality, forbidding Air Canada from locking out its pilots and barring the maintenance staff from striking. This fails to conceal that this legislation is an instrument to bolster Air Canada's monopoly right to impose further concessions on its employees. These workers have already made drastic concessions in terms of their working and living standards and also their health and safety, which directly impacts the public's health and safety as well. The bill sends both issues to final offer binding arbitration in full knowledge of how far Air Canada and its pilots and mechanics have come with respect to negotiating the workers' demands. The fact the bill is an instrument to criminalize any action whatsoever by the workers in defence of their interests is blatantly demonstrated in the section that forbids the workers from even questioning the choice of the arbitrator. This is a direct response to the June 2011 back-to-work legislation against the postal workers following which postal workers successfully challenged the appointed arbitrator as unsuitable. The Harper dictatorship's subservience to the demands of the monopolies, at the expense of people's working and living conditions and safety, can only be restricted and brought to account by organized resistance in defence of workers' and peoples' rights.
This is the third time the Harper government has intervened to block Air Canada workers from negotiating and fighting for their working and living conditions. It did so with back-to-work legislation in June 2011 against the customer agents and last October against the flight attendants. In the case of the flight attendants, the dispute was referred to the CIRB, thus making any strike illegal until a ruling was issued.
The Harper government has de facto declared Air Canada an essential service and workers' struggles illegal without any concern for what the workers are going through and the dangers posed to the airlines when working and living conditions go down the drain. It invokes the national economy as a justification for crushing the workers' struggles, negating the fact the workers who produce the goods and provide the services are at the centre of the economy and that they must be provided with working and living conditions commensurate with the work they perform. In fact, Air Canada's monopoly right is being declared the national interest and the government is shielding this monopoly interest from any struggle by the workers, or even any public scrutiny of what is going on at the airline.
TML calls upon all workers to firmly denounce the Harper dictatorship's back-to-work legislation and say NO! to this blatant abuse of power in defence of monopoly right.
Miners, family members and the union that represents the production workers at Vale in Sudbury, Local 6500 USW, continue to voice concerns about safety conditions and call on government to do its duty to ensure safe working conditions in the mines.
Local 6500 USW recently released the findings of its independent investigation into the June 8, 2011 fatalities of Jason Chenier and Jordon Fram at Vale's Stobie Mine in Sudbury. The union has established a prima facie case that charges ought to be laid against Vale under the Criminal Code of Canada.
The report states: "The USW Local 6500 investigation into the June 2011 double fatality at Vale's Stobie Mine has revealed a failure to manage water conditions and other potential hazards in the underground workplace environment and an overall failure to abide by and implement provincial and internal safety requirements. These failures demonstrate a wanton and/or reckless disregard for the lives and safety of those working in Vale's mines, in addition to demonstrating that Vale and its managerial officials and representatives failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm and death."
Press conference at Queen's Park, February 29, 2012. Left to right: USW District 6 Director Wayne Fraser, Local 6500 USW lead investigator Aldo Cerilli, Briana Fram, sister of deceased miner Jordan Fram. (USW)
On March 7, Sara Purvis, spoke out on the anniversary of the death of her father Robert Nesbitt, a miner killed at the Stobie Mine six years ago. She called on the government to take action on the safety concerns of the miners and their union.
The Attorney General continues to declare that his hands are tied until the Ministry of Labour completes its own investigation into the deaths while the Minister of Labour shamelessly says that, nine months after the double fatality in June 2011, its investigation is about half done. Neither would comment on the results of the investigation done by Local 6500.
Local 6500 USW is also calling for Vale to re-establish safety hazard reporting practices which the company abandoned following the strike settlement, particularly the ability of miners to submit "079 forms" identifying safety concerns and have the company act on those concerns. Vale spokesperson Angie Robson said the company did away with the practice because workers were abusing the system but that workers can still report their concerns to their supervisors. Vale shows such utter contempt for truth and for its workers. The reality is that one of the men who died June 8, 2011, Jason Chenier, was a supervisor and had repeatedly reported excessive water in the mine. Vale did not take action which directly led to the double fatalities.
In January another worker was killed underground, this time at Vale's Coleman mine in Sudbury. The lack of rigour on the part of the government to protect workers' health and safety and enforce compliance with the law and regulations by monopolies like Vale is completely unacceptable.
Cause of deaths: The deaths of Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram are directly attributable to the unsafe accumulation of water in the Stobie Mine and the inadequate procedures in effect to deal with the consequences of such foreseeable developments.
When too much water saturates the ore, this creates sticky muck, a mixture that can plug an ore pass... one of the most hazardous conditions in underground mining... A run of muck is like an avalanche of wet rocks, wet gravel and wet sand.
Safety Requirements: Drain holes are one of the principal strategies to control and redirect excess water in an underground mine such as Stobie. At the time of the incident, drain holes at the 2400, 2600 and 2800 levels were known to have been plugged.
Guardrails: Jason Chenier erected double guardrails at the 2450 and 2600 levels to prevent the dumping of any more ore into the #7 ore-pass. ... [T]he double guardrails were removed under management's directions and re-installed up to 3 times over the course of 2 days. It appears that this was done to allow miners to continue to dump wet ore into the #7 ore pass. The company has provided no explanation...
All Mines Standards: The All Mine Standards, the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulation 854 of the OHSA, establish the legal requirements for workplace health and safety in mines. The company failed to meet these requirements by allowing excess water to accumulate.
079 Form: After the lengthy 2010/2011 labour dispute, workers and the Joint Health and Safety Committee have been denied the right to initiate 079 forms and know that their health and safety concern/complaint would be filed and addressed by management. The filing of such a complaint is now done at the "discretion" of the supervisor. ... Miners recounted that when they did report hazards, this was not logged on 079 forms. Miners reported having fears of retaliation for raising health and safety concerns.
SafeProduction: ... In the months immediately before the June 2011 double fatality, the worker representatives on the JHSC (Joint Health and Safety Committee) raised concerns about stuck drain holes, hang-ups, sticky muck and the excessive accumulation of water. The company failed to address these concerns ...
The Westray Bill, also known as C-45, amended the Criminal Code of Canada in 2004 and placed an occupational health and safety duty on individuals, organizations and their decision-makers across Canada. ...
The USW Local 6500 investigation ... has revealed a failure to manage water conditions and other potential hazards in the underground workplace environment and an overall failure to abide by and implement provincial and internal safety requirements. These failures demonstrate a wanton and/or reckless disregard for the lives and safety of those working in Vale's mines, in addition to demonstrating that Vale and its managerial officials and representatives failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm and death.
The recommendations include:
- That the Government of Ontario establish a Public Inquiry into the causes of the fatalities at the Stobie Mine, and more generally into underground mine safety in Canada, ...since the last significant Ontario/Canada health and safety inquiry 30 years ago.
- That Ontario's Assistant Deputy Attorney General-Criminal Law take immediate steps to determine whether charges under the "Westray" provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada should be laid against company officials.
(To view the complete report and a video explaining how these deaths were avoidable, visit: http://www.usw.ca/valefatalities)
This is the second part in the series "Thinking About Pensions" by K.C. Adams. Part One, "The Necessity for Pensions Arose from the Objective Conditions," appeared in TML Daily, March 9, 2012 - No. 32.
The necessity for Canadian-standard pensions for all arises from the objective conditions that have changed dramatically from the previous era of petty production and extended families. Humans in the main no longer have a family farm or large extended family to provide food and care for the elderly, youth and others in need. Today, people rely on production and provision of services from the socialized economy. This socialized economy of modern industrial mass production and provision of services has the capacity to provide for everyone including food security at a standard far higher than during any previous era of petty production. However, a major block to achieving the aim of security for all has emerged and refuses to let go unless forced. The interconnected socialized economy on which everyone depends for livelihoods and security has been divided up into privately owned parts now dominated by global monopolies beyond the control of the actual producers and the public will. These monopolies have seized authority over the socialized economy and political institutions. They have politicized their private interests and depoliticized the public interest.
Owners of parts of the socialized economy refuse to relinquish control and authority over the socialized economy and allow the parts to work in harmony for the benefit and security of all. They refuse to allow the actual producers to orient the socialized economy towards its continuous reproduction without crises for the well-being of all and the general interests of society. Owners of capital block the value produced by the working class from being used to meet the social demands of the people including the elderly and others who no longer can sell their capacity to work.
The elderly and others who cannot work have nowhere to turn for their security except the socialized economy and society. They rely on their fellow members to work and produce enough social product and provide enough services to meet their needs and the security of all. The authority dictated through private ownership of parts of the socialized economy and class privilege is not in conformity with the objective socialized conditions.
The working class confronts the power to deny of the present authority that is in control of parts of the socialized economy and the state and its governments. The present authority of politicized private interests is not in harmony with the socialized conditions. The authority in control of parts of the socialized economy and state refuses to acknowledge the objective conditions of an interconnected socialized economy on which everyone depends for their livelihoods and well-being. The authority behaves and argues as if extended families are still in control of scattered subsistence petty productive forces that can provide for their family members. The authority even spouts the incoherent nonsense that individuals can and must fend for themselves as if people are living in some other romanticized era. The authority at the main workplaces and in governments is in contradiction with the objective conditions.
A task of the Workers' Opposition is to bring the authority at all levels in the economy and politics into conformity with the objective conditions. In preparation for this change, the Workers' Opposition must fight to hold to account those obsolete forces that own and control parts of the socialized economy and their political representatives in government. The outlook of owners of capital considers the social wealth produced by the working class as private property that belongs to them by monopoly right and class privilege. This outlook based in outmoded class privilege declares that private ownership of parts of the socialized economy confers on owners of capital the right to control the socialized economy and the distribution of the social product in defiance of public right and the actual producers even though everyone depends on the socialized economy and its social product for their livelihoods and well-being.
The Workers' Opposition has no choice but to confront the contradiction of an authority out of synch with the objective conditions. The Workers' Opposition must force the authorities federally, in Quebec and the provinces and territories to claim enough social product from the socialized economy to meet the needs of society and its members. Society is our family and no individual has the right through class privilege or any other reason to deny social product and harm the well-being of members of our family or disrupt the harmonious functioning and reproduction of the socialized economy.
The working class must force the authority at all levels to claim enough social product to meet the needs of all including pensions for all at a standard of living acceptable to retirees and their peers. Pensions for all at a level acceptable to retirees and their working class peers are an objective necessity and as such cannot be considered a policy objective. The right of pensions for all is in the public interest. Public interest must prevail over the private monopoly interests of the obsolete forces who contrary to the objective conditions still own and control parts of the socialized economy on which humanity depends.
The well-being of each part of the socialized economy and its harmonious relationship with all other parts is crucial for the functioning of the whole without crises and to provide without interruption enough social product to meet the needs of the people and general interests of society. The socialized economy including all its parts is the collective inheritance of society and its members. The socialized economy is the material guarantee of the welfare of all present and future members of society and society itself. Politicized public interest must prevail over politicized private interests. Public right must prevail over monopoly right.
The Workers' Opposition must force the authority in government and the economy to conform to the objective conditions of the modern world of industrial mass production where all are born to society and have rights by virtue of being human. All individuals and their collectives depend on society and the socialized economy for their livelihoods and well-being. Society and the socialized economy depend for their continued well-being on the participation of every individual to the best of their ability in the country's economic, political and cultural affairs as do all individuals depend on their socialized economy and society. Together we can build a society of socialized humanity in which the rights of all are recognized and guaranteed!
All members of society have rights by virtue of being human, and a pension for every individual is one of those modern rights!
All for one and one for all in the modern conditions of being born to society!
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