June 1, 2012 - No. 82
Too Big to Fail and Too Big to
Anti-Social Dictatorship of the
Striking CP Rail workers
and supporters rally on Parliament Hill against back-to-work
legislation, May 29, 2012. (TCRC)
• Anti-Social Dictatorship of the Monopolies
• CP Rail Teamster Pickets at Vancouver
• Fraud of "Fiscal Austerity" to Attack the
Workers - Dougal MacDonald
• Harper Dictatorship's Forced and Slave Labour
Policies Take It Down the Nazi Road - George Allen
Discussion on Budget
• Universal Social Security Programs Are
Required for a Democratic and Humane Society - Jim Nugent
Too Big to Fail and Too Big to Negotiate
Anti-Social Dictatorship of the Monopolies
The working class is
charged by history to build the new
Federal legislation to crush the strike of CPR workers
criminalize them if they refuse to work under terms dictated by the
monopoly is further proof that Canada has sunk into an unabashed
dictatorship of the monopolies. According to the Harper government, CPR
is too big to negotiate because it controls
40 per cent of rail traffic. The Harper government will not allow a
disruption of that much rail transport as it contends the damage to the
economy is too great. The Harper government argued similarly, when it
legislated an end to workers' struggles with Air Canada and Canada Post.
Even without specific legislation, global monopolies
refuse to negotiate with their workers and simply dictate terms of
employment. Monopolies such as Rio Tinto Alcan, U.S. Steel, Caterpillar
and Vale use the power of their global reach to extort concessions from
workers. Workers are ordered to pay
the price of the capitalist tendency towards monopoly in the economy
with negation of their right to negotiate wages, benefits, pensions and
working conditions acceptable to them and their peers.
This dictatorship of monopolies extends also into the
public regulations governing their operations. The omnibus federal
budget Bill C-38 contains measures that emasculate public input and
regulations governing the environment, fisheries and other aspects of
the social and natural environment.
In Quebec, the Charest government has brought in a
negating civil rights to push through higher tuition fees that favour
the banking oligopoly and punish the people. Many of those same banks
across the country that profit from government guaranteed student loans
received at least $114 billion in
public pay-the-rich bailouts during the recent economic crises to save
them from collapse because they are deemed "too big to fail."
CPR -- From Nation-Building to Annexation into the U.S.
Ackman, a U.S. billionaire using a New York City investment company
called Pershing Square Capital Management recently gained control of
Canadian Pacific Railway. Just prior to the strike, Ackman denounced
CPR leadership for the company's falling rate of profit. May 17, Ackman
eased out CPR's chief executive Fred Green with a "golden handshake"
worth $18 million plus a pension of $1.6 million a year. Green and four
directors were replaced with Ackman appointees. CPR workers inform TML
was pushed out in a proxy war led by Ackman and supported by large
blocks of shares held by the Ontario Teachers' Pension fund and the
Canada Pension Plan fund. Many workers including teachers would like to
know how these funds of the Canadian people's savings became a factor
in the U.S. annexation of
a major and historical Canadian corporation like the CPR. Ironic indeed
that a railway originally conceived to unite Canada in opposition to
U.S. expansion and continentalism has become annexed by U.S.
imperialism and is attacking Canadian workers and the economy with the
active consent and participation of
large Canadian pension funds and the federal government, which is
politicizing the private demands of Ackman in opposition to the rights
of Canadian workers.
In a press scrum after the introduction of legislation
criminalize the strike of CPR workers, a reporter asked Labour Minister
Lisa Raitt, "Many Canadians believe you are acting on behalf of a New
York hedge fund and not on behalf of the people. How do you respond?"
"Ridiculous!" she blurted out. Ridiculous
indeed Labour Minister. That is precisely what many Canadians think of
your actions and the state of political and economic affairs in a
country dominated by global monopolies and annexed into the U.S. Empire.
This dictatorship of the monopolies over the Canadian
flaunted by Harper, Charest and the provincial premiers and their
cronies is of great concern. What kind of country are we heading
towards with this unbridled control of monopoly capital over our
economy and lives? That is a question on many
people's minds. Canadians are told to accept the rise of global
monopolies as inevitable under capitalism and that no alternative
exists. With acceptance of the dominance of monopolies in most sectors
of the economy comes the inevitable rationale that their failure or any
disruption of their activities is unacceptable.
For the Harper dictatorship, common sense must prevail. CPR controls 40
per cent of the country's rail traffic; a prolonged disruption, in the
words of Lisa Raitt, would put "other people's livelihoods at risk....
We cannot wait any longer. Not when our economy hangs in the balance.
[This government is] here on
a mandate to protect the economy."
The problem for Canadians is that "the economy" is
private monopoly interests and in this case U.S. private interests and
the government instead of protecting Canadians and their economy is
protecting and politicizing the U.S. dominated private interests in
opposition to not only CPR workers but
farmers and all other workers and their communities whose livelihoods
are connected with shipping and producing those commodities the CPR
Canadians are told that for
the monopolies to compete and survive in
the global marketplace they must be merged with the financial,
legislative, police and military powers of the state. The state has
become a gigantic public-private monopoly-partnership rife with
corruption, pay-the-rich schemes and class privilege.
Private monopoly interests are politicized in various ways while the
public interest is disavowed creating a state monopoly capitalist
dictatorship that controls our economy and all major aspects of the way
we live and relate to one another.
This situation has created a glaring contradiction
people and monopoly capital that must be resolved based on the
recognition that people have rights by virtue of being human, including
the right to govern themselves and control their economy, and that
monopolies, whether public or private, must
come under the control of the popular will.
The working class has to respond to the present
reality with eyes wide open and clear thinking as to how to organize to
defend itself effectively, hold high the public interest and general
interests of society and open a path forward. Canadians are at a
crossroads demanding new ways of organizing
and actions with analysis that break new ground. Workers cannot afford
to be aloof and think that life will just carry on in the old way; the
evidence points to the contrary. Anti-worker, anti-social
disequilibrium has descended on the country. Only the working class
organized to defend the rights of all, armed with
an agenda to take the economy and nation in a new pro-social direction
can mobilize the popular will and break new ground towards an
Too big to fail and too big to negotiate, the monopolies
have seen their day.
The new is waiting to be created. The working class is
charged by history to lead Canadians in building the new.
CP Rail Workers' Rally on Parliament Hill, May 29
CP Rail Teamster Pickets at
Vancouver Intermodal Facility
TML: Can you please inform Canadians
about the issues you face, whether they relate to negotiations or not.
Tell us about your working conditions.
Jim Armillotta: I've been a locomotive
engineer for 34 years. I just finished doing a stint for 28 years in
Revelstoke, and recently moved back to Vancouver in October 2011. My
main issue is that I only have a couple of years to retiring after so
many years of work. The company seems
to want to take away what I thought I'd have as a retirement package.
My understanding was I'd get a livable pension to retire with like my
father and grandfather did. I'm third generation railroader, and have
two younger brothers with CP. They're trying to cut back to a cap which
is less than I have been able to
generate in my last five years of working according to the old
arrangement. Also they want to eliminate our medical benefit package
after age 65.
In addition they want to
expand the hours of work from
10 hours to 12 hours. They only give an $80 stipend if you go over 10
hours of work now, but it doesn't compensate for the exhaustion you
suffer after working 10 hours. Often even though you exceed your 10
hours, you don't get the $80 through little
loop holes. Like you arrive in terminal just before 10 hours, they cut
you off there, but then they send your train to another terminal in
Vancouver, then we have to taxi back to our home terminal, and by the
time the day is really over, we've put in 12 hours, but we don't
collect the $80.
I understand where CP is coming from wanting 12 hours
because they don't want to double-man the trains. Now they may have to
use two crews to get the train to the designated place.
The size of the trains has been designed from an office
and says X amount of footage can be pulled by one or two engines from
point A to point B in Y hours, without taking into account the real
times needed to move the product. The time sequences they impose are
not realistic. We pull up to 160 cars on
a grain train, 170 on a potash train. One crew out of Vancouver
Intermodal Facility (VIF) now pulls 10,000 feet, almost two miles long.
Going 10 to 15 mph it takes almost 12 minutes to clear the crossings in
the neighbourhood. No wonder the public is annoyed waiting for our
trains to cross. These trains are extremely
long and slow, and with exhausted crews it's dangerous. If you take a
broken sleep for four hours or so, then they abandon you in Boston Bar
for up to 14 hours, away from family and not getting pay. There is
no incentive for them to take you out of there, so the pressure is
always to work up to Boston Bar,
and then grab a train and take it back to Vancouver. In a 24-hour day,
they can work you up to 18 hours. Of course they can always say, "Well,
that's your choice!"
TML: Canadians hear bits and pieces
about your "big wages" and "high pensions," but they don't appreciate
work actually done and how the scheduling wrecks family life, has you
missing appointments. It's very stressful.
Don Holt: I've been at the CPR for 28
and a half years. I've been an engineer for about 18 years. It took me
10 years to become one, and I'm also a third generation railroader. The
company has vacillated on hiring our sons and daughters. They stopped
for a while, now they've resumed doing
that. Today there are more women workers. Right now I'm a freight
engineer, so there is no planning for family life. I'm out of my kids
sports and school events, can't plan for weddings etc. If I really need
to go somewhere, I have to take a day off without pay. But if we take
too many days off then they cut you
right back to a minimum.
If I start work at midnight, I try and get a couple of
hours before going, which is not always easy. You get to Northbend
(Boston Bar) which is our "away from home terminal" for VIF and
Coquitlam. Coming back we can stop at VIF, or we could be told to "run
through" to Vancouver, Port Moody or Sapperton
which adds up to four hours a day. Once you're in the terminal, you're
longer a "priority" so you can sit there for hours. We're usually gone
24 hours, so you're away from home six months a year. It's very hard on
family life. We have too high a divorce rate related to this problem.
They can tell you to work on
your kid's birthday, and it's not uncommon.
I've been at CP for 21 years
and I'm also a freight engineer. I just want to add a bit about this
problem of broken sleep and broken time off. We have an absentee policy
at CP. They even count your authorized leave of absence (ALAs) against
your absentee record. They expect
you to have 98.7 attendance over the year. We are not entitled to any
sick days. They don't pay for even one sick day. We have to take a day
on our leave. You have to talk to a manager at VIF if you're sick. They
want a doctor's note within 72 hours. But it doesn't affect them
financially. If I lose a 24 hour trip,
I lose up to $800; the company loses nothing. Their over-all policy is
to keep the working collective of engineers, conductors, trainmen and
yardmen to a minimum. Now they want to shrink it by extending the hours
of work to 12 hours instead of 10. They basically want to take out a
shift in the middle of the day.
They want to eliminate the 8 hour shifts in the yard. They plan to do
this by expanding those hours to 12, which would cut out a shift.
Jim Ross: I've been at CP for 26 years,
22 years as an engineer. I worked for BC Rail for four years, then I
got a job at CP. One thing people should know is the
demand of CP Rail to increase the mileage needed to be worked before
you get time off. Instead of 3,800 miles
a month, they want to expand it to 4,300 miles which CN already has in
place for conductors and trainmen. Vancouver to Boston Bar is roughly
300 miles. Now we get time off after 3,800 miles. Under the present
arrangement, if I work 80 hours a week, I'd get four or five days off
for miles. But if they raise that
to 4,300 miles, that would be four more trips, so I'd never get time
for miles. My understanding is that trainmen and conductors at CN work
4,800 hours with their contract, and now CP wants to push it on to all
of us, including engineers at CP. I'm sure if you analyzed the
situation across the country, hundreds
of CP workers would lose their "time off for hours," a serious set-back
for railroaders in Canada.
BC Federation of Labour Support Rally, Vancouver, May 29
Harper Dictatorship's Continuing
Fraud of "Fiscal Austerity" to Attack the Workers
The monopolies, their governments, and their media
continue to spread disinformation that the world is in recession, that
economies are fragile, and that everyone (except the monopolies) must
accept "fiscal austerity." All the tired old mantras are trotted out:
"tighten your belts," "lower your expectations," "do
more with less," "find efficiencies," "contain costs" and so on. On
May 15, for example, Canada's Minister of Finance James Flaherty told a
Senate Subcommittee that in view of the "Greek crisis," the best thing
Canada can do to insulate itself from possible repercussions is to
maintain its fiscal discipline by reducing
deficits, paying down debt and ensuring Canada's banks remain well
regulated. Obviously, this also means escalating the Harper
dictatorship's vicious attacks on social programs.
But the facts expose that talk of recession and fiscal
austerity is deliberate disinformation. Each year in May, Time-Life's Fortune
business magazine publishes the revenues of the largest monopolies in
the U.S., all of which do business in Canada. The May 21, 2012 issue of
that in 2011, the top 500 U.S. corporations generated $824.5 billion in
earnings, up 16.4 per cent over 2010. Not only that, the amount of
revenue they generated exceeded that generated during the "roaring
economy" of 2006, which was prior to the "recession". How is this huge
increase in revenues a recession for
the monopolies? Obviously the so-called recession is very selective in
who it injures and who it rewards.
Number one in revenues in 2011 was the Rockefellers'
Exxon, which, through its subsidiary, Imperial Oil, controls Alberta's
largest oil sands monopoly Syncrude, exploits conventional oil and gas,
and runs Esso gas stations across Canada. In 2011, Exxon's revenues
ranked first of the Fortune 500
at $843 billion, an increase of 27.7 per cent from 2010. Exxon's
profits also ranked first at $41,060 billion, an increase of 34.8 per
cent from 2010. Exxon invaded Alberta in 1920 when former Premier Peter
Lougheed's grandfather, James Lougheed, and his partner R. B. Bennett,
later prime minister, sold their
company, Calgary Petroleum Products, to Imperial Oil. Imperial struck
Leduc #1 in 1947, the major crude oil discovery which ushered in
Alberta's energy era, and Imperial is now Canada's fifth largest
company by assets. It is well-known that Exxon/Imperial and other
energy monopolies are the real rulers of the
province of Alberta and that the provincial government gives them every
assistance to more effectively plunder Alberta's oil energy resources.
Exxon and the Fortune 500 fattened their revenues in
2011 mainly by directly attacking the workers. On May 7, 2012, Andy
Serwer, Fortune managing editor, said on CBS: "Corporate
America is doing great right now .... A lot of that has to do with the
fact that they've cut back. They've cut costs
during the downturn, meaning layoffs quite frankly. That's why profits
are so high." In other words, record corporate revenues have been
achieved by firing workers and/or slashing their wages and benefits.
This goes hand in hand with continued outsourcing of production to
locations where labour is cheap. The
Wall Street Journal reported on April 19, 2011, that a survey of
some of the largest U.S. corporations -- Walmart, Chevron, General
Electric, Microsoft, Caterpillar, etc. -- revealed that they cut their
workforces by 2.9 million people over the last decade while hiring 2.4
million workers overseas.
The disinformation of a recession is a half-truth. There
is a recession for the working people but there is a continuing boom
for the monopolies and the two go hand in hand. Now the ruling circles
want the working people to tighten their belts even more and to give
even more concessions to the monopolies
and their governments so that in 2012 those same monopolies, which are
controlled by such folks as the mega-rich
Rockefellers, can make even greater gains, maybe even a trillion
dollars in 2012. All this is to be achieved on the backs of the workers
because poverty for the workers ensures prosperity
for the rich. That is why fiscal austerity for the people is currently
being promoted as the "winning formula" for the monopolies and their
Government's Forced Labour Regimen
Harper Dictatorship's Forced and Slave Labour Policies
Take It Down the Nazi Road
On May 24, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley
revealed more about
the Harper dictatorship's sweeping changes to Employment Insurance
(EI). With each announcement the full extent of the despicable forced
labour agenda is further revealed, and the necessity to oppose it.
History is very revealing here.
The use of forced and slave labour in Nazi Germany and occupied Europe
during the Second World War took place on a huge scale as it did in
Asia with the forced labour of the Koreans and Chinese by Japan.
In Europe it was a vital part of Nazi economic
conquered territories, and also contributed to the mass extermination
of European populations. The Nazis abducted approximately twelve
million people from almost twenty European countries; about two-thirds
of whom came from Eastern Europe.
2.8 million workers were kidnapped from the Soviet Union, the Nazis'
About fifteen million men and women were forced
labourers for the
monopolies behind the Nazi regime at one point or another during the
war. At the peak, forced labourers comprised twenty per cent of the
German work force. The largest numbers worked in the German war
industry, repaired bombed railroads
and bridges, or worked on farms. Many workers died due to their onerous
living conditions, mistreatment, malnutrition or became civilian
casualties of war. Extermination through labour was a Nazi policy that
demanded that camp inmates must work for the German war industry with
only basic tools and minimal
food until totally exhausted. Workers were executed when they became
unable to work.
The Nazis developed a labourer classification system
based on layers
of increasingly less privileged workers (i.e., guest workers, forced
workers and slave labourers). The relatively well-paid "guest workers"
from Germany's allies were at the top of the hierarchy and the slave
labourers from conquered "subhuman"
populations at the bottom. The forced labourers in between were further
divided, in descending order, into military internees/prisoners of war,
civilian workers mainly from Poland, and Eastern workers who were
mainly from the Soviet Union. European forced labourers received at
most about one-half of what was
paid to German workers, while the forced labourers who were prisoners
received little if any wages or benefits.
As the war progressed, the use of unpaid slave labour
massively. Millions of conquered peoples were used as slave labourers
by more than 2,000 German corporations, such as Thyssen, Krupp, IG
Farben and Siemens, all of which exist in one form or another today.
Even before the war, Nazi Germany maintained
a supply of slave labour, beginning from the early days, of the
different categories of labour camps for "undesirables" such as
communists, political dissidents, Jews, the homeless, homosexuals, and
anyone whom the regime wanted to eliminate. Even children were
kidnapped to work in an operation called the Heu-Aktion.
U.S. corporate subsidiaries in Germany such as
subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company, Adam Opel AG, a subsidiary of
General Motors, and Focke-Wulf, a subsidiary of ITT, all of which built
military equipment for the Nazi war machine, also used forced and slave
labour, enabling them to greatly
increase their profits. Ford's German branch plant posted heavy losses
in the early 1930s. However, with lucrative government contracts,
thanks to Hitler's rearmament drive, Ford-Werke's annual profits rose
spectacularly from 63,000 Reichsmarks (RM) in 1935 to 1,287,800 RM in
1939. The share of the German
automobile market of GM's Opel factory (in Rüsselsheim) grew from
per cent in 1933 to more than 50 per cent in 1935 and in 1938 recorded
earnings of 35 million RM (about $14 million U.S.) No wonder the U.S.
owners and managers, such as Henry Ford, openly expressed their
admiration for Hitler. And
no wonder the owners and managers of today's monopolies so
enthusiastically endorse the forced and slave labour policies of the
Harper dictatorship which rules solely in their interests.
Discussion on Budget Implementation Act
Universal Social Security Programs Are Required for a
Democratic and Humane Society
budget implementation Bill C-38 is making
seriously affect people's lives. These changes are
being rammed through Parliament in the most undemocratic way and
the Executive power is being expanded so changes can be made
arbitrarily by ministers through regulation without ever coming back to
Parliament. No consideration whatever is given to consulting with
or seeking approval from the people whose lives will be acutely
affected by social program changes.
Since the Harper Conservatives achieved a majority
government through their 2011 electoral coup, they have unleashed
another wave of cuts and attacks on social security and other social
programs, including cuts to Old Age Security and benefits for
unemployed workers and caps to provincial health and social
transfers. The Harperites have rejected the need for social investment,
considering social programs as expenses standing in the way of economic
development. They have declared the medieval motto "Fend For Yourself!"
as the foundation of Canada's 21st century social policy.
All of this started following the 1993 federal election
win by the Liberal Party when the government of Jean Chrétien
Martin as Finance Minister launched a massive assault on social
programs resulting in billions of dollars in cuts to health and social
transfers to the provinces and cuts to federal social
programs and services. Major cuts to benefits for unemployed workers
and the expropriation of Employment Insurance (EI) funds to put them
into general revenues
were part of this anti-social offensive.
The Chrétien-Martin cuts prolonged the recession
early '90s, causing years of jobless recovery. The cuts to EI caused
hardship for workers during the entire period that followed, which was
characterized by the wholesale wrecking of manufacturing and other
sectors. When the financial crisis of 2008 hit and
resulted in a sharp increase in unemployment during the 2009 recession,
the changes Chrétien-Martin had made to EI meant most unemployed
workers did not have the protection of EI benefits. Now the bankrupt
politicians serving the rich have put more cuts to social security
programs back on the agenda, including another
round of drastic degradation of EI support for unemployed workers.
On March 9, 1994, Hardial Bains, National
Leader of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) presented a
brief on social security reform to the House of Commons Standing
Committee on Human Resources Development (HRDC) opposing the direction
Chrétien and Martin were leading
the country. In this brief, Hardial Bains outlined fundamental
principles that need to be considered in any changes to social security
programs. These principles are relevant as well in the face of the
Harperite wave of the anti-social offensive. To assist the Workers'
Opposition to consider the Harper government's attack
on social security and other social programs and how to respond,
produced below are excerpts from the 1994 brief by Hardial Bains which
outline these principles:
"1. In relation to social programs, it is not the
universality principle which should be modified or abandoned. On the
contrary, measures should be taken to ensure that the system guarantees
the well-being and happiness of all and not riches for the few and
poverty for the many. In this regard, great care should
be taken not to impose changes to social programs or levels of programs
such as to UI [Unemployment Insurance; now Employment Insurance]
eligibility requirements in an arbitrary way, as is
presently done when a budget is presented to Parliament or decisions
are made which fundamentally affect the lives of Canadians. Canadians
are constantly put into a position of
having to adjust their entire lives to cope with such changes. Whether
an unemployed person receives 60% or 57% of prior wages makes a vast
difference when this is his or her only source of income. The same
applies to all those who depend on social welfare or other social
"2. Social programs necessarily deal with these areas
which concern basic human rights to health, education, welfare, social
insurance, affordable housing, pensions, and so on. Therefore they must
be put at the centre of concern of a human society. Any attempt to
consider these expenditures as merely an expense,
rather than a basic social investment, should be abandoned. This is all
the more true when the claims of the moneylenders on society are not
questioned, but the claims of Canadians on society are.
"3. Canadians have the fundamental democratic right to
fully participate in making the decisions which affect their lives.
Therefore, no decisions should be made as concerns social programs
before submitting them first for the approval of those whose lives they
will affect. The consultation process which is undertaken
must, therefore, not be used, as has been the case in the past, as a
means to legitimize a pre-determined agenda."
The Harperites are using the most inflammatory and
divisive type of politics to promote their anti-social agenda. Their
rhetoric around the changes to EI is particularly despicable as it
seeks to atomize the widespread resistance to these changes by pitting
worker against worker and region against region as it rolls
out its EI agenda. Workers in fisheries and other seasonal work are
being viciously attacked as freeloaders on the EI system and
criminalized. Arbitrary categories of workers are being defined with
varying punitive measures established within these categories and
a large section of workers is totally excluded
from benefits, negating any concept that all people have a right to a
livelihood because they are human beings. Outright racism is being
promoted on the question of tying EI benefits to Temporary Foreign
In this situation, where the Harperites are trying to
create maximum antagonism and disunity among people and the
regions around the issue of EI and social programs in general, the
concluding remarks in Comrade Bains' 1994 brief on social programs are
"Finally, at this time, there are interests which
conflict with one another because of the foundation of society and the
way it is run. Individual interests run counter to collective interests
and individual and collective interests conflict with the general
interests of society. A broad program of social programs based
on the principle of universality can go a long way towards harmonizing
the individual interests with those of the collective and the
individual and collective interests with the general interests of
"Society has come a long way from the days of
medievalism. Nonetheless, the existence of disparities between rich and
poor and the pressure that society must only respond to the claims of
the rich, are pushing it to go backwards instead of making a clean
break with medievalism and creating an entirely new
society, in which the well-being of one will be dependent on the
well-being of all. A system of comprehensive social programs will
contribute in a decisive way to creating a really democratic and humane
society, in which all interests will be harmonized in favour of opening
the path for progress."
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