December 14, 2013 - No. 49

Challenges the Workers' Movement Faces

Collapse of a Public Authority
that Defends the Public Interest
and Public Right

Challenges the Workers' Movement Faces

Collapse of a Public Authority that Defends the Public Interest and Public Right

The working class is charged by history to take up the
social responsibilities of nation-building

Entering the New Year is a good time to reflect on the challenges the working class faces. The working class has a duty to itself and the country to take up the mantle of nation-building. The federal government and those in Quebec, the provinces and territories are depriving the people of a public authority that can defend them from the rapacious global monopolies. Powerful private interests dictating the affairs of state have overwhelmed the public authority.

The existing public authority defends dominant private interests and monopoly right. This is seen in the wrecking of the economy with impunity, the seizure of public resources to pay the rich, the privatization and downsizing of social programs and public services, the entering into free trade arrangements controlled by global monopolies, and the elimination of regulations and rules that restrict the actions of the predatory monopolies and permit the usurpation of political power by private interests.

The well-being and security of the people and their social and natural environment are at great risk because of their disempowerment and the wrecking of their political, social, cultural and organizational cohesion. Not a week goes by without announcements from global monopolies of closures such as Kellogg's, Heinz and U.S. Steel. Not a week goes by without news of an environmental disaster or risk to the people's health from pollution. The same is the case with announcements of omnibus bills and retrogressive legislation.

The working class is the only social force large enough and with the determination, aim and social consciousness to reverse the wrecking and chart a new direction for the economy. The interests of the working class are served by moving the country forward to new arrangements that harmonize the individual interest with the collective interest and the individual and collective interest with the general interest. With its decisive position at the centre of the production of goods and services, the working class through organized actions with analysis can forcefully raise the banner of public right and nation-building in opposition to monopoly right and nation-wrecking.

A serious challenge facing the working class under today's conditions is how to organize the collective defence of wages and benefits commensurate with the work performed. The claims of workers on the value they produce should reflect the high level of productivity the modern socialized economy has reached. The duty of the working class also encompasses a struggle to defend the pensions workers have won, and the right to pensions for all so that seniors can live in dignity. Importantly, it requires a defence of work and workplaces to stop the monopoly wrecking of the production of goods and services and the loss of value that comes to the economy with shutdowns and layoffs, and to overcome the scourge of unemployment and underemployment.

The working class is tackling how to become effective in carrying out its social responsibility to fight for modern and safe working conditions that allow workers to produce goods and services of the highest quality. The working conditions of rail workers are the safety conditions of passengers and entire communities through which rail traffic passes. The same is the case for airline workers in terms of passenger safety, as well as food production workers when it comes to the quality and safety of the food the people eat and their collective food security. The working conditions of teachers and education support workers are the learning conditions of students, the country's most precious resource. Working conditions in hospitals, nursing homes and seniors' residences are matters of life and death for patients, seniors and all those who need public care for their well-being. The work and working conditions of the working class in general are the bedrock of the socialized economic base upon which the people and country depend for their well-being and security.

With the collapse of a public authority that defends public right and the public interest, the unions which are part of that public authority are themselves tackling their inability to fulfil the role they were created to play. The working people must discuss this serious problem. How are they to renovate the role the unions must play as defence organizations at a time the unions are being criminalized for playing their role, or threatened with liquidation as a result of anti-union legislation? This task requires an organized conscious approach. In the collective battle to defend the rights of all, workers can succeed in finding a way forward. Within that struggle, workers can and must uphold their own dignity and affirm the dignity of a modern country that guarantees the rights, well-being and security of all its members and humanizes the social and natural environment.

To accomplish this, the working class must take stock of the situation and fight to preserve its unity against the attempts of the state to sow doubt in its ranks. The workers must guard against those agents of the state who when the working class is confronted with a failure to provide historic problems with historic solutions revert to recriminations against those fighting to organize and find the required solutions.

The need for modern organization based on modern consciousness is a matter of activating the human factor/social consciousness. This is another way of saying that what is required is to involve the rank and file in the discussion of problems so that they can elaborate the agendas they want to implement to resolve the crises in a manner that favours them. The organized striving to deprive the monopolies of their power to wreck the economy and deprive the people of their rights must be recognized and nurtured. It must be encouraged and developed in the coming year.

All Out to Hold Governments to Account!
Uphold Public Right, Not Monopoly Right!
Manufacturing Yes, Nation-Wrecking No!
A People's Canada Is Necessary!

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Why Should Private Business Decisions
Harm the Economy?

Monopolies take notice: no equilibrium based on recognition of the public interest, no right to do business in Canada!

Recent decisions by foreign monopolies operating in Canada will have disastrous effects on the local and broader economy. The first was the decision by U.S. Steel to permanently close the blast furnace at the Hamilton Works steel mill. The second was the announcement by U.S. finance capital to shut the Heinz vegetable plant in Leamington, Ontario. And the latest, the decision to close the Kellogg's plant in London, Ontario.

The U.S. companies involved say their decisions are private business matters concerning their investments and are not negotiable. They say the decisions are in the best interests of the private owners and are not meant to wreck the Canadian economy even though that is the result. According to them, their first responsibility is to their ownership groups who expect the highest return possible on their investments.

In the Heinz Leamington decision, the billionaires William Buffett and Bill Gates own the most shares and hold the most authority in the Berkshire Hathaway half of the company. The other half of the Heinz ownership is 3G Capital, a global investment company whose principal owners are Jorge Paulo Lemann, Marcel Telles, and Carlos Alberto Sicupira from New York and Rio de Janeiro. Lemann is reportedly the richest man in Brazil. After the two groups took over Heinz in mid-2013, the new ownership appointed Bernardo Hees as the CEO of Heinz. Hees is the former CEO of Burger King Worldwide Inc, a company owned by 3G Capital.

The CEO of U.S. Steel is Mario Longhi, a former leading executive with the global monopoly Alcoa.

These are the individuals who took the decisions in the Hamilton and Leamington shutdowns although none of them, at least publicly, has the remotest stake or connection with the two communities involved or even Canada for that matter, other than as an economy to exploit.

For their part, the federal and Ontario governments have declared that these decisions to wreck production in Ontario are private business matters. The governments say they have no right, authority or inclination to interfere or change the decisions that private companies make or do not make. The media also, except for working class tribunes such as TML, repeat the mantra that ownership and control of companies render business decisions a matter of their authority and right to serve their own narrow private interests even though those decisions may devastate the economy and harm the well-being of the people.

The viewpoint condoning wrecking and conciliating with monopoly right is part of the politics of neo-liberalism. Whereas under laissez faire capitalism a liberal democracy established a civil society in which rights based on ownership of private property prevailed, today, in the relation between private interests and public interests, neo-liberalism declares that private monopoly interests dominate and have the right to trump all other interests.

It is not possible to equate private monopoly interests with the general interests of society, which the stranglehold of the monopolies dismantle and smash. The neo-liberals declare that private business decisions must serve the ownership group and not the general interests of society. Control of monopolies resides in the hands of small groups of finance capitalists, which are in competition with other ownership groups battling for windfall profits. For an ownership group to succeed, it is said, secrecy, privacy and the right to decide whatever is in the best albeit narrow interests of a particular ownership group are necessary otherwise windfall profits may be lost and competitors will prevail.

The working class, holding no political power at this time, faces a political mafia that imposes neo-liberal arrangements of inter-monopoly competition wherein monopoly right trumps public right and governments are taken over directly by private monopolies. Not only the civil service is replaced by private contractors, but also many government departments and even the security and armed forces, the prison system and other institutions are contracted out.

Monopolies have grown into monsters of stupendous global size, such as Berkshire Hathaway, which owns and controls companies with combined assets of $428-billion, an annual gross income of $163-billion and 290,000 employees. Some of these monopolies such as KPMG, Deloitte and UBS, despite very shady records of grand theft and self-serving advice and reports, are paid from the public purse to achieve the destruction of public funding for pensions, employment insurance, compensation for injured workers, etc. Meanwhile, the political mafia ensure their role in government is presented as legitimate, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

The monopolies made the Hamilton, Leamington and Kellogg's London decisions to close perfectly good facilities and wreck the local and broader economy to serve their own narrow private interests. No alternative that would serve the local and broader Canadian economy and public interests has been presented for discussion and action because the companies involved do not want any alternative even though it could very well be viable. Canadians, with the cowardly acquiescence of their governments, are deprived of their public right to a say and control over their own economy and in these cases their steel and food sectors, which are basic to the well-being, sovereignty and even survival of the people.

The relationship with the monopolies has become completely one-sided in favour of monopoly right. The lack of any mutual benefit with the global monopolies is a particular concern. No mutual benefit between the monopolies and people and no equilibrium based on recognition of the public interest exist, as narrow private interests trump the broader public interests, as monopoly right trumps public right. This is not only wrong but dangerous.

What should the working class think and do about this situation? Clearly, the takeover by private monopoly interests of the public interest must not continue. Such a downward spiral spells disaster for the economy and people.

Governments refuse to take any action in defence of public right. Plainly, the working class through its own organizations and media must rally the people to change the situation. Private business decisions that affect the public interest must be brought under popular political control. The people cannot allow the monopolies to hide behind the deceit of privacy when a decision is obviously public and directly affects the local and broader economy, the public interest and natural and social environment.

The People Must Change the One-Sided Relationship with the Monopolies!
Monopolies Take Notice: No Mutual Benefit with the People and Their Economy,
No Right to Be in Canada!
Monopolies Take Notice: No Equilibrium Based on Recognition of the Public Interest,
No Right to Do Business in Canada!

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Canada Post's Drastic Cuts in Postal Services

On December 11, six months ahead of the scheduled review of the Postal Charter, Canada Post announced plans to make devastating cuts to postal services and raise stamp prices for the public. In a document entitled "Canada Post's Five-point Action Plan," the corporation is proposing to "build the foundation of a new postal system."

While the proposals are being presented with high sounding ideals like "to better serve customers," and that "changes will emphasize convenience and secure delivery," it is clear that the intent is to further streamline the post office to serve monopoly corporations and large volume mailers and to facilitate the privatization of postal services at the expense of providing a universal postal service to all Canadians.

The proposals five main points are:

1) The elimination of door-to-delivery by letter carriers, which is to be replaced by community mail boxes. This would result in the elimination 8,000 jobs over the next five years and eliminate letter carrier service that has been in existence for more than 150 years. This would result in an enormous drop in the production of value, which would be a huge blow against the nation and the level of service Canadians expect from their public post office.

2) Drastic increase in the price of stamps. The proposed price per stamp being proposed would be $0.85, up from $0.63 as it is today for letters 0-30 g mailed within Canada. This price only applies to stamps being bought in books or coils. Stamps bought individually would cost $1.00. The pricing for U.S., international and oversized mail weighing more than 30g would also increase. The corporation will continue to provide large volume mailers with "deep discounts," so they would pay significantly lower prices for first class service. Canada Post calls this "an incentive" for corporations to prepare their mail for sortation. Discounts are also being proposed for businesses and other organizations that use postage meters.

3) Further expansion of postal franchises, which means the further elimination of Canada Post's retail offices and the complete privatization of the retail operations of Canada Post.

4) Further consolidation of mail sortation and distribution. This means closing down more mail processing plants and centralizing sortation in three or four plants across the country. This has already been implemented in many cities such as Quebec City, Windsor, North Bay resulting in damage to the local economies and a deteriorating postal service for the vast majority of Canadians.

5) Accelerated attacks on the wages and benefits of postal workers, which the corporation describes as "addressing the cost of labour." Part five of the corporation's proposal states, "The company will continue to bring the cost of labour in line with its competitors through attrition and collective bargaining over time. Canada Post will also take the necessary steps to permanently address the sustainability of its pension plan."

The document clearly indicates that these drastic measures are not enough. The corporation is planning further attacks on the public post office and the wages, working conditions, benefits and pensions of postal workers. In a section called "Future Options Under Consideration," the company suggests that the frequency and speed of delivery is also up for discussion next year during the review of the Canadian Postal Service Charter. This is a direct threat to five-day delivery and the present delivery standards, which the corporation will not be able to maintain when mail processing is centralized in a few major centres across the country.

While Canada Post's "Action Plan" may temporarily take the focus away from the pension plan, the corporation makes it clear near the end of the document that it intends to "restructure the Plan." It is not accidental that the day before Canada Post released this "Action Plan," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced that the government decided to allow Canada Post temporary pension relief so the corporation can continue not to make the required solvency payments for another four years. This gives the corporation an opportunity to divert revenue, which should be put into the pension plan, into implementation of the "Action Plan" and further dismantle postal services.

The document says, "The temporary relief gives Canada Post a brief window in which to transform. During this time, Canada Post will act with urgency to restructure the Plan in order to ensure its long-term sustainability."

Postal workers know what Canada Post means when they talk about long- term sustainability. In the last six months, the company has already twice unilaterally raised the pension premiums paid by workers. The corporation refuses to recognize that the pressure on the pension plan is because the post office has been and continues to be systematically dismantled and privatized with fewer services and tens of thousands of fewer workers producing value. According to Canada Post, the problem with the plan is that "people are healthier and living longer," and that "long-term interest rates have been chronically very low." The negative attitude of the corporation towards the pension plan means that postal workers must call on every ounce of strength and organization they can muster, and prepare to defend the security of their pension plan.

These latest plans of the corporation are an integral part of the Harper government's ongoing attempts to wreck the public post office to benefit the most powerful monopolies. Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt issued a news release December 11 saying she looks forward to seeing progress resulting from this plan. She has been repeating the lie "that mail volumes have dropped almost 25 per cent per household in the last five years," and on that basis supports the idea of "eliminating door-to-door delivery in urban areas."

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers held a press conference December 11 in Ottawa to condemn the announcement by Canada Post. National President Denis Lemelin stated that this unilateral action by the corporation would gut the post office. He said the Union was informed about the "Five- point Action Plan" at 7 am that morning and immediately called on the corporation to withdraw the document and consider options other than slashing services. Mr. Lemelin called on all Canadians to stand up and fight for the public post office and promised that the Union would stand with them. He concluded the press conference saying, "Canada Post belongs to the people of Canada and they should have a say about the kind of postal service they want. We should take this opportunity to have a full nationwide discussion so people can express their views about the unilateral cutbacks imposed by the Harper government and Canada Post."

To organize such a discussion is an urgent priority. Across the country, postal workers have been making their views known for a long time. They have also been suffering the consequences of the reorganization of Canada Post. Several suicides are reported of workers who could not take the abuse a day longer. The situation shows that the discussion is not a matter of conciliating with a reorganization of the post office based on plans to destroy the production of value, privatize the post office or extort concessions from workers to deprive them even more of pensions, benefits and wages commensurate with the work they do and safe working conditions befitting a modern civilized country.

The Harper government is causing as much damage as possible before the next election in 2015. Workers and their allies in all strata should force the government to call an election before 2015 because of its corruption and the outrageous wrecking measures it is taking. In their fight to oppose the destruction of Canada Post and their rights, which the Harper government is facilitating, workers should focus on their demands for a modern public post office and not on the scheming of the company executives for a private institution from which only a privileged few will profit.

(Photos: TML, CUPW, UFCW)

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Canada Post's Propaganda Offensive for Wrecking

Postal workers oppose Canada Post's attacks and disinformation during 2011 strike and lockout.

The announcement of Canada Post's "Five-point Action Plan" has been accompanied by the release of an avalanche of statistics to convince people that Canada Post is failing and that a public postal service is outdated. The monopoly media have taken the opportunity to present exaggerated reports calling for the elimination of universal postal service and full deregulation of postal services.

Deliberately exaggerated claims are being made to convince people that the sky is falling on Canada Post and the corporation has no choice but to cut postal services, raise postage prices and attack the wages and benefits of postal workers. The media report doom and gloom over a drop in first class mail volumes. The Conference Board of Canada projects that by 2020 the corporation will be facing an operating loss of $1 billion per year. The pension plan is said to be facing a $5.9 billion solvency deficiency and because of this must be "restructured." All of this desperate talk is to paralyse people's thinking as to a pro-social new direction for the public post office to serve the people and nation-building.

A review of the corporation's financial reports of the last several years shows that these statistics and projections are not just exaggerations but in many cases outright lies.

But putting the statistics aside, neither the corporation nor the Harper government has been able to explain why more than $2-billion have been invested in the past few years to modernize mail processing and delivery if the post office is failing. Do they think that Canadians are so gullible that they will believe that billions of dollars would be invested in a sector of the economy that is supposed to be "dying" and "a thing of the past"?

The facts show the opposite is the case. The profits of UPS, FedEx, Pitney Bowes and other monopoly corporations in the communications sector have been steadily rising. The demand for the privatization and deregulation of Canada Post is not because it is failing but on the contrary, the elimination of the public post office is the potential source of super profits for these monopolies.

It is more than dishonest for the corporation to claim that the "Action Plan" and the drastic cuts are due to loss of mail volumes and the financial crisis facing Canada Post. This is the continuation of "Postal Transformation," which was put in place by Moya Greene who was appointed President and CEO of Canada Post in 2005. Before any noise began about lower mail volumes and during a period the corporation was making hundreds of millions of dollars of profit every year, Moya Greene explained her plan to modernize the Post Office. She pointed out that the goal of the corporation was to "modernize and revitalize Canada Post" to reorient it to serve big business. She stressed that the approximately $2-billion investment was being made to take advantage of the fact that one-third of the workforce would be retiring in the coming years. She said, "This is an opportunity to synchronize modernization plans with the pace of retirements."

Since then we have seen the disastrous effects of new sortation machines and restructured letter carrier routes. Thousands of jobs have already been eliminated including practically all mail service courier positions (truck drivers) where "Postal Transformation" has been implemented. The ongoing pressure on workers has taken a heavy toll in injuries, and in the Montreal area alone, several suicides of letter carriers have been reported due to the unbearable working conditions.

Along with "Postal Transformation," the corporation, hand-in-hand with the Harper government, has been implementing privatization and deregulation. Deepak Chopra, previously President of Pitney Bowes Canada and Latin America, was appointed by Stephen Harper to head Canada Post in 2011. Since that time, the destruction of the public post office has been accelerating. More than 60 major Retail Post Offices have been closed in large urban centres across the country and replaced by hundreds of postal franchises located in major drug store chains and convenience stores.

With Bill C-9, a federal budget bill in 2010, the Harper government succeeded in taking international letters out of the exclusive purview of Canada Post. With this bill, the government legalized the existing illegal operations of businesses known as "remailers" that were handling letters bound for international destinations. By sneaking deregulation into a budget bill to avoid debate, Harper enabled large private mailers to take millions of dollars of revenue from Canada Post each year.

Stephen Harper and Deepak Chopra are not modernizing the post office; they are dismantling it for the benefit of the monopoly corporations they represent. The investment of billions of dollars and the attacks on the wages, working conditions and benefits of postal workers are integral parts of the Harper government's plans to sell off the public assets of the Post Office at a low price with minimum risk for the buyer. Canada Post's "Five-point action Plan" is another step on the road towards the destruction of the public Post Office and Canada's national economy.

The struggle of postal workers for sustainable working conditions and wages benefits commensurate with the work they perform is an important block to the wrecking plans of the Harper government. The more than 50,000 postal workers and over 20,000 retirees must unite with other workers across the country to demand the recognition of their rights and a Canadian standard of living that reflects the highly developed productive economy. Postal and other workers and their allies amongst a broad section of Canadians are determined not to allow private interests to appropriate the assets of the public post office that workers have built over many years through their hard work. Harper must be stopped!

Broad Canada-wide support for the just fight of postal workers for proper working conditions and to
to defend the public post office in 2011.

(Photos: CUPW, TML)

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Closing of Kellogg's Cereal Plant in London

2009 lockout of Kellogg workers based on the company's treatment of workers as a cost of production
and its demands for concessions. (D. Starchuk)

Assault on Ontario manufacturing continues; public authority does nothing

In a terse statement, the U.S. monopoly Kellogg said that next year it will begin to wind down its ready-to-eat cereal manufacturing plant in London Ontario and permanently cease food production by the end of 2014. More than 550 members of Local 154G of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union and 65 non-union employees will lose their jobs. Kellogg had previously announced on November 5, that 110 unionized workers would be laid off New Year's Day, 2014, while eleven managers were fired immediately.

Kellogg also stated that a snack manufacturing plant it owns in Charmhaven, Australia will also be closed and a food manufacturing plant in Rayong, Thailand will be expanded. Reports suggest that Kellogg will gradually transfer cereal manufacturing from London to plants in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Whether this entails pillage of the means of production at the London plant has not been revealed.

Workers at the London Kellogg plant produce a wide variety of well- known cereals including Corn Flakes, Frosted Flakes, Bran Buds, All Bran, Bran Flakes and Raisin Bran. Food manufacturing began at the plant in 1907 and underwent a $223-million renovation and expansion in 1985.

The statement said, "Kellogg Company today announced several changes to optimize its global manufacturing network ... [to] unlock cost savings.... [CEO John] Bryant said, `We are taking action to ensure our manufacturing network is operating the right number of plants and production lines -- in the right locations -- to better meet current and future production needs and the evolving needs of our customers'."

The "right number," according to the narrow private interests of the monopoly does not include the unionized plant in London but does include the non-union government subsidized smaller one in Belleville, Ontario, which opened in 2008 to "unlock cost savings" by stealing the claims of workers on the value they produce. The crime against workers uses the propaganda fraud of labelling their claim on the value they produce as a cost of production.

The Ontario Liberal government gave Kellogg a grant of $2.4-million in 2007, and an interest free $9.7-million loan in 2008, to build the new non- union plant in Belleville to "unlock cost savings." The loan was 10 per cent of the company's capital investment in the new plant, which produces Mini-Wheats cereal. This year, the Liberal government announced another grant for the Belleville plant of $4.5-million. The government has not yet said if the closure of the London plant will affect the grant.

In a statement on the London plant closure, Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne expressed "disappointment" and then went on to list the names of various monopolies that have promised new investments in the province. The Harper federal government has said nothing.

Another example of Kellogg's wrecking of communities: lockout of workers in Memphis, Tennessee
to force concessions, which began on October 22, 2013.

This latest manufacturing shutdown, coming just days before the announced massive wrecking of Canada Post, is very disconcerting for the working class to say the least. Under the hoax of "cost savings," the production of value is being destroyed in Canada in both the goods and services producing sectors. How are Canadians to work and live without the production of value in their own economy? The ready-to-eat cereals produced in London will now have to be bought from the United States. This means an equivalent value will leave the country rather than having workers produce that value here. This deprives the country of jobs and wealth.

The public authority does nothing to prevent this attack on Canadians and destruction of the production of value. Governments and capital-centred flunkies turn truth on its head and routinely call destruction of the production of value and the theft of workers' claims on the value they produce, in both the goods and services producing sectors, as unlocking "cost savings."

The Harper federal government and the Ontario Liberal government hand over huge sums of public money to these monopoly wreckers and then allow them to tear down the economy, steal the claims of workers, destroy work and the production of value, and even transfer production to the U.S. and elsewhere. If the people allow this to happen without resistance, the future does not look good. An organized resistance is not only possible but necessary to defend the people's economy, well-being and security. To do so is to take up the task of political empowerment. The people need political empowerment to create a public authority that defends the economy and the well-being and security of all, a public authority that engages in nation-building not nation- wrecking. Such a public authority is the responsibility of the people to create through their own determined organizing, thinking and actions with analysis.

In the Kellogg case, the public authority could immediately act to stop the shutdown of the London plant and prevent the theft or destruction of the means of production. Some alternative to closure could be found. However, if the Kellogg monopoly is unwilling to come to some arrangement, the government could tell Kellogg that only products the company manufactures in Canada will be allowed to be sold in Canada. Also, at what point is the seizure of assets of Kellogg's London plant justified to pay back the government donations to the Belleville plant and for restitution for a breach of trust or fraud in this wrecking of a significant part of the Canadian economy?

If Kellogg refuses to stop its wrecking path, the manufacturing of cereals under different names using locally produced grains could continue in the London plant using a joint worker/government initiative or some other arrangement. If governments have all this public money available as handouts to serve the narrow private interests of the monopolies, such as the $220- million Ontario is to give Cisco Systems, it should be able to find similar amounts that serve the broad public interests of Canadians to guarantee their employment, well-being and food security, and the country's manufacturing base.

Defend the Production of Value in Canada! Keep the Kellogg's London Plant Producing! Manufacturing Yes! Nation-Wrecking No!

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Canfor Mill Shut Down in BC While
Another Opens in China

On October 24, forestry giant Canfor announced that it would be permanently closing its Quesnel mill and laying off 209 employees because of a lack of timber caused by the mountain pine beetle infestation. The Quesnel mill was one of the few mills in British Columbia that cut metric-sized wood for the Chinese market.

Interestingly, a little over a month later on November 26, Canfor announced plans to invest in a new joint venture mill in China on the country's northern coast. This mill will be importing lumber from British Columbia and cutting it into metric sizes for Chinese buyers.

Canfor's joint venture is with a Chinese-based company, Tangshan Caofeidian Wood Industry Inc., which is a division of the giant Hebei Wenfeng Industrial Group. The Industrial Group set up Caofeidian Wood with the expressed goal "to use Canada and the world's global forest resources to feed China's growing demand for wood products." The Group has a Canadian affiliate, LJ Resources Ltd. and currently owns 16 per cent of the shares of BC-based Conifex.

Another interesting feature of this new Canfor/Caofeidian Wood venture is that Caofeidian Wood is involved in the development in northern China of a nearby massive deep water port that, among other functions, will be a hub for the importation of lumber and raw logs from BC and other locations. This "Log Port," as it is called, will include a fumigation facility, which is important, because without it, wood can only be shipped to it in winter months.  Russ Taylor of Vancouver-based Wood Markets Group says, "the BC logging sector now has the opportunity to export logs year-round to a new port."[1]

Raw log exports, of course, are a controversial issue in British Columbia, as well as other jurisdictions such as Washington State and New Zealand. In recent years, the export of raw logs from BC, especially to China and especially from coastal BC, has been ramped up to record levels with 47 million cubic metres being exported between 2002 and 2012. At the same time, dozens of mills have closed in BC and an estimated 35,000 forest sector jobs have been lost.

The Canfor/Caofeidian mill announcement coincided with other announcements made during Premier Christy Clark's visit to China. According to one news report, an early-stage agreement between a group of Chinese investors (under the umbrella of the China New Energy Chamber of Commerce) and the BC government "could see as much as $1 billion invested in Canada by Chinese companies," especially in the area of wood pellet plants. Wood pellets could be used to supplant coal in China where air pollution from the burning of coal is a major problem. In Canada, an estimated half of "the north-western BC wood basket is too poor to use as lumber," but could be used for pellets.[2] Pellet production requires fewer workers than mill production.

Will this be the shape of things to come in British Columbia? Is there a globalized division of labour at work here, whereby BC exports more raw logs, as well as relatively unprocessed dimensional lumber and wood pellets to China, while China gets to process the raw logs and semi-processed wood into a wide range of value-added products to be sold at home and abroad?

All of this is undoubtedly good for Canfor and its Chinese partners. But the question must be asked: Where will BC communities and our forest resource fit into this globalist vision? Will BC's forestry manufacturing sector be enhanced and developed, or will the province be further reduced to a reliance on the export of raw or semi-processed natural resources, a plantation for globalist corporations?

The Premier, Canfor and Chinese investors are making deals behind closed doors in Beijing about BC's forest resources, but what about public and community input? Why are all the decisions in the hands of globalist corporations who don't think twice about shutting down mills in one country while opening them up in another?


1. St. Denis, Jen. "Canfor planning wood joint venture in China," Business Vancouver, November 27, 2013.
2. Vanderklippe, Nathan. "China, Canadian groups sign pacts as Beijing targets forestry sector," Globe and Mail, November 26, 2013.

* Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia. He can be reached at:

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Justice for Injured Workers

Ontario Injured Workers' Groups Protest at
Ministry of Labour

Participants rally outside Ministry of Labour in Toronto to demand justice for injured workers, December 9, 2013.

The Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups (ONIWG) held its 22nd annual Christmas demonstration at the Ministry of Labour in downtown Toronto on December 9, while at the same time activists in London rallied outside the constituency office of Health Minister Deb Matthews.

The Toronto event was attended by over 200 people, including many injured workers as well as members of the Local 1005 of the United Steeworkers (USW) from Hamilton, the Steelworkers' Toronto Area Council, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Ontario Public Service Employees' Union, the Power Workers' Union, the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Workers' Centre of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist).

In London the action included a Christmas dinner for participants and the distribution of the latest issue of Justice For Injured Workers to passers-by.

London action outside Health Minister Deb Matthews' constituency office, December 9, 2013.

Both demonstrations were characterized by a militant spirit demanding that the rights and dignity of injured workers be affirmed in the face of brutal attacks by the government and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) on their claims and benefits.

In Toronto, following the introduction of the new ONIWG executive, attendees shouted slogans, four of which highlight the specific demands of the injured workers: "Full Cost of Living!;" "No More Deeming!;" "Universal Coverage!;" and "Justice Humanely and Speedily Rendered!"

Karl Crevar, a long-time injured worker activist asked for a minute of silence for Darrell Sanderson, a double amputee and well-known injured worker activist who passed away recently. Karl noted that Darrell spent many years of his life working for the rights of people with severe work-related disabilities and those who had lost their lives at the workplace.

Karl's comments expressed the fight of the injured workers for their rights. He noted that the Ontario Ministry of Labour deliberately targets injured workers and denies them their right to benefits. He denounced the unholy alliance between the Ministry of Labour and the accounting monopoly KPMG which the government has hired to justify increasingly brutal cutbacks to benefits for injured workers, forcing more and more injured workers and their families to join the ranks of the poor in Ontario.

Ippocratis "Jimmy" Velgakis, a worker who was injured in 1991 and denied his claim by the WSIB for over 20 years, spoke about the two hunger strikes he has undertaken to bring attention to his state of destitution. After his first hunger strike, the WSIB promised action but, he said, it was a ruse to get him to stop his protest. His second hunger strike this November ended after 11 days when the WSIB tribunal promised him a hearing. Mr. Velgakis pointed to his case as an example of how the WSIB abuses injured workers and tries to get them to give up affirming their rights in various ways.


David Marshall, head of the WSIB, was loudly denounced for aggressively denying injured workers' claims, which has earned him an annual 20 per cent bonus for his "achievement" of retiring the WSIB "unfunded liability" and finding other "efficiencies" in service delivery. The participants called for his resignation and demanded an end to to the use of the fraudulent unfunded liability to deny injured workers their due.

Kim Hoover, an ONIWG activist, introduced the Chain of Shame, each of its links bearing the name of an injured worker, their age and date of their injury. She enumerated the cuts to injured workers' benefits by the WSIB, the increased denial of claims and the shortening of the time period for injured workers to attend retraining programs, and denounced David Marshall and the WSIB for their brutality and callousness. She invited anyone who has a name to add to the Chain of Shame to send it to

Jake Lombardo of the Local 1005 USW introduced the fourth issue of Justice for Injured Workers, which was hot off the press. Noting that the paper reports on the situation injured workers face and their fight for their dignity and their rights, he called on everyone to help finance the paper and ensure its wide distribution as a way to end the marginalization of injured workers. Lombardo also pointed out that injured workers are a political force who have been active in opposing the austerity agenda of the Liberals and Conservatives during elections and that this work has to continue and be supported by everyone.

Dr. Robert Storey, a professor of Labour Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, reported on the work that he and Carol Elston from the University of Guelph did in preparation for the Meredith Conference recently held in Toronto. They  interviewed 118 injured workers across Ontario, recording their issues and concerns. Their report, entitled "People's Commission Report on Workers' Compensation," will be coming out shortly.

Nancy Hutchison brought greetings on behalf of the Ontario Federation of Labour and called on all the unions to get behind the struggle of injured workers and their demands.

Minister of Labour Yasir Naqvi, who was invited to speak. was extremely defensive in his short intervention, pointing out that "governments are very slow and that they are slow for me." He said the Wynne government is working more closely with injured workers and their groups to improve outcomes for them, including addressing anti-reprisal policies and claims suppression. In the face of the real facts of life, few at the demonstration seemed convinced.

Responding to the Minister, Karl Crevar reminded all that the workers' compensation system set up a hundred years ago by Meredith was based on the premise that workers would give up their right to sue their employers if they received just compensation for their injuries at work. He pointed out that since 1990 this system has been under attack by various governments and businesses and that injured workers will continue to organize and demand that the Ontario government and all governments do their duty to protect injured workers and meet their demands for just compensation and a dignified life.


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Lip Service -- A Poem

We don't want lip service -- NO!
We don't want your pity -- NO!
We don't need your "favors" -- NO!
Give us what is ours! (GIVE US WHAT IS OURS!)

Stop looking right through us...NO!
Sitting high -- don't judge us -- NO!
Don't evaluate us -- NO!
Through the telephone line?

Enough, it's enough, it's enough,
It's enough -- enough, it's enough, it's enough!

Injured Workers are onto your game
Break us down with your delays.
Then you say, it's all in the name
Of saying, you care -- (BOO!)

Let me tell you that we all know,
You change ministers like pantyhose.
It's time tax payers know
They're supporting your lies.

Shame on you,
All the stuff you put us through,
Unfunded liability,
Who comes up with this shh...stuff?
Shame on you,
Getting paid not to do.

What? Give us what is ours! (GIVE US WHAT IS OURS!)
We don't need no head games -- NO!
We don't want fake training -- NO!
No experience rating -- NO!
Give us what is ours! (GIVE US WHAT IS OURS!)

We don't need more stresses -- NO!
You know our bodies can't take it -- NO!
No financial torture -- NO!
Give us what is ours! (GIVE US WHAT IS OURS!)

No lip service, no lip service
Enough, it's enough, it's enough, it's enough.
Shame on you,
All the shit you put us through -- shame on you,
Getting paid not to do.

* Heather Cherron von Atzigen is an injured worker, activist and singer. She was formerly
employed in the hospitality industry. She recited her poem "Lip Service" at the ONIWG
demonstration at the Ontario Ministry of Labour.

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Informative and Lively New Issue of
Justice for Injured Workers

The fourth edition of Justice for Injured Workers has just been released. People are encouraged to order their papers today and distribute them in their workplaces, to friends and relatives and in their communities so that everyone is informed about the just demands of injured workers for their rights.

Disseminating the paper contributes to ending the marginalization of injured workers and the attacks on their rights. Injured workers continue to face an attack on their rights, from the denial and suppression of claims to cuts to benefits through the WSIB. It is a shameful situation that leaves many injured workers living in poverty.

Any worker could be injured on the job. The fight of injured workers is everyone's fight and also contributes to affirming the rights of the next generation of workers. It is epitomized in the slogan "Our Security Lies in the Fight for the Rights of All."

In this issue, as always, Ontario injured workers and their allies are eager to inform about the important work they are doing. First and foremost, this includes the firm conviction that their right as injured workers to just compensation must be recognized. Justice for Injured Workers also informs about the need to oppose the wrecking of the workers' compensation system by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) and the provincial government. Those in charge of the WSIB are transforming the system from one that should provide just compensation that ensures injured workers' well-being, to a private insurance model based on suppression of claims and cutting of benefits to reduce "costs." There is coverage of the annual Injured Workers' Day at the provincial Legislature on June 1, a tradition which has now spread to BC. This issue also covers the international Meredith Conference held this fall in Toronto. The conference underscored the historic principles of the workers' compensation system and the need to see them upheld today. Also featured is an interview with Michele McSweeney, the new President of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers. She emphasizes the need for injured workers to be proactive in opposing the agenda of the WSIB to cut benefits and suppress claims and calls on everyone to support this just fight. Karl Crevar, a long-time activist for the rights of injured workers, gives an interview in which he exposes the phony nature of the WSIB's "unfunded liability," a bookkeeping fraud used to fabricate a financial crisis to justify cuts to injured workers' benefits. He points out, "There is no such crisis. If the government stood their ground and demanded that the employers pay for the funding of the system, as they were supposed to, we would not be talking about an unfunded liability." Every page of Justice for Injured Workers is packed with the many actions of injured workers, making it clear that injured workers are part and parcel of all the important political struggles taking place in Ontario.

TML salutes the steadfast and fighting spirit of the injured workers and their fight for rights, as shown in Justice for Injured Workers. This work gives great honour to the working people and flies in the face of those who run the WSIB, who hold the unacceptable view that injured workers should accept being cast as victims and simply be grateful for whatever handouts they are given.

Copies of the paper can be ordered by contacting President of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Michele McSweeney at 905-577-3362 or by e-mail at

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