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September 30, 2013 - No. 108

Governments Must Defend Public Right, Not Monopoly Right!

Fight for the Rights and
Dignity of Labour!

Ontario Labour Relations Board Reaches Unacceptable Decision on Firing of
Vale Inco Workers
- Steve Rutchinski
Ontario Government Stonewalls Miners' Just Demand for Safety Inquiry
Ford Motor's Extortion Results in Big Payoff

Ontario Labour Relations Board Reaches Unacceptable Decision on Firing of Vale Inco Workers

On September 20, almost three years and nine months to the day after Vale fired three union activists in the midst of the bitter 2009-2010 strike, the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) upheld the termination and dismissed the grievance of the workers seeking reinstatement to their former positions.

Steelworkers mark six months on strike against Vale in Sudbury, January 13, 2010 with mass action.

This decision of OLRB Arbitrator William Kaplan is unjust and anti-worker. USW Local 6500 President Rick Bertrand said he and his members are "all shocked outraged and very disappointed" with Kaplan's decision. He said the USW intends to appeal the decision, calling for a judicial review of it.

Mike French, Jason Patterson and Patrick Veniot were union activists and officers of Local 6500 during the strike. They were fired for allegedly harassing, stalking and committing premeditated assault on a scab. These were Vale's allegations, which were subsequently dismissed in criminal proceedings against the three men, although the judge concluded that Mike French had a confrontation with the scab and French was convicted of common assault.

The OLRB essentially retried the case, taking up Vale's allegations that had failed in criminal court as the factual account of what had happened. Kaplan's decision goes on at length about "lawful rights" of employers during a strike and the need for workers to respect the rule of law. "It is public policy in Ontario that everyone be able to work without fear of violence or harassment. It is the law of the land that workplace violence and harassment will not be tolerated in Ontario."

The irony of his ruling may escape Kaplan but it is not lost on the workers. The arbitrator delivers speeches about zero tolerance of violence in the workplace and the "rule of law" while it is Vale which carried out a deliberate, premeditated attack on the workers and their union, forced the strike at its convenience, demanded unsustainable concessions from the workers and retirees, hired a private army to harass and intimidate activists and their families, and brought violence into the community by using scabs to try to keep operations running during the strike. These are acts of violence against the workers, the community and Canadian society for which Vale bears full responsibility. The ruling of the OLRB, which claims to be a neutral body, causes injury by refusing to take the context of the alleged violence of the workers into account. It then adds insult to injury by maintaining that Vale was right to fire them. It is a decision which is way beyond the pale. It is outrageously partisan to Vale, not to the cause of truth and justice.

Compare this to the treatment received by Vale when it caused the death of two workers. Only three days prior to the ruling of the OLRB, on September 17, Vale copped a guilty plea to three criminal charges and paid a fine in the legal case over the death of two miners, Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram on June 8, 2011 at Vale's Stobie Mine site. Senior managers responsible for the decisions that resulted in unsafe working conditions underground and exposed workers to conditions that took their lives, remain comfortable in their jobs and did no jail time. Kaplan talks about the "rule of law." What workers have experienced is Vale's impunity and monopoly dictate.

Vale's refusal to rehire French, Patterson and Veniot is more of the same -- monopoly dictate and an attack on Canadian workers and society, with the OLRB giving its blessing by claiming it is the rule of law. In fact, resistance to the violence and attacks of monopolies is not only a necessity but a right that exists by virtue of being workers under attack by these monopolies in a situation where they are not defended by the rule of law! These three workers should be reinstated or a ruling of unfair dismissal should compensate them for the loss of their livelihoods and for blacklisting them and impugning their good names. This is not justice!

Striking Vale Inco workers from Sudbury were joined by steelworkers from Hamilton's USW Local 1005 at an information picket outside the headquarters of AFI International in Milton, Ontario, March 4, 2010. AFI was hired by Vale Inco as its private police force. Its thugs drove scabs across the picket lines; stalked striking workers and their family members
and also community members, amongst other acts of harassment.

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Ontario Government Stonewalls Miners'
Just Demand for Safety Inquiry

The MINES (Mining Inquiry Needs Everyone’s Support) Committee has been established to protect those working
in the Ontario mining industry and to prevent further workplace fatalities. MINES is urging the government to
call an inquiry into Ontario mining safety.

Ontario miners and working people across Northern Ontario have been stepping up their demand for immediate action to improve mine safety since the deaths of two miners at Vale's Stobie mine in 2011. Following these deaths and a sharp increase in mine deaths in recent years, miners and their organizations are demanding a full inquiry into mining safety. The Liberal government, both under former premier Dalton McGuinty and Premier Kathleen Wynne, has stonewalled this just demand from the men and women who go down in the mines.

Jason Chenier (left) and Jordan Fram.

Two miners, Jason Chenier, 35, and Jordan Fram, 26, were killed on June 8, 2011 while working underground at Vale's Stobie Mine. They were overcome by a run of 350 tons of muck that flooded into their work area. An investigation of the incident by United Steel Workers (USW) Local 6500 and the USW safety staff revealed that the accident was totally preventable if Vale had followed adequate safety procedures and if the Ministry of Labour had implemented a coroner's mine-safety recommendations made 15 years earlier.

The deaths in Vale's Stobie Mine were the last straw for miners and people in Northern Ontario. Since 2007, eleven people have died in Ontario mines -- two in Sudbury, one in Levack and six in Timmins. Miners and their organizations began demanding a full-scale commission of inquiry into mine safety. Thousands of people in the communities of Northern Ontario have signed a petition calling for such an inquiry but the Ontario government has stubbornly refused to commission one.

The last commission of inquiry into Ontario mine safety was the 1975 Ham Commission which resulted in the major changes to mining regulations contained in the 1978 revisions to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Although there have been changes to the regulations, as shown by the numerous mining deaths, incremental changes have not kept up with the huge changes in mining since the last inquiry 35 years ago. There have been major technological changes in this period and Vale and other global mining monopolies have adopted ever more aggressive practices. Miners and smelter workers are demanding a full inquiry to bring the regulation of mines and smelters up to date with the current reality.

On May 16, USW Local 6500 President Rick Bertrand and USW Ontario Director Marty Warren sent a request to Premier Wynne for a meeting to discuss mine safety and the need for an inquiry. Despite her posturing as being labour friendly, Wynne did not even respond to the urgent request until two months later. In her July 24 response, Wynne refused to meet with the leaders of these organizations representing 2,600 Sudbury miners and 74,000 other Ontario workers and referred them to the Ministry of Labour.

In a press release at the time, the Local 6500 President Bertrand said, "It's disgraceful that the Premier has no interest in discussing the pleas of the grieving families and co-workers of deceased miners, who know only too well that a mine safety inquiry in Ontario is long overdue,"

The Ministry of Labour let it be known that it rejected worker and community demands for a commission of inquiry and began pushing for a watered-down "review." In media statements Bertrand said the review the Ministry is pushing for is an unacceptable alternative to a full commission of inquiry and it is disgraceful for the government to try to placate miners and Northern communities with a "review."

On August 15, a meeting on mining safety was finally arranged between Minister of Labour Nasir Naqvi and representatives of Local 6500 and USW safety representatives. During this meeting, Naqvi stuck to the government's refusal to hold the commission demanded by the workers. He proposed instead a "review" of mine safety. Bertrand said the union would look at the proposal made by Naqvi but is continuing to demand a full commission of inquiry.

Workers and their organizations have every right to decide what restrictions need to be imposed on Vale and other global mining monopolies to ensure the lives and livelihoods of workers. The demands of the miners and smelter workers for a commission of inquiry to bring mining regulations up to date are totally just and have broad support in Northern Ontario and among all working people.

The Liberal government's position of rejecting workers' demand for a commission of inquiry has no legitimacy. It blocks working people from having a say on issues important to their lives and it serves the narrow interest of the global monopolies and the privileged elite aligned with them.

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Ford Motor's Extortion Results in Big Payoff

Federal and Ontario governments expected to pay Ford up to $142 million

Let's discuss the social responsibility of the organized working class movement to set a new direction for the economy that removes it from this recurring cycle of productivity, economic crisis, working class concessions, public payoffs to private monopolies, jobless recovery, unemployment and on and on

The Federal and Ontario governments have announced they will pay the Ford Motor Company up to $142 million ($70.9 million from Ontario, $71.6 million from the federal government) to upgrade its Oakville assembly plant.

Earlier reports indicated that Ford had resorted to typical monopoly extortion, refusing to make any further investments in the plant without a substantial government payoff and concessions from autoworkers. The company implied its threat not to make the facility more flexible with a global platform system essentially meant shutting the plant down.

According to a September 19 government of Ontario press release, "The Oakville plant is being upgraded with global manufacturing processes, which will make production more efficient and allow the plant to quickly switch production of models, in response to changing consumer demand. Ford will bring several new models to the plant, positioning Oakville as one of its most competitive manufacturing facilities."

A global platform is a common structure for the base of a vehicle, onto which a range of models can be built, the news release informs. The release does not raise how having a universal global platform could also be used to shift production away from the Oakville plant on a moment's notice if workers do not submit to demands for concessions or governments do not agree to further extortion of payoffs from the public purse. The release also does not explain that these investments in means of production reduce the work-time required in the assembly of vehicles meaning fewer jobs per unit of production and downward pressure on the rate of return on investment. The downward pressure on rate of profit is a major reason why the Canadian economy needs a new direction to harmonize the relation between the socialized means of production and the current private ownership and control of those socialized forces of production. The present direction to maintain private ownership and control of socialized production using constant government payoffs and concessions from the working class is not rational or sustainable and simply leads to further crises.

The additional issue of importance is the principle involved in these pay-the-rich schemes or payoffs to certain private companies, which are touted to be in competition with other companies. Under what right or principle does the public authority use public funds to favour certain private interests over other private interests and importantly in contradiction with the public interest, which badly needs those public funds to serve the public good? The politicization of certain private interests is a corruption of public authority no matter how it is excused. This corruption depoliticizes the public interest in favour of certain private interests who have gained a stranglehold over the public authority.

"This partnership is part of the government's economic plan to create jobs and help people in their everyday lives by investing in people, building strong infrastructure and creating a dynamic and innovative business climate across Ontario," the Wynne Liberal government statement adds.

Both governments claim that their payoff to Ford plus the amount from the U.S. private company totals more than $700 million. The Ford monopoly has named it "Project Northern Star." The Federal portion is coming from the Automotive Innovation Fund (AIF), a "$250-million, five-year program that supports the development of Canada's auto sector." Ford is the first recipient of the renewed AIF, announced by the Prime Minister in January at the Oakville plant.

Speaking to the announcement, Federal Minister of Industry James Moore stated,

"Canada's auto sector is a world leader, employing hundreds of thousands of Canadians and contributing 12 percent of our total exports worldwide. Our government is committed to strengthening our economy while creating and keeping high-quality jobs here in Canada. This contribution will ensure that Ford's Oakville plant will be able to compete with any manufacturer at any plant in the world."

"The specific commitment is for Ford to expand this plant, to build it for a long time," Moore told reporters at the announcement.

For her part, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said, "We are making smart investments in innovative initiatives by companies like Ford of Canada that will help reinforce Ontario's position as a globally competitive manufacturing destination. This will help keep good jobs in Ontario now and for generations to come." [Emphasis added -- TML Ed.]

Wynne presented as "savings" for the government, the $1.8 billion in cuts to teachers and education workers wages and working conditions in Ontario, which in reality is disinvestment in public education. In sharp contrast, the Premier presents the extortion payoff to Ford, some of which comes from the disinvestment in public education, as an investment, saying to reporters, "This isn't a cost to the government, this is an investment in the future, advanced manufacturing is one of our strengths. It's what we need to keep our economy growing and cooking."

For Wynne, investments in social programs are costs to the government, for that is implied when disinvestment in social programs is said to result in savings. In speaking this way, Premier Wynne clearly regards investments in public education as costs to the government, and handouts to private companies as investments.

Signs a protest against Ontario Liberals' phony austerity agenda and attacks on workers rights,
Toronto, January 26, 2013.

Trying to deflect the issue away from the blatant pay-the-rich nature of the government payoff to private interests, Wynne said Ford's investment shows Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak's promise to make union membership optional and turn Ontario into a so-called right-to-work province with lower wages is off-base and a "race to the bottom."

"I believe we can as a strong Ontario create good jobs for families and draw business here. We are competitive and we have the talent and resources," she said.

Attracting private investment is the aim, according to both Wynne and Hudak. Wynne's apparent disagreement with Hudak is how this is done at this time. The Liberal way is to pay-the-rich to attract private investment; the Hudak way is to destroy the unions and negate workers' rights to attract private investment. Pick your poison, the working class is told.

Yet Wynne refuses to admit that destroying unions and negating workers' rights is also a Liberal option, as she and her government have shown with Bill 115 attacking the teachers' unions, and with anti-worker legislation tabled and ready for joint Liberal/PC agreement in the fall session of the Legislature.

Also not mentioned, is the Ford, GM and Chrysler extortion and blackmail of the CAW (now UNIFOR) and its membership into accepting two-tiered wages and performance-based-pay in the last negotiations and collective agreements. These concessions were no doubt linked to the negotiations towards this current payoff to Ford by the Federal and Ontario governments.

Monthly pickets at Tim Hudak's office denounce the PCs anti-worker worker agenda.

In this sense, Wynne's statements comparing her Party favourably to the Hudak PCs are disingenuous, as it was precisely the attack on the autoworker unions forcing them to accept two separate discriminatory contracts in the same workplace, which was part and parcel of the past and present pay-the-rich payoffs. On its part, the Ford monopoly was not bashful in linking the extortion of autoworker concessions and the extortion of public payoffs to private interests as necessary factors for private investment. This combination of the anti-worker extortion with the anti-social extortion is precisely what Hudak proposes with his anti-union legislation in concert with pay-the-rich schemes. Hudak's legislation, similar to the extorted two-tier contracts at the auto monopolies would have workers in the same workplace operating under two, three or many different collective agreements, pitting worker against worker in a downward spiral.

Given the way the provincial and federal governments intervened during the multi-billion dollar auto company payoffs during the 2008 crisis, it is safe to say that the two governments may well have pressured the union to submit to the companies' dictate with the promise or threat that without concessions a public payoff and private investment would not be forthcoming.

A difficulty for the Ontario Liberals of course was the 2011 general election and subsequent minority government, as well as the sustained and just resistance of teachers and education workers to the attack on their rights and the theft of public funds, which the government had already promised to pay Toyota and now Ford.

An important issue that is not discussed is the result of the payoffs to private industrial companies. In addition to the billions of public dollars put into the shares of GM and Chrysler following the economic crisis in 2008, most of which has vanished into a vast wasteland of global parasites and class privilege, some of the payoffs are aimed at retooling and increasing productivity. This becomes a factor resulting in a jobless recovery. Such a recovery is not good for the working class as its direct participation in industrial production is diminished, as Canadian industrial workers have experienced with layoffs and reduced standards of living.

Also, a jobless recovery is ultimately bad for private owners of capital as the ratio of invested capital to added-value grows. Added-value under capitalism is a product of the direct participation and work-time of the working class in production. A shrinking ratio of workers and their production of added-value in relation to total invested capital puts downward pressure on the rate of profit or rate of return on invested capital. The public money put into private investment projects is an effort on the part of owners of monopoly capital to reduce the downward pressure on their rate of profit, as the public money decreases the total amount of investment capital needed from the private owners in comparison to the number of active workers. The rate of added-value available to those private owners in relation to their total invested capital is boosted upward with the infusion of public capital. However, with improvements in productivity, the downward pressure on the rate of profit grows rapidly, another crisis erupts and private investors come back to governments demanding additional public money and come back to workers demanding more concessions.

The recurring cycle is a feature of this highest and last period of capitalism and cannot be avoided without a new direction for the socialized economy provided by the organized and independent working class movement. The working class movement has the social responsibility to extricate and save the economy and society from this cycle of crisis, working class concessions, public payoffs to private owners of capital, increased productivity, jobless recovery and on and on with new and more devastating results. The working class has the social responsibility to change the direction of the economy away from this destructive cycle. This can be done by harmonizing the socialized nature of the productive forces with new socialized relations of production. Only the organized and conscious working class movement is capable of bringing into reality such a new direction and transformation in the arrangements under which Canadians work and live.

For Your Information

Company, mass media, government and union reports and views on the public payoffs to Ford Motor Company.

For its part the U.S. Ford monopoly through its local President and CEO Dianne Craig stated, "Ford's investment demonstrates Canada can be competitive in the global market through strategic partnerships. Working closely with government and labour, we have secured a bright future for our employees at Oakville Assembly."

The mass media report, "for competitive reasons" the automaker would not reveal what new vehicles it could be producing from the global platform when the plant's retooling is finished next fall. CEO Craig credited a "competitive labour agreement" with the autoworkers union, now called UNIFOR, and the Ontario and federal governments for ponying up cash to make the project possible.

UNIFOR Local 707 represents the more than 3,000 workers at the Ford assembly plant and paint and body shops in Oakville. UNIFOR representatives responded to the announcement of the payoff with UNIFOR President Jerry Dias stating, "In this type of industry, it takes three to dance - you need the union, you need the company and you need the government. We've lost a lot of manufacturing jobs.... But that isn't because of Canada or wages, it's because of the economy." Mr. Dias added that the Oakville expansion does not resolve the questions over the future of the Ford engine plant in Windsor.

"The benefits of this investment are enormous for the province and for the country," said Dias, citing studies showing that every job in the facility supports 10 jobs in total in some part of the value chain. "This kind of investment is exactly what we need to see more of -- one that creates jobs and hope for young workers that they can find good job opportunities," he said. Dias noted that investing in manufacturing also leads to more jobs in research, development and other high-tech areas. "Government must be involved in key sectors of the economy," said Dias. "Without the support of government, this investment wouldn't be happening."

Dias also pointed out that it is not just the financial investment by government, but the numerous other ways that government plays a role for example through adding value to workers with the provision of quality education and training and universal, public health care and adding value to the general economy through public building of infrastructure and transportation.

"We often forget that the services we rely on, along with our families, are essential for industry to operate," said Dias.

Dias said the public payoff to Ford is a clear indication that Canadian facilities are competitive in the global market. He also attributed the payoff to the work of UNIFOR members saying, "Our members at Ford have worked hard to ensure that this facility is a profitable location to invest and build automobiles well into the future."

Retired CAW President Ken Lewenza also spoke to media about the announcement saying, "The whole idea is to build more capacity because if you get more volume, you need more people. Without the global platform, we would not be in the game at all. I told some people here today with 12 or 13 years' seniority that this is their pension ticket. If consumers suddenly shift their buying habits, we can seamlessly change our production mix without having to idle a plant." He noted the company uses nine global platforms around the world to build about 85 per cent of its vehicles.

"Flexible manufacturing enables us to get vehicles to consumers faster than ever before. This is a great value proposition for everyone. It may not mean new jobs but it secures existing jobs," he added.

A new platform would be "great news, not only for our members but the community of Oakville; hopefully, we'll create new openings for laid off workers in Windsor and St. Thomas," said Gary Beck, president of UNIFOR Local 707. He was referring to the roughly 470 Ford workers on layoff in Windsor because of the elimination of a shift at the Windsor Engine Plant in 2010 and another 100 autoworkers in St. Thomas who lost their jobs when the Talbotville Assembly Plant closed in 2011. The Oakville plant currently builds the Ford Edge, Ford Flex, Lincoln MKT and MKX.

Project Northern Star

Ford claims it is investing up to $1.1 billion over 10 years in two phases to implement a global platform at its Oakville Assembly plant and an expansion of its R&D investment in Canada.

Automotive Investment Fund

According to the Federal government, to date the AIF has provided "repayable contributions" to four companies, including up to:

- $80 million towards an investment of up to $730 million by Ford Motor Company of Canada to establish a flexible engine assembly plant and create an advanced powertrain research centre in Windsor, Ontario;

- $54.8 million towards an investment of up to $365 million by Linamar Corporation to develop and commercialize advanced components and modules in three product areas: transmissions, engines and drivelines;

- $70.8 million towards an investment of up to $506 million by Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. to maximize production efficiency, reduce emissions and upgrade equipment to permit the production of more fuel-efficient vehicles including electric vehicles;

- $21.7 million towards an investment of up to $199 million by Magna International to develop energy-efficient components for vehicles and innovative powertrain components for next-generation vehicles;

- $16.875 million towards an investment of up to $120 million by Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. to increase production of the Lexus RX350 mid-size luxury SUV and to initiate the production of the Lexus RX450h hybrid in Cambridge, Ontario.

The Harper government claims that the goal of these projects is to "leverage investment." It claims that including Project Northern Star, AIF contributions will leverage up to $2.3 billion in private sector R&D and innovation investments in Canada's automotive sector.

(With files from Government of Canada, Government of Ontario, Globe and Mail, Reuters, Canadian Press)

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