Manufacturing Yes! Nation-Wrecking No!
Time for a New Direction for the Economy
Steel announces permanent shutdown of steelmaking
U.S. Steel CEO Mario Longhi during a conference call from Pittsburgh to discuss the company's 3rd quarter results announced, "We have decided to permanently shut down the iron and steel making operations at Hamilton Works on December 31, 2013. This action will result in a sustainable improvement in our cost structure of approximately $50 million per year and reduce our cash needs of these facilities by approximately $25 million per year. This reduction in our total steelmaking capability also improves both our iron ore and coke balance and allows us to take additional actions."
In response to U.S. Steel's destruction of steelmaking in Canada, the Harper Minister of Industry James Moore is reported to have said that the wrecking of Canadian steelmaking assets is a private business decision in which the government will not intervene.
The U.S. monopoly's direct negative interference in Canada's socialized economy and the Harper government's detached indifferent response are issues the workers' movement must respond to in a serious way. The issues underscore the lack of power and control that Canadian workers have over their own affairs, over matters that affect them directly. This lack of power and control over workers' own affairs must be addressed and changed through organized actions with analysis. The working class movement must gain political power to deprive the global monopolies and their political representatives of the power to attack the working class and the security and well-being of Canadians and their economy.
It soon became clear after U.S. Steel's seizure of Stelco in 2007 that the steel empire long viewed Stelco's productive capability as a competitive threat, which it wanted to contain and ruin if necessary. In addition, U.S. Steel wanted Stelco's iron ore and coke-making to feed its empire. U.S. Steel continues to consume Hamilton Works' coke in its other steelmaking facilities, and expressing utmost hatred for Hamiltonians crows that the shutdown of Hamilton steelmaking allows the empire to ship that coke out of Hamilton to improve the empire's "balance."
Longhi's Capital-Centred Rationale for Wrecking Hamilton Works
The Workers' Opposition challenges the capital-centred rationale of Longhi for the shutdown of steelmaking at Hamilton Works and denounces the Harper government's spineless acquiescence to this wrecking of Canadian means of production.
Longhi sees Hamilton Works not as a valuable asset for Canadians but as a cost within the cost structure of his U.S.-controlled empire. According to Longhi, this wrecking of Canada's productive asset results in an annual cost saving of $50 million and a reduction of $25 million in annual cash needs. The destruction of the Hamilton Works' blast furnace, Longhi insists, also results in a positive reduction of total steelmaking capability within its empire allowing it to divert both iron ore and coke to other U.S. Steel mills generating what he calls an improvement in balance.
The Workers' Opposition denounces with utter contempt the outmoded and backward outlook of Longhi, a prominent leader of U.S. finance capital. Longhi uses his spurious thinking to excuse this attack on Canadians and their socialized economy. Contrary to Longhi's assertion, Hamilton Works is not part of any cost structure; it is a valuable asset for Canadians. The destruction of any part of it is a direct attack on the well-being of Canada and its economy. Viewed correctly, Hamilton Works and its experienced steelworkers are precious assets. The mill itself should be constantly renewed and modernized.
The notion that productive assets, workers and the production process itself are costs is harmful to the modern socialized economy. Within the backward capital-centred outlook, destruction of productive assets and production itself, including the central role of the human factor, becomes a virtue, as they are viewed as costs, which must be reduced. With this mindset, the focus becomes the lowering of costs not solving the problems of a socialized economy that requires a new direction including the harmonizing of the outmoded privatized relations of production with the already fully socialized productive forces. The result of not moving forward is recurring problems and crises, which even Longhi admits are battering his empire but for which his only response is to lower costs. With this retrogressive approach, the working class in both Canada and the U.S. suffer, and the well-being and security of both peoples is put in jeopardy.
The Working Class Has Its Own Modern Outlook
The working class has the social responsibility to bring its own outlook and thinking to political economy. It must strengthen its organization and voice in the community and take up politics as a central preoccupation. No other force is going to defend workers and fight for their well-being, security and rights. No other social force has the capacity to defend Canada's socialized economy from the global imperialist gangsters.
The working class movement should not allow representatives of finance capital such as Longhi, and the vast stable of economic experts and academics who spout similar nonsense, to go unchallenged. Through their own organizations and media, the working class movement needs to mobilize itself and public opinion to look at the world with a modern viewpoint and definitions and fight for a new direction. The working class needs control over those things that affect their lives of which the economy and politics are central. The working class needs the organizational ability and power to deprive finance capitalists and their empires, such as Longhi and U.S. Steel, of the power to control and ruin the lives, economy, security and well-being of workers and all Canadians.
As far as the detached cold indifference of the Harper government to U.S. Steel's attack is concerned, the Workers' Opposition is determined to hold it to account. For Harper to allow U.S. Steel to march into Canada and destroy an important economic asset and ruin and threaten the lives, pensions and security of so many shows that it is not fit to govern and must be removed.
Steel and other important basic products must be manufactured in Canada. No excuses to the contrary hold any water. A modern socialized economy must be self-reliant in its basic products, industrial machinery and other means of production. The sovereign people must have final say and control over the basic sectors of their socialized economy. That is a modern definition, principle and right that must be upheld if the people are to have any control over their lives and economy, and any power to defend their well-being and security.
Hamilton Works! Let Hamilton Steelworkers Produce
Are We a Country or Not!?
On behalf of present and former members of Local 1005 USW, I wish to express deep regret and anger at the announced permanent closure of steelmaking at Hilton Works which has been in operation our entire lives and has made Hamilton what it is today.
This is a dagger into the heart and soul of our community. The hand on this poisonous blade stretches from Pittsburgh but it has been guided into our chest by the federal and Ontario governments. They have the power to say no to this attack on Canada's economy. They have the power to beat back this invasion of destructive robber barons whose private self-interest has nothing good to offer Canada.
Harper speaks constantly of national security and protecting Canadians from terrorism and degenerate social values. But when it comes to protecting them from this wrecking of Canadian livelihoods, steelmaking and security in retirement, which amounts to a form of U.S. terrorism, his government says it is a private decision and it cannot intervene! Some people wonder how different has this been than if the U.S. military marched into Hamilton and blew up our mill with shells and bombs? They have ripped two million tons of annual steel production out of our economy. How is this value to be replaced? Through imports. Those imports of steel drain our economy of value because we as a country, we as our own economy have an under supply problem in steel, not one of oversupply.
Harper's anti-Industry Minister James Moore said U.S. Steel's wrecking of Hilton Works is a business decision and that the government does not get involved in the day-to-day decisions of any company. Then why does the Conservative Party call itself the government of Canada? We need a government that defends Canadians, not a gang of toadies who nod off to sleep while global monopolies do whatever they want. All of it is justified under the hoax of defending democratic freedom which allegedly requires governments which do not intervene in business decisions. What a self-serving interpretation of non-intervention!
Are we a country or not!? Are we Canadians destined forever to be victims of business decisions made who knows where? Those decisions are certainly not made here by us in our country that has retirees to look after, youth who want to work and produce, and an economy that needs a new direction.
What is the next day-to-day decision of this foreign molloch that is going to stomp on us with impunity? Is it bankruptcy of U.S. Steel Canada to rid the U.S. owners of any responsibility for our pensions? Is that the next business decision the federal and Ontario governments will refuse to get involved with?
Not so long as we have anything to say about it.
This nonsense must end! Harper's Canada is not a country of, for and by Canadians. This is not a country that defends the security and well-being of its citizens, their economy and future. It is a non-country subject to the whims of the most powerful global monopolies that do whatever they want because they can, because they are allowed to, because the governments refuse to intervene on behalf of Canadians.
U.S. Steel executives complain all the time of an oversupply of steelmaking capacity in the U.S. and globally. Why do they not simply pass a law and say steel consumed in the U.S. must be made in the U.S.? Canada should do the same and then we could all be happy in our strengthened steelmaking capacity harmonized to meet our internal demand. And if we did not have enough capacity then we could build it, which we are perfectly capable of doing. No, they prefer to complain and then march into Canada and destroy our steelmaking capacity so they can dump their U.S.-made steel on our backs because they have an oversupply problem. They treat U.S. steelworkers no better.
Stelco originally thrived precisely because the governments of the day rejected continentalism. They saw in their wisdom that if they allowed U.S. companies unfettered right to do as they please, Canada would not have been built and would have been reduced to producing mostly raw material. How about bringing new arrangements into being today that defend the country and its citizens and meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. Steel consumed in Canada should be produced in Canada. Heavy industrial machinery used in Canada should be manufactured in Canada. The present way is not working. The present way is riddled with recurring crises and unresolved problems precisely because governments refuse to intervene on behalf of the country and its citizens. Our governments turn a blind eye to the security and rights of the people and an active eye to defending the security and rights of big companies. This has to change and steelworkers and their allies are determined to change it.
Join us in this struggle for a new direction! We have a country to build!
is the President of Local 1005 USW which represents the workers at
Hilton Works in Hamilton.
National Convention of Canadian Union of
The Need for New Arrangements
The Canadian Union of Public Employees held its 26th National Convention in Quebec City from October 21 to 25, 2013.
The final report of the Credentials Committee was adopted on Wednesday, October 23, 2013. The Committee reported that a total of 2182 delegates and 182 alternates representing 800 locals across Canada had been registered. CUPE has a total membership of 627,000.
Delegates representing workers in many sectors like
Health Care, Education, Municipal, Social Services, Airlines, Energy
and many others debated 52 resolutions and a policy paper to work out a
program of work for CUPE for the next two years.
During the discussions on the convention floor, delegates gave many examples of the attacks on workers' wages, benefits and bargaining rights by all levels of government, federal, provincial and municipal. The austerity agenda being pushed by governments poses a constant threat to the livelihood of workers and as well, attacks on pensions of retired workers are being faced daily by the locals of the Union across the country.
Many delegates, in recounting their experiences in fighting against the ongoing imposition of concession bargaining, pointed out the urgent necessity of building the strength of the Union to defend its members on all these critical issues.
The National Secretary-Treasurer pointed out in his report to the convention that CUPE was financially sound with a strike fund in excess of $62 million. One of the resolutions passed by the convention was to increase strike pay to $60 per day beginning the 10th calendar day of a strike to a maximum of $300 per week.
While there was a lot of discussion about providing financial support and using the organized strength of the Union to defend locals which were facing direct attacks, like the blue collar workers in Quebec City who have been without a contract for nearly three years, the convention was not able to put forward a practical plan to address the needs of the workers who were under attack.
Several proposals were discussed. For instance, a policy paper called "Strategic Directions 2013-2015" was debated and amended several times during the week. It proposes various initiatives to implement CUPE's plan to "build closer ties with its members" in line with the CLC's campaign to popularize the achievements of unions and to promote the benefit of unions for the whole society.
The document also proposes that the Union must work to elect a pro-labour government to stop the "Liberal and Conservative attacks on unions."
What was missing from the policy paper and the debate on the resolutions was the recognition that the old post-war arrangements have been scrapped by the ruling elite and wishing to bring back the past is not an option.
Workers facing attacks all across the country are recognizing the need to fight back based on their own independent positions. New arrangements can be created on the basis of recognizing the rights of workers based on the work which they perform.
This means that workers must wage their struggle based on an analysis of the actual situation and expose the upside-down economic theories put forward by governments that the services provided by workers are "costs." Workers in the public sector provide services which benefit the whole society and we must not allow these benefits to be seized as profits or government subsidies to monopoly corporations. Governments at all levels are diverting public funds to corporations directly through privatization and the creation of P-3's and claim that this is being done in the public interest. But nothing could be further from the truth.
The struggle of workers to expose the fraud of "excessive costs of social services" and the fraud of austerity budgets is an important part of the struggle of all Canadians for a say in the direction of the economy and nation building in opposition to nation wrecking and the destruction of public services and social programs.
CUPE, with locals all across the country in many sectors
will surely play an important role in the struggle of Canadian workers
for the affirmation of their rights.
Delegates from the CUPE National Convention demonstrate October 23, 2013, outside the Quebec National Assembly,
in support of Quebec city municipal workers in their fight for an acceptable collective agreeent.
Housing Crisis in Nunavik
Hold the Harper Government Accountable!
The Harper government must be held accountable for refusing to adopt concrete measures to resolve the serious housing crisis raging in the Nunavik region of northern Quebec.
Following the Throne Speech in which Harper once again did not address this serious issue, Jobie Tukkiapik, the President of Makivik Corporation stated:
"We ask ourselves what will it take for the government to live up to its word and respect its treaty obligations under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. [...] We have made numerous requests for a meeting with Minister Valcourt in order to impress upon the federal government the need to urgently act with regard to housing in Nunavik, but to date he has failed to meet with us. After just nine days in Canada, the UN Special Rapporteur understood that funding for aboriginal housing is woefully inadequate. Canada's continued refusal to address the housing crisis can only be described as bad faith."
Makivik Corporation is the entity that was set up to manage the Inuit share of the compensation funds under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, signed in 1975 and to ensure the implementation of its conditions.
The mediator appointed under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, Dominique F. Bourcheix, says Ottawa acted in bad faith during the renewal of the 2010-2015 housing agreement aimed at resolving this crisis. At that time, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Chuck Strahl, said he was actively seeking to convince Prime Minister Stephen Harper to provide funds for housing construction. Nothing came of it.
At discussions on the renewal of the housing agreement in 2009, Minister Strahl "failed to disclose to Makivik that he knew it was useless to attempt to obtain a mandate [from the government] when Makivik signed and when the minister signed," the mediator stated in his September 2012 report. "Makivik has not benefited from Canada's obligation, according to civil law, to act in good faith."
Joe Lance, Executive Assistant to Makivik President Tukkiapik, noted that two letters were sent last spring to federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Bernard Valcourt. No response was received.
The Makivik Corporation signed to renew the agreement believing that Ottawa would seriously address the shortage in social housing. It is noteworthy that under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, the federal government must provide Nunavik with sufficient housing to meet its needs. Contrary to this Agreement, in 1994 Ottawa stopped investing in social housing for a period of six years. In 2000, following a mediator's report, Canada was forced to conclude an agreement with the other two partners, Quebec through the Société d'habitation du Québec (SHQ) and the Inuit represented by Makivik and the Kativik Regional Government.
According to the 2010-2015 agreement, the federal government is committed to build 227 housing units, representing an investment of $12.5 million per year. As for the Quebec government, it is responsible for housing maintenance and assumes the operating deficit. According to stakeholders and the public, Nunavik needs 1,000 housing units.
Despite its resumption of investment in 2000, by refusing to invest for six years the federal government has contributed to aggravating the crisis. As a result of the investment freeze the shortage increased from 459 units to 628 units in 2003 to 900 at present out of a total of 2,673 social housing units. The number of Inuit living in overcrowded conditions, for example 15 people living in a six-person home, was at that time estimated at 47 per cent. Today, that figure is 68 per cent.
Elena Labranche, deputy director of public health in Nunavik emphasized that overcrowding causes serious problems. There is even talk of an outbreak of tuberculosis in several homes. Mental health is also affected. "The house is supposed to be a haven. But today, people no longer have that sense of security. Overcrowding leads to increased violence and suicide," Elena Labranche said. "We are also witnessing a new phenomenon called couch surfing of homeless people who sleep in a house one night and another the next day," she added.
Concerned about the lack of services for children in need of protection, the Quebec Commission on Human Rights and Youth concluded a five-year investigation in 1997, which stated that the overcrowding in Nunavik was a very serious threat to the development and well-being of children.
The Harper government must be held accountable for this serious violation of human rights and its treaty obligations.
Racist Immigration Bill Passes Second Reading
The Immigration Bill, a Government Bill sponsored by Home Secretary Theresa May, had its second reading debate on October 22 and began its Committee stage two days later. This Bill erodes the rights of national minorities through facilitating deportations, restricting the right of appeal and giving more powers to immigration officers and further entrenches the position of national minorities as second-class members of society. Like the equally condemnable Lobbying Bill, it is being rushed through, having been presented to Parliament just twelve days before its second reading. The so-called line-by-line scrutiny of the Committee stage has a deadline of November 19, less than four weeks after beginning its proceedings.
Labour officially backed the Bill when Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper announced that the Party would not oppose, but "amend and reform", the Bill. The second reading vote was passed by 303 votes to just 18, as Labour abstained.
The Movement Against Xenophobia (MAX) organised a demonstration opposite Parliament on the morning of the second reading. Speaking at the rally, political director of Unite Jenny Formby said that the Bill "isn't just an issue for migrants. This is an issue for all of us who care about democracy."
Anti-racist activist Lee Jasper labelled the Bill "divisive" and warned of a return to the shameful period of "no blacks, no dogs, no Irish". This is in reference to the proposals to deny undocumented migrants access to private housing, via the requirement for landlords to check the legally resident status of tenants. This attempt to restrict the basic right to housing on the basis of nationality and legal status should be denounced.
Similarly, the Bill seeks to deny access to bank accounts and driving licenses. Further, under the fraud of stopping alleged "health tourism", a proven myth, the Bill introduces a fee for access to the NHS. This fee, widely speculated at around £200, is to be payable by temporary, legal, migrants originating from outside the European Economic Area.
In addition, the Bill significantly removes grounds for appeal to decisions on immigration and deportation.
Under the banner of "fairness", the aim is to deny basic human rights and the provision of services to national minorities. It drafts landlords, bank employees, health and other workers into immigration control and the checking of papers, inevitably driving vulnerable sections into desperation, creating the conditions for discrimination, division and further exploitation.
The Bill is a state-organised racist attack and affects the rights of all. By attacking one section to attack all, using the politics of division, it is part of increasing arbitrariness and unaccountability by introducing fees and the checking of status at all levels. It contributes to a general atmosphere of suspicion and other negative emotions intended to bolster an authority out of step with the conditions and wear down any opposition to the agenda of austerity.
The Bill comes in the wake of the broadly condemned anti-immigration vans, telling national minorities to "go home", which the government was ordered to removed from streets earlier this month due to their breach of advertising standards. It also comes after the previous week's widely criticised government text messages telling "suspected illegal immigrants" to contact the Home Office.
The anti-human Immigration Bill must not pass. All
justice-loving people must join in the movement to defeat this Bill and
organise to defend the rights of all.
* Workers' Weekly is
a publication of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain
1. To cite one example,
research by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine reveals
that foreign patients already often pay for NHS treatment, totalling
£42m in 2010-11. Furthermore, Britain is actually a "net
exporter" of patients, with 63,000 travelling abroad for health care in
that same year. - See more here
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