December 3, 2013 - No. 141
Urgent Need to Hold Harper
Government to Account
Canadian Involvement in the GM
Mass protest at GM Canada
Headquarters in Oshawa to oppose the closure of
GM's truck assembly plant, June 12, 2008.
to Hold Harper Government to Account
• Canadian Involvement in the GM Bailout
• Airline Workers Present Conservatives with
• Stephen Harper to Undertake First Official
Visit to Israel - Nathan J. Freeman
New Forestry Regime
• Forestry Workers Protest Degradation of
• The Government Chose Not to Improve the Law
- Interview, Ubald Desgagné, President, Unifor Local
• Toronto: Injured Workers 22nd Annual
Christmas Demonstration at Ministry of Labour - Ontario
Network of Injured Workers' Groups
Urgent Need to Hold Harper Government to
Canadian Involvement in the GM Bailout
Workers in auto
parts sector participate in Day of Action in Windsor (left) and
Burlington, October 27, 2010.
During the 2008-09 economic crisis, the collapse of
vehicle sales and production in North America to about half previous
levels generated enormous insecurity and hardship amongst Canadian
autoworkers. The Harper federal and Ontario Liberal governments used
the crisis to demand concessions from autoworkers and hand an enormous
sum of public money to finance capital.
The state linked the concessions from workers with
handouts to finance capital as a single policy to save General Motors
from collapse. The state refused to allow discussion of any
alternative. Obama, Harper and McGuinty demanded that if GM (and
Chrysler) auto jobs were to be saved then autoworkers must give
concessions on wages, benefits and pensions, and public money must be
handed over to finance capital. The essence of the blackmail engineered
by the rich and their state is not to solve economic problems or jobs
but to perpetuate the capitalist status quo and class privilege. Public
money channelled to finance capital plus worker concessions guarantee
no security for the working class; in fact, they guarantee that
economic crises will continue to occur with regularity and the
situation for current and retired workers will worsen. A pro-social
alternative is necessary beginning with a loud and clear No! to
concessions and handouts to finance capital. A new direction for the
economy is possible.
Since the early 1990s, GM Canada has received from
Industry Canada alone more then half a billion dollars supposedly to
secure employment. But that public money was mostly used to close
facilities, automate and introduce robots at a frantic irresponsible
rate throwing autoworkers out of work and their communities into chaos.
From 40,000 GM workers, the number has fallen
drastically to 15,000 in 2006 and a little more then 6,000 today.
During that period, GM shuttered assembly plants in Toronto and
Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec, a truck assembly facility in Oshawa, and a
transmission factory in Windsor, Ontario. The federal and Quebec
governments even gave GM $220 million in interest-free loans to
decommission its plant in Sainte-Thérèse! Last December, GM announced
it was shifting the production of the Chevrolet Camaro to Lansing,
Michigan in 2015, with a projected loss of 1,000 jobs in Oshawa. That
decision was announced a week after Michigan passed its "right to be a
slave" legislation. Autoworkers bitterly remember that they gave major
concessions during bargaining in 2006 for GM promises to keep Camaro
production in Oshawa.
Statistics show assembly
work has moved out of Canada in recent years, in particular to the
southern United States and Mexico in spite of worker concessions and
pay-the-rich schemes, which prove that a new direction is required.
Canadian autoworkers produced roughly 2.5 million vehicles last year,
up from the crisis year in 2009 of 1.5 million units, but down from
roughly 3 million in 2000. Canada's share of North American vehicle
assembly has fallen from 16.8 per cent in 2000 to 14.2 per cent in
2013, well behind Mexico, which has nearly doubled its share over that
period to around 19 per cent, with U.S. production amounting to 65 per
cent. Coupled with robotic technology, this has resulted in the number
of Canadians employed in vehicle manufacturing falling from roughly
53,000 in 2000 to 37,000 in 2012, according to Statistics Canada. Tens
of thousands more jobs have been lost over that period in spin-off
industries, including body and parts manufacturing and steel.
State-organized monopoly extortion for pay-the-rich
bailouts and handouts, and worker concessions have become endemic in
the economy and in particular in the auto industry These anti-social
practices, which make the situation worse, have become the norm for a
crisis-ridden economy and state under the control of finance capital.
The monopolies in control of auto production continually
denounce Ontario workers with the capital-centred accusation that they
"cost too much." Finance capital refuses to make any guarantees of
continued production in Canada as it scours the globe looking for
cheaper workers and bigger public handouts.
In 2009, Canadian GM autoworkers made concessions
similar to those of U.S. GM autoworkers under the threat of complete
collapse of GM production and employment. Using the hoax of workers as
a cost to the value they produce, GM Canadian and U.S. collective
agreements were shredded with wage and benefit cuts, the loss of the
defined-benefit pension plan for new hires and the creation of a health
care trust, partially funded with public money to relieve GM of its
contracted social obligation towards worker health care.
The federal and Ontario governments gave $10.8 billion
to the 2009 GM bailout taking new GM shares in return. Of the $10.8
billion, not to speak of the other handouts both prior and since the
bailout, the governments have so far received back about $3.7 billion
through a repayment by GM of $1.5 billion and government sales of GM
shares in September and during the initial public offering of the new
GM shares in 2010.
The two governments still hold $403 million worth of
preferred shares, and their remaining 110.1 million common shares are
worth about $4.2 billion. Using those figures, the remaining Canadian
shortfall from the 2009 bailout alone is about $2.4 billion. To recover
this full amount the remaining shares would have to increase in price
from $38 to around $60 per share.
In the Harper government's usual opportunistic manner,
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty admitted in his recent economic statement
that the sale of the remaining federal GM stock would probably take
place just prior to the 2015 federal election. No doubt, the Harperites
are hoping the GM stock price by then has risen to near $60 so they can
grandstand on how great they are at managing the economy to serve the
narrow private interests of finance capital.
Also, autoworkers must
prepare for a state-organized GM attack on their pension plans. GM
Canada is making considerable noise that all pension plans for which it
is responsible are underfunded by several billions of dollars. With the
threat of another crisis hovering over the economy due to the
unresolved social, political and economic problems, several GM debts
are coming due such as the interest-free $220 million state loan to
decommission its plant in Sainte-Thérèse, other payments to the state
amounting to $1.28 billion, which were part of the state-organized
wrecking of retiree contracted health care and replacement with a
health care trust, and more then $200 million a year into the pension
funds. GM Canada, along with the federal and Ontario governments seem
to be preparing conditions for a GM Canada bankruptcy to destroy the
pension plans, which may possibly end GM production in Canada
altogether. This must not pass!
and Public Bailouts for Finance Capital Are Not Solutions!
Autoworkers Must Gird Themselves to Battle in Defence of Their Rights
and for a
New Direction for the Economy! Stop Paying the Rich!
Manufacturing Yes! Nation-Wrecking No!
Safety and Working Conditions
Airline Workers Present Conservatives with Petition
On November 29, 80 flight attendants, members of the
Canadian Union of Public Employee's (CUPE) Airline Division, held a
vigorous protest at federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt's
constituency office to demand the Conservatives uphold their working
conditions and passenger safety.
The delegation of safety professionals, led by CUPE
National President Paul Moist and CUPE Airline Division President
Michel Cournoyer, also presented a petition with 13,000 signatures
calling for the proven safety standard of one flight attendant for
every 40 passengers to be maintained by all Canadian airlines.
The petition denounces the Conservative government's
decision to allow Canadian airlines to adopt less strict and more
dangerous standards for passengers, such as a one flight attendant for
every 50 passenger seats ratio.
"The Conservatives need to
understand a simple fact:
fewer flight attendants means less security for passengers. The recent
civil aviation history clearly demonstrates that an adequate number of
flight attendants trained to deal with emergency situations greatly
increases the safety of passengers," said Cournoyer.
Cournoyer underscored this point by recalling what
happened during the July 6 crash of Asiana Flight 214 in San Francisco.
In the burning aircraft there was one flight attendant for every 24
passengers and the cabin crew managed to evacuate almost every
passenger. Closer to home, in August 2005 at Toronto's Pearson
International Airport, an Air France Airbus ran into a ravine and
caught on fire. All passengers were evacuated in less than two minutes.
Again, the ratio was high: one flight attendant for every 30 passengers.
"The dangerous door that the Conservatives have opened
in granting exemptions to WestJet [in May] and Sunwing [in October]
must be closed as soon as possible. We ask the Conservatives to listen
to reason and to step back in the best interests of passengers.
However, due to the Conservatives' stubbornness, CUPE won't ignore any
avenue to ensure the safety of passengers. This is why we are
challenging this rash decision before the courts," said Moist.
Not in Our
Name! No to Israeli War
Crimes! End the Occupation Now!
Stephen Harper to Undertake
First Official Visit to Israel
Toronto protest against
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit to Toronto for Zionist
fundraising dinner, December 1, 2013.
Flying in the face of international opinion and the
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has chosen this moment in history and
contemporary international relations to honour the State of Israel with
his first official visit as Canadian head of government.
This development was announced in connection with
appearance Sunday evening, December 1, as guest of honour at the
Toronto Negev Dinner, a Zionist fundraiser.
According to a report filed on the website of CBC News,
hosts sang Harper's praises as a bird-loving environmentalist. On this
basis they are going to be naming the Hula bird sanctuary in northern
Israel after Harper.
The gesture is pathetic, calculated to deny's Canada's
in international climate talks and the widespread rejection of the
negative environmental and political consequences of the resource rape
being committed all over Canada but specifically across northern
Alberta in the Athabasca tar sands by U.S.
and Canadian energy resource development monopolies.
The Hula Conservancy
Sanctuary is built on lands belonging to dispossessed Palestinian
fishermen and their families, who are banned from ever returning. It is
less than five miles west of the Golan Heights, a parcel of Syrian
territory occupied by Israeli forces
since the June 1967 war. In line with the mandate of the United Nations
Truce Services Organization (UNTSO), Canadian Forces stand on the Golan
Heights supposedly to separate the armed forces of both countries, who
remain officially at war having signed no peace agreement or official
truce since June 1967.
The proposal to name the Hula Bird Sanctuary after
illustrates how desperate the Harper gang and its Zionist
fellow-travelers are becoming. They are determined to push the
discreted direction the Harper government is taking Canada in all
fields while they can.
Clearly, it's high time Canadians gave Stephen Harper
The Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu is
with the Harper government's parroting of every one of Tel Aviv's
unsupported allegations against the government and people of the
Islamic Republic of Iran. Indeed, on this front, Stephen Harper is
further entrenching the Canadian government
in the same circle of hell reserved for and occupied not only by Tel
Aviv and Washington but also by the absolute monarchy of the Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia. Ottawa, Tel Aviv and Riyadh remain the only world
capitals openly supporting the lunatic notion of unleashing acts of
aggression against the Islamic Republic
It is Time to Give Harper the Bird!
1. The Toronto Negev Dinner is a major annual fundraiser
Jewish National Fund (JNF). Canadian tax laws treat the JNF as a
"charity." This is despite the fact that, within Israel, the JNF is an
NGO that exists to violate -- "legally" in the sense of no formal
government approval nor disapproval -- the specific
proscription of the Fourth Geneva Convention against the involuntary
transfer of the Palestinian populations of the Occupied West Bank and
the transfer of their lands to Jewish citizen-settlers from the Israeli
This dispossession carries on despite the fact that both
Canada formally recognize the Fourth Geneva Conventions as part of
international humanitarian law applicable to all the Convention's
signatories. Notably in this particular regard, the JNF has also
financed Canada Park.
The Canada Park war crime is JNF's true face. Albeit
effectiveness, this remains hidden behind the JNF's semi-official
posture as a humanitarian charity. In that context, it raised money to
finance the planting of trees, and also teamed with some other
Israeli-dominated Jewish community charities
involved in attending to the health needs of aging and retired Israeli
survivors of the World War Two Nazi judeocide.
The particular zone of Canada Park was developed by the
JNF as a
"family recreation area" for Israeli Jewish families. It was carved out
of the Latrun Salient inside the occupied West Bank literally on the
bones and stones of three Palestinian villages razed by the Israeli
Army at the start of the Six-Day War
in June 1967. This outrage was actually inflicted deliberately by the
Israeli Army on the Palestinians of that area. Heroically, and denied
ammunition resupply, the Palestinians of the Latrun Salient kept the
main road between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem out of the Zionists' hands up
until three weeks before the end of
the British Mandate (and final withdrawal of the last colonial police
and other British armed forces from the area). Under the "Not In Our
Name" banner, progressive Canadians since the June 1967 war have been
repudiating this Canada Park outrage.
One of the JNF's latest crimes involves the forcible
displacement of a Bedouin community of 30,000 to 70,000 people from 35
villages in the Negev region to make room for settlers transplanted
from Canada. This and other Zionist crimes and the Harper government's
collaboration were vigorously opposed by protestors at the December 1
Toronto, December 1, 2013
Quebec's Crisis-Ridden New Forestry
Forestry Workers Protest Degradation of
Saint-Félicien, November 21, 2013.
On November 21, more than 100 forestry workers held a
demonstration in Saint-Félicien, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. They were
protesting the deterioration of the living and working conditions,
which is exacerbating the situation in areas already affected by the
forestry crisis. The event took place on the occasion of the Quebec
National Forestry Rendezvous in Saint-Félicien, an initiative of the
Quebec government involving companies, trade unions, representatives of
First Nations communities, environmentalists and municipalities. The
demonstrators were unequivocal that the government must take
responsibility for protecting the working and living conditions of
forestry workers. The same day, forestry workers in the riding of
Baie-Comeau occupied the office of their MP to make the same demands.
These actions were directed especially against the
deterioration of working conditions under the new Quebec forestry
regime, unanimously adopted by the National Assembly on April 1.
Protesters opposed in particular the auction of approximately 25
percent of the timber harvest, for a so-called free market of wood.
Wood that was previously allocated to businesses under timber supply
and forest management agreements (CAAFs) are now sold at auction. CAAFs
included the payment of stumpage fees between the Quebec government and
companies that own wood processing plants. A CAAF included the
companies' obligations with regard to forest regeneration. As well, the
notion of a link between the harvesting and processing of wood and a
definite community was central to the CAAF system. The CAAFs have now
been replaced by supply guarantees where the link to the community's is
much more tenuous. For auctioned wood, there is no link at all and
workers must go wherever the auctioned wood is located, losing any job
security and union certification while working in very substandard
conditions, without a pension or benefits. This is exacerbating the
massive de-unionization taking place in the forestry sector over the
last twenty years.
Baie Comeau November 21, 2013
The protesters addressed both the current government and
the previous Liberal government and called them to account for their
responsibility for working conditions in forestry and the general
living and working conditions in the region. Governments cannot shirk
their responsibilities with big talk about a modern Quebec forestry
sector, said the workers.
Monopolies like Resolute Forest Products are using the
new system to increase the de-unionization of the sector, lowering all
conditions and eliminating more stakeholders.
The Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec (PMLQ) issued a
statement expressing its firm support for forestry workers who conduct
important work for the regions and society and who should have their
rights recognized, the right to remuneration commensurate with the work
they do and the right to representation in organizations that
collectively defend their interests. The crisis in the forest industry
clearly shows that Quebec needs to steer the economy in a new direction
that serves the interests of the people not those of foreign monopolies.
The Government Chose Not to Improve the Law
TML: Who does Unifor Local 3000-Q
Ubald Desgagné: The local represents
workers who cut timber in the forests, and subcontractors who use their
own forest machinery. I myself am a forest machinery operator. Our
local, with its 14 certified unions, is made up of all the forestry
workers who work for Resolute Forest Products. The great majority of
our members work in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, whether it be in
Girardville, Saint-Félicien, Roberval, etc., with some members in the
Côte-Nord and Abitibi, especially in Senneterre. We also represent
workers from the cogeneration plant in Saint-Félicien. We are now
approximately 700 members in our union local. Since the new forest
regime has been put into place, we have lost close to 400 members.
Saint-Félicien, November 21, 2013.
TML: How did you lose so many members?
HD: We lost them because of the forestry
crisis and things have gotten worse because of the new forest regime
with its timber auction system. In our region, on top of losing 10 per
cent of the wood which used to be reserved for exploitation and which
has now been transformed into protected areas, 30 per cent of the wood
is now sold in auctions. This means that just about anyone can bid on
the timber. For example, to take the case of the Jean-Charles camp,
Resolute Forest Products bid and won 110,000 cubic metres of timber
that were auctioned off. Resolute hires workers other than unionized
workers to cut this timber. It's the same timber that used to be
reserved for Resolute Forest Products through timber supply and forest
management contracts (CAAFs).
But we won't be cutting this wood. Resolute Forest
Products has asked workers from the Beauce region to come and cut the
timber here. With this auction system, you can fell timber here in
Saint-Félicien, which doesn't mean that this wood will be going through
the saw mills in Saint-Félicien. It can go through any other mill.
When we suffered this 40 per cent loss -- 10 per cent to
the protected areas and 30 per cent to the auctions -- we lost 40 per
cent of our workers. They went elsewhere to cut timber for auctioned
wood, notably for small companies, both preexisting and newly created.
It must be said that these workers no longer work under
the same conditions. They no longer have any benefits whatsoever.
Companies can pay workers whatever rate they deem fit and never have to
pay overtime. There are no pension plans or disability insurance. There
is a huge discrepancy between a unionized worker and a non-unionized
worker. For example, say a worker falls ill to cancer, that requires a
six to nine month period of treatment. Without disability insurance,
this worker will receive only 15 weeks of employment insurance sick
benefits. Without disability insurance, he will start dipping into his
own money set aside for his retirement. He will use it up to overcome
his illness and none of it will go towards his retirement. This type of
case happens all the time. In the end, the worker pays out of his own
pocket, and this is deplorable.
TML: The new forest regime, then, has
actually worsened the crisis in the sector?
HD: Yes. The result of the 30 per cent
loss of timber because of the timber auctions is that many workers have
retired and sold their machinery. It is becoming more and more
difficult to stay in the industry and to find new forces to take over.
As for young workers who want to be loggers, it is increasingly hard
for them to buy up to $1.2 million-worth of equipment and to hope to
recover their expenses. The same scenario happens every year and
contracts must be renewed every year. So there is no security
whatsoever. The auctions are also an annual event. Who will want to
invest such significant amounts under such uncertain circumstances? The
workforce is aging and there is no new blood to take over. From one
year to the next, you have no idea what company you'll be working for.
There is nothing to rely on, no job security to speak of.
Moreover, certain companies which win a timber auction
will eventually have to sell that wood. In some cases big companies
like Resolute Forest Products will make such a company an offer for its
wood. It is a free market so the small company will sell wherever
possible. Where will that company get the money to make up the
difference for the amount received for the sale of that wood versus how
much was paid at auction? It will get it from the workers by lowering
their conditions, that's clear. The company which wins a bid in the
timber auction does not even know if it can be sold -- the market is
not at all reliable. You don't know from one year to the next if you
will be able to sell or not. This company could just as well be stuck
with the wood, unable to sell it.
TML: How is the union trying to change
HD: At Committee in the National
Assembly, we asked that the timber auctions be reserved for those who
actually have sawmills, that they not be open to just anyone. We did
everything possible to change Bill 7, the bill that set up the new
regime, which before that was the Liberal government's Bill 57. We
explained our position. The Parti québécois government said that it
found our position to be most reasonable, that it would examine the
situation, that, yes, the bill could be improved, but then they just
went ahead and adopted the bill as is. When the Liberals were in power
they also said that what we had to say made a lot of sense, but neither
government raised a finger to improve the law. They could have done so
had they wanted. In fact, the new forest regime was adopted unanimously.
We have had a union drive but it's painstaking because
workers are so dispersed and it's harder still when governments are not
on your side. We want to attain a situation whereby anywhere in the
Saguenay-Lac-Saint Jean the hourly rate of forest machinery operators
is the same wherever they are and everyone is a union member.
This is the reason we held a demonstration Thursday
[November 21] in Saint-Félicien. The aim of the demo was to denounce
the fact that 30 per cent of secure quality jobs have disappeared
because of the timber auctions.
Toronto: Injured Workers 22nd Annual Christmas
Demonstration at Ministry of Labour
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