Category Archives: Canada

The Gender Wage Gap – Still

Women in Canada still earn 31 per cent less than men annually. In fact, Canada ranks fiftieth out of 149 countries when it comes to wage equality for similar work. This is according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report for 2018.

The Justin Trudeau Liberal government in Ottawa claims to be feminist – though not so much for equal pay. It winks at Canada Post management which refuses to raise the largely-female Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers to equality with their urban counterparts. It has blocked pay equity, even denied compensation for the agonizingly long delayed payment of workers in the federal public service.

Just as bad, Trudeau and his bosom brethren in the corporate elite have no plan to institute or fund public, affordable, quality childcare services that would enable mothers to get back into the workforce. They refuse to boost family income and reduce child poverty by taxing the rich and relieving the burden on the working class. Ontario Conservative Premier Doug Ford goes one worse by stalling implementation of legislation aimed at increasing wage transparency in the province – which he denounces as a “challenge” for business. Likewise, last summer Ford cancelled the rise in the minimum wage to $15/hour set for January 2019. That move cost low wage workers about $2,000 each.

The rulers’ policy on women goes beyond shameful. Besides, the rich have no shame – they have only profit goals. Theirs is a corporate agenda — part and parcel of a system that deserves to be eradicated.

– BW

Report: Cop Racism in Thunder Bay, Ontario is “institutional”

The widely held view that police have racist attitudes towards Indigenous people was confirmed by Ontario’s independent police watchdog following a two-year investigation. A searing 200-plus-page report by police review director Gerry McNeilly states that systemic racism exists within the Thunder Bay Police Service “at an institutional level.” It says that police in the city on the north shore of Lake Superior did not carry out proper investigations of dozens of Indigenous deaths that occurred under suspicious circumstances because of deep-seated racism. The implication is that police mistreatment of Indigenous people is commonplace.

The commercial media cites McNeilly’s report as a wake-up call to police across the province and beyond, especially in cities like Winnipeg, Manitoba and Regina, Saskatchewan, which have large Indigenous populations. The report, titled “Broken Trust”, comes on the heels of another study, released in early December, that found Black people were “grossly over represented” in incidents between 2003 and 2017 where Toronto cops used force, resulting in injury or death.

The liberal elite is worried more about the loss of cop credibility — loss of “Trust” — than about achieving justice for Indigenous people, for all racialized minorities, and for the working class. The naming of a new police chief in Thunder Bay, and the hiring of the first Indigenous chair of the city’s Police Services Board, are not going to reverse centuries of dispossession and marginalization. That’s where racism is rooted. Instead of agitating for pipelines, if politicians wanted meaningful change they would attack poverty and target obscene concentrations of corporate wealth.

They would join socialists in demanding: Restitution before Reconciliation.

What are the chances?

– BW

In Canada, the Right to Strike Exists… Until you Try to Use it

Postal workers, power workers, teachers and bus drivers are recent victims of a disturbing trend – loss of the right to strike. In the case of members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, federal Liberal back-to-work legislation on November 27 put a halt to five weeks of rotating strikes. Up to then, no cross-country work stoppage occurred, and there was only a minor mail backlog. On December 20, the Conservative Ontario government passed a no strike law aimed at 6,000 Power Workers’ Union members who run hydroelectric stations and nuclear plants; this occurred before any job action began. Back in the Spring, a Liberal Ontario regime broke the strike of teaching assistants, members of CUPE Local 3903, at York University. In May 2015, Queen’s Park stopped secondary school teachers from exercising their ‘right to strike’ at three school boards. In 2009, the government imposed a back-to-work law on striking Toronto Transit Commission workers.

According to the Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights (CFLR), a serious erosion of the fundamental and universal human right to organize into a union, and to engage in free collective bargaining is spreading. Federal and provincial governments in Canada passed 224 pieces of legislation since 1982 that have limited, suspended or denied collective bargaining rights.

Authorities restricted the right of unions to organize. Collective agreements have been torn up. Negotiated wages and benefits have been taken away. Employers’ proposals have been legislatively imposed on workers and the right to strike removed. Both the private and the public sectors have been hit.

The CFLR finds that:

There has been a major change in the frequency and severity of back-to-work legislation in Canada in recent years. Since the early 1980s, the number of instances of back-to-work legislation is higher than any other period in the history of labour relations in Canada. In the last three decades, the federal government alone passed 19 pieces of back-to-work legislation while provincial governments across the country have enacted 73 pieces of back-to-work legislation.

Most of this legislation (50 of the 92 pieces of legislation) not only forced workers back to work after taking strike action, but also arbitrarily imposed settlements on the striking workers. In 2011 postal workers were locked out, then had terms and conditions imposed on them.

A common phenomenon in the public sector throughout the 1980s and 1990s has been the suspension of collective bargaining rights. With the exception of Saskatchewan, public sector workers across Canada gained the right to collective bargaining in the decade between 1967 and 1977. In the three decades that followed, most public sector workers have had their collective bargaining rights suspended anywhere from three to ten years.

There have been 53 pieces of legislation passed in the federal Parliament and provincial legislatures that have suspended the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers.

Since 1982, there have also been 80 instances where federal and provincial labour laws have been amended to further restrict unions’ ability to organize and bargain collectively. Nine pieces of legislation have actually denied certain categories of workers the right to join a union and nine pieces of legislation have restricted the certification process hurting the labour movement’s ability to organize the unorganized. There have been 62 instances where the federal and provincial governments passed legislation that restricted the rules and/or scope of bargaining, denied the right to strike and limited the mechanisms available for settlement of disputes or allowed for greater government and/or employer interference in internal union matters.”

In a recent news release, Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario asked:

When are we going to see ‘back to the bargaining table’ legislation forcing employers to deal with workers’ representatives fairly and appropriately?

Clearly, the bosses’ agenda is not about bargaining. It is about squeezing workers, and using the law to deprive workers of a legal recourse. Thus, what pressure can workers hope to apply?

Traditionally, less than two per cent of collective bargaining led to a legal strike. Today, even that low incidence is being reduced to a rarity.

Why? Because the capitalist rulers have fewer crumbs to offer. They seek to solve their deep economic problems on the backs of working people. Conservative labour leaders and cowardly social democrats compound the problem by acquiescing to concessions demanded by management. General Motors, after milking the public for billions of dollars in aid, is planning to shut down auto production in Oshawa – and seems to be getting away Scot-free.

What is the solution? Workers should look to history to see how the first unions were built, and how improvements were won. May 1, 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike.

A general strike – now there’s an idea whose time has come again. History teaches that struggle decides, not the law.

(The above article was compiled by Barry Weisleder.)

Ottawa caters to Trump’s anti-China campaign

by Barry Weisleder

What does the arrest in Vancouver of a senior executive with China’s tech giant Huawei, have to do with the “rule of law”? Precious little. What does it have to do with enforcing Washington’s illegal trade embargo of Iran? A bit more.

Meng is accused of committing fraud as part of a scheme to violate United States trade sanctions against Iran. She was arrested when she passed through Vancouver on her way to Mexico. U.S. officials want Ottawa to extradite her. Awaiting a decision by a Canadian judge, Meng is out on $10 million bail. The extradition procedure could take months, even years. Meanwhile, China detained three Canadians, two of them (ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor) on dubious charges of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security” of China. No less dubious is the American agenda. U.S. President Trump openly linked the fate of Meng to winning a better trade deal with Beijing.

Washington’s efforts to punish Huawei for trading with Iran are in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 that calls on all countries to drop sanctions on Iran as part of the 2015 treaty aimed at limiting Iran from developing nuclear weapons – a treaty praised globally for reducing the risk of nuclear war.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau restored relations with Iran, and lifted economic sanctions in February 2016, overturning the policy of the previous Stephen Harper-led Conservative government. So, why knuckle under now to Trump’s rogue policy? There is no obligation in law to extradite Meng. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is blowing smoke when she claims that Canada is upholding the rule of law. It is a political decision, not a strictly legal one. And the politics cleave to imperialist ambitions to control the oil fields of the Middle East and Iran, regardless the character of the government in Tehran.

Bottom line: Should Ottawa back Trump’s bid to block Huawei from U.S. and other markets where it is making headway against American tech giants?

The answer is a resounding No. The working class has nothing to gain by backing any capitalist power against another. To that end, Labour, the NDP and all workers’ organizations should demand an end to Ottawa catering to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, Asia, and beyond. The release of Meng will likely bring the detained Canadians home. It won’t quell Trump’s simmering trade war with China, but at least there would be one less state accomplice.

Huawei and Military Power

by Gary Porter

Huawei is the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, recently passing Apple. The Chinese company sells over 10 per cent of the world’s smartphones. Yet its devices are effectively banned from sale in the United States due to suspicion of Chinese state involvement in the running of the company, and ties to China’s military that go right back to Huawei’s inception.

Would you be safe buying a Huawei phone? The quality of its tech is certainly compelling. The Huawei P20 Pro, for example, is widely considered to be the best camera phone on the market. But U.S. consumers may never get to own one.

China’s military is an important Huawei customer. It serves as the company’s political patron and R&D partner, according to Timothy Heath of the Rand Corporation.

“Huawei continues to receive contracts from the Chinese military to develop dual use communications technologies. In particular, it is helping develop 5G networks with military applications in mind”, Heath asserts.

Of course, exactly the same thing happens in the U.S. Telecom manufacturers collaborate with the U.S. military and spy agencies to enhance digital spying, military communications, command and control and cyber war applications. The U.S. is determined to maintain its hegemony, against this powerful and highly competent Chinese competitor.

To put it another way, the United States insists on being the one entity that spies on your entire life and does not want to share that capacity with powerful trade and military competitors like China.

Are Huawei devices safe from surveillance? Probably not. Are U.S. companies’ devices safe from surveillance? Definitely not. So my next phone will be a Huawei P20 Pro. If I am going to be spied upon anyway, why not get the best phone? Helping American imperialism maintain technical dominance is just not in my interest.

Photo: Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Huawei

Communist women of Lenin’s time to speak again

More than 50 socialists in many countries have raised more than $4,000 to publish the record of Communist women in the years following the 1917 Russian revolution.

The success of this fund drive opens the road to publishing a 750-page volume on the Communist Women’s Movement in 2020, centennial of its foundation.

The book, to be edited by Mike Taber and Daria Dyakonova, is the ninth segment of the Comintern Publishing Project, launched under John Riddell’s direction in 1983.

It will contain many unpublished speeches and writings of women leading the socialist movement across Europe, including Clara Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontai.

For information on the project, go to https://bit.ly/2sYLQHn.

For an update on the fund drive, see https://bit.ly/2ENrDIv.