Category Archives: Labour

CP workers Railroaded Labour Tops Fail to Defend Right to Strike

First it was postal workers. Then Air Canada workers. Now 4,800 workers are the victims of aggressive concession demands, backed up by federal back to work legislation.

The question is: What are the Canadian Labour Congress and its major affiliates doing to resist the gutting of workers’ rights?

Conductors, locomotive engineers and rail traffic controllers represented by Teamsters Canada Rail Conference walked off the job on May 23, shutting down CP’s entire freight service from Vancouver to Montreal. Management laid off another 2,000 employees, with a further 1,400 affected.

The strike impacted many economic sectors, including coal, fertilizer, grain and auto. CP operates 24,000 kilometres of tracks across Canada, and into parts of the U.S. Mid-west.

Doug Finnson, vice-president of Teamsters Canada, told the media that CP bargained in bad faith, hiding behind the federal government to roll back workers’ pensions and to ignore serious health and safety concerns.

CP boss Ed Greenberg demands the same concessions CP squeezed out of workers at other railways. Conservative Labour Minister Lisa Raitt proved eager to help the bosses, introducing legislation on May 28 to end the work stoppage. The dispute now goes to an arbitrator, who is likely to impose a settlement right down the middle… of the company demands. NDP federal labour critic Alexandre Boulerice said the most the NDP Official Opposition could do is delay passage of the strike busting bill.

The truth is, much more could and should be done – including mass sympathy strikes – before free collective bargaining, not to mention decent pensions, employment insurance benefits and many other past gains, disappear entirely.

by Barry Weisleder

Will 2012 be year for Labour fightback?

The big business Conference Board of Canada predicts that 2012 will be a year of major labour-management strife across the Canadian state. 
The big business Conference Board of Canada predicts that 2012 will be a year of major labour-management strife across the Canadian state.

In a report released in early December, the Board points to Toronto, where the right-wing administration of Mayor Rob Ford has been waging a war on workers to cut costs, and to privatize city services. The report also noted that the Toronto District School Board is set to negotiate a new collective agreement with teachers in 2012 “on a course of bargaining that is unlikely to be resolved peacefully.”
In 2011, Canada Post workers staged rotating strikes, got locked out by management, and were ordered back to work by the federal government, which imposed a wage rate lower than management’s last offer. The threat of legislation kept Air Canada workers from striking, despite workers voting twice to reject management’s position.
According to McMasterUniversity labour relations Professor Charlotte Yates, governments aren’t just trying to keep deficits in check; they are cutting for political reasons. Unions, per se, are the target. They believe they can succeed at this time knowing that the bosses are permitted to cut jobs without any real challenge from the working class, including its unionized sections. When postal workers challenged the Stephen Harper Conservative government agenda, the labour movement across the country failed to back them up with job action. The NDP filibuster in the House of Commons made many workers feel good, but it did not threaten to deter the government’s course of action.
The Conference Board is now worried that the potential for strikes in the public sector will be greater in 2012 because those workers gave concessions at the outset of the recession/depression in 2008. Rank-and-file frustration is rising. The average public sector raise will be 1.5 per cent in 2012—below the predicted inflation rate of 2 per cent. In contrast, private sector workers will earn an average raise of 2.3 per cent. Overall, workers’ wages have been falling or stagnant for over 30 years.
Health care workers in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba will be negotiating new collective agreements in 2012, as will employees at the Canada Revenue Agency.
By alerting its well-heeled members to potential labour conflict, and by countering the arguments that unions make (for example, that government revenues are down due to corporate tax cuts and concessions to the rich), the Conference Board is helping to get the Canadian capitalist class ready for the big fight ahead. But what is the labour leadership doing to get workers ready for this fight?
The Ontario Federation of Labour, at its November biennial convention in Toronto, promised to expose the one-sided class war being waged by bosses and their governments. But OFL leaders have no plan to challenge the rulers’ agenda with mass action in the streets and work places.
There is talk about a possible merger of the Canadian Auto Workers Union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers’ Union. A democratically conducted merger would be good. Much better than a raid, which too often is the resort of shrinking unions. But a merger is no substitute for organizing the unorganized, much less for an anti-concessions strategy.
Can workers fight back? Transit workers in York Region, north of Toronto, show that we can. Those employees of private bus companies that pay $7 an hour less than what Toronto transit workers earn, are in the third month of a strike for a wage and benefits catch-up. Their weekly mass pickets and bus occupations are attracting tremendous attention and inspiring considerable hope in broad sections of the working class.
They show the way forward—to a coordinated labour struggle against the bosses’ “austerity” agenda.
If 2012 is to be the year for a labour fight back, now is the time to start talking up the idea of a general strike. Nothing less than escalating, mass job actions are needed to stop the attacks on jobs, public services, and workers’ rights. And that’s what we need to win nationalization of the banks and big business under workers’ democratic control—to lay the basis for an economy that serves the majority.> The article above was written by Barry Weisleder.

NDP Leader race crowded, on the right

Montreal MP Thomas Mulcair, a former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister who takes pride in his role in early ‘free trade’ negotiations, brings a decidedly pro-capitalist, anti-Quebec self-determination perspective to the New Democratic Party leadership race. When Mulcair announced his candidacy, he had the backing of 15 MPs, soon likely 30, but few supporters outside of the ranks of strongly pro-federalist Quebecers.


British Columbia MP Nathan Cullen, another leadership contender, advocates a “non-compete agreement” with the Liberal and Green parties. While the stated aim is to unite anti-Conservative votes in the next federal election, such a move, welcomed by the pro-Liberal media as a step towards merger, would destroy the NDP as a party independent of the business class. It would drown generations of working class social gains.

Ottawa MP Paul Dewar promises that as NDP leader he would give city governments more say – even a seat at federal-provincial ministers’ meetings. Dewar, until recently the NDP foreign affairs critic in Parliament, defended the bombing of Libya by Canadian Forces. He supports the Canada-U.N. occupation of Haiti, opposed the Canadian Boat to Gaza, and rejects boycott, sanctions and divestment aimed at the Zionist apartheid state.

Northern Quebec MP Romeo Saganash, a Cree lawyer and regional leader, has yet to detail his policy positions since joining the leadership race in September. Nova Scotia MP Robert Chisholm will soon toss his hat into the ring. Fellow Nova Scotian Martin Singh, a pharmacist and businessman, extols the virtues of entrepreneurship.

On October 28, Toronto MP and former Canadian Auto Workers Union negotiator Peggy Nash declared her candidacy. Her platform, in the words of Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom, “is straight-up NDP orthodoxy”; “address social inequality… and boost corporate taxes to pay for it.” The only positive point of differentiation is Nash’s praise for the Occupy movement.

That brings us to the never-elected-to-public-office Brian Topp — touted as the front-runner. He enjoys the backing of the Steelworkers’ Union and party icons Ed Broadbent and Roy Romanow. Lately, Topp called for higher taxes on corporate profits and big income earners.

But Topp is a very unlikely candidate of the left. He rescued the party establishment from ann embarrassing defeat at the federal NDP convention in Vancouver in June when he moved to refer back to the executive its proposal to delete the word “socialist” from the party constitution preamble. Post-convention, the preamble disappeared from the federal party web site – a devious move typical of the backroom politics associated with Topp and company.

Sadly, leftist B.C. MPs Libby Davies and Peter Julian opted out of the race. Bizarrely, Davies later endorsed Topp, the man who as federal campaign director presided over the party’s steady shift to the right.

The dearth of meaningful choices for NDP Leader poses a serious challenge to the NDP and to the anti-capitalist left: either raise the tens of thousands of dollars needed to run a socialist candidate for Leader, or find other ways to fight for a Workers’ Agenda in the only mass, labour-based political party in North America.

The global “Occupy”movement, and a whole generation of concerned environmentalists, plus millions of victims of war and capitalist economic crisis cry out for a socialist alternative. It must be generated inside the mainstream of the workers’ movement, where it matters most.

> The article above was written by Barry Weisleder.

SA IS ACTIVE IN NDP SOCIALIST CAUCUS

The Socialist Caucus (SC) was founded in 1998 at Toronto, Ontario by NDP activists who were concerned about the right-wing drift of the party leadership.

The Caucus soon had supporters across the Canadian state, especially Ontario and British Columbia.  We advocate socialist policies based on economic democracy and workers’ empowerment, such as social ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, the eradication of homelessness and poverty, women’s rights and gender equality, environmental sustainability, and global peace and cooperation.

The SC published its Manifesto for a Socialist Canada in 1999 and produces its magazine, Turn Left, for every federal and Ontario provincial convention.

The SC believes that in order to attain power, the NDP must connect with working class people, wage earners and equity-seeking groups like never before.  This means championing socialist policies that can capture the dreams and aspirations of millions of people in Canada and around the world.

The SC holds an annual convention every year which includes panel discussions, debates and preparations for the NDP federal convention.

Not only do we want to move the party back to its working class and socialist roots, we want to democratize the party and make it an instrument of its rank and file membership.

Millions of people in Canada and around the world are moved by the vision of a new society in which democracy, equality and cooperation – the essential values of socialism – will one day be the prevailing principles of organization.  It is in the growth of their numbers and in the success of their struggles that lies the best hope for humankind.

The NDP Socialist Caucus warmly invites NDP members throughout Canada and Quebec to become involved in this most important endeavor.

Sign up to Socialist Caucus mailing list.

http://www.ndpsocialists.ca/About.html