Category Archives: Labour

WAM Fights for Change in CLC

by Barry Weisleder

Dozens of activists gathered on March 8, or watched from afar live-streamed portions of the Workers’ Action Movement (WAM) Conference held at the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union Toronto Region Membership Centre.  The theme was “Fight Austerity, Precarious Work, Inequality and Concessions Bargaining!  The alternative is Union Democracy and Class Struggle!  No to ‘strategic voting’ for Liberals.  Victory to PSAC!  Seize GM and convert it to electric vehicle production.  For a General Strike to Dump Thug Ford!  Build on the gains of WAM at the OFL Convention.  On to the Canadian Labour Congress Convention!”

The opening panel addressed “The State of the Labour Movement”.  Speakers Sandra Griffith-Bonaparte, President of Public Service Alliance of Canada/UNDE Local 70607 in Ottawa, Nigel Barriffe, Toronto Teachers’ Executive Member, Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, and Barry Conway, V.P. of CUPE Local 5167 in Hamilton, and past WAM candidate for President of the Ontario Federation of Labour presented the topic.  A lively discussion ensued.

Kurt Young, member of Sheet Metal Workers’ union, and this writer, a member of the Substitute Teachers’ Action Caucus, OSSTF, spoke on the next panel “For an Action Program and a Rank and File Team to run for top executive positions at the Canadian Labour Congress Convention, May 4-8, Vancouver.”  The text of my speech is appended below.

Continue reading WAM Fights for Change in CLC

Ontario Teachers strike together – but where is the rest of Labour?

5d68102a2500003203892704

by Barry Weisleder

For the first time in 23 years, the four main teachers’ unions in Ontario went on strike at the same time. They did so to challenge the anti-education agenda of the Doug Ford Conservative government at Queen’s Park. On February 21 nearly 200,000 school system workers picketed and held protest rallies across the province, joined by some of their 2 million students who were out of class for the day. The largest gathering took place in downtown Toronto where thousands circled the Ontario Legislature.

Still at issue is the government’s determination to increase class size in secondary schools from an average of 22 to 25 students, and to require each student to complete two e-credits (internet courses without teachers). Thousands of teaching positions are at risk. Likewise, elementary teachers are up against the Ford government over caps to class size. They demand more support for students in special education, improvements to health and safety protection in the classrooms, and a written guarantee that full-day kindergarten will continue with support from early childhood educators. Education Minister Stephen Lecce, in an effort to divert attention from his exceedingly unpopular policies and his intransigence at the bargaining table, publicly portrays teachers as greedy because they seek a pay increase close to the rate of inflation. In addition, Lecce offers the parents of students impacted by strike action up to $60 a day for childcare. Why spend millions of dollars in that way? Because the Tory agenda aims to effect permanent job cuts and to curtail collective bargaining rights. Bill 124 makes anything more than a 1 per cent wage rise non-negotiable.

Continue reading Ontario Teachers strike together – but where is the rest of Labour?

PSAC Gets Ready to Strike

psac_rally_2

by Sandra Griffith-Bonaparte

What do we need? A contract! When do we need it? NOW!After months of lies and deceit by the Trudeau Government and the Treasury Board, promising to return to the bargaining table with a fair offer to the Program and Administration (PA), Operational Services (SV), Technical Services (TC) and Education and Library Science (EB) bargaining units, the Public Service Alliance of Canada decided to take a stand. It authorized strike votes of its 140,000 members across the country.

Widespread dissatisfaction with how the Liberal government, and the Conservatives previously, mishandled the Phoenix pay scandal, forms the background to the present conflict. At its center are disputes over pay equity, job security, domestic violence and leave provision.

Continue reading PSAC Gets Ready to Strike

Report on the general strike movement in France today

The Mass Struggle to defend workers’ pensions Continues in France
france
by Richard Wagman

Strike action continues, but it’s declining and is more dispersed. A tenth day of action with mobilizations across the country – notably street demonstrations – took place on February 20. At this point trade-union protests have brought this issue to a legislative phase. The government introduced a draft bill in the National Assembly to enact the regressive pension reform on January 24. The Communist Party and La France Insoumise (radical anti-liberal left) are conducting parliamentary guerrilla warfare, introducing over 40,000 amendments! As such only 1 of the 65 articles has yet been adopted and at this rate the law will obviously not be passed by the summer, which is Macron’s objective. Even the first reading in the lower house of parliament will not be completed before the municipal elections, which will take place throughout the country on March 15 and 22.

Even the Conseil d’Etat (State Council – the country’s constitutional watchdog) severely criticized the government’s proposed legislation on January 24, the same day that legislation was introduced to the lower house of parliament. The State Council pointed out the lack of adequate preparation and of guaranteed funding for this reform. Such criticism from this body is rare and it became a political bombshell.

Given the deadlock in parliament the government is threatening to use the “49-3” clause of the French constitution, which would authorize it to adopt legislation without a vote by members of the National Assembly. Such a move would discredit Macron and Philippe as being incapable of governing the country, despite a parliamentary majority held by Macron’s party. Government officials are trying to blame the opposition for this blockage. But recent opinion polls reveal that 67% of the population is in favour of a referendum on this question, which the government refuses. And that 70% of the people are against the proposed pension reform.

At the same time, strike action continues, notably in public hospitals. Health workers are symbolically on strike (but still assure health care to patients) for their own demands: the hiring of more staff and increased public financing for hospitals. But they’re also putting forth demands concerning their retirement rights. The same thing applies for education workers in public schools, who have the most to lose out with Macron’s reform (an estimated 30% drop in their pensions).

Lawyers – largely unionized in France – are another example. They are continuing strike action and have succeeded in paralyzing or drastically slowing down the functioning of most of the country’s courts. The proposed retirement reform would considerably lower lawyers’ pensions. The lowest paid lawyers – those who accept to defend cases in which their fees are paid for by legal aid – are threatened in their very existence. A lot of them would have to close shop and renounce on their law offices in private practise. The proposed legislation would double the dues they’d have to pay into the new “universal” pension plan, while considerably reducing the pensions they would get upon retirement. And yet under the current system lawyers have their own pension fund which is a small gold mine. It’s in exedent of the retirement benefits they are now paying out to retired lawyers and it even contributes to the general fund for workers in other categories. For the time being, most trials are being put off and the court system has a huge backload of cases which have not been heard.

Farmers were basically the only category who should have (slightly) benefited in terms of pension rights upon the initial announcement of Macron’s reform. But since then the government has backed down, saying that it doesn’t have the financial means to immediately raise agricultural pensions to 85% of the legal minimum wage. And yet Boris Vallaud, a member of the National Assembly belonging to the Socialist Party (hardly the most radical left movement in the country – that’s an understatement) declared to the press: “The President says that we don’t have the means, but it found the means to give 4 billion euros to the 1% of our wealthiest citizens” through tax breaks to the rich. Macron was questioned on this by farmers in a recent visit he made to the annual Agricultural Fair which is currently taking place in Paris. So in the end he managed to get all sectors of the economy on his back, even the rural sector which up until now has been the most conservative one.

Whenever strike action breaks out in workplaces in private industry due to local demands (wages, working conditions, fight against layoffs or planned shutdowns), the local unions often put forth demands concerning pension rights as well. This is an across-the-board issue affecting all workers.  Their representatives don’t let the bosses or the government forget it.

The Communist Party’s daily L’Humanité revealed another conflict of interest, and it’s not the first one which arose on this issue. Jacques Marie, the co-reporter in the National Assembly on the retirement reform for the République en Marche (Macron’s party) owns 13,836 shares in Axa, one of France‘s largest insurance companies, which stands to benefit from private pension funds if this reform goes through. This revelation took place after Jean-Paul Delavoie was forced to resign as minister in charge of the reform. He has financial interests in the French subsidiary of Black Rock, a private holding which also stands to benefit from this reform. Heads keep rolling and working people are angrier than ever.

I could go on with other examples, but this report gives you an idea of the general  situation in France. The ball is in the government’s hands at this point. Macron still plans to persist with his counter-reform, despite its unpopularity. The government is walking on eggshells, as the issue is explosive.