Category Archives: Statements

Labour Day 2013 marred by unions bowing to austerity

 
And the downbeat goes on. In sector after sector, from auto to steel to forestry to railways to the Ontario and Federal Public Service, to the federal postal service, bosses usually get the concessions they demand from labour.
In the latest move, the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union agreed with General Motors to organize special early retirement buyouts at its two assembly plants in Oshawa, Ontario. This is designed to accelerate the automaker’s drive to replace higher-paid veteran workers with workers earning low wages. Temporary workers will get about $10 per hour less than their counterparts, receive an inferior benefits program, and be barred from enrolling in the pension plan. New hires will begin work at $14 per hour below the regular-tier rate, will receive reduced benefits, and also will be ineligible to participate in the pension plan.
To supplement threats at the bargaining table there is the hammer of strike breaking law. Government back-to-work legislation in 2011 broke strikes in the railway, Air Canada, and at the post office, with scarcely a murmer from the labour movement tops. Union heads kept mass job action, urgently needed to counter the anti-labour coups, off the political agenda.
Unions in Canada now encompass 31 per cent of the work force, 9 per cent less than in 1983. Average wages are lower now than in a generation. Morale is even lower.
Some union leaders talk about confronting the threat of so-called ‘right to work’ laws (which would end compulsory deduction of union dues at pay source). Meanwhile they side-step the need to fight rollbacks in wages, benefits and pensions, and the insidious lower wage rate increasingly imposed on new hires. Such heinous measures undermine all workers’ (especially young workers’) confidence in unions.
Is the 30 year pattern of retreat by Labour due primarily to an inherent lack of self-confidence, to ingrained passivity, or to false consciousness on the part of working people? Are unions no longer suited to their task, as some academic ‘Marxists’ argue? Or does a sense of powerlessness simply feed off bureaucrats’ self-inflicted failures? Does Labour’s retreat arise from an aversion to struggle by union officials?
Plenty of evidence suggests that where a good, strong lead is offered, large numbers of people are willing to fight the austerity agenda of growing social inequality. The massive Quebec students’ uprising, the global Occupy protests, and the cross-Canada Idle No More movement testify to that. What’s lacking, especially at the top, is a will to fight, or even to allow the ranks to exercise the option.
 
Treachery, Authoritarianism undermine Teachers
In the teachers’ unions we find a particularly egregious example of class collaboration, and the strangulation of rank and file initiative.
Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association brass agreed to concessions before the Ontario Liberal government enacted Bill 115 (which suspended collective bargaining and the right to strike for education workers) – and did so without conducting a vote of OECTA members. Canadian Union of Public Employees-Ontario followed suit. Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation tops mounted token protest rallies, and simultaneously negotiated local concessionary deals. In York and Niagara districts, members voted in November to reject the deals that mirrored provincial take aways, despite heavy pressure from Federation headquarters to accept. In February 2013, OSSTF suspended its ‘political action’ protest (chiefly the boycott of extra-curricular activities, which impacted mostly on students and parents), and in April capitulated to the province’s demands, with minor tweaks. ETFO, the last holdout, gave way on June 13. Discouraged by the unravelling of what began as a common front of resistence to austerity, education workers ratified the deals. But scandal dogs the leaders who did the dirty deeds.
Outraged members of Toronto OSSTF are demanding accountability from the District 12 Executive which donated $30,000 to four candidates contending for the Ontario Liberal Party leadership.
And members’ indignation pursues former OSSTF President Ken Coran. Coran angrily denounced the Liberals for violating collective bargaining rights, right up to the front door of the Liberal Party leadership convention in February. Then Coran stood as a Liberal candidate in the byelections held on August 1. Was his candidacy a reward for services rendered?
As it turned out, Coran came a dismal, distant third in London West. The labour-based New Democratic Party surprised the pundits by winning that seat, and by making an even bigger breakthrough in Windsor-Tecumseh. The Conservatives captured Etobicoke-Lakeshore, and the Liberals retained Ottawa South, and Scarborough-Guildwood in Toronto. All five contested constituencies had been held by Liberal Cabinet Ministers. The loss of three is a serious blow to the scandal-plagued Liberal minority government at Queen’s Park, now reduced to 50 out of 107 seats, with Tories holding 37 and the NDP 20. Most observers expect the next Ontario-wide election will occur in Spring 2014.
While perpetrating treachery from on high, union officials curtail democracy below. The latest attack is a ten year ban on this writer from attending OSSTF meetings for the crime of speaking out of turn at a substitute teachers’ bargaining unit meeting in November 2012. At the time, I demanded job access data that the local executive (consisting mainly of double-dipping retirees) refused to disclose for 10 years!
A decade ago, OSSTF officials removed the entire elected leadership of the Toronto substitute teachers’ unit on petty and false charges, and put conservative retirees in control. The latter surrendered an array of job security, wage and benefit gains in short order. On July 25, activists from several unions launched a Campaign to Defend Democracy in Unions and to Rescind the 10 Year Ban. For more info, please visit: torontosubstituteteachers.tripod.com
The fact is that the teachers’ top brass, and most of the entire labour leadership, would rather suppress militant members than fight austerity-minded bosses. Bureaucrats put a premium on tight control — even if it means weakening workers’ resistence to an agenda that harms the vast majority, including ultimately themselves.
Going Forward
So, how can workers organize in a non-sectarian way to challenge both the bosses and the labour traitors? Fortunately, some positive examples exist, pointing the way forward.
In the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, rank and file members organized a large and inspiring Solidarity Caucus. Its mission: to get OPSEU to rejoin the Ontario Federation of Labour, to which it stopped paying dues without good reason. The caucus attracted much support. It helped to elect reformers to the union’s Executive Board, but it did not win the re-affiliation battle at the April 2013 OPSEU convention. The campaign continues.
In OECTA, in March, convention delegates defeated and replaced the President who signed the bad deal and denied members a vote.
Meanwhile members of OSSTF and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario formed a cross-union caucus, the Rank and file Education Workers of Toronto. REWT initiated actions to protest government policies, and is now demanding accountability from officials who approved funding and other forms of collaboration with the governing party which attacked teachers’ rights.
And in the Toronto substitute teachers’ bargaining unit, the Action Caucus, which was launched in 2003 when local control was undemocratically usurped, has been increasingly successful at winning policy and action resolutions at unit meetings. It has come close to getting its candidates elected. The ten year ban reflects the bogus executive’s fear of losing control.
What do these experiences suggest?
  1. The fight against capitalist austerity and union concessions requires rank and file organization in all the unions to promote mass job action to win a Workers’ Agenda.
  2. Rank and file organization should be based on policies, not personalities. It should actively strive to replace the current mis-leaders on political grounds. Abstention from struggle in the union arena, or giving political support to this or that wing of the bureaucracy, are a betrayal of the fight against austerity and concessions.
  3. To change the overall direction of our unions, it is necessary to build a cross union, class struggle left wing. This has been the approach of revolutionary socialists in the unions in Canada and the USA since the 1920s, pioneered by the Trade Union Education League. The TUEL, which was active prior to the Stalinist degeneration of the Communist Party, provides an example that every worker-socialist should study.

SA statement on International Women’s Day 2013

On the 102nd Anniversary of IWD
For Feminism and Socialism!

A Socialist International women’s conference in Copenhagen in 1910 launched International Women’s Day globally in 1911. Trotskyist parties, including the predecessor organization of Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste in the Canadian state, re-launched the modern IWD in 1978.

For good reason. Women’s oppression is rooted in the capitalist system. As with heterosexism, racism, environmental destruction and war, Capital profits from discrimination, dispossession and plunder.

We march for bread, and for roses too. We do so in the face of escalating attacks on basic human needs – a vicious austerity drive linked to the global capitalist depression.
Establishment claims that women have ‘achieved equality’ are nothing but a sick joke. The reality is….

On average, women are paid 30 per cent less than men.

27 per cent of employed women work fewer than 30 hours per week, more than double the 12 per cent of men who work part-time. 7 out of 10 part-time workers are female.

Low paid women increasingly hold more than one job to survive. 56 per cent of multiple job holders are women.

Canada is routinely condemned by United Nations bodies for its high rate of female poverty and the lack of social assistance for women.

Aboriginal women and girls suffer shameful economic and social conditions. They are systemic victims of racism, inequality, physical assault, disappearance and murder.

Most women still bear the double burden of the great bulk of domestic labour, as well as work outside the home.

While trillions of dollars are wasted globally on corporate bail-outs and militarism, women and girls are denied adequate education, economic opportunities, clean water, health care, reproductive choice and personal security. From Palestine to Haiti, from Afghanistan to Colombia, women and children are disproportionately the casualties of wars and military occupation in which Ottawa is directly involved or complicit.

To transform this horrendous situation our demands must be clear:

No money for war. Imperialist hands off Mali and Syria. End all subsidies to Capital. Tax big business and the rich. Fund health care, education and social services. Establish a cross-country universal, free, quality child care system. Enforce equal pay and equal access to employment. Restore funding to women’s social justice organizations, emergency shelters and legal aid. Build quality social housing. Radically raise E.I. rates and provide real access for part-time workers. Phase-out the Alberta Tar Sands development. Conscript corporate profits to convert industry, business, homes and schools to green energy power.

For public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under workers’ and community control. For a Workers’ Government. No to any NDP coalition with the Liberal Party. Fight for working class political independence and for socialist policies in the unions and the NDP.
Women’s liberation through Socialist Revolution. No socialism without women’s liberation.

If you agree, join Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste today.

http://www.socialistaction.ca/
Call: 416 – 535-8779.
E-mail: socialistactioncanada@gmail.com

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Solidarity with Idle No More!

A statement by Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste (Canadian state)

The ‘Idle No More’ movement, a campaign for indigenous rights, democracy and environmental justice, spread like wildfire in December in response to Conservative federal government legislation.

An unprecedented wave of grassroots action is sweeping across First Nations communities. Over a hundred public rallies were organized locally, in particular by young people frustrated by the systemic inequality that persists across the country. There were gatherings in shopping malls, marches on major highways, blockades on railway tracks, and flash mobs occupying busy intersections in downtown Toronto and other cities. The movement is attracting support from around the world.

First Nations people also demonstrated on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, December 21, to protest Bill C-45, the Stephen Harper government omnibus budget bill which fuelled the growing movement. C-45 includes changes to the Indian Act affecting how reserve lands are managed, making them easier to ‘develop’, and to be taken away from the First Nations’ people.

The bill also removes thousands of lakes and streams from the list of federally protected bodies of water. “This is unacceptable. They have made a unilateral decision remove the protection of waterways… Shell Canada has proposed to mine out 21km of the Muskeg River, a river of cultural and biological significance. This ultimately gives the tar sands industry a green light to destroy vital waterways still used by our people,” stated Eriel Deranger, Communication Coordinator for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

Atiwapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence who has been on a hunger strike since December 11, resolved to starve herself to death unless Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets to discuss treaty rights, and the relationship of the Canadian state to its indigenous peoples. She is currently living in a tee-pee on Victoria Island, in the Ottawa River, just a kilometre from the Parliament buildings. Harper has rejected calls to meet with Spence.

The demands of aboriginal peoples for decent housing, for respect of treaties, for the resolution of outstanding land claims, against tar sands pipelines, to win economic development beneficial to their communities, and to establish self-government are entirely just.

The task of the left and the workers’ movement, including labour unions and the NDP, is to promote and mobilize support for Idle No More, which has dramatized the cause of aboriginal peoples from coast to coast to coast.

idle-no-more

Hands Off Iran! Restore diplomatic relations! Dismantle all nuclear weapons, starting with those of the USA and Israel!

Ottawa’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with Iran is a desperate political move to try to sustain a reactionary and unpopular policy. Nothing to do with any Iranian threat to global peace and security, it is designed to counter the nearly total isolation of Israel and US policy in the Middle East.

Clearly, Iran has the right to defend itself by any means necessary from the imperial predator states, especially the USA which engineered the overthrow of the democratically-elected government in Iran in 1953, fueled the cruel Reza Shah Pahlavi dictatorship for decades, and sponsored a devastating war against Iran (1980 – 1988). The lack of evidence that Iran is nuclear-weapons capable does not deter Washington and Tel Aviv from making accusations and threats, just as George W. Bush did in 2003 to rationalize his invasion of Iraq, resulting in the death or displacement of millions of Iraqis. Self-defense is for victims, not victimizers.

Whether Iran has ‘the bomb’ or not, the major threat of nuclear annihilation stems from the USA and its attack dog in the Middle East, the apartheid Zionist state. Washington has by far the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, and it is the only state to use the barbaric weapon (twice against Japan in 1945). American presidents have repeatedly threatened to deploy ‘the bomb’, chiefly in pursuit of their corporate interests in the Middle East and Asia, but as seen in the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, not exclusively so. Israel’s nuclear arsenal is the only one in the vast Arab region, signalling the ultimate price the Zionist establishment puts on terminating its illegal occupation of Palestine.

What is so galling for the White House and the Pentagon is the public relations coup Tehran scored by hosting the conference of the Non-Aligned Movement, in late August, attended by representatives of 120 countries (two-thirds of the United Nations Assembly). Could Washington and Tel Aviv attract that kind of solidarity without coercion?

Stephen Harper’s hard-boiled Minister of External Affairs John Baird cites the repressive character of the Ahmadinejad regime. He accuses it of using diplomatic personnel to promote its interests and to intimidate Iranians living in Canada. To be sure, the Islamic Republic is deeply undemocratic and repressive. So is the Saudi regime which extended its repressive force into Bahrain to quell an Arab Spring uprising. Recall also that the Harper Conservatives intervened in the 2006 election in Venezuela by funnelling money to the right wing opposition.

Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste condemns all forms of oppression and exploitation. At the same time, we defend the right of oppressed nations to national self-determination. We believe it is the task of the workers and farmers of Iran to settle accounts with their ruling class, to replace the tyranny with a vibrant, pluralist, socialist democracy.

Canada’s rulers could not be less interested in facilitating grass roots democracy in Iran. Their interventions in Afghanistan and Haiti attest to that. NATO bombing of Libya, in which Canadian Forces played a despicable leading role, resulted in U.S.-engineered regime change. But it did not prevent the murder of the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi on September 11. Should Washington and Ottawa now break relations with the government they helped to install in Libya? Do they have a similar political ‘make-over’ in mind for Syria? Protests this week across the Muslim world show what is in store for the western powers if they continue to bomb, invade and occupy foreign lands.

Socialist revolution from within, not imperialist intervention, is the road to genuine democracy and social justice. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is wrong to pause, wrong to invite Harper to further explain his reactionary diplomatic move. International working class solidarity starts with opposition to the schemes of our own ruling class and their state, and by clearly opposing the war drive of the western powers. A crucial task in this regard is to strengthen the broad, united front, action-oriented anti-war movement, and to appeal to the Iranian community to be a prominent part of it. Demonstrate the opposition of immigrants, workers, youths, women, seniors, NDPers and the entire labour movement to the impending blood bath.

Hands Off Iran! Restore diplomatic relations now! Canada Out of NATO! NATO out of Afghanistan! Disarm the war makers, starting at home! Money for public health, education, housing and good jobs, not for war! Workers to power, from Iran to Egypt, and beyond!

Statement issued September 15, 2012 by:
Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste (Canadian state)

 

Propagez la grève québécoise ! Solidarité avec les étudiants !

Photo: http://www.qpirgconcordia.org/?p=3052

Au fur et à mesure que le vent des protestations massives et des exigences de changements continu de souffler sur le Québec, le moment est venu pour les étudiants et la classe ouvrière du Canada anglais de descendre dans la rue par solidarité avec le mouvement estudiantin. Ce qui a commencé par une opposition aux hausses des droits de scolarité au Québec a pris de l’ampleur et s’est transformé en lutte contre l’austérité et en défense des droits civils fondamentaux. C’est par milliers, pratiquement tous les soirs, depuis maintenant plus de cent jours, en nombres qui ont à plusieurs reprises atteint trois cent mille qu’étudiants et ouvriers sont descendus dans la rue à Montréal et de par le Québec.

Le peuple québécois, grâce à ses antécédents de protestations de masses, se prévaut du meilleur système de transport en commun, des droits de scolarité les plus faibles et du système de garderies le plus abordable qui soit au sein de l’État canadien. Le gouvernement libéral de Jean Charest s’inquiète du pouvoir potentiel d’un front estudiantin-ouvrier uni qui met de l’avant un programme en faveur des quatre-vingt-dix-neuf pour cent. L’usage que fait Charest de la police pour réprimer les protestataires et faire la guerre aux droits démocratiques constitue sa seule réponse. La loi 78 restreint la liberté de réunion, de protestation, et même de piquetage, dans les universités, ou dans leurs environs, voire n’importe où au Québec sans l’approbation préalable de la police. La loi crée aussi des restrictions au chapitre du droit de grève des employés en éducation. Cette loi s’est attiré les critiques soutenues de l’Association canadienne des professeurs d’université, et de dizaines d’organismes juridiques, et est décrite comme enfreinte aux droits fondamentaux de réunion, de rassemblement et d’expression. Bien que le gouvernement Charest, la police et les médias de droite aient déployé des efforts considérables afin de dénigrer les manifestations de protestation, les étudiants redescendent dans la rue en faisant montre d’une force qui, contre toute attente, ne cesse de croître.

En Ontario, avec l’alignement accéléré des universités sur le modèle des entreprises, avec des hausses des droits de scolarité dépassant trois cents pour cent au cours de la décennie écoulée, méditer l’exemple québécois ne suffit plus. Voici venu le moment de marcher de pair avec les actions des Québécois. Alors que les gouvernements capitalistes distribuent plans de sauvetage et allégements fiscaux au « un pour cent », les étudiants sont contraints de cracher au bassinet pour une récession qu’ils n’ont aucunement contribué à créer ! Étudiants ! de Vancouver à Toronto à Halifax à Saint-Jean-de-Terre-Neuve, voici venu le moment de montrer à Charest, McGuinty, Harper et autres chefs bourgeois qu’une attaque menée contre l’un d’entre nous est une attaque menée contre nous tous !

Nous disons : · Soutenez l’appel de la Fédération canadienne des étudiants en faveur de ralliements, de débats, et de votes massifs dans l’Ontario entier en septembre pour une grève étudiante en vue d’obtenir une diminution des droits de scolarité. Planifiez dès à présent des actions destinées à propager la grève québécoise.

· Créez un front commun d’organisations estudiantines et de syndicats ouvriers afin de soutenir les étudiants québécois et de combattre les mesures d’austérité capitalistes, où que ce soit.

· Supprimez tous les droits de scolarité ! L’éducation postsecondaire gratuite est un droit fondamental, pas un privilège.

· Effacez la dette étudiante dans son intégralité !

· Révoquez la loi 78 du Québec et toutes les lois qui restreignent le droit de réunion, de rassemblement et d’expression ! Protester est un droit fondamental.

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