Chantier Politique

December 20, 2018

English Edition, No. 13

Workers' Unrelenting Struggle: A Hallmark of 2018

All Out to Step Up the Work in
Defence of the Rights of All!

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Workers Speak Out
A Year of Solidarity
- Clément Masse -
Montreal Airport Administrative Workers Reject Unacceptable Demand
- Yvon Barrière -

For the Record
Legault Government's Program to Replace Immigrants with
Temporary Foreign Workers Is Unacceptable


News
Negotiations Between Public Service Alliance of Canada and
Treasury Board at an Impasse

Important Events
The State of Rights Today
Celebration in Honour of Human Rights Activists and Defenders
Lively Actions Demand an End to Deportation of Haitian Refugees

Announcement


Workers' Unrelenting Struggle: A Hallmark of 2018

All Out to Step Up the Work in Defence of
the Rights of All!


Montreal demonstration in support of ABI Bécancour aluminum smelter
workers, November 28.

In 2018, Quebec workers set the tone for working people to reject the anti-social offensive of the rich and their governments, defend their dignity and rights and not permit that anyone be left to fend for themselves.

2018 began with the lockout imposed on ABI aluminum smelter workers in Bécancour by the owners Alcoa/Rio Tinto. On the eve of 2019, ABI workers continue to fight relentlessly for their right to negotiate their working conditions based on the claims they put forward, and against the dictate of a cartel of business owners and a government assisting those owners by relieving them of their responsibility to pay for their electricity for the duration of the lockout. In the face of this global cartel, ABI workers and their union successfully undertook to mobilize the support of Quebec workers and many others across Canada as well as worldwide, to send a clear message that the dictate of big private interests, backed by governments, will not be tolerated.

Construction workers pursued their courageous battle against the imposition of a police regime within the industry, aimed at silencing and criminalizing them, while their conditions, notably those regarding their health and safety, which are also the conditions of the population at large, continue to worsen.

Quebec nurses waged a valiant struggle to smash the silence on their working conditions and the conditions of patients, which continue to deteriorate. As a result of the actions they undertook in health care facilities, during press conferences and other public interventions, they confronted the code of silence imposed on them by the government and administrations at their facilities.

Postal workers, with the overwhelming support of workers and the public at large, denounced the Trudeau government's back-to-work legislation and its cowardly denial of their right to negotiate their conditions of work. It has forced them to return to work in unsafe and increasingly precarious conditions that are precisely those they sought to address through negotiation and rotating strikes.

Through their struggles, workers are laying their claims on the value they produce. They also reject being considered a "cost" to society and a mere lobby or special interest group, a notion that the rich and their governments attempt to impose on any section of the people who present their claims for the affirmation of rights. It is precisely by fighting for their rights that the workers and people are able to expose the scams taking place, including the fraud of a Quebec that is "open for business," which would be to the detriment of the rights and well-being of all.

During 2018, Quebec women continued their fight against all forms of violence perpetrated against them as well as against the anti-social offensive of big private interests and governments that has a violent impact on women. Students also continued waging the battle for their rights, ending the year with strikes for paid internships. Members of First Nations also continued their fight for the recognition of their hereditary and treaty rights. They stepped up their efforts through multiple actions both in Quebec, and in the rest of Canada, to put an end to the murders and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls, demanding that governments take up their responsibilities with regard to such violence.

Thousands upon thousands of people also participated in marches and other actions in defence of the environment, which they have linked to the issue of living conditions, the economy and of building up the power of the people to themselves determine the direction of the economy and other matters of concern to them.

It is within a perspective of stepping up the organized work and fight in defence of the rights of all that together we end this year and prepare to usher in the new.

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Workers Speak Out

A Year of Solidarity


December 8, 2018 visit to Bécancour by delegation from the Public Service Alliance
of Canada.

The year 2018 has been marked by solidarity. We began our dispute at the beginning of the year. And it's one of the biggest examples of solidarity experienced in Quebec.

There are now around 320 union locals providing us with financial support. This includes sections of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the CSN, the Centrale des syndicats du Québec, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and numerous others. Each time a union local financially supports us, we laminate its logo and place it on our board on our picket line. We have received financial support from union locals from many places in Canada, as well Australia and the United States.

I think that this momentum of solidarity is the highlight of our conflict. The financial assistance increases awareness amongst workers in general. The people giving us money organized meetings. It's not always easy to ask members to financially assist groups in a labour dispute. Often unions lack the structures to enable executives to give money, so they have to go before the membership. To have all these union locals going before their members, and all these members agreeing to help us, shows that sympathy towards our struggle has been raised. People have been personally touched, as they are taking money out of their pockets to support us. Important amounts are being given, donations of $10 to $20 per worker each week.

I believe that this movement will continue. Our fight will end at a certain point and when another group of workers are in difficulty, it will be easier to convince people to financially support that group. It's within that perspective that a movement is being created.

We also appreciated Québec solidaire's gesture. They began to mobilize at the very beginning of our labour dispute by tabling a motion in the National Assembly in February, that recognized that the lockout has negative impacts on workers and on the region's economy and called for the resumption of negotiations. The motion was unanimously adopted. It wasn't an electoral move, as it took place before the election.

The conflict has a significant economic impact. We see this through the reactions of various economic players such as mayors, regional municipality district prefects, people who sit on various boards dealing with the regional economy. They are worried about the conflict's impact on contractors, suppliers and businesses.

We also see that our electricity is being sold to people who have no respect for Quebec. On a number of occasions Alcoa has made threats to the government and the government has never been able to sign contracts that require that they respect Quebeckers. We see this because they signed a contract that absolves them of paying for their electricity because they locked us out. The government would never do the same with us. They would not absolve us of paying our taxes because of something that happened in our lives. We're not talking here about an earthquake or other event that is out of our control. Alcoa signed a contract with the government by virtue of which, although they have a block of energy reserved for them, the government allows them to not pay it and dodge their obligations because they have locked us out. The power struggle is completely unbalanced. That is also one of this year's salient features. The government must think about workers when it negotiates contracts.

Another significant feature is that increasingly, companies are demanding concessions. Formerly, when we got to the bargaining table, the union would present its demands and the employer would say yes or no. Now it is often the employer who comes with lots of demands, on the pension plan, on job mobility and other aspects. It's a phenomenon that both we and others are experiencing. Often what workers try to do is maintain their conditions. We're continuously fighting to keep what we have. Generally, companies are all acting the same way now. It's not because they are not making money. These are not companies that have gone bankrupt. Just look at what is happening at the airport in Montreal. They're making lots of money, however they are trying to make even more by outsourcing the work.

Increasingly, we are also seeing longer lasting conflicts, which are not strikes but lockouts decreed by companies.

After close to a year of being locked out, we are still demanding a negotiated collective agreement that will allow us to go back to work with our heads held high.

Clément Masse is the President of United Steelworkers Local 9700 at ABI Bécancour.

(Translated from original French by Chantier politique)

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Montreal Airport Administrative Workers
Reject Unacceptable Demand

Currently, a difficult struggle is taking place involving 93 employees who are part of the Airports of Montreal White Collar Unit, affiliated with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). They are receptionists and information officers, administrative and security agents. These are employees who work at the administrative level.

Previously, the airport was administered under federal jurisdiction, within the Ministry of Transport. In 1992, the Airports of Montreal (ADM) became a non-profit organization. PSAC brought the white collar workers into the union about 15 years ago. During the first negotiation we discovered an article in the collective agreement that has existed since about 1992, before the white collar workers were unionized with us. It is Article 44, which states, roughly, that for equal service, and at a lower cost, the ADM reserves the right to subcontract. It must do so in collaboration and in partnership with the union. It did not do that.

We are convinced that on the sly, without telling us, the ADM went out for tender for subcontracting. The tender was formally launched in August 2018 and on November 28, the ADM informed us that it wanted a counter-offer from us, equivalent to their tender for subcontracting. It has a two-part bidding process, one covering 11 of our employees and the second for 82 employees, for a total of 93. The ADM is asking for a 28 per cent salary and benefits reduction for 11 employees, and 33 per cent for the others. This means an overall drop of 30 per cent. The ADM is asking us to make a counter-offer on that.

We are currently considering all the legal aspects of the case and are filing complaints and grievances. We are also pointing out to the administration that it makes a lot of money, that it is trying to present its best possible image with regard to passengers and customer experience, and doing so requires experienced people. The employees we represent have, on average, between 12 and 15 years of experience. They speak two, three and even four languages.

These employees are distraught, no one expected this and the administration wants a counter-offer on or before December 28. It has given us 30 days to respond. It doesn't make sense and defies all logic. The ADM is doing well, its last financial year was one of the best in its history.

We held a demonstration December 16 in front of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, that around a hundred workers participated in, to protest against this unjustified demand from the administration. In addition to our employees, other airport workers were there, including firefighters, PSAC representatives, and several representatives from the United Steelworkers. It is noteworthy that the Steelworkers have almost 2,000 members working at the airport in restaurants, driving taxi or employed at the porter level. All these workers support us.

What is the ADM's real agenda in this case? I don't think it's the $1 million they say they want to save through their demand. It seems to me that they just want to outsource at all levels. It's very bad for service. In their 2018-2019 plan, they talk about creating a pleasant customer experience. What they're doing to those who provide the services is really off the mark.

It is important to reject such a reduction in wages and benefits because, as can also be seen with the struggle of ABI workers, accepting such things would only open the door to the unscrupulous and brutal interference of managers. In one year alone, the management board and the president gave themselves $1 million in bonuses -- the same amount they say they want to save by cutting the salaries and benefits of our employees by 30 per cent.

We received unanimous support from FTQ affiliates. We also really appreciate the support given to us on social media where workers are supporting the fight of the PSAC white collar workers against the ADM. Our members need all the support they can get to stand up to all this adversity.

Yvon Barrière is the Executive Vice-President of PSAC-Quebec.

(Translated from original French by Chantier politique)

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For the Record

Legault Government's Program to
Replace Immigrants with Temporary Foreign Workers Is Unacceptable

The government of François Legault has declared its intention to increase the use of temporary foreign workers at the same time as it wages an attack on immigration by saying that Quebeckers are anti-immigrant. In fact, the aim is to increase the use of a category of workers whose rights as workers and as human beings are violated, to lower the living and working conditions of all workers.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is a federal program that includes the following sub-programs: the Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP), the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and a category called Other Temporary Foreign Workers (OTFW).

It is truly misleading for the Legault government to include temporary foreign workers in its immigration plan because they are not part of Canada's immigration policy. The official goal of the program is to meet the so-called temporary labour requirements as a last resort when there are no individuals with Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status to fill certain positions. In fact, temporary foreign workers have been coming to work in Canada for decades in the lowest paid jobs and in the worst conditions, but a fraudulent temporary status is attached to them to keep them in these conditions and render their application for permanent resident status almost imposssible.

A December 7 article in Le Devoir quoted Jean-Claude Gélinas, Director of the Service d'orientation et d'intégration des immigrants au travail (SOIT), on that topic: "There is no follow-up on temporary workers. These people are not entitled to any services.» Without the hard work of the advocacy organizations taking charge of their dignity and workers' rights, their only ties would be with their employer and the agency that recruited them.

This is unacceptable. During the new year we will continue reporting on this matter.

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News

Negotiations Between Public Service Alliance of Canada and Treasury Board at an Impasse

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Treasury Board have been in negotiations since June 2018 and according to the union's national president Chris Aylward the discussions have been "essentially non-productive." In the union's December 10 bulletin, the government's latest offers are described as "offensive" and negotiations have broken off.

The PSAC bulletin states:

"After months of Government delays and insulting offers, PSAC bargaining teams representing 90,000 federal public service workers have declared impasse and filed for a Public Interest Commission (PIC) to help negotiations move forward."[1]

Union negotiators point out that the government proposed to increase wage rates by only 0.75 per cent per year for four years, well below the rate of inflation, and refused to make the increase retroactive to the start of the term of the collective agreement. In addition, they requested the new agreement only take effect 365 days after it is signed by both parties, amounting to a two-year wage freeze for PSAC members.

Aylward further stated that, "It's outrageous that the Trudeau government won't even come to the table with a serious offer after our members have been waiting three years to get paid correctly under Phoenix. We've tried to get this government to bargain in a fair and respectful manner -- it's clear we've reached impasse."

There are four bargaining groups representing 90,000 public service workers involved in this round of negotiations; Program and Administrative Services (PA); Technical Services (TC); Operations Services (SV); and Education and Library Science (EB).

In addition to the dispute over wages which the union has declared to be of great concern, the workers also have demands for improvements in areas such as work-life balance, workload, leave provisions and use of temporary workers.

The PSAC bulletin concludes by saying, "We're angry, and we're not going to let the Liberal government get away with this. Every day PSAC members show up to work not even knowing if they're going to get paid properly -- they deserve working conditions that reflect that dedication, as well as the value of their work. We won't back down until they get it."

Note

1. The three-person commission has a chairperson appointed by the Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board (PSLERB) and representatives nominated by the government and union. After hearing submissions from both sides on the issues the board issues its final report with settlement recommendations which is not binding and is supposed to be submitted to the chairperson within 30 days.

Seven days after the PIC Report is issued the union can call the first strike vote.

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Important Events

The State of Rights Today


Diane Johnston, on behalf of the PMLQ, addresses participants.

A vigorous meeting took place on December 16, organized by the PMLQ, in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to discuss its significance today. Participants examined the subject starting from the present, how rights pose themselves in the real world today, not as ever-illusive aspirations which serve to let those who violate rights get away with it.

On behalf of the PMLQ, Diane Johnston set the tone by saying "we should seriously look into what a country's actual economic, political and social conditions are telling us." She followed this with examples of what is taking place in the U.S. as well as in Canada, where thousands of people who are fleeing turmoil and instability in their own countries are attempting entry only to face the military and the police who are given broad authority to carry out an agenda set by a small ruling elite. Here in Canada, the Trudeau government is preparing to adopt Bill C-59, which will permit the criminalization of those fighting for rights, whether it be the right to a healthy environment, the right to live in peace and security, or the right of people both here in Canada as well as elsewhere to determine their own affairs.

Jennie-Laure Sully and Frantz André, spokespersons for the Action Committee on Non-Status Persons (CAPSS), then addressed the serious plight of Haitian refugees as a result of the actions of the government of Canada. Canada continues to deport significant numbers of Haitian asylum seekers even though in January 2017 Justin Trudeau claimed that refugees were welcome in Canada.


CAPSS Spokesperson Jennie-Laure Sully speaks about the historical struggle of the Haitian people for their liberation, in particular the role that women have played.


In a lively exchange, CAPSS Spokesperson Frantz André explains the Committee's fight  for a moratorium on the deportation of Haitian refugees.

A vigorous discussion followed with the participation of others present, on the conditions of work suffered by vulnerable workers at the hands of human traffickers and some of the biggest companies in Quebec who use them as cheap labour, violating their rights with impunity. Participants resolved to investigate this issue to ensure that the necessary work is carried out in their defence.

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Celebration in Honour of Human Rights
Activists and Defenders

On Sunday, December 9, on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, the Centre for Philippine Concerns organized an event in Montreal's Côte-des-Neiges area to celebrate "those who have fought for basic human rights in the Philippines, as well as around the world."

The event was organized to honour the memory of the thousands of dedicated activists and human rights defenders who have given their lives for their people and for truth, justice and a more humane society to prevail. It was also a celebration of the living, of the heroes and heroines who refuse to stop in the face of repression and threats of imprisonment and torture, and continue to dedicate their time, skills and their very lives to the cause of social justice and fundamental change in their respective countries. The event consisted of short speeches, poetry readings and songs by local artists.

Marie Boti, on behalf of the Centre for Philippine Concerns, warmly greeted everyone. A message was then read about the particularly dangerous situation that prevails in the Philippines, where the Duterte government, in power since 2016, is waging three wars. The first, the war on drugs, has resulted in the killing of over 20,000 people, mostly the young and the poor, by the so-called forces of order, since 2016. The second, the war on Muslims, has had 75 per cent of the country's armed forces amassed in Mindanao to crush the people's resistance to the pillage of their resources and the attacks on their schools and communities. Duterte's third war is the war on the country's revolutionary forces over which the government has cast a wide net to include all national democratic forces, including peace advocates and consultants involved in peace negotiations.

Participants learned that at present, there are over 540 political prisoners in the Philippines, almost all of whom are being detained on trumped up charges.


Maria Lorena Barros (Illustration by England Hildago)

Participants, holding large portraits, gave short speeches about the lives of some of those fallen heroes and heroines from the Philippines, victims of the Marcos and Duterte regimes. One of them, Maria Lorena Barros (March 18, 1948-March 24, 1976) is a heroine of the Philippine women's movement. She founded MAKIBAKA, a militant women's organization just before Martial Law was declared under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. She went underground and was later captured, becoming a celebrated political prisoner. She escaped to the countryside as a guerrilla fighter and, at 28 years old, was killed during a military ambush.

Jennie-Laure Sully, on behalf of the Action Committee on Non-Status Persons (CAPSS), and a defender of women's rights, presented a snapshot of four courageous heroines from Haitian history who have led the country along the high road of civilization. They are Anacaona, Yvonne Hakim-Rimpel, Yanick Rigaud and Sonia Pierre.


From left to right: Anacaona, Yvonne Hakim-Rimpel, Yanick Rigaud, Sonia Pierre

Anacaona, Queen of the Taino people, was killed by the Spanish conquistadors in 1503 after being captured and refusing to become a concubine. Yvonne Hakim-Rimpel, born in Haiti in 1906, was a journalist and fought against the Duvalier dictatorship. Yanick Rigaud, a young communist, was killed in 1969 by Duvalier's thugs. Sonia Pierre, a lawyer, fought against the Dominican Republic stripping citizenship from those whose national origin was Haitian.

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Lively Actions Demand an End to Deportation
of Haitian Refugees


Montreal, December 2, 2018

On Sunday, December 2, dozens of people, including many from the Haitian community, gathered in front of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's constituency office at 1100 Crémazie Boulevard East, in Montreal. What began as a group of 50 people quickly swelled into some 200 protesting the deportation of Haitian asylum seekers, as people from the community called on their friends and families to join in.

For two hours, despite the icy rain, they vibrantly chanted, "Stop the deportations!" "No to deportations!" "We work here, we stay here!" They carried many placards calling for justice for people of Haitian origin who are without status. Representatives of the NDP, Québec solidaire and activists of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec (PMLQ) were also present.

The demonstration was organized in response to the inhumane situation imposed by the Canadian government on Haitian asylum seekers. It was a continuation of the actions organized on July 21 and August 4 to demand an immediate moratorium on deportations and to end them altogether. The government is urging Canadians to avoid travel to Haiti due to the current dangerous situation there, yet there appears to be no problem with deporting asylum seekers. One day, the government declares that the deportations must be interrupted and the next it decides to restart them. If the situation is dangerous for Canadians, why is it not dangerous for refugee claimants? The Canadian government is applying a hypocritical and unacceptable double standard. That is why the December 2 demonstration, and the previous protests, condemned the Canadian government and demanded an immediate one-year moratorium and an end to deportations.



Demonstration on December 2, 2018, in front of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's constituency office to oppose the government's double standards for Haitian asylum seekers.



Demonstration in Montreal on July 21, 2018 in front of Immigration Canada offices to denounce the Canadian government and demand an immediate moratorium on deportations.



August 4, demonstration in front of Immigration Canada offices, following the government's decision to create a "Ministry of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction," falsely linking refugees with organized crime.

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Announcement

With this issue, Chantier politique completes its publication for 2018. It will resume on January 10, 2019. The editorial team wishes you the best for the holiday season!

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