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November 15, 2018

Necessity for a New Pro-Social Outlook and
Direction for the Economy

Bombardier Economy in Turmoil

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Necessity for a New Pro-Social Outlook and Direction for the Economy
Bombardier Economy in Turmoil - K.C. Adams

Workers Defend Their Rights and the Rights of All
November 28: Demonstration in Montreal to Support ABI Locked-Out Workers
Urgent Need to Ensure Safety of Truckers and the Public - Normand Chouinard
Training in the Construction Industry Must be Upgraded - Simon Lévesque, Director of Health and Safety at FTQ-Construction


Necessity for a New Pro-Social Outlook and Direction for the Economy

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For the second time in two years, Bombardier has announced massive cuts to its workforce. In 2016, the global oligopoly fired 7,000 workers; this time another 5,000 workers will be dismissed: 2,500 workers in Quebec, another 500 in Ontario and 2,000 elsewhere with Belfast in the north of Ireland the most probable target.

Reductions in a workforce of thousands of workers mean that a substantial segment of Bombardier's economy will be liquidated. The company is entirely abandoning its commercial jet production despite receiving billions of dollars in state pay-the-rich subsidies.[1] Secret manoeuvrings and furious competition amongst sections of the global financial oligarchy in commercial jet production, in particular between Boeing and Airbus, have intensified the crisis at Bombardier.

In 2017, Boeing used the power of the U.S. state to block the sale in the United States of Bombardier's C-series mid-sized airliner.[2] In full retreat, Bombardier gave 51 per cent of the C-series operation to Airbus for free. What will become of the remaining production facilities in Canada when fully in the hands of Airbus was not addressed in the Bombardier press release or subsequent statements. In Bombardier's November 8 press release announcing the cuts and sell-off, company president Alain Bellemare stated, "With today's announcements, we are implementing the next steps needed to realize the full value of Bombardier's portfolio. [...] I am very proud of what we have accomplished so far." Bellemare's annual salary with bonuses is $13 million. Olivier Marcil, Bombardier's Vice President for External Relations, referred to the sell-off as a "productivity initiative."

Bombardier is also selling off its Q Series (previously known as the Dash 8) turboprop aircraft program, which means the only aircraft production remaining will be luxury private and business airplanes. It also announced the sale of its aircraft flight and technical training unit to another global monopoly called CAE without any indication of the fate of those now working in the segment.

Aside from production of business jets, Bombardier will continue its airplane servicing agreements and the manufacturing of trains. However, the train sector as well is under serious threat from other global oligopolies and their powerful state representatives and the falling rate of profit arising from increased productivity from the use of advanced scientific technique and its automated production systems.

The situation reveals that the billions of dollars in recent Quebec and federal pay-the-rich handouts to Bombardier were not meant to maintain production of commercial airliners under the control of Bombardier and in Canada but to ensure the servicing of its $9 billion debt held by the financial oligarchy. Owners of Bombardier debt annually expropriate around $1 billion in interest profit from its various sectors. The proceeds from asset stripping will likewise go to the big moneylenders.

Ontario and Quebec manufacturing has been under pressure and in decline for well over ten years. The consistent downsizing of Bombardier manufacturing along with the brazen lockout of 1,030 ABI aluminum workers in Becancour Quebec and the broad U.S. state attacks on Canadian aluminium and steel production through tariffs have exposed a consistent pattern. The global oligarchs are sidelining Quebec and Ontario manufacturing and reducing Canada within the global imperialist economy to sources of raw material, services, various forms of financial parasitism, speculation and retailing in the largest metropolises, moneylending and subsequent interest payments from private and state debt. The result is further concentration in fewer private hands of the social wealth and power of the socialized means of production and circulation in Canada and throughout the world. This regressive phenomenon is intensifying the contradiction between the socialized productive forces and their private control causing nation-wrecking and destruction of what the oligarchs cannot control, more intense violent competition, wars and war preparations, greater economic crises and widespread social problems. The global financial oligarchy has disempowered the people and reduced the social wealth at the disposal of the vast majority of people and their societies.

The crisis in the Bombardier economy and the insecurity it brings to thousands of workers, their communities and local economies highlight the necessity for a new direction for the economy. What this new direction may be is the social responsibility and project of the working people to clarify and bring into being through their own organized efforts, actions with analysis and practical politics.

A new direction requires a new outlook that puts as the aim of the economy not the narrow private interests of the financial oligarchs but the needs and well-being of the people. The well-being of the people and Mother Earth can be realized when working people reorganize the socialized economy in conformity with its interconnected and scientific character and its actual and potential social product. The modern outlook demands the end of all forms of exploitation of humans by humans, the humanizing of the social and natural environment, the constant enhancement of the general interests of society, and peaceful and cooperative arrangements for mutual benefit amongst the peoples of the world.

A pro-social outlook views the world as it presents itself and what is required to meet the expectations of the people and their desire for empowerment, peace, security and a future for themselves, their families, society and fellow humanity around the world. The challenge is to organize the advanced social consciousness and the overwhelming numbers of the working people into modern independent institutions and social forms of their own making and conscious control so as to deprive the global oligarchs of their power over the socialized economy and politics of the country.

Notes

1. In 2015, Bombardier received massive bailouts using public monies from Quebeckers totalling $3.3 billion. It received $1.3 billion dollars from the Quebec government for its C Series aircraft program, for which the government received a 49.5 per cent stake in a limited partnership that gave it control of the program's assets, liabilities and obligations. Later that year, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, that manages several public and parapublic pension plans and insurance programs in Quebec, sank $2 billion into Bombardier's rail transportation business. In 2017, the federal government gave Bombardier a $375-million "repayable loan."

A scandal arose in 2017 about pay for Bombardier's executives, which increased by nearly 50 per cent while it laid off thousands of workers and received these massive public subsidies. Meanwhile, stock options for Bombardier executives have returned them profits of $78 million dollars this year alone, according to figures provided by Michel Girard in the Journal de Montréal.

2. For further information on Bombardier see "Bombardier's Attempt to Enter U.S. Airline Market: Boeing Aerospace Monopoly Uses U.S. State to Crush Its Competitor," Workers' Forum, October 5, 2017.

(Quotations translated from the original French by Workers' Forum.)

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Workers Defend Their Rights and the Rights of All

November 28: Demonstration in Montreal to
Support ABI Locked-Out Workers

USW Local 9700, representing the 1,030 workers at the ABI aluminum smelter in Bécancour, locked out since January 11, invites everyone to take part in a demonstration in front of Hydro-Québec's offices in Montreal on November 28. The event begins at 11:30 am and the locked-out workers will rally at the Alcoa headquarters at Place Ville-Marie and proceed to the Hydro-Québec office.

The demonstration has been called to oppose the assistance that is being provided by the Quebec government and Hydro-Québec to Alcoa in organizing the lockout by allowing the Alcoa/Rio Tinto cartel to renege on its payment obligations to Hydro-Québec. Alcoa/Rio Tinto and Hydro-Québec have agreed that the company's obligation to pay for the energy block that is reserved for it is not in effect, declaring the lockout a "force majeure." A "force majeure" is defined as unforeseeable circumstances that prevent the fulfillment of a contract, something over which the company has no control, like an earthquake. The workers rightly denounce the fact that the government and Hydro-Québec are funding the cartel's lockout on the backs of the people of Quebec, a lockout that has been going on for 10 months with no end in sight.

"We invite all unions to come out and demonstrate with us," said Clément Masse, president of Local 9700, to Workers' Forum. "With this contract the government signed with the company, Quebeckers will lose about $200 million in revenue. It is not normal for Quebeckers to finance the company. The government is helping the company finance the labour dispute. That's what we're denouncing on November 28, and that's why we're doing so in front of Hydro-Québec offices and we're calling on the other unions to come and support us. There are already some who have announced their participation and it is very encouraging. We'll see you on the 28th."

The workers represented by USW Local 9700 are fighting a very difficult struggle against a global power that controls much of the aluminum and alumina produced around the world. Oligarchs use their power over the productive forces and social wealth to force workers to submit to their dictate so they can secure greater private profit from the value produced by the workers. The workers reject this and continue, with the support of workers in Quebec, the rest of Canada, and several countries around the world, to demand that the company negotiate to arrive at an agreement that their members consider satisfactory.

On November 7, the Quebec Labour Minister announced the establishment of a mediation council to facilitate the resumption of negotiations. It is being reported that the government has given the parties until November 30 to reach an agreement, which could have been reached months ago if the owners had agreed to sit down with the union to negotiate instead of locking out the workers. Instead, the company has refused to even talk to the workers, has added new demands for concessions, and has filed lawsuits against the union on fraudulent charges of vandalism and sabotage of production.

In response to the announcement by the Minister of Labour, the local USW president said in a statement:

"From the beginning, we have always shown our openness to negotiating. We will take part in meetings we are invited to with good faith and seriousness. For the sake of labour relations in this plant, it is important that this conflict be settled with a negotiated agreement."

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Urgent Need to Ensure Safety of Truckers
and the Public


Day of Mourning ceremony organized in Mauricie, Quebec by SSPT chez les camionneurs to honour truckers who died on the job.

The statistics for 2017 reveal that the number of accidents involving heavy trucks is on the rise throughout Canada and also in the United States. This rise in accidents occurs in the context of a mini freight boom between Canada and the United States, and an increase in the volume of goods moving between major Canadian cities, particularly between Montreal and Toronto.

According to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), the number of fatal collisions involving heavy trucks is up 33 per cent in Eastern Ontario. For the province as a whole, 2018 is already marked by 33 truck accidents that killed 41 people, a 38 per cent increase according to the OPP. Since the beginning of 2018, the OPP has investigated more than 3,600 heavy truck accidents, equivalent to 11 per cent of all collisions (34,461) in the province.

In the United States, in 2016, 3,986 people died as a result of a heavy truck accident, an increase of more than 27 per cent over 2009. The U.S. Transportation Department estimates that the proportion of deaths in an accident involving a truck is 1 in 10 or more precisely 11 per cent, which is equivalent to the Canadian average.

According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), the value of goods transported in 2017 reached more than $700 billion (U.S.), an increase of 3.5 per cent over the year 2016 during which the value of goods reached $676.6 billion. Also, according to the ATA, the value of goods transported by truck represents $8 of every $10 made in the transportation of goods. This means that the $700 billion in truck transportation revenues make up nearly 80 per cent of all revenue from the goods transportation industry across the United States. Canadian and American truckers transported 57.7 per cent of the manufactured goods traded between Canada and the United States.

This increase in the volume of goods transported by heavy trucks means that truckers who do this work are subjected to greater pressure to deliver their goods in a shorter time. The level of stress and fatigue caused by an increase in the pace and the length of the workday has a direct effect on the number of road accidents involving trucks. This data is systematically ignored during police investigations and those of the transport bureau and the authorities in charge of road safety.

More and more accidents involving truck drivers are resulting in criminal charges against the truckers. Drivers found guilty can spend several years in prison. The criminalization of drivers also takes many other forms including greater electronic surveillance, the addition of new regulations that have nothing to do with safety (but everything to do with the control of transport workers), discipline of all kinds, and fines of up to several hundred dollars, among other measures.

In addition, the significant increase in freight volume also means additional pressure on transport companies to provide drivers who can perform the required transport tasks as soon as possible. As a result, the level of training, both theoretical and practical, is minimized.

The terrible Humboldt tragedy in Saskatchewan last spring, in which the bus carrying an entire youth hockey team was decimated after a collision with a heavy truck, alerted the public to the need to increase the level of training for both new and experienced drivers. The Saskatchewan Ministry of Transportation's investigation report recommends driver training of at least 100 hours before driving a heavy truck. On average, this is what exists in Ontario and elsewhere in the other Canadian provinces except Quebec, which offers subsidized public training including nearly 615 hours of classes. However, these courses are not mandatory. Other training in unsubsidized private schools may offer training with less than 20 hours of classes. Some schools offer a service of a few hours (fast course) designed only to prepare new drivers to pass their exams to obtain a Class 1 licence, necessary to drive heavy trucks.

The requirement for comprehensive driver training is a long-standing demand of the truckers' movement, as part of their fight for recognition of the truck driving profession by federal and provincial authorities. Truckers regularly discuss the source of funds that could guarantee funding for mandatory training. The various levels of government must take up their responsibility to adequately fund such training and enact the appropriate laws and regulations. Large transport companies should also contribute to driver training by dedicating a portion of their revenues and increasing the number of training hours available to their employees. Major manufacturing, mining and other industries should also participate in the financing because they directly benefit from the work done by truckers.

These are the solutions that drivers are seeking to ensure their safety and their future. Whether in Quebec, Canada or the United States, truckers are fighting valiantly to guarantee their right to work safely every day and bravely face the constant pressure imposed on them by the monopolies. Truckers continue to blame the authorities for the tragedies that are occurring more and more often.

(Sources: U.S. Department of Transportation, ATA, CTV, CBC, Truck News)


Training in the Construction Industry
Must be Upgraded


Crane operators rally May 5, 2018 in Montreal protesting changes to regulations that compromise the workers' and the public's safety by lowering training requirements for crane operators.

One of the major problems right now is training. The construction industry is currently in full swing. The employers' method to bring workers into the industry is to open up the labour pools. When there is a shortage of manpower and there are not enough people to fill the available jobs, the labour pools are opened to let workers in without going through the trade schools. People who come into the industry are not trained. They receive guaranteed hours and on-the-job training, instead of taking a training course in school. There are several trade schools in the construction industry, yet workers are sent directly to the job sites. In the field, we know how it goes. The pressure is enormous. Delivery times are very fast. Workers are not looked after, they are not being supervised. That creates a potential danger. Just last week we had a young man, an 18-year-old, who died when he was crushed by an excavator.

We often hear that young people are reckless, that they take risks. The reality is that they are not supervised. Young people are concerned about production. They feel the pressure of production. They do not have experience. They have to demonstrate that they are able to do more so as to satisfy their employer. This creates conditions for dangerous situations to happen.

There are trades for which it has been a long time since the labour pools were opened and they are now being opened up. That is the case for example with tinsmiths. As for general labourers, this happens regularly. There are several types of work done by labourers. There are some that involve risks; it is not for nothing that we speak of specialized labourers. They can do work like blasting or drilling. At the moment, carpenters are in short supply in downtown Montreal where buildings are mushrooming. We are short of form workers, so they open the labour pools. We bring in young and old without training. It is to make up for the lack of manpower.

This situation is not new. With the construction trades schools it was possible to reduce the opening of labour pools. Construction trades schools help to control the situation. Young people coming out of school already have a base of knowledge. It is well known, however, that the only trade where school was compulsory is that of crane operator and the compulsory nature of the training has just been abolished. We are being told, once again, that this is to fill the gaps in manpower. Such a rush to satisfy the industry at all costs is very dangerous.

Also, it's hard to keep the skilled workforce in our industry. We have retention problems. We are not able to keep workers in the industry because of job insecurity. At the moment, things are fine, basically everybody has a job, but when the hours go down, the young people will go somewhere else. They are going to go even where the pay is less but where they are guaranteed a stable income.

There is a need to upgrade training at the industry level, and to tell employers that opening the labour pools is not the answer. We must supervise the workers in the industry and also supervise the supervisors. We need to create training for the supervisors. There is no training for foremen and superintendents. The only thing they are trained for is production. They do not have health and safety training.

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