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November 29, 2018

Post Office -- No to Liberal Back-to-Work Legislation!

Postal Workers Treated Like Criminals
by Trudeau Government

December 1 Day of Action in Support of Postal Workers

CALENDAR OF EVENTS

Post Office -- No to Liberal Back-to-Work Legislation!
Postal Workers Treated Like Criminals by Trudeau Government - Louis Lang
Canada Post Not the Workers Has Been Withholding Social Assistance
Cheques - Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Renewed Attacks on Postal Workers: We Take It Personally! - Pierre Soublière
Postal Workers Demand Justice as Trudeau Meets with Corporate Calgary
Photo Review: Postal Workers' Rotating Strikes and Occupations

General Motors to Close Auto Plant in Oshawa, Ontario
Unifor Local 222 Holds Press Conference on Oshawa GM Plant Closure
Unifor Calls on General Motors to Allocate Product to Oshawa - Unifor

Quebec Construction Workers Uphold Their Rights
Opposition to the Police Regime Against Construction Workers  - Pierre Chénier

Alberta Workers Oppose Anti-Labour Laws
Local 110 Insulators Rally at Alberta Legislature - Peggy Askin
Anti-Worker Labour Laws Must Be Repealed - K.C. Adams
Alberta Boilermakers and Operating Engineers Fight to Overturn Anti-Worker Labour Laws


Post Office -- No to Liberal Back-to-Work Legislation!

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Postal workers in Ottawa walked off the job November 26, 2018, upon hearing the Senate had
voted in favour of adopting the Liberal government back-to-work legislation.

After a weekend of debates and hearing the testimony of several witnesses concerned in the failed negotiations between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), the Senate of Canada adopted the Trudeau government's back-to-work legislation, Bill C-89. On Monday evening, November 26, the Senate voted 53 to 25 with four abstentions and the Governor General gave Royal Assent to the legislation which was announced at 9:00 pm that evening.

This action of the government outlawed the right of postal workers to strike to force Canada Post to take their demands seriously.

Bill C-89 requires the union to instruct the workers to report for work by noon on November 27. Failure to obey the law can result in the imposition of fines of $1,000 to $50,000 per day on anyone found in contravention of the Act and up to $100,000 per day against Canada Post and the union if they are found guilty of a violation of the law.

Labour Minister Patty Hajdu, speaking on behalf of the government said:

"Back-to-work legislation is a last resort and not something we take lightly. However, having exhausted all other options, it is necessary to protect the public interest and avoid further harm to the Canadian economy."

This declaration shows the utter bankruptcy of the Trudeau government. It claims to stand for free collective bargaining but as soon as workers fight to defend their just demands its hypocrisy and unprincipled character are revealed.

In Canada and abroad Justin Trudeau makes pious statements about being a "feminist" and he touts his deep concern for the rights of women. But when it comes to working women demanding to have their rights recognized, the hypocrisy and cynical disregard and manipulation of public opinion are palpable. There are 8,000 Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMCs) of which more than 80 per cent are hard-working women who have been discriminated against by Canada Post for many years. Now they are demanding the simple right to be paid for all hours worked like all other postal workers and Canada Post has not budged one inch for almost a year. Trudeau's answer to these women workers is to criminalize the just struggle of postal workers for their rights.

Minister Hajdu is far from being honest in her statement that "all options have been exhausted." The government has been aware that, for close to a year, Canada Post has refused to negotiate and it is now intervening on behalf of the corporation. Everyone knows that Canada Post is a Crown corporation and as such is under the executive control of the Federal Cabinet. The government must answer for the actions of the corporation which has arrogantly refused to negotiate and relies on the government to impose a contract through federal legislation.

Hajdu exposes the unprincipled stand of the government when she says that "it is necessary to protect the public interest and avoid further harm to the Canadian economy." What "Canadian economy" is she talking about? Are the workers not part of this economy? Does disrespecting their rights not cause harm to the economy? Do they not have a human right to proper working conditions which protect their health and safety and eliminate the overburdening faced by the workers due to elevated parcel volumes?

The "economy" and "public interest" Hajdu is talking about has nothing to do with anything except the self-interest of the rich. The "public interest" in Hajdu's deceptive statement refers to the main concern of the Trudeau government to protect the profits of multi-national corporations like Amazon, E-Bay and other enterprises based on internet trading platforms. No one can deny that these corporations have grown into multi-billion dollar behemoths who have come to control this sector of the economy in a short period of time and it is undeniable that the source of their success is the exploitation of the labour and blood and sweat of postal workers and other workers in the communications sector.

Postal workers have put this government on notice that they are not fooled by Hajdu's double talk. They know that when Hajdu talks about "the harm to the Canadian economy," it is the threat to maximum profits for these corporations that she is referring to.

For the Trudeau government, the destruction of 2,500 jobs by Bombardier and its partner Airbus, and the closing of the GM plant in Oshawa affecting another more than 2,500 workers are not worthy of consideration for the damage this wrecking of manufacturing inflicts on the economy.

Glib statements are made by the Trudeau Liberals to justify criminalizing the struggle of postal workers and it shows how despicably self-serving they are. Anything can be said at any time to justify their schemes and to impose their dictate on the working people, because they submit to the dictate of the financial oligarchs who demand ever greater profits and claim that this is the proof of a healthy economy.

Like the Harper Conservatives, this government speaks out of both sides of its mouth when it comes to attacking the rights of workers. It was not so long ago that the government and the think tanks of the ruling elite waged a massive campaign to prove that the public post office was a thing of the past. Reams of statistics were produced to show that the post office was dying and an "increasingly useless anachronism in the digital age." We were told that like newspapers, the post office was no longer needed. First class mail was in serious decline and, even though Canada Post showed profits each year, this would soon end. Dire predictions from experts tried to convince us that Canada Post would soon accumulate a massive debt which would have to be paid for by "Canadian taxpayers."

The alarmist statements and the relegation of the post office to irrelevance for the Canadian economy were all done to justify the privatization of Canada Post and the destruction of the public post office. The main goal of privatization, which continues to the present day, is to attack the rights of postal workers to proper wages, benefits and working conditions and to facilitate the handing over of the most profitable parts of Canada Post to monopolies like FedEx, UPS, DHL and others.

Of course we know that the predictions of financial doom were lies based on a cynical outlook which favours privatization of public assets for private gain and the destruction of the public post office and its obligation to provide universal postal service to all Canadians.

To justify Bill C-89 we are now told that the post office which had been declared to be irrelevant plays such a crucial role in the Canadian economy that federal legislation is needed to "defend the economy." This is Liberal pragmatism, to say whatever is required to push their bankrupt policy of managing the economy on behalf of the rich.

As far as the 50,000 postal workers are concerned, they are not confused about the decisive role they play in providing communications services to all Canadians. The workers process and deliver mail in every corner of the country, working seven days a week, 24 hours per day, in all conditions and in addition to their demands for decent wages and working conditions, they have always defended the need for a public post office with the right of all Canadians to universal postal service.

The contribution of postal workers to the Canadian society gives them the right to make claims to be treated with dignity and be given the conditions they require to perform their duties.

The action of the Trudeau government to treat postal workers like criminals cannot be allowed to pass. The workers' demands to negotiate and not to be subjected to dictate is a right which any government worthy of the name must uphold.

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Canada Post Not the Workers Has Been
Withholding Social Assistance Cheques

[On November 22], as she introduced the government's back-to-work legislation, Labour Minister Patty Hajdu told the House of Commons that the most vulnerable Canadians relied on Canada Post for cheques and had been negatively affected by the rotating strikes, referencing a man named Jack, who told her he could lose his home if he didn't receive his disability cheque.

Postal workers in many locations are reporting to the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) that Canada Post management has directed them not to deliver any letter mail, including pension cheques and social assistance cheques -- a direct violation of an agreement signed by CUPW and Canada Post to deliver these types of cheques during strikes or lockouts.

"Our public post office distributes government cheques that are a fundamental part of the social safety net," says Mike Palecek, CUPW National President. "We do not want the most vulnerable to suffer because of our dispute with Canada Post, which is why we signed an agreement in the first place. If people are not receiving their cheques, it is because Canada Post has chosen not to deliver them."

Over the past five weeks of rotating strikes, Canada Post has manufactured crises, including a massive backlog of mail and now denying the most vulnerable people their government cheques, to push the government to introduce back-to-work legislation. It seems that the government has taken the bait.

"Withholding these cheques is not only deplorable, but is illegal and the Minister representing Canada Post should investigate these claims immediately," adds Palecek.

(November 23, 2018)

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Renewed Attacks on Postal Workers:
We Take It Personally!

On Friday, November 23, postal workers and their allies went to Parliament Hill to be present in the public gallery when the back-to-work legislation was passed to end the rotating strikes and force the workers back to work.

The Trudeau Liberal government had arranged for the passing of the bill to be as expedient as possible and the debate was therefore limited. When we arrived, it was a bit strange to find that very few MPs were participating in the debate. Actually, almost all the Liberal seats were empty! Then, after an ultimate drivel on the urgency to pass legislation against the postal workers and their demands in order to "protect small and medium-sized businesses,'' it was 8 o'clock, time to vote. All of a sudden, MPs started streaming in from everywhere and in a matter of minutes, the Liberal seats were filled. The majority of Liberal MPs were obviously intent on getting the job done as soon as possible while one of them was finishing his rant ridiculing opposition MPs for being opposed to the legislation. Liberal contempt for the working class was palpable, especially when the workers rose in the gallery and denounced them for their cowardly behavior. A few Liberal MPs looked up as if they had just realized we were there and left the House, some with an air of indifference, some with disdain, while one of our colleagues was being handcuffed by security guards, as if to confirm that in this place workers are definitely not welcome.

Since 1965, postal workers have waged dozens of struggles, some legal, some illegal, 24-hour rotating strikes, etc. Each battle was waged on important working condition-related issues. Many of these struggles directly contributed to important contract wins for Federal Public Service employees. Without a doubt, the most memorable of these struggles, in which Trudeau senior played a despicable anti-union and anti-worker role, was the 1978 strike. Leaked government documents revealed that in the summer of 1977, Trudeau had given orders to ban union meetings and the handing out of union literature at the place of work, as well as to attack the collective agreement, etc. In October 1978, on the very same day the workers began a legal strike, the Trudeau government passed back-to-work legislation and ordered an end to the strike, which the workers did not comply with. In the days that followed, among other things, the RCMP raided CUPW offices and later rounded up the entire CUPW executive and placed them under arrest. Following a trial, the president of the union at the time, Jean-Claude Parrot -- who was in the public gallery on Friday and who, at 82 years old, still participates in all the postal workers' actions in defence of their rights -- was sentenced to three months in jail.

Postal workers have always forged ahead to defend what belongs to workers by right and this latest attack by Trudeau the Second must be militantly denounced in every place of work. It must be shown that when you negate the right of workers to negotiate their terms of employment and force them to go back to a job that the employer has rendered impossible and downright dangerous, we take it personally!

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Postal Workers Demand Justice as Trudeau
Meets with Corporate Calgary

On November 22, just hours after the Trudeau government introduced its anti-worker Bill C-89, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services, Calgary postal workers came out in force to hold Prime Minister Trudeau to account for criminalizing their right to negotiate their collective agreement. Trudeau came to Calgary to speak to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and meet with senior executives of the oil and gas monopolies. Around 400 postal workers filled the street outside the Hyatt Hotel, chanting Negotiate, Don't Legislate and slogans against the dictate of the Trudeau government and for their just demands.

Robert Scobel, a past-president of the Calgary local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and veteran postal worker, spoke to the postal workers and their supporters. "Trudeau's father sent our National President [Jean-Claude Parrot] to jail for defending our right to negotiate our own contract. Postal workers are here today because they will not stand for Trudeau Number Two interfering with their right to negotiate their own contract."

All throughout the two hour action the workers chanted Negotiate, Don't Legislate! loud enough for Trudeau to hear, as he spoke to the Chamber of Commerce and claimed to feel the pain of the working people. Over and over they chanted, Negotiate, Don't Legislate; Contract Now; Negotiate, Don't Dictate; Hey Trudeau Don't be a Jerk; Trudeau, Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!; No Justice, No Peace; Pay Equity Now; Who Decides? We Decide!; Canada Post -- Time's Up! A woman postal worker led everyone in singing union songs.

Speaking with Workers' Forum, postal workers made the point that the 50,000 postal workers who process and deliver the mail in the public post office want this government to stop interfering in the collective bargaining process. Workers from many sectors, active and retired, came with their flags to support the postal workers. Postal workers were excited to receive this week's issue of Workers' Forum with the headline, "Negotiate Don't Dictate! No to the Criminalization of Workers' Struggles for Their Rights."

About 20 minutes after the postal workers began their rally a large number of oil and gas employees also came to protest the Trudeau government. The rally was organized by the energy industry, but a concern raised in signs carried by some oil and gas workers was their demand for jobs in face of the still staggering unemployment rate in this industry in Calgary.

Calgary was one of the centres out on rotating strike on November 21 and 22. Hundreds of workers maintained the picket lines while the rally took place.

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Photo Review: Postal Workers'
Rotating Strikes and Occupations


 St. John's, Newfoundland, November 27, 2018, occupation of mail processing plant.


Saint John, New Brunswick, November 27, 2018 occupation of Canada Post facility.


Rotating strike, Moncton, New Brunswick


Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, November 26, 2018, occupation of Canada Post delivery centre.



Halifax, Nova Scotia, November 26, 2018, occupation of mail processing plant.


Montreal, November 27, 2018, sit-in in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's constituency office.


Ottawa, November 23, 2018, sit-in and press conference at Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna's office.

Postal workers in Ottawa walked off the job at 11:00 pm on November 26 on learning that the Senate voted in favour of the Liberal government's back-to-work legislation and went on the
picket lines in defiance of Bill C-89 that strips their right to free collective bargaining. Representatives of the Union of Postal Communication Employees joined them on the line.



Rotating strike Cornwall, Ontario


Rotating strikes: Deep River, Ontario; Petawawa, Ontario


Rotating strike Peterborough, Ontario


Rotating strike Oshawa, Ontario


Whitby, sit-in November 26, 2018, at MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes' office.


Toronto, November 23, 2018, sit-in at Finance Minister Bill Morneau's office.



Toronto, November 28, 2018, picket against back-to-work legislation, Finance Minister Bill Morneau's office.

Mississauga, Ontario, November 26, 2018, pickets stop trucks entering plant after back-to-work
legislation passes in Senate.


Rotating strike London, Ontario


London, Ontario, November 26, 2018, occupation of distribution facility.


Rotating strike Sudbury, Ontario


Rotating strikes: Espanola, Ontario; Sioux Lookout, Ontario


Rotating strikes: Geraldton, Ontario; Hearst, Ontario


Thunder Bay, Ontario, November 24, 2018, sit-in at MP Patty Hajdu's office.


Thunder Bay, November 27, 2018, occupation of Canada Post processing plant.


Regina, Saskatchewan, November 23, 2018, picket at MP Ralph Goodale's office.

Edmonton, Alberta, November 22, 2018 picket at MP Randy Boissonnault's office.

Edmonton, Alberta, November 27, 2018, occupation of Canada Post processing plant.



Calgary, November 22, 2018, action against visit by Prime Minister Trudeau.



Richmond, BC, November 28 picket by union allies of CUPW outside the Pacific postal sorting facility, the third largest in Canada, defies back-to-work legislation.


Rotating strikes: Lac La Hache, BC; Cranbrook, BC


Rotating strike Fraser Valley West, BC


Rotating strike Dawson Creek, BC

Rotating strike Port Alberni, BC

(Photos TMLW, CUPW, P. Walker, G.L. Mackey, T. Tracy, D. Mastin, Unifor 636, L. Elliot, Friends of Public Services, Rank and File)

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General Motors to Close Auto Plant in Oshawa, Ontario

Unifor Local 222 Holds Press Conference
on Oshawa GM Plant Closure

Before General Motors' scheduled 10:00 am official announcement on the morning of November 26, that it will close its plant in Oshawa, Ontario, the workers' union, Unifor, told its members to go home in the morning and for the afternoon shift "to be with their families." They were informed that a press conference would be held at the union hall in the afternoon and asked to attend in force. That afternoon, the hall was filled to overflowing, with many workers outside the building unable to hear.

During question period, President of Unifor Jerry Dias said the Unifor 222 contract has a "no closures" clause for the duration of the four-year collective agreement which is in force until 2020 and Unifor would hold the company to this. There was a $500 million retooling of the plant in 2017 to allow the production of trucks. The union stated it would meet with the "decision-makers" of General Motors (GM) and then have their own internal discussion to decide a course of action. Workers would return to the production lines on Tuesday, November 27,  but "there was no way the workers would passively continue to make trucks and get screwed in the end," Dias said.

The plant is the undisputed leader in quality, productivity and cost efficiency, Dias stated. Oshawa GM workers are the best on the continent. The Oshawa community made GM not the other way around. Unifor is not giving up. There are options and the union will make the company aware of those options; if production can be reallocated to Mexico it can be reallocated to Canada, he said. He rejected Premier Ford's talk of asking the federal government to extend EI benefits for the workers an additional five weeks. "We're not talking about EI," Dias said, "we're talking about maintaining production in Oshawa."

Greg Moffat, Plant Chair with Local 222, spoke to the press after the press conference and repeated Dias' commitment to get the company to reverse its decision. He said the union is not against the company. We're a community and the union's interest is in keeping production at the site.



(Photos: TML, C. McLardie)

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Unifor Calls on General Motors to Allocate
Product to Oshawa


Workers at GM plant in Oshawa walk out and picket at plant gates Monday, November 26, 2018 prior to GM's announcement in the plant of the plant closing.

Unifor is calling on General Motors Canada to allocate product to the Oshawa Assembly Plant past its current run date of December 2019.

"Oshawa Assembly is GM's most decorated plant with a highly skilled, committed workforce," said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. "Additionally, the [United States-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement] provides the Canadian auto industry with firm footing so walking away after a hundred year history of manufacturing makes no sense."

General Motors announced restructuring of its North American operations today [November 26], reporting that no product is currently allocated to Oshawa Assembly after December 2019.

In February, the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra truck lines successfully launched following a $500 million transformation that made Oshawa the only plant in North America capable of building both cars and trucks.

"Unifor does not accept the closure of the plant as a foregone conclusion," said Dias. "Oshawa has been in this situation before with no product on the horizon and we were able to successfully make the case for continued operations. We will vigorously fight again to maintain these good-paying auto jobs."

GM registered $6 billion U.S. in profits in the first three quarters of this year and North America is responsible for 90 per cent of GM's global profits. For each direct job, it's estimated that there are seven spin off jobs that are key to the local economy.

(Unifor media release, November 26, 2018)

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Quebec Construction Workers Uphold Their Rights

Opposition to the Police Regime
Against Construction Workers

On its website, the Quebec Federation of Labour-Construction (FTQ-Construction) reports on its work to defeat the imposition of a police regime on construction workers. Under the hoax of maintaining production on the construction sites and preventing intimidation, this anti-worker police regime is being imposed through the activities of construction companies, the state, and a state agency, the Quebec Construction Commission (CCQ).

FTQ-Construction states it had to intervene recently on a construction site to stop a company's use of a video surveillance system that continuously filmed workers while they were working.

Dealing with another issue, the union expressed its satisfaction at the acquittal of the workers who, in June 2015, had participated in a road blockade at the entrance of the Romaine River construction site near Havre-Saint-Pierre on Quebec's North Shore. The blockade was part of a series of simultaneous demonstrations at various points on the North Shore to denounce the lack of hiring of local workers on construction sites. Sometime after the demonstrations, the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions in Quebec sued seven workers at the request of the CCQ. The workers faced charges of intimidation, discriminatory measures, retaliation, and threats or coercion. The Director alleged the demonstrators prevented workers from outside the North Shore and investigators from the CCQ from entering the worksite.

The charges were laid under Act R-20, an Act respecting labour relations, vocational training and workforce management in the construction industry. The CCQ has the mandate to oversee the implementation of this legislation. Act R-20 criminalizes construction workers by defining their activity in defence of their rights as intimidation aimed at hindering or slowing down activity on construction sites. The wording and intent of Act R-20 harkens back to nineteenth and early twentieth century legislation banning union activity as interfering with the market place.

A judge of the Quebec Court declared on October 30 that the evidence submitted by the prosecution against the workers was inadmissible. The judge found the accumulation of evidence contrary to section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states, "Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure."

The evidence provided by the CCQ was based on information that the CCQ had requested from Hydro-Québec for the stated purpose of laying charges against various protesters. The information included photos and personal information on all the demonstrators who participated in the actions. The CCQ also obtained access to Quebec Automobile Insurance Corporation (SAAQ) databases, which enabled it to have access to photos of the demonstrators' driver's licenses. The judge ruled that this constituted a warrantless search by the CCQ, a violation of the protesters' privacy and a violation of the right to peaceful protest. His rejection of the evidence resulted in the acquittal of the accused.

In a statement, FTQ-Construction pledges to firmly oppose these attacks against construction workers. "The CCQ is overstepping its mandate and violating rights and freedoms. It is carrying out a witch hunt against those who defend the rights of workers," writes Éric Boisjoly, General Manager of FTQ-Construction. "It is time for the CCQ to let the union representatives do their job and to focus on its mandate to ensure the implementation of collective agreements."

It should be noted that construction workers represent five per cent of the workforce in Quebec, but suffer 25 per cent of the work-related deaths that occur each year in Quebec. The criminalization of workers by companies, the state and its agency the CCQ, aims at preventing construction workers and their unions from defending their rights, including the right to work in safe and healthy conditions and to work where they actually live. This is unacceptable and must not pass.

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Alberta Workers Oppose Anti-Labour Laws

Local 110 Insulators Rally at Alberta Legislature

Local 110 of the Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Union held a spirited rally at the Alberta legislature in Edmonton on October 29. The rally was organized to denounce the current anti-worker labour laws that deprive building trades workers and their unions of the right to organize and take job actions to determine terms of employment acceptable to them.

More than 300 workers participated in the march and rally, which started at 108 Street and 99 Avenue and proceeded to the legislature. The demonstrators demanded that the Alberta NDP government repeal the anti-worker labour laws and replace them with legal conditions that guarantee their rights to organize and take collective action to defend themselves at the workplace.

"This rally has been a big push for a long time," Local 110 Business Manager Kevin Lecht said. He emphasized that the Alberta Labour Relations Code prevents building trades unions from deciding when and how bargaining is carried out.

The labour law regime specific to the building trades was enacted in 1988 during a decade of fierce resistance to union-busting and assaults on construction workers' wages and working conditions. The law denies workers the right to bargain collectively and engage in actions to defend their right to decide what wages and working conditions are acceptable in return for their capacity to work. The current anti-worker labour laws impose such onerous conditions that no legal strike has ever occurred since 1988, while at the same time employers have imposed ever worsening terms of employment.

Kevin Lecht said workers expected that an NDP government would rescind these anti-worker laws because that was its posture before and during the election. Instead, when the government made certain changes to labour law, it left intact the entire anti-worker regime imposed on the building trades. This flies in the face of the position of the NDP prior to becoming government.

Workers have rights by virtue of being human and the producers of all social wealth. If their rights are not upheld within the law, this does not negate those rights but forces workers to find other means to affirm their rights in practice. This crisis in relations of production is seen not only in Alberta with building trades but across the country as is now occurring with the Trudeau Liberal government's back-to-work legislation attacking the rights of postal workers.

Labour laws must, on principle, recognize and uphold workers' rights, including the basic right to organize themselves into collectives and engage in actions in defence of terms of employment acceptable to themselves. Sections 184-191 in the Alberta Labour Relations Code attacking the rights of building trades workers must be repealed immediately as a matter of principle and no excuse or delay can be tolerated.

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Anti-Worker Labour Laws Must Be Repealed


"Unstack the Deck" rally in Edmonton, April 30, 2017.

Workers in the building trades in Alberta are criminalized through a number of provisions in the labour laws designed to negate the right to collective bargaining and impose wages and working conditions to which the workers have not given their consent. The impact of the laws is profound. Many workers are falsely represented by phony company unions that have either been organized and recognized by the employers themselves or put in place with votes of as few as two workers.

The existing labour law imposes a system of collective bargaining on the building trades unions designed to block workers from taking strike action to defend their rights. The requirements for a strike vote are such that there has not been a single "legal" strike in the building trades since the laws were enacted in 1988. These laws are a frontal attack on the right of workers to decide collectively on wages and conditions of work acceptable to them, which reflect the skills and value of the capacity to work they sell to their employers and reproduce through their work-time.

According to the Alberta government, the construction industry in Alberta had an annual gross income of $94 billion in 2014 or contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of new value of around $35 billion. Construction workers create this new social wealth, which includes their own reproduced-value and added-value expropriated by their employers.

The oligarchs who control the sector constantly conspire to degrade workers' terms of employment, amongst other things reducing the claim of workers on the new value they produce, which consists of their reproduced-value as their individual wages and social programs available to all. The reduction of reproduced-value as wages and social programs increases the added-value the oligarchs expropriate from new value for their private interests as company profit, interest profit and rent profit.

Since the labour laws were enacted in 1988, production in the oil sands has grown from 0.33 million barrels/day (b/d) in 1989 to 3.28 million b/d in 2018, without a single strike by any union involved in the construction of the oil sands, upgraders, refineries, petrochemical plants, office towers or any other aspect of the energy industry or any other industry in Alberta.

Big oil and the global contractors demand that governments criminalize workers fighting to defend their rights, and governments have responded with laws that make it virtually impossible to carry out a legal strike in defence of workers' interests. Many workers point out that the laws enacted in 1988 and since that time have led to a serious deterioration in their working conditions. For example, all the workers working under Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) agreements have no defined-benefit pension plans, only precarious savings plans, which provide no security in retirement.

Governments and labour boards make pious claims how the existing labour laws bring stability to the construction sector and therefore are in "everyone's" interests. But what is meant by stability and everyone? Certainly not stability for the workers. They have no security going from boom to bust and often unemployment while frequently enduring long hours on jobs away from home and loved ones. Even seniority has become meaningless in some trades as contractors demand the right to decide whom they hire, and the law facilitates this with deal-making using phony company unions.

Construction workers confront some of the most difficult and dangerous working conditions of any industry. Daily, they face injury and death, often working outside in the bitter cold in conditions that are harmful to their health and well-being.

Construction workers build everything from schools and hospitals, bridges, office towers, refineries and oil sands plants creating enormous new social wealth much of which is expropriated as added-value to serve the private interests of the financial oligarchy, those who own and control the socialized economy either through ownership of companies or debt.

The oligarchs and their political representatives define instability narrowly, as whatever they consider an impediment to the success of their projects and the amount of added-value they can expropriate from the socialized economy. The oligarchs possess an outdated outlook of class privilege that views Canadian natural resources and the socialized economy, including working people, as a target of exploitation without restrictions. The 1988 labour laws were enacted according to this anti-social outlook and in response to the demand of the oligarchs to criminalize anything that threatens what they consider their entitlement and right to expropriate the largest amount possible from the new value workers produce. Any disruption to this right and privilege of the oligarchs, such as the strike struggle of postal workers for terms of employment to solve problems they face at the workplace, should be declared illegal and subjected to harsh and even crippling penalties.

The starting or reference point for these anti-worker labour laws is not the conditions of work, terms of employment acceptable to workers ensuring their well-being, but the private interests of those who make fortunes on the backs of the workers who produce the social wealth. The laws intervene in relations of production on the side of the oligarchs to the detriment of those who do the work. This must change. Anti-social labour laws are unacceptable in modern Canada.

Workers have rights by virtue of being human and the producers of social wealth. The starting or reference point must be the rights of the working people. Labour laws must recognize and uphold workers' rights including the basic right to organize themselves into collectives and engage in actions in defence of terms of employment acceptable to themselves. Alberta working people and their organizations demand that sections 184-191 of the Labour Relations Code be repealed immediately. This repeal is a matter of upholding the rights of the working class.

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Alberta Boilermakers and Operating Engineers
Fight to Overturn Anti-Worker Labour Laws

Boilermakers and Operating Engineers in Alberta have filed a Statement of Claim to overturn sections of the Alberta Labour Relations Code that severely restrict their right to bargain collectively the terms of employment with employers.

The unions filed a claim on October 15, seeking a declaration that all or part of sections 184-191 of the Labour Relations Code are unconstitutional and violate the right to freedom of association, making them of no force and effect and inoperative. The unions are also seeking interim relief from the law for current negotiations, as all building trades collective agreements for the construction sector expire April 30, 2019.[1]

Local 955 of the International Union of Operating Engineers and Local 146 of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers say the Code creates a situation where they cannot negotiate the provisions of their own collective agreements. Christopher Flett, business manager of Local 955 explains, "We want to determine our own wages, benefits and working conditions, nothing more and nothing less. In effect, the provisions of the Code prevent us from negotiating on the concerns of our members. This has to change."

Hugh MacDonald, Business Manager of Local 146 adds, "Our contracts expire next April. It's crucial for us that the denial of our constitutional rights is on the table before we have to go through this sham of a bargaining process again."

In their legal challenge, the unions point out that not a single "lawful" strike in the construction sector has occurred in Alberta since 1988, because the law makes a strike in any individual building trades sector virtually impossible. In 2007, workers shut down many major projects in an "illegal" strike to protest the draconian laws. In 2010, the unions attempted to work within alternative arrangements known as "framework bargaining." Both unions have withdrawn from the framework agreement for this round of bargaining, concluding that it did not enhance their ability to bargain collectively on behalf of their members.

Provisions of Sections 184-191 of the Anti-Worker
Alberta Labour Relations Code

Sections 184-191 establish a collective bargaining procedure that lumps different building trades unions into bargaining groups to negotiate their contracts, normally into four groups. The designation into groups is based on which trades would be on a jobsite at the same or similar time.

A legal strike requires a supervised vote. No supervised vote can take place until 60 per cent of the unions within a bargaining group apply for a strike vote. The remaining unions within the group must also participate in the strike vote, irrespective of whether they have decided to take a strike vote. Even a union which has reached a tentative agreement but has not yet completed its ratification process must participate in the strike vote. The strike vote will not be counted until every union has completed their strike vote and all employer objections have been ruled on.

When the votes are finally counted, at least 60 per cent of the unions in the group must have a majority of votes in favour of a strike. At least 60 per cent of the members who vote from a consolidated group must vote in favour of a strike. If the strike vote were to succeed under these onerous conditions, all unions must issue strike notice at the same time, depriving each union of the ability to use its collective strength at a time of its choosing.

Once 75 per cent of a group has settled their collective agreements, the remaining unions without collective agreements must cease bargaining and submit to compulsory arbitration. A strike (or lockout) in progress is deemed terminated, and no union is permitted to go on strike. Because of significant difference in the size of the unions, a strike can be declared illegal while more than 50 per cent of the workers in the general construction sector have not negotiated and ratified a collective agreement. Unions that have not reached an agreement are then forced into arbitration.

The Minister of Labour has the sole power to appoint a Construction Industry Disputes Resolution Tribunal and to determine its composition. The unions have no say about the composition of the tribunal or its processes. These tribunals generally make awards based on the "industry standard" of agreements signed, but generally award very limited or no retroactivity. This means that in addition to being denied the right to defend their rights through collective action, the workers who did not reach an agreement are further penalized by being denied retroactive pay.

The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) submission on the labour law review states, "This means that the building trades union that made an effort to collectively bargain terms and conditions unique to their trade and membership can be totally undermined by the Registered Employer Organization simply delaying the bargaining of those unique terms. Then, once 75 per cent of the other trades settle their collective agreements, the industry pattern is imposed on that union and its members."

Note

 1. The Statement of Claim to declare sections 184-191 of the Labour Relations Code unconstitutional and seeking interim relief from the law for current negotiations can be found here.

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