Tag Archive: steelworkers


A New Year a New Class

Today the Canadian Labour Congress Ontario summer school kicked off. Many important course’s are underway to build and renew the labour movement in Canada. The participates have come from all around the province and are settled in to the Family Educational center in Port Elgin.

I have the great opportunity to deliver a course in labour technology and website building. Many trade union activist have for years relied on many forms of union communications (i.e posters, face-to-face meets and union newsletters) however this week we are going to spend our time on another form of union organizing, mobilizing members and educating the greater public with the use of web 2.0 tools. The increase in  smart phone technology and ‘soapbox’ options of transforming the message often not heard or seen in most media outlets today opens opportunity’s for labour to reach out.

In fact as brother Derek Blackadder wrote in the June/July Our Times magazine

Canadians now spend more time online than watching TV. Does your unions communications strategy reflect that? We have far more access to the web in getting out our message than we ever had to TV –

Well this week we hope to harness the tools available to our movement to create the better world that is possible.  Our workshop is focused on the content management system of weebly. A simple drop menu of widgets and elements in a system that new users can quickly pick up, get creative and quickly get their word out on the campaigns and struggles their members and workers around the world are currently facing.

As we build, develop and host discussion of broader communications using the web, I’m sure the unions who have invested in labour education will have a greater equipped activist in their member ranks at the end of this week.  Stay tuned for what’s to come.

Again, I want to thank those who have supported building and supporting the work needed in order to bring this program to our members and our movement.

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A Focus on Young Workers and Unions

For young workers, the so-called recovery is meaningless to nonexistent. Most of us have been facing a crisis from the very beginning of our working lives. We’ve been unable to build up even the most meager basis for establishing ourselves. Those of us who have tried to strike out on our own in our late teens or early twenties, the way our parents or grandparents did, have found it nearly impossible.

We’ve been faced with poverty wages and non-union jobs, no benefits and zero job security. Most young people are forced to float from job to job, searching desperately for one that might pay fifty cents or a dollar more per hour. And that is if we get really lucky. A few quick facts will help to show the full scope of the picture.

According to one survey, most workers between the ages of eighteen and thirty make $21,000 or less per year, nowhere near a living wage. As of June, the youth unemployment rate (for workers under twenty) was approximately 47 percent, while the picture was even worse in America, with 55 percent of those under twenty terminally unemployed. If the figures for immigrant youth were included, these statistics would be far, far worse.

Those lucky enough to have gone to college enter the work force under a mountain of debt. More than 31 percent of workers under thirty have no health insurance. Most can barely pay the bills and are often forced to live in communal homes or with their families in order to cover the cost of living.

It is a dismal situation. But the situation is not beyond solving. The first task, and the most pressing, is for the trade unions to do what they are supposed to – organize! The unions must organize so-called casual workers in order to secure better conditions for a new generation of workers, and fight militantly for those conditions to remain once won.

The second task for the trade unions is to greatly expand apprenticeship programs. Most unions have already abandoned these. That was a major error! With large-scale apprenticeship programs, a layer of skilled, highly educated and militant unionists can be brought into being virtually overnight. The jobs these apprentices can enter will be high-wage, full benefit jobs, especially in the skilled trades.

In order to have quality jobs available, the unions must mobilize the rank and file and the unemployed for a massive program of public jobs – millions of union jobs — not the paltry ones created by a so called stimulus package.

Thirdly, the trade unions must open union hiring halls, in order to expedite the unemployed into job openings. These hiring halls must be entirely under union control. That demand goes along with that of a closed shop. Union jobs for union workers, with union control over hiring and firing.

Ultimately, however, even if all these measures are put in place, the problem will not be solved entirely. There is no solution for unemployment under capitalism. This system is incapable of providing full employment in the current world economic situation due to the nature of and limits of the market, which demands a smaller workforce producing more. The only system which can perpetually guarantee full employment is socialism.

Facts about Vale Inco

CASH ON HAND:

Vale has $22 Billion US (cash assets as of 31 March 2009).

PROFITS:

Vale had $13.2 Billion US PROFIT last year (2008 after-tax profit).
Vale has made twice as much profit in 2 years, as Inco made in past 10 years.
Vale Inco collected $4.1 Billion US profit from Ontario two years (2006-2008).
Inco collected $2.2 Billion US in Ontario profits in 10 years (1996-2006).
Vale has collected big profits every year, even during economic recessions.
NICKEL BONUS:

Vale trying to eliminate bonus that pays nothing in hard times (currently $0).
Nickel bonus only applies in conditions of profitability. It’s a way of sharing in good times and protecting company in bad times.
EXECUTIVE PAY:

Six executive officers paid $33 Million US (2008).
Vale executive officers pay increased 121% in last two years.
Payment to Vale Executive Officers (in Millions)

WORKERS’ PAY:

Vale Inco workers make $29 per hour (current average wage).
Vale Inco workers make $0.00 bonus (current hourly bonus).
Vale Inco workers previously made $4.86 bonus (average for past decade).
Labour accounts for less than 1/10th Vale’s costs.
Workers already took cut in income in last six months, because bonus is zero ($0).
Salary for those working thousands of feet below ground that Vale wants to cut: $29 per/hr.
This is very hard, dangerous work that deserves middle-class compensation.
Because of bonus structure, workers currently get zero in bonuses ($0), but Vale wants much further claw-backs, including two-tiered pensions and challenged seniority.
GIANT FOREIGN MULTINATIONAL:

Vale is second largest mining company in the world.
Vale-Inco is second largest private company in Canada.

VALE’S BRAZILIAN OPERATION:

The Brazilian company Vale afford their workers in Brazil significantly weaker rights and protections at work, and paves the way for lower standards of employment at its operations everywhere around the world.

In Vale’s Brazilian operation:

Workers are not “laid off”, they are terminated. (No right to recall.)
Workers have no rights to seniority.
Can immediately terminate “without cause”.
Workers have no right to union representation in the workplace.
Workers have no access to a grievance procedure in a collective agreement.
Workers have no system of arbitration in collective agreements.
Vast majority of workers are not permanent and only on a contract.
The health and safety standards are low.
There is no long term commitment to their workers. A majority of are terminated for one reason or another after 3 to 5 years (if not before).
TAKING ADVANTAGE:

Vale is trying to take advantage of temporary situation to bring in permanent, structural slashing.

“It’s important to realize the recession is a cyclical phenomenon. Recovery will follow the contraction cycle and the long-term outlook for miners and metal remains very promising,” said Vale-Inco CEO.

But his bargaining team acted otherwise.

United steel workers 9511 – Drive Test

Seven hundred and fifty (750) government employees, most of which were full-time with benefits and pension plans. How many Serco DES employees are currently on strike? Well, after imposing a 15% pay cut and taking away their pensions, Serco DES has whittled down its workforce to about five hundred (500). However, they haven’t stopped there. They’ve turned formerly good jobs into marginal employment: 50% of Serco DES employees are now part-time with no benefits, with no guaranteed number of hours each week, and Serco DES is seeking to convert more employees into part-timers.

So out of the original 750 good jobs, 250 have been lost entirely. Of the remaining 500, the company has marginalized 250. That means that only a third of the original jobs remain. So, did the Conservative government succeed in creating a climate for job creation? Clearly not. The privatization of driver testing in Ontario has decimated hundreds of jobs in the province.

Which brings us to the public interest. With hundreds of jobs eliminated and marginalized, the province and the communities where these workers work(ed) have seen a decline in tax revenues. Local economies will have seen a decline proportionate to the decline in spending power of these workers. The ripple effects of job loss and job marginalization in communities are widespread. Is that in the public interest?

In case you missed this story.

OFL delegates unanimously condemn colleges for contract imposition and walking away from talks

TORONTO, Nov. 24 /CNW/ – Delegates attending the Ontario Federation of Labour convention today unanimously condemned the province’s colleges for their failure to bargain in good faith in negotiations with 9,000 faculty members.

“It’s union-busting. Imposing a collective agreement is wrong, and it should stop now. If they want a strike, they will get a strike the likes of which they have never seen before,” Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of OPSEU, told hundreds of cheering delegates.

An emergency resolution, brought forward by OPSEU at the convention, attacked the Colleges for unilaterally imposing terms of employment for community college faculty effective Nov. 18, 2009. It called on Premier Dalton McGuinty and Training, Colleges and University Minister John Milloy to direct College negotiators to get back to the table and negotiate in good faith.

The resolution also stated that the Council, representing management at 24 community colleges in Ontario, had suspended all joint union/management committees, effectively preventing all grievances from going to arbitration.

And it noted that the Council refused to take its imposed terms of employment to faculty members for a vote.

More than 15 speakers took to the floor in support of the resolution, including labour representatives from other OPSEU sectors, Steelworkers, CUPE and other major unions.