What's Left: 2015-05-03 Volume 10

| May 04, 2015


The Americas’ section of the Public Services International met this past week in Mexico City. Hundreds of union delegates representing the entire continental region – from Canada to Chile – discussed a wide range of issues including free trade, attacks on union rights, climate change, retirement security, tax justice and corruption.


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“FEATURE”

Unions from North and South America meet to discuss common battles

The Americas’ section of the Public Services International met this past week in Mexico City. Hundreds of union delegates representing the entire continental region – from Canada to Chile – discussed a wide range of issues including free trade, attacks on union rights, climate change, retirement security, tax justice and corruption. There were also meetings of new and younger union leadership to talk about union renewal and organizing. The struggle against neoliberal policies and attacks on unions and their right to organize and strike are common across most countries in the hemisphere. However, attendees were left with reason for optimism as several countries from South America have won significant victories by helping to elect socialist governments that recognize workers rights.

Labour rights continue to be a struggle across the region and around the world. Guatemala has become one of the most dangerous countries to be an unionist with 58 organizers being murdered with impunity. In Peru, collective bargaining rights for public sector workers have been all but eliminated as a way to limit union campaigns against privatization.

The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) being negotiated in secret on the sidelines of the World Trade Organisation was of particular concern to public sector unions at the meeting. TiSA threatens to undermine public services and promote a complete lock-in of any privatization of services.

On the Canadian front, those at the meeting condemned the Conservative government’s Bill C-51 and its focus on linking disruption of economic infrastructure with terrorism.

More: 11th PSI Inter-American Regional Conference (IAMRECON)

Facebook: IAMRECON 2015

“CANADA”

Federal Conservatives fail basic math, can’t balance budget, stick it to workers and the environment

If you’ve heard that the latest federal conservative budget was balanced, it’s wrong. The budget released last week continued this government’s attack on public services, workers’ rights and health care. Over \$35 billion was cut from health care with negotiations between federal public sector unions being further undermined. Rightly called the tax-cut budget for the wealthy, it was proclaimed a “balanced budget” with an economic slight of hand by stealing money from the workers Employment Insurance fund, a fire sale of General Motor’s bailout-linked stocks, and dipping into the contingency fund (which is supposed to be reserved for crises, not partisan budgets).

Also hidden in the pages of the budget were changes bringing our laws more inline with the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement. The legislation will extend the copyright monopoly to 70 years, increase innovation killing intellectual property rights, and reduce support for Canadian agriculture.

The negative impacts of this budget are already being felt with GM announcing that a thousand high-paying jobs will be transferred to Mexico. GM was just waiting for the government to sell its stock and influence over the company.

Some impacts of the previous Conservative budget are just now coming into play, with 16 lakes slated to be “reclassified” as toxic dump sites for use by mining companies.

More: The five most outrageous things about the Conservative budget

More: Federal Budget 2015: CUPE’s summary and analysis

More: Canada creates auto sector jobs in US and Mexico as 1,000 GM workers laid off in Canada

More: Lakes across Canada face being turned into mine dump sites

Alberta could have an NDP government by Wednesday morning

This week’s election in Alberta could mean big gains or losses for Workers depending on whether the NDP can keep riding the most recent “orange wave” and form government. The Party has become an appealing choice for working people disturbed by Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservatives and the endless opportunism (and outrageous claims) of the far-right Wild Rose. The right-wing parties have pledged to continue cutting public services instead of risking the disapproval of oil company executives with modest tax increases. This, in turn, seems to have won them the disapproval of those who actually matter, the people of Alberta. Even if the NDP don’t form government, it looks as though they are posed to win lots of seats in a major breakthrough.

More: Alberta NDP poised for historic breakthrough, new poll suggests

Celebrating another small (Supreme Court) victory

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear an appeal of Alberta’s energy regulators for allegedly violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and intimidating land owners harmed by fracking.

More: Landmark Fracking Case Gets a Supreme Court Hearing

Austerity continues in Ontario budget

Austerity, public sector cuts and privatization best describe the Ontario ~Conservative~ Liberal government’s budget.

The budget cuts social assistance, freezes education spending, increases debt for university and college students, will cause layoffs of public sector workers, privatize electricity transmission and distribution, sell off public assets, provide tax cuts to Finance Capital and subsidizes private businesses. The government also stated it will ignore the Auditor General’s reports that show Public-Private Partnerships rip-off taxpayers to the tune of hundreds of millions dollars every year and announced that almost all new infrastructure projects will be P3s.

More: Keep Hydro Public

More: Ontario government’s budget delivers only more austerity for social services

More: Ontario’s winter roads ‘less safe’ since privatization: auditor

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Fight for abortion access continues in New Brunswick

The New Brunswick Media Coop have a great summary of the fight for accessible abortion services in New Brunswick following the closure of the Morgentaler Clinic a year ago.

More: Abortion access in New Brunswick: one year later

Workers in Nova Scotia battle another anti-worker bill

Doesn’t Nova Scotia have other enemies? The Liberal government has tabled yet another bill that attacks workers. Bill 100 limits the right to strike and collectively bargain while turning universities into profit-driven corporations. It also bans unionized university employees from striking. The bill seeks to consolidate and specialize programs in specific universities, undermining the academic integrity of the province’s universities. Workers and students have already announced they will be launching a campaign to strike and defend quality post-secondary education in their province.

More: Nova Scotia universities law panned as ‘heavy-handed’

“ELSEWHERE”

Baltimore heats up in battle for racial justice

Baltimore has seen historical levels of social unrest these past few weeks with even street gangs organizing with local activists to protect their communities from police brutality. The death of black youth Freddie Gray while in police custody has sparked an outpour of frustration, anger, and public dissent towards the city’s police force and institutionalized racism. These developments are only the most recent in the ongoing struggle between impoverished racialized communities and the overly white governments, police forces and justice systems that would rather throw everyone in jail than address root causes.

It’s important to note that these incidents are just the latest in what has been unending suffering for this communities. The only reason they have made the media is because of the major social unrest that has been building across America. Curfews and politcal speeches only seek to hide the issue and will do nothing to prevent further deaths.

Jacobin looks at the only way forward: “police immunity and dehumanizing poverty can only coexist for so long. If the future is uncertain, one thing is clear: it is only through resistance and struggle that a new, more just Baltimore will be born.”

More: Why Baltimore Rebelled

More: Black Exhaustion

More: First-hand account of deplorable conditions and rights violations experienced by arrested community members

More: Six police charged over Baltimore death are released on bail

More: American Outcasts: US Prisons And Modern Day Banishment

Contract workers demand respect from America’s biggest corporations

Temporary workers at Microsoft are the latest group of workers to take their employer to task for their lack of access to basic working conditions. These contract workers are uniting to demand better leave provisions and basic protections. Even without a collective agreement, temporary and contract workers can make use of resources at their disposal to shame companies for treating them poorly. Their efforts show that workers, and their unions, need to be creative and original in demonstrating their strength and demanding their piece of the pie.

More: Microsoft’s Unionized Contract Workers Get Aggressive

Results of UK election unsure as parties battle for votes

With traditional election strategies failing for entrenched parties, Thursday will see high-stake elections for workers in the United Kingdom which may result in a minority government. The Conservatives are set to win the majority of seats, but the fractured left might have the chance to unite and take power. It has been a hard go for the UK Labour Party as it’s been outflanked on the left by the Scottish National Party (SNP) – its traditional powerbase – and attacked from the right by the titans of finance capital. The SNP have been consistently winning over Labour support with their old-school social democratic program while, on the right, Goldman Sachs released an aggressive note to clients stoking fear of a Labour government. Most of finance capital and their newspapers quickly followed suit.

Following the revelations of mass government spying by the US, UK, and Canadian governments and growing corporate powers over intellectual property, digital rights have never been so important. As such, Ars Technica has developed a primer for the UK election, summing up the major parties’ positions on issues of privacy, freedom of speech, open standards, open government and copyright.

More: Britain set to face weeks of political paralysis after election poll

More: The Ars Technica guide to digital policy in the UK’s 2015 general election

Germany caught spying for US

While Germany’s government was quick to condemn America’s massive and intrusive spying programs, it has just been revealed that the German government was actually actively working with the US government to spy on European companies at the request of the National Security Agency. This is just the latest reminder of how critical it is that real oversight and transparency are brought to government intelligence agencies.

More: Germany Is Accused of Helping N.S.A. Spy on European Allies

What’s Left This Week?** Slower rolls

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