What's Left 2015-10-04 Volume 30

You know it has been a long campaign when the mainstream media is forced to talk about trade deals to have something new to say.

Page content


Trade deals break through as an election issue with TPP

You know it has been a long campaign when the mainstream media is forced to talk about trade deals to have something new to say.

Fair trade campaigners have been trying to get the next generation of free trade contracts like CETA, TiSA and the TPP on the radar for years. While the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been a threat to Canadian jobs since negotiations started, concerns have been ignored by the corporate media. After all, for big business, Canada is a “trading nation” and therefore can only benefit from agreements that reduce our rights to regulate capitalism – never mind the inequality those politicies have brought.

The long-time focus of socialists has been on the excessive limitations these supposed “free” trade deals place on all levels of government. However, the media does not like to talk about issues that do not fit into sound bites and trade agreements are the antithesis of a sound bite subject. In fact, even the current turn of events – sparked by the NDP – is not about the substance of the deals, but is about democracy and the Conservatives’ disregard of it.

The argument is that the Conservatives have no right to sign a massive trade agreement that will limit future governments in the middle of an election campaign. Signing on now is on par with a six year old yelling “keepsies, no backsies” in a game of tag. It just does not wash when establishing law.

There are many reasons to be opposed to TPP including workers’ rights, the environment, regulatory standards, restraints on procurement, intellectual property rights and copyright issues. However, most activists do not mind why we are talking about trade agreements so long as we are talking about them. Maybe the highlight on trade will bring some to understand that other agreements being negotiated all pose a similar threat as the TPP.

\ More: Don’t agree to a TPP deal that threatens Canadian jobs

Recession may not be over for a while

New analysis from RBC shows that the economic doldrums we are experiencing in Canada are not going anywhere soon. RBC’s measure for the economic health of the manufacturing sector slumped to it lowest level ever.

The analysis also shows that the low dollar is not having the historical effect of increasing Canada’s manufactured exports. Some economists on the left have said that this is the result of Canada’s version of the Dutch Disease driven by our over-reliance on oil for economic growth.

The high reliance on service sector jobs is here to stay, which puts more pressure on those who seek to find a way to increase wages and job security of the precariat.

\ More: Report Shows Job Growth Highest in Low Wage Industries

Universities helping to drive inequality

Ontario’s universities are doing their part to drive-up inequality – and not just with increased tuition fees. Many university administrations across the province are picking on unionized janitors as their continued efforts in driving down wages and benefits of workers.

The Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee of the Canadian Union of Public Employees-Ontario had a special meeting this weekend to discuss the union’s campaign to fight against outsourcing decent union jobs for precarious low-paid contract work.

Issues at the front and centre of the discussion were administrators ignoring health and safety concerns, maintaining insufficient staffing levels, reducing their cleanliness standards to the lowest level of “unkempt neglect” and not restocking cleaning supplies. All in the name of cutting costs.

The committee has put campus coalition building, supporting the academic community, the economic impact of losing good jobs and organizing workers on campus as goals of the campaign.

Minimum Wage Increased

The minimum wage was raised in five provinces this week. Such small minimum wage increases have limited impact, but are part of winning the battle against those who say paying workers a decent wage will kill the economy.

While the right-wing ideologues at CFIB continue to whine that any costs for small businesses (such as paying their workers) is an affront to capitalism, the reality is that minimum wage increases boost the economy. Last time minimum wages were increased in BC by \$2.25 the unemployment rate in BC fell.

Economic history shows us this will be the case even when workers are paid a living wage.

More: Fight for \$15

The Harper Record 2008-2015: Book Launch Monday

The updated version of “The Harper Record” will be launched Monday, October 5.

Written by many contributors of the CCPA, it examines the Harper government’s economic, environmental, social, foreign policy and democratic records. In 30 chapters, it outlines all of the changes Canada has gone through in detail relevant to policy-makers, activists, historians, journalists and the public.

If you are in the Ottawa area, come and discuss the content with the editors.

Monday, October 5, 2015 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm 25One Community, 251 Bank Street, 2nd floor, Ottawa

More: The Harper Record 2008-2015: Book Launch and Cinq à Sept



UAW members reject Fiat Chrysler deal

For the first time since the eighties, the 40,000 United Autoworkers rejected a proposed agreement with Fiat Chrysler by 65 per cent. Union members rejected the negotiated agreement as it did not go far enough to reverse previous wage concessions resulting in a two-tiered agreement.

Unionized car companies thought that new workers would not be as militant in demanding their rights as previous generations, but this strategy seems to have backfired. The UAW has not rejected an offer brought by their union since 1982, well before many current worker can remember (or were born).

UAW have signed local agreements with Ford meaning a mass strike against the industry is unlikely. However, the Fiat Chrysler agreement was supposed to be the “pattern” setting agreement giving the UAW a base for agreements with the larger Ford and GM plants.

The tentative deal included large changes to the health insurance system and changes in types of cars built in the US – moving to larger (and more profitable) SUVs.

\ More: UAW Members Widely Reject Fiat Chrysler Contract Deal

Clinton Emails show US still supporting coups in Latin America

It seems that the US was more involved in the June 2009 Honduran coup (pushing then pro-Chavez Manuel Zelaya into exile) than previously admitted. New emails released by the government in the ongoing private email saga engulfing the Clinton campaign show efforts made by the US to stop Zelaya from regaining power.

At the time, world leaders seemed to come together to denounce the 1970’s style overthrow of a democratically elected leader in Latin America. However, the emails show that while the official line of the US was denunciation, efforts were being made to put US military interests in Honduras and the power region ahead of local democracy.

\ More: The Hillary Clinton Emails and the Honduras Coup

Banks ask for more regulation to save them from Uber-like services

Banks are asking for regulators to save them from new technologies that might undermine their profitable business models. In a move that can only be expected from financial organizations that drowned the global economy to save themselves, Banks who act as cheerleaders for anti-worker (and sometimes illegal) actions of companies like Uber are demanding to be saved from the same disruption.

A new report from McKinsey financial consultants shows that emerging technology companies are focused on inserting themselves where money transactions occur – at the cash register. Banks currently get much of their profit from fees charged at points of sale, credit cards and car loans. McKinsey shows those profits could drop 40-60%.

The same pressures on banks are being felt in other industries as costs for services are reduced through insertion of technology that either replace workers or make it easy get around slow-to-evolve regulations. Financial services transactions is where banks gain 22 per cent return compared to just six per cent from holding and investing your money.

\ More: McKinsey warns banks face wipeout in some financial services