From the Labor Commission of the CPUSA, updates, information, news, analysis, and organizing materials in solidarity with workers of the world.

Friday, June 13, 2008


By Sam Hammond, Chair of the Central Trade Union Commission, Communist Party of Canada
People's Voice

What does 435 million dollars buy in Ontario? It could build over 3000 affordable homes which would require at least 15,000 appliances and untold building materials and lots of light trucks. Or it could purchase a litany of false promises, deceits, outright lies and subterfuge. What would you choose?

This is exactly the situation in the most severe arrogant sneer yet, delivered to the entire working class of this country, who provided the $435 million, out of hard won wages confiscated as taxes. This was provided to General Motors by the Federal and Ontario corporate providers charading as governments and representatives of the people. $175 million from the Ontario government as a forgivable loan to GM if certain job guarantees and new product investments are made in it’s Oshawa operation, $60 million to universities to do research on what the automotive manufacturers might need in the near future and $200 million by the federal government to stimulate the industry. This was done as late as 2005 and followed years of subsidies from the public purse to try and maintain an auto industry after NAFTA and the giveaway of the Auto Pact. This is the form of government that stated biblically, “taketh away and giveth”. Take it from us and give it to the corporations.

So what is the corporate response to this benevolence? Take the money and run. Run to the low wage anti-union areas of the United States or run to Mexico. Run with the loot and abandon the most efficient plants in the Americas and perhaps the world because the corporate agenda has plans for Canada that do not necessarily include producing here. The Canadian Auto Workers made an historic move with the big three negotiations by opening their agreements early (September was the expiry date) and pre-empting their historic negotiating conference that traditionally allowed massive input into establishing negotiating priorities and strategies. They went in early, starting with Ford and second Chrysler, to bargain agreements without the strike weapon and took concessions to stave off the effects of a massive meltdown of the UAW in the United States. Although there were concessions, loss of holiday time, tiered wages for new hires for three years, and other items they were accepted by the membership except at the Oakville Ford plant where the contract was rejected. Ford is in a hiring position in Oakville ( 500 this fall ) and Chrysler is holding its own but GM is in the most serious trouble because of its policy of staking its future on big heavy gas guzzling SUV’s ( which are not manufactured at the Oshawa plant ).

The GM contract was signed only two weeks ago and contained assurances of job maintenance and the introduction of a new hybrid truck that would keep the plant operating until at least 2011. Let’s go back in recent time. On August 30, 2007 GM says it will cut the third shift at the Oshawa Truck plant and permanently lay off 1200 workers. This in response to the Ontario $275 million injection. In 2008, April 28, GM announces another shift cut with 900 job losses. On June 2, 2008 two weeks after signing the CAW agreement to maintain jobs into 2011, GM announces a pending plant closure for May 2009. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that this corporate contempt is only fuelled by massive gifts of taxpayers money.

The reaction of the CAW from the plant leadership to the President, Buzz Hargrove, was one of shock and anger. The union has properly called it a betrayal and “illegal”. The members of Local 222 reacted immediately by closing down the Corporate Headquarters on June 3. This closure is still in effect and Chris Buckley, president of Local 222 and on the master negotiating team for GM has vowed to keep the headquarters closed indefinitely. On June 7, about 300 workers drove their vehicles in a motorcade around the plant effectively preventing deliveries which caused a 2 hour shutdown of production.

Chris Buckley has expressed the views of his members with observations like, “corporate greed” and “highest level of betrayal”. But the memory of the older CAW, the fighting union, burst out dramatically when he said, “I challenge them to take one part of that plant. That truck will not leave Oshawa. We’ll fight them to the bitter end.”

The shock displayed by the public and the diversified opinions of political pundits and so-called industry experts express in many degrees puzzlement why Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and the Harper Tories seem to be aloof and noncommittal about the fate of another plant, another 2600 jobs. Well why not, they aren’t representing us, they’re representing General Motors and the corporate agenda for Canada. They always have and they always will. What is the use of crying about 2600 assembly jobs and perhaps around 12,000 spin-off jobs when 500,000 have been sold already/ This was completely predictable when NAFTA was signed, when we gave up control of our own energy, when we gave away the Auto Pact. Don’t expect any relief from the boys, both Liberal and Tory, who drew up the blueprints.

The Labour movement in general has not peeped about this. This writer has tried in vain to find any response from the CLC or the major unions. There was a demo against the loss of manufacturing jobs held in Oshawa Sunday June 1st that preceded the GM announcement. It was supported by Steelworkers, CUPW, OPSEU and others including a couple of Labour Councils but these were street level contingents. Where are the Labour leaders? Where is Ken Georgetti who just proclaimed a utopian success at the CLC Convention?

The CAW must not be left to fight this alone. Although they should be in charge, every major union in this country should pledge support, including resources, to this campaign. The CAW emerged fighting at ground zero in Oshawa. They deserve unity and solidarity.

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