Sunday, July 26, 2009

The following item from the Sudbury Star came to Molly's attention via the strike support blog Fair Deal Now set up by the USWs who are on strike in Ontario against Vale Inco. The only disturbing part of this event is how Jack Layton managed to make it a partisan political event. It has to be expected I guess. The chances of an NDP federal government in Canada are, of course, remote beyond imagining, but should such an unlikely event ever occur there is little doubt that labour would find a NDP in power far less of a friend than they might imagine now.

Feds must 'stand up for North's resources':
RALLY: Jack Layton's message for Sudbury

It started out as a rally for laid-off Xstrata Nickel workers and striking Steelworkers, but it turned into a get Tony Clement event attended by more than 500 people.

Many in the crowd hoisted signs bearing the Industry minister's face crossed out with a large red X and bearing slogans deriding him for his remarks about Sudbury and Vale Inco last week.

The rally was planned before Clement told The Sudbury Star that Sudbury faced becoming the Valley of Death if Companhia Vale do Rio Doce had not purchased Inco Ltd. in 2006. (Ahh, those loose Conservative lips. One imagines that Clements will have to spend at least three days in Sneaky Stevie's Chamber of Torture for accidentally saying what all the Conservatives actually think. Apparently, after the thumbscrews were applied Clements admitted that his comments were "boneheaded"- See the Fair Deal Now website. Poor Sneaky Stevie; just when he convinced one troglodyte in his party to say nothing another pops up)

Friday, members of Mine Mill Local 598/CAW, among the almost 700 who lost their jobs with Xstrata in February, marched alongside USW Local 6500 members who took to the picket line July 13.

The labour event began with rousing speeches from New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton and USW international president Leo Gerard at Copper Cliff's McClelland Arena and moved over to the picket line at Vale Inco's Copper Cliff smelter.

One theme was solidarity, regardless of one's sex, race, age or union affiliation. The other was how the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has let Sudburians down by allowing resources to be sold to foreign companies and not making them keep their promises.
Layton warned Canadians to pay attention to what is happening in Sudbury.

"We see time and time again, and all too often, these foreign multinationals come in and with the permission of the government, buy up Canadian companies and then begin to throw people out of work. They did it with softwood industry," said Layton.

He took aim at Clement for his comments about Sudbury.

"When you have a representative of the Government of Canada insulting the people of the North, it's not a good day. We say it's time for him to take it back and say he is sorry to the people of Northern Ontario."

Layton called on Harper to get rid of Clement, "and put someone in who will stand up" for Canada.

"But I've got to tell you," said Layton. "I'm not holding my breath." He urged the crowd to vote against the Conservatives and "throw the bums out" in the next federal election.

Layton told the crowd how Clement is "now saying that it (was) a boneheaded remark. That's the first time I've agreed with him in months," said Layton.

"I'll tell you what was boneheaded. It was that ... (these) bone-headed Conservatives signed an agreement that allowed companies to come in and do damage to this part of the country and do damage to this community. That, as far as I'm concerned, is against the law."

Gerard said what Vale Inco is doing by seeking concessions from more than 3,000 maintenance and production workers is "really gutting the standard of living of our community."

The future of Sudbury "rests on our making sure our government stands up for our resources. These resources and the wealth they create should not be flying from here to Switzerland and Brazil. They ought to be spent in this community."

Gerard welcomed members of USW Local 1005 in Hamilton to the rally, as well as members of other unions and Sudburians not associated with the labour movement.

Local 598 president Richard Paquin said the rally was an important one.

Xstrata Nickel, which promised the federal government there would be no layoffs for three years when it purchased Falconbridge, laid off 55% of its workforce in February.

Saturday is the third anniversary of Xstrata's agreement with Investment Canada.

Paquin told the crowd how his union chartered eight buses to visit Clement's constituency office in Huntsville and later met with him on Parliament Hill.

"Unfortunately for us, we weren't able to get what we were looking for. But you know what we did? We opened the door for other companies," said Paquin, referring to the federal government taking U. S. Steel to court.

"Why didn't (Clement) do that for us in Sudbury? Is that because we're here in Northern Ontario? I sure hope not. Everybody should be treated the same."

Patricia Christopher, a teacher at Cyril Varney Public School and a member of the Elementary Teachers' Federation, attended the rally, waving her union flag.

"We think it is important to be supportive of our brothers and sisters in the union cause. Personally I think it's just immoral what's happening here with Vale Inco workers. They certainly have been given a raw deal."

Susan Thornton attended the rally with her brother, Kenny Rouse of Sudbury, and sister Marlene Seymour of Elliot Lake.

Thornton's husband, Glen, was among those laid off at Xstrata in February. Thornton was laid off years ago in Elliot Lake and the family moved to Oshawa, where he was laid off two years ago. They returned to Sudbury and he began working for Xstrata "in the mines because everything was going good two years ago."

Her husband has been called back to work at Xstrata temporarily, said Thornton. "He might be good 'til November, he might not. It's always up in the air, day by day."

Brouse, an underground development miner on strike from Vale Inco's Frood-Stobie Mine, said this strike is different from others he has been on in 20 years with the company.

"There's a lot of greedy people in this world. How much is enough?"

He said he thought his union was in for a long strike. "I think we're both pigheaded, but I'm more pigheaded."

When asked what he thought about Clement and his comments about Vale Inco, Brouse said: "It makes me feel like this guy should be out of a job, not me."

At the Copper Cliff smelter picket line, Paquin president Local 6500 with a cheque for $5,000 from Mine Mill Local 598/CAW. He also warned that his union's contract expires in February and it is likely to follow the same path as Steelworkers.
Molly Postscript:
Rumours that Jack Layton had to be revived after his speech by an emergency medical shipment of white wine and quiche are, of course, just that- rumours.

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