International Corporations Take on Canadian Workers

Remember the “Good Old Days” when Sudbury Ontario and Port Alberni vied for the highest average income in Canada? Now both towns are under attack by international corporations. Port Alberni was first hit by Weyco and now Catalyst—two US corporations. Sudbury has also been hit over the past few years, but now is under direct attack by Brazilian owned Vale Inco. When the Brazilian conglomerate bought out Cominco Nickel mines, as part of their bid to become the largest mining company in the world, they immediately made their presence felt. Local suppliers were discontinued, managers were blind sided and fired and they decided the unionized workers were making too much money so they forced a strike and announced the hiring of scabs to run the operations. The price for nickel has never been higher, but that is of no concern to the faceless people who took the $4.1 billion profit from Canada over the past 3 years. The workers had an agreement to not take wage increases, but instead to have a “floating wage” based on the price of nickel. That way if nickel price goes up so do the wages, and the wages go back down if nickel prices fall. That seems fair to me. Vale Inco has decided it doesn’t want to share and the workers can just earn the reduced wages without any increases. They increased executive wages by 121% over the same period.
As with any contentious issue this strike is dividing the town. Scabs against workers, brother against brother, neighbour against neighbour. Vale Inco is using the usual tactics claiming poverty while raking in billions in profit that we’ve seen here in Port Alberni.
NAFTA is at least partly responsible for the situation in Sudbury, and other trade agreements are taking a similar toll. All the finger jointing formerly done at Coulson Joint Ventures on Somass property is now done in China. The Somass and Coulson workers are unemployed. Not only do we give China preference in trade, but Canadian taxpayers have subsidized manufacturing in China for years under our Foreign Aid Program. Why is that? The Chinese economy is one of the largest in the world and they get subsidies from Canada? Why? Prime Minister Harper is presently in China trying to make more deals to send our raw materials to them so they can send more manufactured goods back to us and possibly close the few remaining Canadian plants.
If you care about this, contact our MP James Lunney and express your views.
December 4th 2009
Submitted by Jack McLeman
Former president of the PADLC