May 2006, Volume 11, Number One
HALIFAX (24 May 2006) - STORA presents Nova Scotia with a challenge.
Here is a brutal lockout by a Finnish multinational (Stora Enso) of 650 paper workers (members of Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Local 972) that began during one winter election and continues into another spring election five months later. Railway workers, drivers, wood lot operators, and others as well as the entire social economy of northeastern Nova Scotia are also affected. Yet this collective has not given up their cause. Thousands of people, on March 20 and other times, have cooperatively demonstrated their unity and support for the rights of the paper workers. Donations have come in from mills in Wisconsin, Sweden and Belgium. Yet this - and the mass layoffs in Chéticamp, Glace Bay, Cornwallis - does not register on the electoral agenda of all those forces talking about 'change' and 'working together' - as everything in the province is being made to appear as normal as possible. The working man is left to fend for himself while the empire-building interests of a global giant seems to rule the roost for these spring chickens.
Perhaps this has to do with the fact that Stora is the world's largest forest products monopoly. Together with Scott Maritimes, Bowater and J.D. Irving Ltd., it is one of the four monopolies who have been given extraordinary control over vast swathes of Nova Scotia crown land for industrial clearcutting while being charged lease fees that amount to the cost of a six pack of beer a week.
Get off the highway, go shunpike the logging roads of Inverness County over River Denys Mountain, and see for yourself the normal consequences from the voracious depredations of the wilderness called 'sustainable forestry'.
Stora has over 46,000 employees world wide in Finland, Sweden, Belgium, US, Canada and Asia. Its agenda is clear. Last year it locked out its Finnish workers who resisted demands for concessions. It then cut its work force. Stora also acquired a big German monopoly, a $75m loan to finance its expansion into China in the name of 'sustainable forest management', and reported a 13.8 per cent increase in profits - contrasting to 7.5 per cent annual returns during the 1990s. It is using the fraud of increased power rates, 'outdated' taxation, regulation and labour 'costs' as 'reasons' to cry blue and pressure the workers, the municipality of the Richmond County, and the government to hand over ever and ever greater concessions in the interests of swelling its global profits in the name of 'successful recovery'.
And? First of all, the provincial cabinet by executive decree on May 3 promised Stora $65m over seven years. This was contingent on its mill remaining open, but without a single contingency demanded regarding the well-being of Nova Scotian workers, allegedly in return for Stora giving up a partial lease on crown land already owned by Nova Scotia. The media and some others were taken in by this benign initiative. Their memory is selective.
This buy-back program repeats what Nova Scotia did during the 1930s, on the basis of which, in 1957, it handed over to Stora the long-term, renewable, and transferable 'big lease' of 1 million acres (later 1.7m acres), at a stumpage rate given the Mersey Company (now Bowater) thirty years earlier - not to forget cheap hydro, tax write-offs, logging roads, and forest services.
Second of all, the latest concession by Nova Scotia (along with another $26m to Bowater) only fed the greed of Stora to demand more tribute. After two years of negotiations, and after a month of refusing to negotiate, in the presence of a provincial labour conciliator, Stora just five days later on May 8 demanded a 10 per cent reduction of all wages 'as a must' and 'a show starter' under the pretext of a 'recovery plan'. This ransom is on top of its demands that workers allow contracting out and give up seniority rights, on top of the concessions that the paper workers already made in 2002! The union rightly rejected this demand, not being able even to present its counter-offer to previous proposals. This is tantamount to negotiating in bad faith, and Stora should be prosecuted for violating the labour code for its anti-union practices.
Throughout Canada vicious attacks on single-industry towns are occurring in the context of a crisis in the forest industry. Instead of dealing with the source of the crisis, workers and their communities are being victimized. It is clear that Stora and its sister multinationals have no intention of solving the crisis in the forest sector, as they thrive on it as an excuse to demand concessions from working people, their families, and their single industry towns and to extort money from the public treasury - all to serve the grand competition to build global empires, and for the rich to get even richer. This presents Nova Scotia with a challenge. It is the challenge to reject everything old and moribund which has not worked for Nova Scotia and chart out a new agenda. If the right of Nova Scotians to a livelihood actually exists as a normal human right, and not a privilege, it is the challenge for Nova Scotia to defend its workers as well as its land from such a foreign giant. It is the challenge to restrict monopoly right.
If, for five month, these workers, their families, and their communities can stand the gaff in defence of their rights and well-being, surely Nova Scotia can step up to the plate.
Nova Scotia Environmental Network's All Party Forum on Environment and Health - June 8, 2006
The general public is invited to attend an All Party Forum on Environment and Health on Thursday, June 8 from 7-9pm at the Ondaatje Theatre in the Marion McCain Arts and Social Sciences Building at Dalhousie University, 6135 University Ave.in Halifax. Participating candidates will address and debate critical environmental and health issues and tell Nova Scotians what their party will do if elected. Audience members will also be able to ask the candidates questions! Confirmed participating candidates include: Michele Raymond (New Democratic Party), Francis MacKenzie (Liberal Party), and Amanda Myers (Green Party). The forum is organized by the Nova Scotia Environmental Network.
See www.nsen.ca for political party's responses to a survey on health and environmental issues. Be sure to contrast their words with their deeds.
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