Saturday, June 6, 2009

Jay Hill Refuses to Address Unemployed Forestry Workers

Up to now Stephen Harper and his government have ignored the plight of the unemployed, downplaying the significance of massive jobs losses, but demonstrations by the Communications, Energy, Paperworkers (CEP) Union, in Conservative ridings have made him start to take notice.

Most of these sit-ins were in rural areas, where Harper needs to hold onto seats.

However, Jay Hill was the only targeted MP to absolutely refuse to speak to demonstrators. I guess it's not in his secret handbook. Unfortunately, he can't just whip them into shape like he does the Tory caucus.
June 04 2009

Seven sit-ins at rural offices of three MPs and four Ministers – including Canada’s Finance, Treasury, and Inter-Governmental Affairs Ministries – got Stephen Harper’s attention and the question now is will his government listen.

Tomorrow, Communications, Energy, Paperworkers (CEP) Union will stage another manifestation on the crisis facing the forest sector, this time a protest and march that will lead to direct face-to-face talks with the Harper team in Ottawa.

The sit-ins were carried out early last week in an escalating strategy by the CEP to spotlight the mass job and social loss that has overtaken forest-based communities across Canada. CEP is adamant that it is Harper’s responsibility to find the answers. And CEP is ready to work with government to ensure the correct measures are found.

March and Rally Tuesday, June 2

The sit-ins follow mid-May strategy meetings and a protest at AbitibiBowater’s headquarters in Montréal. That protest was directed more at the Harper government than at the bankrupt newsprint company. Last week’s sit-ins at the rural offices of key lawmakers mean this issue will stay focused on rural Canada’s very survival and way-of-life.

Tomorrow, 2 June, at 11:30 in Ottawa, the CEP will rally first at the offices of Natural Resources Minister Lisa Riatt and then march to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s building. They then will meet with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, whose Ontario offices in Whitby-Oshawa were the only CEP-occupied offices not in a rural area.

Six of the seven sit-ins across four of Canada’s provinces produced immediate results. Three sit-ins occurred in rural government offices in Québec, two in British Colombia, and one each in New Brunswick and Ontario. In British Colombia, an MP, Jay Hill, a lead Tory whip in Ottawa from Prince George/Peace River riding, was the only legislator refusing CEP’s invitation to discuss the crisis.

At the other occupation in British Colombia, inside the offices of John Duncan, Vancouver Island North riding, the CEP spokesman for the occupying team, promised, “We plan to keep on making noise and do whatever we have to do” to move this government to action.

The CEP is demanding financial support for the industry at the federal level.
The union is also demanding iron-clad protections on pensions, something that will not be compromised. And CEP will insist tomorrow that the Harper government must enact industry tax relief for companies’ converting black-liquor from the wood-pulp process to energy. That set of tax breaks exists for pulp and paper firms in the US and the CEP insists on a level playing field.

The CEP is also demanding a national summit on the forestry crisis in which key stakeholders will decide on strict guidelines aimed at employment stabilisation and forest regeneration measures. The sit-ins made one targeted politician jump on that idea quickly. In Québec, the Minister for Inter-Governmental Affairs, said she will convene such a summit.

ICEM affiliate CEP calculates that 55,000 jobs in the forestry sector have been lost over the past two years alone. Far more were lost in earlier years. The impact of these good-paying jobs on others in rural communities – when those jobs disappear – is immense and the ripple effects must be multiplied to get the real economic picture.
CBC News

Thousands of unionized forestry workers from across Canada demonstrated in Ottawa on Tuesday, demanding the government do more to support their industry.

They wanted to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper
to discuss solutions to the forestry crisis, including protection of workers' pensions and a plan to keep viable mills operating with the help of federal government loan guarantees and other measures.

"The reason we're here is the forestry industry has taken an awful downfall in northern Ontario," Joseph Lefebvre, a pipe-fitter with AbitibiBowater in Iroquois Falls told CBC News. "We want the Harper government to get off their butts and do something about it."

In the past six years, the industry has lost about 130,000 jobs in Canada.

"Our main demand has always been for the federal government to backstop loans so that viable companies can keep operating, saving jobs and communities," Dave Coles, a spokesman with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, which represents most of the workers, said in a release. "We are not asking for a bailout."

The issue came up in question period, sparking a heated exchange between government ministers and opposition parties.

Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe accused the government of offering "crumbs" to the forestry industry in Quebec while throwing out billions for Ontario's auto industry. He said the government supported GM, because it would cause the loss of thousands of spinoff jobs and crush communities dependent on the automaker, which Duceppe said was exactly the same situation the forestry industry faces.

NDP Leader Jack Layton called on the government to create a strategy for the forestry sector. "What we need is some fair trade for a change. What we need is to stop raw logs from going across the border and creating jobs down there in the states," said Layton.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper replied that the forestry sector is struggling because of changes in the market and a dramatic decline in demand for lumber in the United States.

The government, he said, has taken action by offering assistance to help laid-off workers and communities, as well as increasing financing for the sector through the Business Development Bank of Canada.
(Yes and I guess that's why they have to launch protests)

Workers from as far away as British Columbia and the east coast took part in the protest, which kicked off at Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt's office and wound through the city to the prime minister's office.

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