Quebec - Vidéotron workers in danger!

Nearly 2200 workers have been locked-out since May 2002 by Vidéotron, a Quebec-based telecommunications company. The conflict comes from the proposed transfer of 664 jobs (which would entail the actual loss of 300 more) to another communications company, Entourage Solutions. Workers transferred would lose over 30% of their present wages and their entire pension plan. This plan stems from the pressure put on the company by the provincial government pension fund, the Caisse de dépôt et placement (a major stockholder) to cut 30 million dollars in expenses annually.

Incredibly, the union, affiliated to the Quebec Federation of Labour (QFL), has reacted by lobbying the Caisse and the government as if they were some innocent bystanders in the whole affair. The QFL has even applauded ex-Premier of Quebec, Lucien Bouchard being nominated as the company's chief-negotiator. Bouchard, a Caisse administrator and a cynical company lawyer is notorious for having imposed a 20% cut to public employee wages in 1982. Meanwhile, the QFL permits its members from another of its affiliated unions to take over (scab) the locked-out workers jobs! Rumours are that a deal is now in the making. Twenty items are said to separate the parties but, even though the union refuses to talk about the negotiations with its own members, union vice-president Mario Ciaburri has conceded that workers can expect a 2.5 hour longer workweek and a significant pay cut. Nothing has been said of the nine workers fired during the lockout. Some of these workers had resorted to industrial sabotage to give some clout to the fight. No wonder they took these risks when you consider that everyday of the lockout, they had to sit by while their own union helped the scabs across the picket lines.

This conflict is unfortunately just one more item in the scandalous history of union sabotage of workers' struggles. It is concrete confirmation that the critique of the unions is not a sectarian and academic position but a life and death issue for our class.


As we go to press, Vidéotron workers have voted to go back to work. As predicted here, they have been forced to accept considerable cutbacks. Though the transfer of jobs to Entourage has been cancelled, at least 270 workers have lost their jobs. The work week has gone up from 35 to 37.5 hours. Considering this, actual wages have been cut from 12.7 to 17.5%. Vacations, sick leaves and holidays have also been slashed. We have no word yet on the back to work protocol, so we don't know what is happening with the nine fired comrades. This is what happens when the union gets its members to believe that the state and the chief company negociator are their friends, when the union supplies the scabs to break the strike and when the union corrals workers into isolated struggles. Time and time again, we witness workers being sold-out by the unions. Time and time again we see leftist organizations willing to marshall workers into support for the unions. Workers need to strike as a class, not follow the road of the union dead-end. Our critique of the unions is not derived from any form of ultra-leftism but stems from our concrete analysis that unions are now an integral part of the bourgeois stateadministrative apparatus. The Vidéotron comrades are only the most recent victims of the union mirage.