Capitalism wants our old age! Pensions Cut to Keep up Profits!

Municipal employees switch to cash!

Pension plans are a thorn in the side of municipalities. It is an injury they inflicted on themselves by not paying their share of contributions, but mainly because of the financial scam of 2008. To be sure this was a legal scam, but that it is far worse than corruption, since here we talking about billions of dollars. Tony Accurso (1) appears as an angel next to the financial and banking “legal mafia”. The proposed Bill 3, is really the legal way to slash workers’ living conditions; it’s a bill which makes Couillard (2), the "godfather" of Quebec.


All workers in the public and private sector are going through the wringer

Most people believe that it is only the public sector pension plans that are targeted. Couillard, clearly said this, and before him, the Finance Minister in the Marois government (3) before the elections, the ultimatum was issued against the State employees regrouped in the Common Front: “They have to be reasonable”. They quote the Canadian coach of the Montreal ice hockey team, to make it clearer: "You’d better believe it!"

But it is not only the public sector that is being targeted. Ask the employees of Rio Tinto, Mapei, Kronos, Bathium, etc, - on the basis of their conflicts over wages, subcontracts and also pensions. The Liberal government is already planning a bill to cut pension funds of private sector workers and employees in universities.

The battle of the Papier Masson pensioners in the Outaouais (4)

Let’s salute the 175 pensioners Masson mill in the Outaouais leading an epic battle against their employers and the state to protect their pensions. Two years ago, they cut off half of their pension benefits. They did not hold back in expressing their anger:

Street demonstration
Street demonstration
Demonstration in front of the Papier Masson factory 2014
Demonstration in front of the Papier Masson factory 2014

And there have been still more: including demonstrations outside the office of Liberal MP in 2014. They are not alone, their fellow Stadacona workers in Quebec also established picket lines at their factory in 2012.

Everyone now knows of the tangled webs of White Birch. Following the sale of its plants (Papier Masson, Stadacona in Quebec and FF Soucy in Riviere-du-Loup) finally passed its assets to Black Diamond, owned by the son of the owner of White Birch. The Brant family is famous for not meeting its obligations to its pensioners. Loss of their homes, domestic disputes, depression, suicide are the effects of the cuts on workers and their families. The case was the subject of a regulation of the National Assembly in favour of pensioners; but "justice" got involved and a judgment of the Superior Court of Quebec in the Timminco case (5) allowed the company to delay payments. The restructuring of the paper (Solved /AbitibiBowater, Fraser, White Birch) industry has caused cuts in the pension systems, but it does not explain everything. We will see later what the root causes of this attack on our lives are.

Why is that?

We are told that we do not have the means to maintain current conditions. Yet the rich continue to reap the financial profits and live the lives of pashas. Do our politicians have no will? Do they not have the courage? You already know the answer. Politicians eat from the hands of entrepreneurs regardless of the party in power. The bourgeois parties (right and “left”) operate a system of legal bribery to maintain a shaky economy.

No economy on the planet is immune to the consequences of the 2008 crisis. Why? Everyone knows that to function in a capitalist system, a company must make a profit. It is dead in the short term if it does not succeed. In addition, it is necessary that the profit margin continuously progresses. The problem for our capitalist exploiters is that in times of crisis, the rate of profit falls; the rate of profit in manufacturing companies, we do not mean financial. Consequently, many businesses close and as shareholders abandon the less profitable if there is more money to be made, they squeal camp. As a majority of companies are affected, the capitalists and their state apply strong medicine. Their only alternative is to lower the costs of production and service. The only way to do this is to cut working conditions: wages, job cuts and pension plans are the most direct avenues to take to maintain acceptable profit margin. And the state is there to lead by example and help the private sector: it is called austerity. Countries that have implemented austerity intensively are also those where the rate of profit is best maintained. But they are also places where the working class has suffered the most.

What can we do?

We are often in denial. We tell ourselves that it will get better. But every day demonstrates the opposite. It's so heavy this attack against our lives that it's depressing. In general, people have little hope of escape. It takes incredible energy and a moral fiber just to defend, let alone improve our lives. Why do they have all the means to impose this life of slavery? In fact the question is why, since we are more, could we not win a few battles? You have the answer: we are few and badly organized and they are powerful: laws, media, justice, political parties, police, army, etc. Us, we have nothing. The unions? While many of us still believe in them, we must admit that it is a long time since they were up to par, and that’s putting it mildly. It's not enough to keep what we already have. We do not even have a semblance of a political party of the working class! No wonder we feel this burden, this wall of silence that prevents us from organizing and fighting back.

Get organized, what does that mean?

Retired Papier Masson workers fight alone. Bathium strikers fight alone. Municipal employees are grouped, but in one area. Mapei (6) was fighting alone. Kronos was fighting alone. Unions, with their rivalries, isolate us rather than unite us. Yet there is a recent example of solidarity and it was relatively successful. People in higher education and the workers during the strike of 2012 joined in demonstrations and “casserole” demonstrations (7) and made some gains. They managed to break law 78, to throw out the Liberals and end the career of Charest. The key word: class struggle, workers autonomy, anti-capitalism – but never alone again!

The Internationalist Workers' Group
Section of the Internationalist Communist Tendency

(1) Corrupt Montreal businessman now indicted for massive tax fraud and possible corrupt dealings with politicians of all parties.

(2) Philippe Couillard is head of the Liberal Party and has been Premier of Quebec since April 2014

(3) Pauline Marois was the Premier in the government of the Parti Quebecois which held office for only about 18 months until April 2014.

(4) In Western Quebec, main city is Gatineau.

(5) Timminco was a producer of silicon and metals for solar panels which went bankrupt. By spinning out the court case for 3 years they went beyond the time limit to be liable to any creditors (or so the courts ruled). Naturally under capitalist law those who worked for them and should have a pension are at the end of the line of creditors.

(6) For more on Mapei and Kronos see Other articles in French on our site deal with Bathium etc etc

(7) Where entire neigbourhoods joined in demonstrations banging pots and pans in support of the student movement in 2012.

Sunday, September 21, 2014