[Marxism] British Columbia Stirke Update

Tim Kennelly tim_gmk at yahoo.ca
Mon May 3 00:55:48 MDT 2004

Here's the latest update on the British Columbia Helathcare Strike.
   Since Saturday the pulbic sector unions in British Columbia have been talking about a general strike in support of the Striking Helth Emplyees Union (HEU) workers.  The decision to support the HEU with a general stirke was the result of the mounting anger that has been building against the BC Liberal government of Gordon Campbell.  In their three years in office, they have launched in an anti-labour campaign by instituting a $6 training wage (workers can be paid $6 an hour rather than $8 for minimum wage until they have worked 500 hours), reinstating secret ballot unionization votes, allowing employers to force workers to sign contracts that violate the labour code, ordering public sector unions back to work, ect.  The attacks against the HEU that I mentioned in my previous post yesterday have been the worst example of the attacks against unions by this government.  Bill 37, the bill passed wedenesday evening to order the HEU back to work, the details of which I also mentioned
 yesterday, is arguably the most regressive piece of legislation instituted by the Gordon Cambell government.  As such, much of the union membership in British columbia is so fed up with the BC government that they now favour a general strike.
    The BC federation of labour does not appear to support a general strike at this juncture, and has thus been in negotiations with the BC government yesterday and today to try and reach an agreement that would see the HEU return to work and avert a general strike.  They have just this evening succeeded in receiving some concessions from the BC government.  these are as follows:
1.  The clause that made the 15% wage cut retroactive to April 1st has been removed.
2.  The government has agreed to suspend further contracting out of HEU jobs, apart from 600 for which contracts have already been tendered (this on top of those jobs that have already been contracted out)
3.  The government has agreed to offer $2,500 in severance pay to those workers whose jobs are contracted out.
    The BC Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair hopes this deal averts a general strike.  Yet even with these concessions by the Bc government the HEU employees are loosing big time.  It is not clear at this point whether other unions will still go on strike in the morning in support of the HEU, however their union leaders are urging them not to (damn them!).  That said, several HEU locals have vowed to stay on the picket lines tomorrow, even if there is not a general strike.  That means that at this hour it is not clear what will happen tomorrow.
    Another complication is that the healthcare employers (the health regions) took the HEU to court today and got a ruling from the BC supreme court that the HEU could be fined up to $430,000 per day if their membership does not return to work.  It is unbclear what effect this will have on the potential for further job action.
    It is my opinion that a general strike is necessary to try and force Gordon Campbell to listen, and to vent the anger that is being felt by working people in BC.
P.S. if anyone doesn't understand the nature of this dispute and why it matters, please refer to my previous post.

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