Maple Leaf Forever (7): Who owns the beef? … and the WalMart of beef

Some of the largest agri-business companies in the world dominate Canadian food production and distribution. TONY SEED

HALIFAX (April 1, 2007) – SOME of the largest agri-business companies in the world dominate Canadian food production and distribution. Three multinational monopolies make most of our cereal. Five retail most of our food. Farmers have just three major tractor manufacturers to choose from – half the number that existed 15 years ago. In Canada, each link of the agri-food chain is dominated by fewer than ten (and often as few as two) multi-billion-dollar multinationals. The single exception is the farm link, where nearly a billion of the world’s farmers operate.

Other global food giants include the likes of Nestlé, Kraft, and ConAgra, which collectively constitute a trillion-dollar industry, second only to the pharmaceutical industry as the largest in the United States.

Non-agricultural food sources, such as fish, are also becoming scarce.

These giants also dominate the so-called US food “aid” programs, the most expensive in the world, to developing countries. According to US figures, the premiums paid to suppliers and shippers raise the cost of food aid by over 100 per cent compared to local purchases. As reported in the New York Times, food delivered by NGOs and the World Food Program (WFP WFP – World Food Programme (United Nations) in 2004 cost only 40 per cent of the U.S. food aid budget. The rest was pocketed by suppliers.

At the same time these molochs subvert national economies to monocultural cash crop production according to the dictates and production/distribution strategies of the American monopoly. In this country, this is a key part of the annexation of Canada into a United States of North American Monopolies and are designed to ensure “food security” for the U.S. Empire as it carries out wars of aggression in its drive for hegemony and domination of the world.

For years, Canada’s largest grain handler, Cargill, has been spearheading the attack to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board and its control of the national market, an assault now being quarterbacked by Harper’s Agricultural Minister Chuck Strahl. (See “The ‘single desk’, hog production and sovereignty,” http://www.shunpiking.com/ol0404/0404-AC-TS-MF-SDhogprod.htm)

The US monopoly Tyson Foods, for whom the Conservatives are promoting a system of indentured labour, is notorious for its criminal strike-breaking of the 2,400 mainly immigrant workers at Lakeside Packers in Alberta. (See Appendix, “Oppose Attacks on Workers’ Rights! No to Indentured Labour!,” Peggy Morton, TML Daily)

Cargill and Tyson enjoys extremely close relations with the Canadian state, which is an instrument of monopolization of agriculture and the food chain, and its annexation by US agribusiness. To illustrate, the Alberta government, despite the criminal, notorious and morally bankrupt history of Tyson Foods in both Canada and the US, gave Tyson $33 million during the BSE crisis.

Cargill’s close relations with the Canadian state are so intimate that one cannot tell where one stops and the other begins.

To illustrate, from 1984 to 1987, under an “executive exchange” program, David Gilmore, a Vice President of Cargill Ltd. (the Canadian subsidiary of Cargill, Inc.), was on loan from Cargill to Agriculture Canada to assist in drafting agricultural policy for the Conservative government. Cargill continued to pay his salary while he occupied an office on the top floor of the Carling Building in Ottawa beside the Deputy Minister of Agriculture. In 1986 another Cargill employee, Phil de Kemp, under the same Executive Exchange Program, went to work in the Grain Marketing Bureau and later became an aide to Grains and Oilseeds Minister (and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board) Charlie Mayer.

Together, these two giant US monopolies now control 80 per cent of Canadian slaughter and packing capacity. The Competition Bureau of Canada itself has noted, in a report by Kevin Grier of the George Morris Centre released in February 2005 that

“four firms are responsible for 85 per cent of Canadian slaughter. These four firms are Better Beef, Guelph, Ontario; Cargill Foods, High River, Alberta; Lakeside Packers, Brooks, Alberta; and XL Foods, in Calgary, Alberta and Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.”

Since then, Cargill has acquired Better Beef.

Not only do Cargill and Tyson monopolize the Canadian beef packing industry, they also dominate the US beef sector with 20.6 per cent and 27.1 per cent respectively, of the American market. [1]

The House of Commons Agriculture Committee noted in a report in April, 2004, that the Alberta and Saskatchewan data confirms the trend to fewer and larger feedlot operations. This report notes that Cargill, Tyson and XL Foods control 95 per cent of the western Canadian packing industry.

“They are also vertically integrated into feedlot operations, with packer-owned cattle procurement averaging 16 per cent of Alberta cattle marketings in the past six years.12 It is claimed that, like Colorado-based packers, Alberta packers are more vertically integrated (in percentage terms) than their Kansas, Nebraska or Texas counterparts to manage the greater seasonal aspect of fed cattle supply in Canada. Partial vertical integration thus provides a more secure and balanced supply of fed cattle to their packing operations throughout the year, thereby lowering their investment risk while realizing greater economies of scale.” [2]

The Commons Committee also questions the degree of “competition” between Canadian-based subsidiaries of US multinationals and their parent companies.

“Cargill Foods and Lakeside Packers Ltd. are subsidiaries of US-based multinational corporations that benefit from considerable market infrastructure in, and information on, the United States, Japan, Mexico and other major meat-importing countries. Being part of this larger network requires their management to use Canadian cattle and beef in ways to complement and coordinate, but not directly compete with, their US-based plants. A competitive advantage is believed to be obtained from this type of corporate organization.” [3]

The dominance of Cargill and Tyson

For the dominant agribusiness corporations in Canada, 2004 was the best year in history; overall, profits hit record highs. Beef packers Cargill and Tyson both had record profits, as did the porker Maple Leaf Foods (which is five times larger than its next competitor, Olymel L.P. of Quebec).

As documented in this series, all three are centralizing production in a few strategic geographic locations, leaving the worker, farmers and consumers in disadvantaged regions such as the Maritimes paying the bill.

Workers are dispossessed from smaller processing facilities – the Maple Leaf’s poultry processing plant in Canarad, shut down in April, 2007; the Moncton-based Hub Meat Packers (380 workers), shut down in 2002; and Maple Leaf’s Larens’ pork processing plant (400 workers) to be shut down in 2007. The plants are being shut down one after the other, farmers are denied economical access to slaughterhouses and squeezed by high import costs of farm machinery, feed, fertilizer and energy, and the consumer is at the mercy of the cartels created between the big packers and the big retail supercentres such as Sobeys and Atlantic Superstores (Loblaws).

At the same time, many of the migrant labourers employed by Tyson as part of its 2,400-member work force in Lakeside hail from the Maritimes and Newfoundland – seduced by the false claims of the “prosperity” and “boom” in Alberta because their own communities have been devastated. Tyseon impoverishes the workers and their families and seeks to seize ever more of the added-value they have created, negating and criminalizing the just claims of the workers who waged a determined strike for their demands in 2006.

In October, 2005 four members of management at Lakeside Packers, including its president and CEO, were charged with dangerous driving in connection with a car crash that injured Doug O’Halloran, president of Local 401 of the United Food and Commercial Workers. O’Halloran, was involved in a three-car collision near the entrance to the plant in Brooks, Alberta where the workers are on strike for their first collective agreement. His car was heavily damaged after he was forced off the road by the Lakeside officials who apparently justified their activities by claiming they were trying to serve O’Halloran with legal documents. Workers called on the RCMP to lay attempted murder charges in the incident, in light of the fact that two cars of Lakeside managers had been pursuing the president of the local when he was forced off the road and injured in the accident.

In the United States, four giant beef-packing outfits – Cargill, ConAgra, Farmland National and Tyson Foods – now process about 85 per cent of beef, up from 20 per cent in the late 1970s, says C. Robert Taylor, an agriculture professor at Auburn University who has testified in class action suits of American cattlemen.

“The mergers and acquisitions [in the meat industry] are more about economic power than economic efficiency,” Prof Taylor told the Wall Street Journal in 2004.

These corporations have succeeded in “creating seed to shelf, dirt to dinner plate, barley to bacon, squeal to meal, field to fork vertically integrated systems,” says the National Farmers Union.

Two corporations – Cargill, the United States’ largest privately owned corporation and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) – also control 75 per cent of the global grain trade. These corporations dominate the agricultural sector of many developing countries. For instance, Nestle controls 80 per cent of milk production in Peru. Cargill Paraguay sells more than 30 per cent of the total production of soy, wheat, and corn of the country.

Cargill Ltd.

Cargill Ltd. is a directly-owned subsidiary of Cargill, the largest privately held corporation. This one U.S. multinational accounts for nearly half of the world’s global grains. Cargill has 97,000 employees spanning 59 countries as part of its nearly 51 billion-dollar annual business.

Cargill possesses an extraordinary monopoly over Canada’s food production and distribution, which it is organizing into one integrated operation from Canada to Mexico, without regard to national sovereignty and food needs of the people:

*  Canada’s second-largest food processor overall, after Altria Group Inc. (Kraft);

*  Canada’s largest grain handler, with 2004 revenue of ¢92.3 million, a profit ratio of 17.6 per cent return on equity (record profit);

*  Canada’s largest meat packer (Tyson Foods Inc. is ranked second, with 2004 revenue of $34.4 millions, a profit ration of 9.39 per cent return on equity (record profit. XL Foods Inc is ranked third; privately held, no figures available;

*  Canada’s largest malter as well as oilseed (canola) crusher, just over twice larger than Archer Daniels Midland Co. (IMC), also US owned, the next largest;

*  Dominates Canada’s nitrogen fertilizer supply, which is converted from natural gas. Four companies control the bulk of Canada’s nitrogen fertilizer production capacity: Agrium, Saskferco, Canadian Fertilizer Ltd., and J. R. Simplot. Together, these four own nearly 94 per cent of urea (nitrogen) production capacity. Some of these corporate entities are, in turn, owned by other transnationals. Saskferco, for instance, is 50 per cent owned by Mosaic (created through the merger of Cargill Crop Nutrition and IMC Global, and the largest in this sector; Saskferco is fourth-largest). Overall, the fertilizer sector is characterized by record profits; and

*  Canada’s largest beef packer.

The farm income crisis is not due to farmer “inefficiencies.” It is  attributable to the dominant market power of a handful of very powerful corporations. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the beef processing sector.

A number of investigations by the House of Commons Agriculture Committee, the Senate Agriculture Committee, the Alberta Auditor General, and the federal Competition Bureau, into allegations of excessive profiteering by Cargill, Tyson, XL Foods and other packing companies have brought to light information about this sector.

The big players in the Canadian beef packing industry are the federally-inspected plants.

As of June 2005, there were 19 federally-inspected beef packers in Canada, ranging in size from a weekly slaughter capacity of 25 head in Lacombe, Alberta, to 22,000 head in Brooks, Alberta.

The two largest packers, Lakeside (Tyson) and Cargill, were ramping up capacity by approximately 4000 head per week, further increasing their dominance over the industry.

XL Foods, with its two plants in Moose Jaw and Calgary, was the third largest player with a combined slaughter capacity of 9,000 head weekly.

Canadian-owned and Guelph-based Better Beef Ltd. of Ontario is currently the fourth-largest packing plant with a capacity of 8,500 weekly, nearly matching XL’s output.

The following table, based on data from 2002, illustrates the location and capacity of these plants.

An Alberta Auditor General’s report, which followed the money trail in the wake of the Alberta government’s BSE-related assistance programs, was released July 27, 2004. The report revealed that three federally-inspected meat packers – Cargill, Tyson Foods (Lakeside) and XL Foods – controlled “at least 90 per cent” of the capacity in the province of Alberta. [4]

These packing corporations also control the extraordinarily-large feedlots which have been developed in Alberta (and to a lesser extent Saskatchewan). The top 20 feedlots with over 1,000 head capacity represent 50 per cent of the total capacity of the province while only representing 10 per cent of the number of feedlots.

Between 1989 and 2002, thanks to generous financial incentives from the Alberta government, the province’s feedlot sector grew rapidly, as did its share of the slaughter capacity for the country. Alberta is the fourth-largest region in North America (behind Texas, Kansas and Nebraska) for cattle inventory, and is also the fourth largest cattle-feeding region. Alberta’s cattle on feed inventory peaked at 1.6 million head in 2000. Between 1989 and 2002, Alberta’s cattle slaughter capacity grew by 81 per cent, and currently the province accounts for 72 per cent of the entire Canadian slaughter industry.[5]

“The direct link between many of these largest feedlots and the dominant packing plants is direct ownership of cattle as well as the purchase of cattle through contracts, similar to the methods used by these same corporations in the United States. Tyson owns Lakeside Feeders, one of the largest feedlots in Alberta, and therefore can source significant numbers of cattle from its own facility. While Cargill does not own feedlots directly, it does own cattle in those feedlots, and therefore can also access its own animals when it is expedient to do so.

“While Cargill does not own feedlots directly, it does own cattle in those feedlots, and therefore can also access its own animals when it is expedient to do so.” [6]

In mid-April, 2005, Cargill announced its purchase of Canadian-owned and Guelph-based Better Beef Ltd. This takeover, combined with Cargill’s expansion of its High River, Alberta plant, gave the company 50 per cent of Canadian beef packing capacity. Further, the acquisition of Better Beef gave the American giant a major share of the Ontario beef slaughter and processing market.

The takeover came at the same time as Cargill was expanding its Alberta packing facilities to handle nearly 5,000 head per day.

Cargill and the US-based “protein giant” Tyson Foods, have concentrated their the base of operations in southern Alberta from which they are rapidly consolidating their monopoly over Canadian agriculture, meat processing and food sovereignty.

According to its corporate website, Cargill now operates:

*  The afore-mentioned plant in High River, AB (employing 1,800 and slaughtering 4,500 head of cattle each day), as well as another in Guelph (employing 1,850 and slaughtering 1,800 head of cattle each day);

*  Sun Valley Foods, a beef patty and chicken processor, operates in four locations:

–  London (a chicken processing plant, employing approximately 800 people and processing 80,000 chickens each day)

–  Jarvis (a chicken hatchery, employing approximately 70 people and hatching 725,000 chicks each week, which are sold to Ontario chicken farmers. Chickens processed in the London plant (see above) are hatched at the Jarvis facility) and Brampton, ON and Spruce Grove, AB, employing approximately 100 people at both locations combined and producing 1 million pounds of beef patties each week (453,592 kgs). “The business is a major supplier of processed chicken and beef to the Canadian food service industry.”;

– In September of 2004, Sun Valley Foods acquired Caravelle Foods, a beef patty processing business.

*  Cargill Foods operates two case-ready, multi-species, meat packaging facilities: one in Toronto, employing 800 employees, occupying 167,000 sq feet producing case-ready pork, ground beef, poultry and sausage products, and a second in Chambly, Quebec.

As farmers disappear and on-farm profit margins narrow or are nonexistent, profits for global food conglomerates soar.

Cargill’s profits rose 131 per cent in a one-year period between 2001 and 2002.

Tyson – the ‘Wal-Mart of meat’

Tyson’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Lakeside Farm Industries, located east of Calgary, includes six operating divisions, a 5,000 acre factory farm, feed, cattle slaughtering and processing. At Lakeside it employs 2,400 workers in a town of 12,ooo.

Tyson Foods Inc., based in Arkansas, is called the “Wal-Mart of meat”, for whom it is the exclusive supplier. According to its website, Tyson Foods is the second-largest food company in the Fortune 500 and the largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork in the world. Overall, Tyson is the largest meat-packing corporation in the world, after acquiring IBP for $4.6 billion in September 2001. It operates 300 facilities in 80 countries.

The extent to which the big packers and food chains have established cartels is illustrated by the relationship between Tyson and Wal-Mart, the largest food retailer in the United States. These monopolies demand not profits but maximum profits.

From 58 plants, Tyson now produces nearly one out of every four pounds of beef, chicken, and pork consumed in the US.

It also has high-ranking US politicians directly and indirectly in its pockets. This was confirmed by the fact that in 1997 the company pleaded guilty to one felony count of illegally giving US Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy gifts and favours, including trips and football tickets. [7]

In turn, the big packers use their market power to buy cattle below the cost of production, a practice that is destroying rural communities, Prof Taylor says. Wal-Mart, then builds a super centre / big box in the same community to sell the meat (marked up with obscene profits) back to farmers, ranchers, and consumers under an exclusive marketing arrangement with Tyson/IBP.

Mike Callicrate, a rancher from Colorado and a vocal critic of monopoly control in the US marketplace, notes:

“Today, we have four packers that control over 80 per cent of the total steer and heifer slaughter in the United States, with IBP (Tyson) being the largest of those packers. IBP is in partnership with Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in America – the largest in the world, in fact – and together they are able to put downward pressure on cattle prices. Being their largest input expense, it’s very important for them to try to reduce their cost of cattle as much as possible.

“They’ve done that through their basic market power, which derives precisely from the fact that they are so large – and there are so few bidders in the market – that they seem to be able to coordinate their effort.

“I mean, when IBP comes out on a Monday or Tuesday to the feed-yards and bids a low price, the other packers know immediately what they’re bidding, and they all bid the same. As a result, we’ve lost about $400 of the producer share of the consumer beef dollar here in the last several years, since these packers have come to the point where they can control these prices.” [8]

With 2004 sales of $26.4 billion, Tyson has approximately 114,000 “Team Members” employed at more than 300 facilities and offices in 26 states and 80 countries – including joint ventures in Panama, China, Ireland and Russia. Tyson de Mexico, is the largest producer of value-added chicken for both retail and food service in Mexico.

Its subsidiary, Tyson Fresh Meats, headquartered in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, has 123 production sites in North America and employs almost 41,000 people.

The inescapable conclusion is that the Canadian livestock sector in general, and the beef packing industry in particular, is heavily dominated by two very large, and very powerful, US-based multinational corporations, Cargill and Tyson.

There is an alternative. The initiative of Maritime beef producers and the Atlantic Co-op to reduce the space for the monopolies to operate in Canada by starting their own independent processing plant, he Atlantic Beef Producers Cooperative in Borden, PEI, is positive. It shows that Canadians do not need to build food sovereignty on the basis of imperialist models but instead need to bring the socialized production under public control. [9] There is an alternative if we reject the logic of the diversionary propaganda that the solution lies with the sphere of consumption, of the purchasing decisions of the individual family, and not with the development of political opposition by the working class, famers and fishermen. Only in this context can “buy local” initiatives, which in many cases are backed by Sobeys and their ilk, have any relevance.

The influence of these few private monopolies of the rich in manipulating production, distribution and prices at all levels and determining the world’s food supply and its direction is immense. This has ominous implications for food sovereignty of the nation and food security of Canada and this region, as well as for all peoples of the world in which hunger has become rampant. These foreign monopolies from Canada must be expelled from Canada.

Endnotes

[1] Oligopoly Watch, “Big Beef”, 4 October 2003, http://www.oligopolywatch.com. The other major players in the US beef packing industry are Swift (46 per cent owned by ConAgra) with 16.1 per cent of the market; Farmland National Beef (7.8 per cent market share), and Smithfield (6.6 per cent market share).

2. House of Commons Ag Committee report, ibid, page 25 – quoting Canfax Weekly Summary, Volume XXXVI, Issue 6, 13 Feburary, 2004, page 1

3. Ibid, page 25, [Emphasis added.] See also Concentration of Agricultural Markets, January 2005, Mary Hendrickson and William Heffernan, Department of Rural Sociology, University of Missouri. http://www.foodcircles.missouri.edu/CRJanuary05.pdf

4. “Report of the Auditor General on the Alberta Government’s BSE-related assistance programs”, Auditor General of Alberta, July 27, 2004, page 13

5. Ibid., page 13.

6. Ibid., page 13.

7. It still faces a civil case by ex-employees charging that the company hired illegal workers to drive down wages. In 2003 Tyson beat federal charges that it had conspired with smugglers to bring illegal workers to its plants.

8. “Breaking the Cattle Trust: A Rancher’s Crusade against a Modern Monopoly”, Acres USA, March, 2002.

9. Tony Seed, “The food cartel: squeezing out the Hub and the co-ops,” Shunpiking Online, May-June 2007,  http://www.shunpiking.com/ol0404/0404-AC-TS-MF-foodcartel.htm

See also, “The farm crisis & corporate profits,” National Farmers Union

* * *

APPENDIX

Oppose attacks on workers’ rights! No to indentured labour!

By PEGGY MORTON

EDMONTON (April 26, 2006) – WITH Alberta “booming” with oil sands and pipeline projects, the monopolies are also working overtime to impose their restructuring of the state so that everything is put in their service. Construction costs of projects planned in Alberta exceed $133 billion, including $84 billion in oil sands plants, $11 billion in infrastructure and $4.6 billion in pipeline construction. These projects are a key part of the annexation of Canada into a United States of North American Monopolies and are designed to ensure “energy security” for the U.S. Empire as it carries out wars of aggression in its drive for hegemony and domination of the world.

The massive plunder, planned and ongoing, requires a large number of workers for construction of the oil sands plants. The monopolies are raising that there is a “labour shortage” and proposing “solutions.” When the monopolies speak of a labour shortage they are saying that they require trained workers while keeping wages down. They want to make sure there is labour peace and uninterrupted construction. They want to keep the upper hand in terms of imposing whatever working conditions they deem necessary, whatever the costs to the health and safety of the workers.

The current reported Canada-wide unemployment rate of 6.4 per cent is already considered by governments, the monopolies and their think tanks to be proof of a “labour shortage.” Their “solutions” involve further restricting and smashing the unions, what they call “labour mobility” and the use of indentured workers without any rights.

In the past, construction of megaprojects in Canada has been carried out by establishing “special project status” which made strikes illegal for the duration of the project. The status was sometimes granted upon request of both the monopolies and unions involved. Syncrude, Hibernia, Churchill Falls, the St. Lawrence Seaway, James Bay and Expo ‘86 are amongst the megaprojects built under these arrangements. The no-strike pact was considered a trade-off for negotiated wages and benefits and a recognition of the social contract and the provision of social programs.

The monopolies are now bringing in new arrangements. They want labour peace but on their terms and without recognizing workers’ rights. In the case of Horizon, a $10.8 billion oil sands project, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. broke with all previous arrangements by making its deal with the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC). CLAC explicitly agreed to the use of workers brought to Canada as “temporary foreign workers.” It also signed an agreement with wages and benefits below previously established union standards.

The Calgary-based Canada West Foundation, which speaks for monopolies based in western Canada, especially the oil and gas monopolies, has called for expansion of the “provincial nominee programs” (PNP) to meet what it calls the shortage of “human capital.” Provincial nominee programs give provinces control over the recruitment and selection of immigrants to their province. These programs were established as pilot projects in 1998, with Alberta signing an agreement in 2002. While the program is described as one in which the province has control, it is actually designed for control by employers. Potential immigrants must have a confirmed job offer. In some provinces, for example British Columbia, only the employer can submit the application on behalf of the prospective immigrant. In other provinces, such as Alberta, the workers can submit an application, but only if they have a job offer from a pre-approved employer.

Applications submitted in this way are fast-tracked and receive priority over other applications. Citizenship and Immigration Canada states that expedited processing means an application through a PNP is usually processed within six months instead of 18-24 months (a hopelessly optimistic rendition of the normal time it takes for most immigrants to become landed).

Furthermore, the program can be used to nominate people now working under temporary foreign worker permits, in which case the application is submitted by the employer.

Lyle Oberg, one of the contenders for leader of the Conservative Party in Alberta, recently stated that he favoured a policy of indentured labour. He commented that it did not make sense to give landed immigrant status to workers brought to Alberta under the “temporary foreign workers program.” He proposes that if found “suitable,” they could be proposed for landed immigrant status under the provincial nominee program.

Oberg is the MLA for Strathmore-Brooks where Lakeside Packers, owned by the notorious U.S. monopoly Tyson Foods, is located. It is not hard to imagine how Oberg sees the program working. A majority of the 2,400 workers at Lakeside are recent immigrants who played an important role in the recent strike at Lakeside. Oberg’s proposal would suit monopolies like Tyson Foods  – hire workers under “temporary foreign worker permits” with landed immigrant status to come later only for the candidates found suitable by the company. Clearly anyone who went on strike would not be “suitable,” nor would any workers who stood up for their rights and the rights of their collective. It is a proposal for a brutal neo-liberal system of indentured labour.

The Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCAC) and Merit Contractors, associations representing contractors who are non-union or who give voluntary recognition to the CLAC, laid out their program titled “Let’s Get to Work”  – echoing the notion of “right to work” which is the byword for smashing unions. Several parts of the program have already been enacted in legislation in Alberta. The proposed change to journeyperson-apprentice ratios has been enacted and allows employers to hire one apprentice for every journeyperson in all trades, including the previously restricted boilermaker, ironworker and pipefitter trades which required three journeypersons for every apprentice.

The proposal made by the PCAC to fast-track applications for temporary foreign workers has also been carried out. In 2004 a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by Human Resources and Social Development Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Alberta Learning. This MOU allows for the approval of applications by companies to bring workers from outside Canada on temporary work permits up to one year in advance. It also allows temporary work permits to be issued for the length of a project instead of one year.

The fact that several of the proposals made by PCAC and Merit have already been enacted into law shows that the rest of their proposals need to be taken very seriously.

PCAC and Merit propose legislative changes to further attack unions. They call for termination of the “hiring hall agreements” in which a union member is considered to have fulfilled job search requirements once registered with the union hiring hall for a number of weeks, dependent on seniority and years of work. PCAC also calls for changes to labour legislation which would make it illegal for unions to sanction members who work non-union or for a company union by losing their place on the dispatch list.

Other proposals call for “mobility of labour” in a United States of North American Monopolies. The “Let’s Get to Work” document points out that refineries and oil facilities in Alberta and the Gulf Coast of the U.S. carry out their “shutdown” operations when large numbers of tradespeople are required for periodic maintenance at different times of the year. They want to be able to move the workers from Canada to the U.S. and vice versa to suit their needs. “Limiting workforce mobility in any way during periods of worker shortages is fundamentally unsound, unduly restricts worker rights and is contrary to Alberta’s interest to see construction projects completed on time and on budget,” the document says. It envisages moving workers around just like drilling rigs are moved from country to country, with more and more workers forced to become migrants.

Within the overall vision that the monopolies  – led by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE)  – are presenting, very specific proposals for indentured labour and control of immigration by the monopolies are being put forward by the organizations that speak for the oil and gas and related construction capitalists. Both Preston Manning and Jim Dinning, considered front-runners in the contest for leadership of the Conservative Party in Alberta, are closely linked with Canada West. Lyle Oberg is also a prominent contender. Their vision is one which recognizes no rights of workers as those who produce the wealth and are entitled to wages and working conditions commensurate with the job they do.

The work of discussing and drawing conclusions about the plans being put in place by the monopolies is very important at this time. The rich are hoping that the working class and people will be so dazzled by the boom and “prosperity” in the province that no one sees the forest for the trees. The schemes to promote indentured labour and create a class of immigrant slaves who can be deported at any time at the pleasure of the company are an attack on the very conception that people have rights by virtue of being human. It is an attack not only on immigrant workers but the entire working class. The working class in both Canada and the U.S. must meet it with the most vigorous resistance, the strongest unity and its own program of practical politics through which it can put forward the alternative for the whole society.

TML Daily, April 26, 2006 – No. 66

http://www.cpcml.ca/Tmld2006/D36066.htm

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Working Class

One response to “Maple Leaf Forever (7): Who owns the beef? … and the WalMart of beef

  1. Pingback: Summit of the Americas: Sharp struggle against OAS-US ‘civil society’ subversion and blackmail | Tony Seed's Weblog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s