Jul 302013

Halifax Media Coop

We are tremendously saddened by the news of Burnley “Rocky” Jones’ death. Rocky was a tireless fighter for the achievement of a better, fairer world and his passing marks a great loss to this city and province. While a friend to many of our members, Rocky was also an inspiration to all of us. Indeed, much of the work done at Solidarity Halifax owes a great debt to his astute political and social analysis of the intersections of race and capitalism developed over a lifetime of fighting for justice, and to the examples of success he has set along the way. He will be greatly missed.



To remember him, here are links toward recorded lectures and interviews:

Rocky Jones remembered as champion of Nova Scotia’s black community
Three CTV reports following Rocky’s death, 2013

Rocky Jones speaks about Ujamaa, as well as the current and future state of the Black community in Nova Scotia
From the Ujamaa Dialogue Lounge AGM, June 13, 2013

Racism, Privilege and Power: Rocky Jones on Nova Scotia’s Black history, and present day struggles
Halifax Media Coop, February 13,  2013

Breaking Down Social Barriers
TEDx StJohns Lecture, 2012

Encounter on Urban Environment
This documentary takes a look at how the Halifax/Dartmouth community was stimulated by a week-long session held by a panel of specialists from different fields who met with members of this urban community. Find Rocky addressing the panel at 68:45 mins.
NFB, 1971

Encounter at Kwacha House
This short film presents a lively discussion between black and white youths at the interracial club in Halifax, touching on racial discrimination in employment, housing, education and interpersonal relations.
NFB, 1967

Africville in 1966
CTV W5 Flashback report featuring Rocky Jones.

Encounter at Kwacha House – Halifax by Rex Tasker, National Film Board of Canada

George Elliott Clarke pays tribute to Burnley Rocky Jones

[He] was the greatest of us. He gave and
he gave and he gave. He said, “Take.” And we did
and we did and did. Again and again and again.

He was everything: Father, friend, teacher, leader.
We didn’t always follow. Sometimes we doubted, But
Rocky never doubted us.

The only good thing about death is that it clarifies.
We can now look back and see clearly–clearly: There
was no one who did more to advance all black people
in Canada–at great personal cost–than did Rocky.

There’s a Chair in Black Studies at Dalhousie; there’s
a TYP at Dalhousie and at the University of Toronto; there
are Black and Mi’kmaq professionals–graduates of TYP–all
over Canada; there’s a Human Rights Commission of Nova
Scotia; there are Supreme Court judgments (tacitly in our
favour); and there are dozens, if not hundreds of semi-students,
like me, all over the planet: All of us owe our existence
to Rocky’s example and his many struggles–plural.

He was imperfect, yes. But his imperfections were part of
his charm, his charisma, his joie de vivre. He danced, he
joked. He was always partly a country boy who fished and
hunted. He loved life–and those who do so are not always
constrained by others’ petty sensibilities.

I can’t be eloquent right now. I just remember the man
who was always there–always ‘right on’–always ‘down’ for
the cause, so long as it was ‘righteous,’ and whose analysis
of race–in its socio-economic and political ramifications–
was always compelling. He was a people’s intellectual who
trained insurgent, people’s intellectuals.

He gave his life to make ours better. It is an epic
sacrifice, and his passing calls us to recognize the
necessity for analysis—-to figure out a way forward through
the perpetual chaos of the moment.

The passing of Dr. Burnley ‘Rocky’ Jones is a reveille for
would-be black radicals to continue his work–of speaking
truth to power and calling for the overthrow of iniquitous power….

As a child of the African United Baptist Association of
Nova Scotia, I ask God to bless Rocky’s soul. May we survivors
seek to live up to his spirited example.

Jul 192013

Exploring the tensions between electoral politics and social movements

A Solidarity Halifax event

Thursday, August 8, 6PM
Halifax North Memorial Public Library – 2285 Gottingen Street

>Facebook Event<

In the lead up to the upcoming provincial election, Solidarity Halifax invites you to a panel discussion exploring how the left, and in particular the anti-capitalist left, should orient itself towards electoral politics in these times of crisis.

Roger Rashi, Québec solidaire
Jackie Barkley, Solidarity Halifax

Roger Rashi is a founding member of the political party Québec solidaire and sits on the steering committee of the riding of Mercier which first elected Amir Khadir to the Quebec National Assembly in December 2008 and reelected him with a bigger majority in 2012. The party, which was formed in 2006, currently holds two seats in the Quebec legislature.

Jackie Barkley is a long time activist and member of groups working against racism, poverty and capitalism over a 45 year period – while continuing to work in electoral politics as part of that struggle. She is a founding member of Solidarity Halifax.

The tensions:
While systemic change rarely comes from elections, is there still a need for radicals to participate in electoral politics? Can electoral politics be used to shift public debate toward an anti-capitalist analysis? Are social movements and revolutionary politics fundamentally at odds with electoral politics? Or can political parties or left groups with political wings still be used to grow social movements and our ability to take collective action?


Jul 172013

Solidarity Halifax members and friends get together to produce a video response to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” Enjoy!

Read more about the video at FUCKINGFACTS

Note: Videos and articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.

Jul 092013

Judy and Larry Haiven at Saint Mary's University say that quick legislative fixes do nothing to address the underlying concerns in labour disputes such as the one between Nova Scotia paramedics and the government. (CHRISTIAN LAFORCE / Staff)By Solidarity Halifax members Judy and Larry Haiven.

Judy and Larry Haiven at Saint Mary’s University say that quick legislative fixes do nothing to address the underlying concerns in labour disputes such as the one between Nova Scotia paramedics and the government. (CHRISTIAN LAFORCE / Staff)


What are we to make of the outlawing of a paramedics’ strike in Nova Scotia?

The right of workers to bargain collectively over their terms and conditions of employment has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada as part of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the right to strike is a key element of our democracy recognized in rulings on international covenants that Canada has signed.

Strikes cause disruption and difficulties. This is not a new thing. For the past half-century Canadian governments, both federal and provincial, have wrestled with the dilemma of how to maintain adequate public services while honouring collective bargaining.

Our research shows that the best method for governments to accomplish this is to use as light a legislative touch as possible. Health care, police, fire and emergency services, can and do all withstand the occasional labour disruption much better than critics suggest.

Recently, a very heavy legislative thumb on the scale has been in evidence. Ottawa especially, but also Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia and other provinces have not hesitated to outlaw strikes, both temporarily and permanently. Ottawa has ramped up the influx of temporary foreign workers at 75 per cent of the pay of regular workers. And there has been a weakening of labour and employment laws.

So why is the Nova Scotia NDP government piling on? Unfortunately, it’s all part of an “austerity” mania rampant since the financial crisis of 2007. For the 20 prosperous years before that, workers’ real earnings remained stagnant while corporate profits blossomed. But the crisis has worsened the trend. If it looks like and quacks like an attack on wages and working conditions, then it is an attack.

Paramedics, coming late to professionalization and unionization, have been trying to play catchup for the past 15 years, difificult in an era of wages barely meeting the cost of living.

At the same time, the qualifications required of and the services provided by Nova Scotia paramedics have increased greatly with the advent of collaborative emergency centres.

Seeing the runup to a provincial election and a nominally pro-labour government as their best chance to rectify the situation, the paramedics have used the only instrument in their arsenal – the threat of a strike.

To make things worse, the no-strike legislation for paramedics imposes “final offer arbitration” where union and management each pitch one proposal only and the arbitrator picks the winner, all or nothing. This is the worst possible form (or the best depending on where you stand) of arbitration where a union is trying to achieve important changes. It favours the side putting forward the least ambitious proposal, usually the employer.

Will the no-strike legislation end the predicament? There is plenty of evidence that banning strikes does not prevent them. Indeed, we have shown that Alberta (where health care strikes have been banned permanently for 30 years) has had 15 times more strike activity than Nova Scotia (where such activity is legal, for now at least.)

The paramedics went on strike in 1999, government outlawed the strike and arbitration yielded far less than adequate results. If we keep on pushing these problems out of the way with quick legislative fixes, we will surely pay the price one way or other.

Judy and Larry Haiven teach in the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University.

Originally published on July 8, 2013 in The Chronicle Herald.

Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.

Jul 072013

The Nova Scotia NDP government recalled the House to introduce temporary legislation making it illegal for the 800 paramedics employed by EMC Inc. to strike.

Nova Scotia is one of the only jurisdictions in Canada where strikes in health care have not been permanently banned. This situation is laudable, must be defended and should not be cast aside, even temporarily, whenever a problem of disruption of public services raises its head.

The right to strike is part and parcel of a mature democracy and is enshrined in international covenants to which Canada is party. Strikes, by their very nature, sometimes cause disruption and difficulties. And they are still an essential part of the right to bargain collectively, which has been upheld as a basic right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Seldom mentioned in media reports are two crucial facts which, together, have created the current crisis:

  • In the past decade, the qualifications required of and the services provided by Nova Scotia paramedics have increased greatly with the advent of collaborative emergency centres.
  • At the same time, paramedics (compared to their fellow health care professionals) gained collective bargaining rights quite late and, in an era of austerity, have been playing an unsuccessful game of catch-up with their counterparts, both in Nova Scotia and the rest of the country. It is not surprising that paramedics see the present time as their best chance to rectify that situation. The defined benefit pension plan (which most health care workers already have) alone was not enough to mend the imbalance.

Even arbitration, a notoriously conservative process, will likely not solve the problem. And final-offer arbitration, which will be imposed in this case, is the worst possible form, as it favours the party putting forward the least ambitious proposal.  It is in the employer’s, not the employees’ interest to do so in this case.

Also seldom mentioned is that the employer in this case is a private company. Unlike most of the rest of health care and police and fire services, the private employer must draw a profit.

The government and the people of Nova Scotia must face the situation squarely and not push it away with legislative fixes, which will only drive the problem underground for another day.

For example in 2001, the Nova Scotia Conservative government under John Hamm tried to pass Bill 68, which outlawed a strike by nurses and other professionals in health care. (In a cruel coincidence, the current bill bears the same number.) The government’s plan in 2001 was torpedoed when 75% of 6500 unionized nurses threatened to resign en masse. Even the Medical Society of Nova Scotia (now Doctors Nova Scotia) called Bill 68 “the wrong legislation at the wrong time.” Eventually the government had to withdraw the legislation and come up with a mutually agreeable solution.

It is all too easy, in the short run, for governments to respond to industrial relations problems by banning strikes. But, as we have seen across the country in the past decade and a half, banning strikes will not ensure they don’t happen. Indeed, banning strikes may well invite civil disobedience by workers. And then people who were law-abiding citizens yesterday are criminalized today. A study by Judy and Larry Haiven of Saint Mary’s University shows that in Alberta (which banned health care strikes in 1983) the volume of strikes over the subsequent forty years was fifteen times that of Nova Scotia (where strikes were not illegal.)

In 1999 the NDP government of Saskatchewan made the blunder of banning a strike by registered nurses. Not only did that move freeze collective bargaining, but nurses defied the back-to-work order and continued on strike. The situation caused a catastrophic drop in support for the government, which barely stayed in power. Subsequently the NDP there took a more measured approach to health care strikes, patiently waiting them out. Indeed, Premier Lorne Calvert, commenting on a later strike by allied health professionals, said the following, which the Nova Scotia government could well take to heart:

“This is not the first time health care workers have withdrawn their services, let’s not all panic here…. The vast majority of our health care agreements have come to negotiated settlements, and as a result I believe we’ve had a better work place for our health care providers.”