Nov 082016

On Tuesday, October 25, Nova Scotia teachers employed at elementary and secondary public schools voted 96% to strike. They are not the first group of trade unionists to challenge the austerity agenda of the current Liberal provincial government, but a strike would bring matters to a head. And teachers’  determination to achieve justice demands the support of the Nova Scotia trade union movement and, indeed, all of us. Other sets of public sector negotiations are pending and we draw inspiration from the example of the teachers.  They will be in an legal position to start their first ever strike on December 3, 2016.

Not known for militancy, the teachers voted not once, but twice (the second time by 70%) to reject a bargaining settlement negotiated by their union with the province. As in other instances of public service bargaining over the past decade, this is a revolt from below, from the members, spurring the union leadership on. Teachers are justifiably furious for several reasons.

  • The conditions of teaching have become more difficult. Class size, class composition, and non-teaching duties have all changed, making greater demands on teachers. They spend more and more of their time accounting for teaching and less and less time actually teaching. Despite the scoldings of Premier McNeil and Education Minister Karen Casey, teachers point to arbitrary orders from above and changes without consultation.
  • To add insult to injury, with a proposal of wage increases of 0%, 0%, 1%, 1.5% and .5% over four years, the government is effectively demanding a cut of 4% in real wages (if inflation continues to run at about 1.5% per year.)
  • On top of that, the government is proposing to freeze accumulation of credits in the long service award for present teachers and eliminate it entirely for new teachers. Not only does that amount to a further real pay cut for teachers, but introduces a toxic intergenerational split among them. Far from a mere perk, the long service award was a negotiated deferment of wages, which has saved the government millions of dollars over the years.
  • The government, faced with a legal dilemma, has introduced a desperate raft of legislation that is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court of Canada has given Charter protection to the right to bargain collectively and the right to strike. Governments can remove the right to strike ONLY if they substitute binding, unfettered third-party arbitration. But the government wants neither a strike nor arbitration. So it has served an illegal ultimatum on the teachers. And the teachers are pushing back.
  • As the saying goes: Teachers’ working conditions are our children’s learning conditions. For years now, governments in Nova Scotia, Canada and North America have been disparaging teachers and other valuable public workers in order to lower taxes to the wealthy and devalue public programs for the rest of us.

Is this austerity necessary? Behind the rhetoric lie the facts: In the past thirty years, Nova Scotia has become over 65% richer in GDP per capita. We should have more money, not less, to pay workers decently and provide good public services and programs. But over the same period, the median real wages of Nova Scotia workers have fallen, and especially those of the lower-paid. And government programs have been cut. Where did the money go? Quite simply, it has gone to the owners of capital, both inside and outside the province.

Having presided over the impoverishment of most workers, the government is now turning on those groups that have managed to (barely) hold their own in compensation – credentialed workers who are unionized, such as teachers, nurses and technologists. The Public Services Sustainability Act (Bill 148) essentially eliminates collective bargaining by legislatively imposing a pay package on workers. This legislation will likely eventually be overturned by the courts, but in the meantime it and similar labour legislation holds a club over the head of the unions and their members.

While the courts can be one venue for contestation, labour law is made in the streets. Only by defying the bully tactics of the government, can teachers and other public sector workers effect real change.

Public-sector labour disputes are a battle for public support as, inevitably, citizens like ourselves and our children must bear the inconvenience of withdrawal of services. But public opinion can cut both ways. Early informal polls reveal that over 85% of the public may be siding with the teachers and less than 9% supporting the government. Already two groups, Students for Teachers and Nova Scotia Parents for Teachers have been formed. In British Columbia, teachers went on strike three times in a decade (one of them illegal) and parent support was strong.

Canadians and Nova Scotians are clearly fed up with austerity politics and the erosion of our public services and realize that the right to strike is an essential part of living in a democratic society.

Nov 062016

Recently, Solidarity Halifax has begun building relationships with organizations outside of Canada and Québec, in particular with the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and Brazil’s Landless Workers Movements (MST).  Yesterday the Landless Workers Movement’s Florestan Fernandes National School (ENFF) outside Sao Paulo, Brazil, was violently stormed by police.  Solidarity Halifax condemns this attack and invites other organizations to join us in signing this statement.

ALBA Social Movements Canada condemns the attacks against Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement

Canada – On the morning of November 4th, 2016, Brazilian military and civilian police used violent force to storm Brazil’s, Landless Workers Movement’s (MST) Florestan Fernandes National School (ENFF) in Guararema, outside of Sao Paulo in Brazil. According to several witnesses, the police stormed their way into the facility by forcing their way through the main gate shooting live bullets, and threatening people.

As a founding member of Via Campesina, the MST has worldwide recognition as an important peasant social movement, with a commitment to the protection of rural communities and workers and the struggle for land reform. The Florestan Fernandes school has been committed to building social consciousness and popular unity for over 10 years.  Hundreds of students are currently studying at the ENFF which is administered by the MST to provide political and socioeconomic education to working class youth and adults from around the world.

The act is clearly a violent action taken by the current illegitimate government to intimidate the MST and their allies, who stand in clear opposition to the administration of Michel Temer, who led the parliamentary coup against elected president Dilma Roussef and took control of the government in August of this year. The attack is part of a broader policy of criminalization of social protest and attacks against the MST.

The campaign of terror against the MST has already left its mark on two other states in Brazil: Parana and Mato Grosso do Sul, where civil police arrested members of the MST calling them members of criminal organizations, despite the Supreme Court of Brazil recognizing the MST as a legitimate organization.

We the undersigned organizations and social movements condemn this violent act against the ENFF and the MST, which stands in stark contrast to the democratic and constitutional rights Brazilians have fought to secure. To organize against an oppressive system is not a crime, it is a responsibility. We express our total solidarity with the MST and demand the appropriate investigations be launched to bring the responsible to justice.  We also ask the international community to join us in solidarity with the largest social movement in the Americas.

América Latina al Día
Circulo Bolivariano Louis Riel
Common Frontiers
DeColonize Now
Idle No More
Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network
Solidarity Halifax
Socialist Project
Students united in representation of Latin. America
The Dawn News – International Newsletter of Popular Struggles


ALBA Movimientos Canadá condena los ataques contra el Movimiento de Trabajadores Sin Tierra de Brasil

Canadá – En la mañana del 4 de noviembre de 2016, el ejército brasileño y la policía civil utilizaron fuerzas violentas para asaltar la Escuela Nacional Florestan Fernandes del Movimiento de los Trabajadores Sin Tierra (MST) en Guararema, fuera de Sao Paulo, Brasil. Según varios testigos, la policía entró en la instalación forzando su paso a través de la puerta principal disparando balas en vivo, y amenazando a la gente.

Como miembro fundador de la Vía Campesina, el MST tiene reconocimiento mundial como un movimiento social campesino importante, con el compromiso de proteger a las comunidades rurales y los trabajadores y la lucha por la reforma agraria. La escuela Florestan Fernandes se ha comprometido a construir la conciencia social y la unidad popular por más de 10 años. Cientos de estudiantes están actualmente estudiando en el ENFF que es administrado por el MST para proporcionar educación política y socioeconómica a la clase trabajadora jóvenes y adultos de todo el mundo.

El acto es claramente una acción violenta del actual gobierno ilegítimo para intimidar al MST y a sus aliados, que se oponen claramente a la administración de Michel Temer, que dirigió el golpe parlamentario contra la presidenta electa Dilma Roussef y tomó el control del gobierno en Agosto de este año. El ataque es parte de una política más amplia de criminalización de las protestas sociales y ataques contra el MST.

La campaña de terror contra el MST ya dejó huella en otros dos estados brasileños: Paraná y Mato Grosso do Sul, donde la policía civil detuvo a miembros del MST llamándolos miembros de organizaciones criminales, a pesar de que el Tribunal Supremo de Brasil reconoció el MST Como una organización legítima.

Las organizaciones y los movimientos sociales abajo firmantes condenamos este violento acto contra el ENFF y el MST, que contrasta fuertemente con los derechos democráticos y constitucionales que los brasileños han luchado para asegurar. Organizar contra un sistema opresivo no es un crimen, es una responsabilidad. Expresamos nuestra total solidaridad con el MST y exigimos que se lleven a cabo las investigaciones apropiadas para llevar a los responsables ante la justicia. También pedimos a la comunidad internacional que se una a nosotros en solidaridad con el mayor movimiento social de las Américas.

América Latina al Día
Circulo Bolivariano Louis Riel
Fronteras comunes
DeColonize ahora
Inactivo no más
Red de Solidaridad de América Latina y el Caribe
Solidaridad Halifax
Proyecto Socialista
Estudiantes unidos en representación de America Latína
The Dawn News – Boletín Internacional de Luchas Populares

Nov 022016

On November 2nd, 2016, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS-FCÉÉ), their partners and students across Canada will take to the streets as part of the Student Day of Action. The Day of Action is part of the ongoing fight to reduce economic and social barriers to post secondary education and to oppose the increased cost of tuition in Canada. Solidarity Halifax supports students and the CFS-FCÉÉ in this important struggle.

According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, tuition has more than doubled from 1994 to 2015, increasing on average from $3,260 to $6,780 in real terms. In consequence, students across the country will owe the federal government a combined $19 billion (an average of $28,000) by the end of 2016. This debt load is a crushing burden for recent graduates.

Accessible education is a corner stone of democracy that reduces inequality and strengthens our society. What’s more, is that having a tuition free post-secondary system is completely affordable. As you can see in the list below, countries with far fewer financial resources than Canada have made university and college a financially viable option to their entire population. This is a matter of deciding whether or not we want to eliminate tuition, rather than a question of whether or not we can.

Countries with no tuition:


1.     Argentina 

2.     Brazil

3.     Cuba

4.     Denmark

5.     Ecuador

6.     Finland

7.     Germany

8.     Iceland

9.     Norway

10.   Sweden

11.   Venezuela


Countries with nominal fees for Post secondary education


1.     Austria

2.     Belgium

3.     France

4.     Luxembourg

5.     Spain

6.     Switzerland