Morneau endorsement shows CLC president no leader for class struggle

On October 30, Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff ignited a backlash of anger from many unions and labour activists, after issuing a joint Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Canadian Labour Congress endorsement of Bill Morneau’s candidacy to lead the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Founded in 1948 as a counterpart to NATO, the OECD assisted managing the Marshall Plan to develop market economies in post-war Europe. It was part of launching the Cold War and driving a wedge into the unity of the World Federation of Trade Unions and the creation of the pro-capitalist International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. The ICFTU has morphed into the present day International Trade Union Confederation.

In addition to its membership of 37 countries, the OECD maintains relations with many union bodies who take part in its Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC); the CLC is one of these labour centres. All these relationships and memberships are based on dedication to the so-called “free market economy,” in antagonistic opposition to the “planned economy” of socialist states. The OECD has championed globalization and neoliberalism worldwide and is an important part of the planning for G20 Summits and the World Trade Organization. It is a key instrument for research and application of imperialist policy.

It is quite logical for the anti-labour pro-capitalist Canadian Chamber of Commerce to want Bill Morneau as the next Secretary-General of the OECD. It gives Canadian capital a stronger position in the inter-imperialist jockeying to exploit resources and extract profit from the non-imperialist world. Bill Morneau has established himself, especially while Finance Minister in the Trudeau government, as a loyal servant of the bourgeoisie with just the right mixture of corruption and compliance to the anti-working class agenda of the Liberal Party.

Let’s look at his apprenticeship as a cabinet minister. In 2016 he tabled Bill C-27, taking aim at rewriting the Pension Benefits Standards Act governing pension plans in workplaces under federal jurisdiction – Crown corporations, air and rail transportation, telecommunications and banks. The proposed legislation would allow employers under federal jurisdiction to convert defined benefit pension plans to “target benefit” plans, dumping safe pension plans for risky ones under employer control. Worse still, the bill provides the possibility for retroactive conversion, which would effectively wipe out gains made in collective bargaining for retiree security. By basically redrawing the pension map, Bill C-27 is a major attack on workers and a major gain for employers.

At the time Morneau was drafting his Bill C-27 attack he was receiving stock options from his company Morneau Shepell, which had vested interest in Canadian pensions. He also failed to inform the Canadian Revenue Agency that he owned a mansion in France. When the WE Charity scandal hit the news, Morneau resigned his seat and escaped further parliamentary scrutiny.

Bill C-27 is an unfinished work, but the opposition from the Canadian Labour Congress, unions, seniors, the Communist Party and the NDP has been sharp and unequivocal.

So why did Hassan Yussuff – arbitrarily, without his executive and in defiance of any semblance of democracy – personally commit the CLC to a tripartite joint campaign with the enemies of labour to get Bill Morneau elected to lead the OECD? A week after his actions, Yussuff issued a statement to the members of the CLC Canadian Council saying the endorsement had “generated a lot of discussion on social media” but that most commentators had missed the strategy – and the opportunity – that Morneau’s appointment represents.

Yussuff then went on to give a patronizing lecture on how the bad anti-labour candidates who are also in the running would be much worse and that is vital that the OECD be led by a Secretary-General who understands and accepts the essential role of unions and collective bargaining in sustaining equitable and sustainable economic growth. For Hassan Yussuff, Bill Morneau is that guy, so obviously a joint nomination with the Chamber of Commerce, without approval of the CLC executive, is the way to go.

It is news to me that the object of collective bargaining is to achieve equitable and sustainable economic growth. Really? What happened to the concept of winning and safeguarding benefits, the whole political and economic wellbeing of the members and the fight for social programs and social justice? As if exploiting capital has ever provided – or could provide – equitable and sustainable growth. That requires socialism.

Anyone who has ever been involved in collective bargaining knows that there is a whole different agenda depending on which side of the table you are on. But Yussuff exposes a very important point: a sizeable, perhaps dominant, section of leadership in the Canadian labour movement has this classless “all in together” position of compliance with capital. That is probably why he felt confident in making an un-approved alliance with the Chamber of Commerce. Let’s hope this is a wakeup call for progressives in the labour movement.

What the Canadian working class, indeed the majority of Canadian people, need is a labour leadership pledged to fighting the effects of the pandemic and cyclical recession, mass unemployment, precarious employment, homelessness, neoliberal austerity, militarism and ecological disaster.

We need a class struggle trade union movement that will act as a catalyst for all who fight for a better life and peace and security for our future. Bill Morneau, the Chamber of Commerce, the OECD and international capital are the opposition, not the forces to achieve these goals.

Apparently, neither is Hassan Yussuff.

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