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Vive New Brunswick

New Brunswick, Canada: By and for New Brunswickers, everyone else take off eh!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Blessing or opportunity lost?

It's been good news for Nackawic, well, relatively good news, well, actually, news that for once isn't shitty. That's of course that two corporations are going to invest in the mill. This means that the town won't die-at least not yet. Not until the new contract with the government expires-we hope. Don't get me wrong or misunderstand me, under no conditions am I saying that any money or incentive going to rural New Brunswickers is not money well spent. Particularly those whose livelihoods are on the line are quite justified in telling everybody to 'shut the hell up for pete's sake until the contract is signed!' For those who want to say 'well, smartass, what would you do', well, here's my answer.

I'm not pretending to be an economist, or a politician, or anything for that matter. But whenever you question something a government does, there's always pinheads that say 'well, smartass, what would you have done different'. My point is that perhaps I wouldn't have done anything different. The trouble is, there's no way of knowing because they won't tell us what they're doing. For all we know it could be Venezualan energy pills all over again!

There was two comments that gave me real pause in this matter. Real cause to think twice about the whole thing. Then, sunday night it all came together for me, and I'll tell you how....but not yet. First, let's go back to the comments. These came, ironically enough, from their union president. The first was during the crisis itself, when many brave and hopeful souls stated that they should 'own' the mill themselves and with the government help turn it into a 'workers co-op'. 'You deluded fools' said the union, abolish such crazy ideas, at least until things become so bad that you have no hopes of implementing them'. This is perfectly reasonable on the part of the union, even Big Man Buzz Hargrove came and said to get rid of such fanciful notions. For the union, as I said, it makes perfect sense-if there's no employer, there's no union. If the workers themselves own and operate the building then there certainly doesn't need to be an intermediary and what would the union do?

From a worker's perspective, desperate to save their job and their town it makes perfect sense. If the government is putting together a 'package' of aid, then why not put that package to work for the people. It can (and is) argued that the 'people' don't have the expertise to run such an operation. For those such people I have two replies...first, you mean to tell me the previous owners did? It must have been that wonderful expertise that shut down the company in the first place. Do some reading on that british company, they have lots of expertise-none of it in the forestry industry. The only way they've stayed in business is buying off governments for concessions and eradicating all surrounding forests. A retarded monkey could do that with economics 101.

There are some who say, 'but what about the millions the new companies are putting into it'. That's an interesting point, but we must remember that the mill was working til the owners shut it down. There is nothing that NEEDS to be done to it, unless we admit that the government has been letting the place go to hell without inspections-which I haven't heard. I've actually heard that most people from Nackawic think it's a pretty decent place to work. The new owners SAY they will spend millions, but that's to convert it. Such conversions, if worker owned, could be slowly implemented as the investmest is there.

But what about international markets, one could ask. These are complex sales decisions on an international scale. Owners, of course, do not make these decisions any more than the owners would if the workers owned the mill. Part of the operating cost is to HIRE people to do that. Now, even if you fed me that most imagination inducing hallucinogen imaginable, getting me to believe that the company wouldn't actually have MORE money and power to hire competent people than if they had a profit margin and a board of directors isn't an easy task. I know boards of directors. And I know what they do because I've studied and read about them, and know people on them. They do nothing. They are either a)actual owners of the companies themselves, or b) people 'of name value' selected to bring in potential investors.

So with such outright savings from the get go, the only real question is about government involvement. Here's where things get dicey, because as of yet we don't know what those government 'goodies' entail. This brings up the other comment, from the local union leader that

".. did caution mill workers that tough times still may lie ahead. During the press conference attended by about 250 people, he warned union members that they will have to be flexible because much will change at the mill if the companies go ahead with plans to convert the operation to process a different grade of pulp."

Now, when your union leader talks like that it's time to fire them or hang them. If your union talks like that then the province and companies must be talking about selling your children to fire the coke ovens, or telling you to expect the cat of nine tails monday morning.

You even had the paper filled with quotes of people who didn't even mind that they lost their pension-so long as they had work. I am no supporter of violence, but let me tell you that if somebody told me the company I worked for had absconded with my pension, I'd be asking for addresses and reading online instructions for molotov cocktails!

So what is in store? The only REAL good news is that an Indian company is involved. While their plant in Atholville has been sited for pollution violations just like any other, they at least don't have the record that canadian companies have. Comparing owner profits with worker salaries we are still one of the cheapest in the G-8. Salaries, of course, were nominally better than most in this 'minimum wage province', and were enough to live quite comfortably, so long as industry knew their days were numbered and they didn't employ too many people.

Now, for those cringing at the lack of perspective here, I will agree that I have hardly any...not at least until last sunday night. Last sunday night puts my whole arguments into perspective. You might say such idealism is crap and not worth the paper to..you know. And you'd be right, I'm just a butthead shooting off his mouth. But wait...

On sunday night on "The passionate Eye" there was a documentary on Argentina, I believe the company was Zanon Ceramics. Argentina is a place that New Brunswick could well be headed towards, it is the poster child of the nationalization of globalization, where unemployment makes New Brunswick look like FULL employment. Not only is the country destitute now, but keep in mind that it was a scant twenty years ago when unionists and other malcontents were 'disappeared' by being taken by their own government and thrown out of airplanes over the ocean.

At Zanon Ceramics, the company simply shut down the plant and moved on to an even more destitute location. So, the workers took over. Not only did they take over but they fought the government every inch of the way. They had protests, they marched, they stormed the factory. Finally, in a political battle they got the rights to the abandoned building. They built it up and by the end of the documentary they had hired 150 more people.

So is there a lesson for us? In a democratic country where, at least, government doesn't abduct you and drop you off in the middle of the bay of fundy, where at least it's possible to have a discussion over whether taxpayer money should be used to pad another companies bottom line or enable workers to create a business that they won't lose to the vagaries of the decision of a board of directors, who have never set foot inside the plant. There is no doubt that these reasons come to play as government 'works out a complex deal' far from our prying eyes that will enable New Brunswickers, once more, to help out big business as they continue to blackmail governments. Is there an option? Perhaps we can call it "the Argentina option".


At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Probably it would have cost lot less to make a deal with the previous owner of the Nackawic mill than the current ones from Quebec and India. At the time Lord will not talk to the previous owner. Story goes that he said screw you I am leaving. By the way former owner is an American and bought it from British owner while ago. Why Lord government is not disclosing how much taxpayers money is involved. Lord is trying to make himself look good but at what cost to taxpayer.

At 3:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The previous owners North American headquarters are in New York, but they are owned by a british multinational.

At 1:18 PM, Blogger djp said...

Well i certainly love the idea of some sort of profit shareing , people owned solution to the mill . I am certainly tired of governments takeing taxes from those who can least afford , and giveing these monies to corporations or capitalist that dont need handouts in the first place . But would this not be percieved as a move toward communism ? Could other corp . or capitalist see this as a crack in thier control and embargo the sale of thier product ? Would such a business be owned by the people or by the government ? , (concidering the people and the government of today are not the same entity ).
Would the red tape of such an adventure be so costly as to doom its existance from the start ? Could Buz hargrove or some other leader of unions , boycott such an adventure ? Even though most unions do not have the best interest of all the people at heart .
Well frankly I could think of a barrel full of questions . And still love the idea of at least some people not haveing to rely on the corruption of capitalism and greed .
The system now , seems to be to work your ass off for a dictated wage , pay all your inflated taxes and bills , and whatever is left , give to an investment for your retirement . Which can be very good , considering you dont get fired , layed off , or had the business closed . and the investment firm dosent steal your retirement money .
Productiveity would probably be higher and stress levels deminished if such a system could work . The feeling of having your future in your own hands instead of the hands of suits who probably never worked and honest day in thiers lives , may feel like some sort of utopia .
I often wonder how many government grants for corp , industries , have been used to modernise with computers and robotronics only to lay off the very people the government said it was trying to help in the first place . I just think that taxing low income earners , to give money to the rich , is getting old and outdated .
I'm for change , capitalism in its truest form is causeing poverty and hardship all over the world . Wars are being justified for the sake of money . Governments are being bought because we allow some to have too much . I feel we will never again have true democracy under the current capitalist system .
I for one , believe conflict of interest rules must be written or rewritten so as monopolizeing corporations cannot control our thoughts through news , radio and tv medias . Which may be off the subject , but not knowing the proper facts could descourage any attempt and any profit shareing plan .

At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice site! » »


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