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The fight against the neoliberal agenda

Carolyn Egan

November 20, 2011

As Greece teeters on the edge of economic collapse, the 99% occupiers have set up tent cities across North America and around the world.

There is a huge employers’ offensive on workers and, as Michael Moore said in Oakland, “this time they have gone too far.” Students, workers and the unemployed have come together and captured the hearts and minds of millions.

An Iraq War veteran has been seriously wounded by police as he took part in the protests in Oakland. This brought out the contradictions that are staring so many Americans in the face. Billions have been spent on unpopular wars and bank bailouts while working people and the poor are losing their homes, their jobs and any hope for the future. The state is coming down hard on protesters but letting the thieves at the top go unscathed.

The unemployment rate has now gone up in Canada with tens of thousands of job losses in the last month, particularly in the manufacturing and construction sectors. Many more have just stopped looking.

Young people are finishing high school, college and university without the possibility of decent employment. That is why the majority are embracing the sentiments of the occupy movement. “We are the 99%” says it all for so many.

In the city of Toronto, the right-wing, millionaire mayor is trying to push though an austerity agenda. Although he has lost support since his election, and a majority in every ward is opposed to the cuts, he and his allies are still moving forward. They are ideologically driven to change the role of the state and gut the social safety net, privatize everything possible, and break the unions.

They had to back off on library and child care closures and the selling of the Toronto Parking Authority because of a huge public outcry. The Executive Committee had requests from over 300 deputants who were almost unanimously opposed to the changes to the city infrastructure. The committee had to meet through the night to ensure that all could be heard.

More recently because of bogus arguments about cost savings, City Council voted to contract out garbage collection west of Yonge Street. The Executive Committee is now looking at selling 10 per cent of Toronto Hydro as well as other public assets. This decision has been put off until the next meeting because even right-wing members are asking questions about the wisdom of selling off profit-making public services to the private sector for short-term gain.

Every city department has been told to cut its budget by 10 per cent, which will mean significant reductions in jobs and services. This will dramatically change the city that so many worked for years to build. The fightback is continuing in unions and neighbourhoods across Toronto.

Large demonstrations that took place on April 9 and September 26 brought thousands to City Hall. Door-to-door campaigns by union members and community meetings across the city mobilized people to fight back.

Municipal unions are telling their members to expect a lockout in the New Year because the city’s proposals on the table would gut their present collective agreements. Unions both public and private are meeting to plan a unified resistance to these attacks.

This spirit of resistance is meshing with the Occupy Toronto protesters who have twice brought their march to Nathan Phillips Square outside City Hall protesting the cuts. Unions have been providing many resources to them. The occupiers marched to the heart of the financial district with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and Steelworkers.

This twining of the organized working class and the young Occupy Toronto protesters challenging capitalism has the potential of creating a movement from below, which can take on the neoliberal assault.

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