Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Polly Toynbee looks at how the UK is now treating children in need as investment opportunities to be exploited by investors, rather than people to be assisted. And Mark Taliano writes that privatization is a problem rather than a solution when it comes to providing public services.

- Geoff Leo uncovers still more stories about the abuse of temporary foreign workers. And David Climenhaga looks behind the business lobby's insistence on being granted a low-wage, no-rights pool of disposable foreign labour to replace Canadians who may expect to have lives outside of work rather than devoting their every moment and thought to serving a corporate master:
(W)hen they feel comfortable enough to slip outside their message box, a great many of them disparage their fellow Canadians, especially the young people who traditionally fill food service jobs in this country, because Canadian workers sometimes stand up for their rights and demand fair treatment.

Consider this unguarded commentary by a restaurant owner in my community, St. Albert, Alberta, sympathetically reported by the local bi-weekly.

"After years of struggling to retain full-time staff," the paper's reporter wrote, the local fast-food restaurant operator "resorted to hiring two foreign workers…" The reason, the reporter uncritically explained, was that the restaurateur found Canadian employees didn't show up for work, "showed a lack of commitment" or -- quelle horreur! -- wanted to change their schedules.
(T)alking points notwithstanding, the alleged labour shortage, the claimed skills shortage, the purported high cost of foreign workers and the desire to protect Canadian jobs aren't any of them the real issue -- it's the attitude of Canadian employees.

And remember, the Canadian employees were talking about are people like our own children!

This is a dirty little secret of many small businesses in communities all over Canada. All the government, Chamber of Commerce and trade association talking points in the world can't disguise it: The reason so many Canadian fast food employers love temporary foreign workers is not because Canadians are lousy workers, and certainly not because there's a genuine shortage of Canadians who could do the work, but because TFWs have no rights and are easy to exploit.

Uppity Canadians too readily stand up for their rights.
 - Meanwhile, Jacqueline Nelson reports on the latest protests among fast food workers (this time spanning the globe).

- Rick Salutin rightly slams Tim Hudak's fear-based economic policy. And Josh Mandryk offers some reason for hope in making the case for a stronger fair wage policy on government contracts.

- Finally, Seumas Milne looks at the state of European politics and concludes that a strong populist movement on the left is needed not only for its own sake, but also to ensure that genuine frustrations about the status quo can find some other outlet besides the prejudice and xenophobia of the far right:
(T)he council of ministers and commission will go on calling the shots in cahoots with the corporate interests that wield the real power at the heart of the EU. It is the ever-growing grip of banks and corporations on the Brussels machinery – reflected in the 30,000 lobbyists who feed off its work – that has shaped each new regulation, commission proposal and court ruling.

The result is a system that has given a failed economic model the force of treaty, entrenching deregulation and privatisation while corporate power is privileged over employment and social rights. It's an approach being played out in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal being negotiated between the EU and US – that would allow companies to bypass the courts to enforce business-drafted regulations over elected public authorities.

The result has been an erosion of the modest social protections built into the single market: growing restrictions on public intervention and investment in the name of competition, and the exploitation of migrant workers to undercut existing employees in the name of free movement of services.
So long as Europe's establishment remains locked in this Brussels orthodoxy, the only antidote to the growth of the far right is a populism of the left: one that targets class and corporate power instead of foreigners. In different ways, that has been the approach of Syriza, now leading the polls in Greece, and the Dutch Socialist party, expected to overtake Labour for the first time. Without it the rise of the racists and xenophobes will go on.

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