• June 9, 2014 7:35 AM

Steelworkers Ask Again - Where Have You Been Kathleen Wynne?

TORONTO, June 9, 2014 /CNW/ - Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne must explain why she has ignored pleas for eight weeks to defend Ontario workers, particularly youth, from attacks by a U.S.-based multinational.

A campaign launched in April resulted in 1,200 letters being sent to Wynne, asking her to support Toronto workers forced on strike nine months ago by Crown Holdings, one of the world's largest manufacturers of food and beverage cans.

The striking factory workers and their union, the United Steelworkers (USW), are asking why Wynne has ignored the messages for the last eight weeks and what, if anything, she intends to do for the workers.

"This issue is all about the future for Ontario workers, especially our young people. We think it is unconscionable that Premier Wynne never picked up a phone, never replied in writing, or even acknowledged that she received these pleas," said Marty Warren, the USW's Ontario Director.

"Why hasn't Kathleen Wynne responded? Why hasn't Kathleen Wynne acted?" Warren asked.

The letter-writing campaign to Wynne was launched in light of Crown Holdings' union-busting tactics at its Toronto plant, where 124 employees have been on the picket line since September 2013.

Crown Holdings has refused to negotiate with the USW after the company's last offer to end the strike was turned down in March by a vote 117 to 1.  The offer was rejected because the company gave few assurances that workers could return to their jobs even after ratifying a new agreement. The USW has made numerous efforts to restart negotiations which have been rebuffed by management.

"Instead of trying to settle the labour dispute, Crown Holdings forced our members to vote on an outrageous and unprecedented agreement in which they might not get their jobs back, and Kathleen Wynne has not lifted a finger to help," said USW National Director Ken Neumann.

"Ontario needs a premier who will stand on the side of Ontario workers and not on the side of multinational corporations," Neumann said. "We know it will not be Tim Hudak, and Kathleen Wynne has demonstrated she doesn't care either, which leaves only one alternative for working people."

Crown Holdings provoked the labour dispute with unwarranted demands for deep concessions, including a permanent two-tier wage scale for young workers who would be relegated to wage levels that were in place 28 years ago.

Crown Holdings demanded the concessions after doubling its profits and giving its Toronto workers an award as the company's top plant in North America. The U.S.-based corporation has recruited replacement workers to try to operate the Toronto plant and break the strike.

The 1,200 letters sent to Wynne this spring asked the premier to contact the Crown Holdings CEO and request that the company cease its attacks on workers and negotiate a fair settlement.

"If Crown is successful in creating its own version of a low-wage Ontario, what's to stop other profitable multinational employers from doing the same?" the letter asked Wynne.

"Our members are standing up for the next generation of workers in Ontario, but it seems they can't count on the support of the premier of this province, as long as that premier is Kathleen Wynne," Warren said.

The USW believes Crown Holdings has put its customer base at risk and is launching a second major escalation of its campaign, which can be found at www.takebacksnomore.ca

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information: Marty Warren, USW Ontario Director, 416-243-8792; Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951; Joe Drexler, USW Strategic Campaigns, 416-544-6009, 416-434-7907, jdrexler@usw.ca; Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca