TORONTO, June 2, 2015 /CNW/ - The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and unions supportive of Ontario's Liberals are calling on Kathleen Wynne's government to show solidarity with Toronto workers targeted by an American corporation's protracted union-busting campaign.
CLC President Hassan Yussuff joined Ontario labour leaders at a news conference Monday to call on the government to mandate binding arbitration to resolve the 21-month strike at the Crown Holdings beer can factory in Toronto. The Toronto and York Region Labour Council organized the news conference at Queen's Park.
Binding arbitration legislation must be passed before the legislature's summer adjournment at week's end, Yussuff said. Otherwise, "this dispute could go on indefinitely. It's simply unacceptable."
Crown Holdings provoked the strike in September 2013 by demanding massive concessions from employees, members of the United Steelworkers (USW). The company has since refused to negotiate a fair settlement, instead hiring replacement workers with a clear intention to break the union.
"It is critical for the government to recognize that the employer continues to resist any attempt to find a settlement because ultimately it's about trying to destroy the union," Yussuff said.
"So we're simply asking the government to do the right thing."
"We appear here today asking the government to apply some justice to this situation," said Pat Dillon, Business Manager of the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario. "It is deplorable, what has taken place."
The Liberal government acted quickly to legislate an end to recent teachers' strikes, Dillon noted. After 21 months, it's time for the Liberals to support the striking Crown workers and their families, he said.
The Wynne government must "end the unacceptable abuse of workers and union-busting in Ontario," said Katha Fortier, Ontario Director of Unifor.
"What is going on when U.S. union-busting like this is happening in Ontario?" Fortier asked.
"Premier Wynne and the Minister of Labour must answer the question, 'Which side are you on?' " said Liz Stuart, second vice-president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association.
"For this government to remain neutral – as has been the position for the last 21 months – is cowardice and shows full support of the employer. Ontarians should expect more from their government," Stuart said.
The province appointed an Industrial Inquiry Commission in March to examine the issues in the labour dispute and seek a resolution. However, Crown Holdings continues to reject a fair settlement, even refusing to guarantee many long-serving employees will be able to return to their jobs in the event of a resolution.
"If Crown succeeds, it means striking workers anywhere in Canada could be permanently replaced by the employer," said Scott Travers, President of the Society of Energy Professionals.
"If the Liberal government does not do something now, this will set a different standard for all of Canada and the entire labour movement," said Tony DePaulo, assistant to the USW's Ontario Director.
In an exchange in the legislature last week with NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, the labour minister committed his government to resolving the dispute, DePaulo noted.
"The minister stood in the legislature and made a commitment to the striking workers that his government 'would get to the bottom of this and we would find a resolution that suits their needs and their desires,' " he said.
"It's time for the minister to keep his word."
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)
For further information: Alexandra Eshelman, USW Strategic Campaigns, 416-544-5968, 416-570-9984, firstname.lastname@example.org; Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, email@example.com