TORONTO, June 18, 2015 /CNW/ - The report of a rare Industrial Inquiry Commission confirms that a 21-month strike at a Toronto beer can factory is being prolonged by the illegal behaviour of U.S.-based multinational Crown Holdings, the United Steelworkers (USW) says.
Commissioner Morton Mitchnick, appointed by the Ontario government in March to lead the inquiry and seek a resolution to the protracted dispute between Crown and its Toronto employees, released his final report Wednesday. The report has been submitted to Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn.
"We commend Commissioner Mitchnick's efforts in trying to settle this dispute and we agree with many of the commissioner's findings," said USW Ontario Director Marty Warren.
"We believe the commissioner's report supports what we have been saying for a long time. This dispute continues due to Crown's intransigence, particularly its insistence that many striking employees will not return to work – a position that violates the Ontario Labour Relations Act," Warren said.
"This American company's violation of our labour laws is prolonging the misery of 120 working families in our community."
Crown provoked the strike at its Toronto factory in September 2013 by demanding massive concessions from its employees, members of USW Local 9176. Rather than negotiate a fair settlement over the ensuing 21 months, the company hired replacement workers to operate the plant and try to break the strike.
Prior to provoking the dispute, Crown had recognized its Toronto workers for operating its most productive manufacturing plant in North America.
In his report released Wednesday, Mitchnick acknowledges the USW's contention that the major impediment to resolving the strike is whether striking workers will return to their jobs once a collective agreement is negotiated.
"Crown has prolonged this impasse and has singled out 34 workers for dismissal," Warren said.
In his report, Mitchnick agrees with key USW positions on the issue.
"I agree with the union's submissions that the parties have … gotten to a point where their positions are not far apart – save for the return to work issues," Mitchnick states.
"The only matter really preventing the parties from moving on to a deal is that of return to work," he says.
"The Company has not demonstrated real movement … on the return to work protocol, in particular for what has become known as the '34' … but also on the question of strikers versus replacement workers generally."
Mitchnick also notes that Crown failed to provide "any clear articulation" of its reasons for its position.
The USW has filed an unfair labour practice complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board and Mitchnick has confirmed there is "a real issue to be tried" regarding the union's charge that Crown has violated the Labour Relations Act.
The complaint will be heard by the OLRB on July 7.
Mitchnick also suggests in his report that Crown should move toward the USW's position on other collective bargaining issues.
"The commissioner's report confirms that a settlement can be achieved quickly if Crown Holdings respects our labour laws, abandons its illegal behaviour and engages in real negotiations," Warren said.
"The USW is disappointed that the commissioner has concluded that his mandate in this process precludes him from recommending binding arbitration to achieve a settlement," Warren added.
"Ultimately, the responsibility to mandate binding arbitration rests with Premier Kathleen Wynne and Labour Minister Kevin Flynn. However, the Premier and her government have shamefully rejected this solution and turned their backs on the working families who need their support."
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)