Locked-Out Sears Workers Reject Retailer's Draconian Demands

VAUGHAN, ON, June 1 /CNW/ - Sears Canada employees, locked out of their jobs for two months by the highly profitable retail giant, have voted to reject a company contract offer that would decimate their basic collective agreement rights.

Despite posting profits in excess of $240 million in the last two years, Sears walked away from negotiations in March, then locked out 500 warehouse employees in Vaughan on April 1. The employees are members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9537.

After keeping the employees on the picket line for two months, Sears exercised its right under Ontario law to make a one-time request for workers to vote on a company contract offer. The vote, supervised by the Ministry of Labour, was held last Friday, with 85 per cent of workers voting and 60 per cent rejecting the contract proposed by Sears.

"Sears wants to remove many of the articles of the collective agreement that cover the terms and conditions of employment for the workers," said USW Staff Representative Terry Bea.

"The company wants to replace these articles with new language that states the company would have the unilateral right to change terms and conditions of employment as they see fit, when they see fit. It would affect almost every aspect of a worker's employment, including pensions, health-care benefits, vacation entitlement, etc."

Bea, a veteran union negotiator, said he has never seen such a proposal from an employer.

"The bottom line is they are not willing to commit to negotiated terms and conditions in a collective agreement," he said.

The results of Friday's contract vote demonstrate that Sears must engage in meaningful negotiations if it wants its locked-out employees to vote on another offer, said USW District 6 Director Wayne Fraser.

"It's time that Sears listened to their employees and got back to the table to negotiate a real contract, instead of trying to impose unfair demands on workers," Fraser said.

In the meantime, the locked-out workers and the USW will maintain a public campaign seeking consumer support across Canada.

"We will continue to inform the public about how Sears is treating its employees and to ask Canadians not to shop at Sears while they continue to lock out their workers," Fraser said.

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information: For further information: Terry Bea, USW Staff Representative, (905) 629-4991, tbea@usw.ca; Wayne Fraser, USW Director, (416) 243-8792, wfraser@usw.ca

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