Workers at the Caterpillar-owned Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) plant in Ontario, Canada were locked out on New Year's Eve when the union contract expired, after they overwhelmingly voted to authorize strike action unless management withdrew drastic concession demands.
CANADA: Four hundred and twenty-five workers were locked out by the locomotive producer after negotiations failed. The company has demanded a more than 50 percent pay cut, the elimination of the current pension plan and lower overtime rates. It also wants to slash health coverage, four paid holidays and the annual vacation, and cut other benefits.
The demanded wage reduction would reduce pay from 35 Canadian dollars to 16.50 dollars per hour. The 650 members of Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) earlier voted by 98 per cent for strike action if the management didn't improve the company's offer.
The EMD plant in London, Ontario, was bought by the transnational earthmoving equipment producer Caterpillar in August 2010 for 820 million US dollars from private investors Greenbriar Equity Group and Berkshire Partners. The two capital companies in turn had bought the EMD plant in 2005 for a quarter of that amount from General Motors when GM was selling its non-auto making businesses. Since then the company has benefited from generous tax breaks in Canada.
Now CAW suspects the company wants to move production to non-union sites.
The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) President Sid Ryan said "We see this fight as being central to the entire labour movement and we are going to dig in our heels and fight Caterpillar with everything we've got."
CAW President Ken Lewenza called the lockout "a serious attack on working people, their families and the greater community of London."
"If (Caterpillar) is not going to do business in Canada, this wage cut is designed as a mechanism to blame workers."
In mid-December, the CAW lodged a formal complaint with the government over Caterpillar's violation of the Investment Canada Act.
A protest rally is scheduled for Saturday, January 21, 2012, in London, Ontario, and further events are planned on January 26 -- when Caterpillar releases its annual report.
Also see a detailed report on the ICEM site here.
This lock-out came at the same as a lock-out of 755 Rio Tinto Alcan smelter workers in Quebec, reported on elwhere on this site.