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Canadian Auto Parts Workers Hold Day of Action

1 November, 2010

The Canadian Auto Workers’ (CAW) Union last week made a strong statement that it will no longer tolerate employers’ efforts to drive down wages and work terms as a continued response to the economic crisis. Under the banner “Auto Parts Workers United: Enough is Enough!” the union on 27 October held 100 lunch-hour workplace demonstrations at worksites in the province of Ontario.

The Day of Action kicked off a CAW campaign for renewed militancy to resist wage cuts, resist slashing of pensions, reject two-tier wage schemes, and to protest any outsourcing of auto-parts production work. The CAW represents 21,000 auto-parts workers, and last week’s demonstrations made it clear that the 40,000 non-union workers in Canada’s auto-supply sector – workers with no one fighting for them – are welcome to participate in the CAW’s campaign.

Angus MacDonald, President of CAW Local 1256, at Oakville Automodular

Accepting “downward pressure to live another day doesn’t work,” CAW President Ken Lewenza told one noon-time rally of 100 workers at Burlington Technologies, a maker of aluminum die castings for the auto industry. “All it is doing is making the race to the bottom a lot quicker.”

The union is pledging to strengthen its defenses by conducting sit-down strikes and plant occupations when plants are endangered, and to create “flying squads” to follow outsourced work, as well as assisting CAW local unions that face contract concessions. In addition, CAW promises that its members will refuse to handle “hot cargo” from plants in which workers are on strike.

Part of the campaign will also be aimed at the provincial government in Ontario. Pressure will be exerted in order to pass fair labour legislation, including the prohibition on use of scabs during strikes and adoption of a law to level the playing field for workers seeking to unionise. “What’s so difficult about putting in a law to allow workers to join a union without reprisal?” asked Lewenza. The union’s out-reach effort to non-union plants will include unorganized workers at giant auto-parts maker Magna.

Some of the plants that witnessed last week’s vocal demonstrations included operations of Lear, Cooper Standard, Ventra Plastics, AG Simpson. Guelph CPK Interiors, Brampton Benteler Automotive, Martinrea Fabco, Ingersoll Autrans, Oakville Automodular, Legatt & Platt, Tora Investments, Reiter Automotive, Woodbridge Foam, Tecumseh Engineering, Integram Seating, and TRW.

The CAW says that 21,000 auto-parts jobs were lost in Canada between the fall of 2008 and the spring of 2009.