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Workers United successful strike repels two-tier contract

15 October, 2014IndustriALL’s affiliate Workers United, Local 2641, ratified a new collective agreement on 12 October to end their strike and reject the disruptive two-tier contract proposed by glass company NGF, in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. The plant produces specialty glass fibers for industrial use.

Two tier contracts, that set in place lower salaries and benefits for future hires, are becoming prevalent in North America as employers see two advantages: firstly to reduce staff costs going forward; and secondly to weaken the union as new hires will resent the previous bargaining unit that voted to maintain their own pay but reduce new hires’.

Staunchly rejecting this attempt by NGF Canada, Workers United Local 2641 were supported by the local unions, students and community in Guelph to stop work at the glass plant. Strike action started on 30 September. Management was forced to the negotiating table on 11 October, after the allies together blocked the company’s attempt to bring in scab workers on 9 and 10 October.

The union and company initiated talks on 11 October and arrived at a tentative agreement. The following day the agreement was discussed, voted and ratified.

The new five-year contract includes wage increases of 1 per cent graduating to 2 per cent in years four and five. An increase in the signing bonus was also included. But most important were the retraction of the two-tier contract and the limiting of part-time student employment to academic holidays.

Susan Taylor, President of Local 2641 stated:

We fought the good fight. We are a small local but we stood up for respect and the next generation of workers. Our local has been invigorated by this experience and by the solidarity and generosity of the labour movement in Guelph, internationally and the community as a whole. We will never be the same. We will never forget.

Workers United gave special thanks to IndustriALL for the quick message of solidarity and support that was read out at the picket line. IndustriALL general secretary Raina also wrote to the general manager of NGF Canada.

Belgian affiliate FGTB Centrale Générale also sent a solidarity message.

NGF is a subsidiary of the Nippon Sheet Glass group, one of the four largest glass multinationals in the world, headquartered in Japan.