Locked out workers and media mill outside of Electro-Motive Canada in London, Ontario on Friday, Feb. 3, 2102.
Credits: (DEREK RUTTAN/QMI AGENCY)
The United Steelworkers (USW) has slammed the federal and Ontario governments for failing to support working families by allowing Caterpillar to shut down the Electro-Motive plant in London.
The move has left 450 people, who had been locked out since Jan. 1, out of work.
"Stephen Harper's Conservatives and Dalton McGuinty's Liberals are absolutely useless to workers whose livelihoods are threatened by multinational corporations," USW's National Director Ken Neumann said in a statement issued Friday night. "We see it in London today, just as we witnessed the attacks by U.S. Steel on Hamilton and Nanticoke families and by Brazil-based Vale against thousands of Sudbury and Port Colborne families."
Meanwhile, a labour relations expert predicts there will be more standoffs between corporations intent on cutting costs and unions wanting to preserve hard-won wages and benefits.
"I expect there will be some tough bargaining ahead. I expect there will be wage cuts, I expect more plants to move," Mike Moffatt, a professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business specializing in manufacturing and union issues, told QMI Agency.
As for unions, "it will be like trapping an animal in a corner. It will fight for its life. I expect the union movement to get militant."
Moffatt praised the Canadian Auto Workers for not taking a massive pay cut, adding he believes they likely would have cut 10 to 15% off their contract to get a deal -- but not 50%.
Tim Carrie, president of Local 27, representing Electro-Motive workers says, "Now is the time that labour has to stand stronger than they ever have. This is a watershed moment.
"We need to be prepared for these attacks. Our members have shown they can stand strong. We will lose this plant but we have nothing to be ashamed of. We have shown we will not capitulate."
If the union had agreed to cuts, Caterpillar would have wanted further reductions and other industries may look for similar cuts, Carrie said.
But he doubts that will happen, saying "Cat is not the norm. They planned to close it from the beginning. Most businesses feel more of a responsibility."
And people may now demand social responsibility from business, because, "I think in some ways, Caterpillar has woken up the public."
-- with files from Norman De Bono