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Vol. 76/No. 13      April 2, 2012

On the Picket Line

Quebec plastic workers strike
over wages and unpaid work

SAINT-HYACINTHE, Quebec—On Feb. 27 members of Canadian Auto Workers Local 167 rejected by 98 percent the latest contract offer from VIF Plastics. After efforts to reach a settlement failed, the 90 union members went on strike March 13. Workers picket around the clock.

Among the key issues are “a decent wage increase, after five years without one; eliminating forced overtime; and establishing double-time rates after four hours work on Sunday,” François Levac, the union president at VIF, told the Militant in a phone interview.

Workers are demanding an end to 10-minutes unpaid work they are forced to give the company for handoffs at shift change. On the picket line March 17, one sign read: “Ten minutes—that has to be paid for.”

—Beverly Bernardo

UK hospital workers demand
union recognition and holidays

SWINDON, England—Some 200 hospital workers and supporters marched here March 17 to press their fight for union recognition and holidays and against bosses harassment at Great Western Hospital. The following day workers began a one-week strike.

“Other hospital workers can take up to six weeks holiday,” said housekeeper Jenny Baretto on the picket line.

“Our holidays were reduced a few years ago from 20 to 10 days a year,” added Paulo Fernandez. “Our central demand is for union recognition, but we also want an additional four days holiday for porters and five for housekeepers.” Housekeepers include cleaners and catering workers.

Most of the workers are from Goa, India, and are members of the General, Municipal and Boilermakers Union. “We are constantly given disciplinaries,” Fernandez told a rally in February. “All we want is justice and respect and they are not giving it to us.”

Paul Davies

March 31 Quebec rally will back
locked-out smelter workers

MONTREAL—Locked-out workers at Rio Tinto Alcan’s smelter in Alma, Quebec, are organizing a solidarity rally for March 31. More than 750 members of United Steelworkers Local 9490 have been locked out since Jan. 1.

Rio Tinto Alcan is seeking to increase the number of subcontractors, who receive half the pay and none of the benefits of union members.

To promote the rally, locked-out workers addressed meetings of the Quebec Federation of Labour General Council and its regional councils.

Pierre-André Lebeuf, vice president of the Alma College students association, told the Militant students would be joining the union march.

On April 21 women will take over picketing, Suzie Fournier, a locked-out worker, said by phone. This is in response to comments by Rio Tinto Alcan Vice President Jacques Étienne that the “Wife Influence Factor” would lead women to push the men back to work.

To reserve places on Federation of Labor buses from Montreal for the March 31 action, call (514) 387-3666.

—Katy LeRougetel

British Columbia teachers defend
right to strike, class size limits

VANCOUVER, British Columbia—The provincial government here March 15 imposed a “cooling-off period” that suspends teachers’ right to strike for six months, after 41,000 teachers walked out for three days March 5-7.

The “Education Improvement Act” would impose daily fines of $475 on individual teachers and $1.3 million on the teachers union for striking.

The act also prohibits union-negotiated contracts from including requirements for minimum numbers of teachers or limits on class size and imposes a wage freeze.

Up to 10,000 teachers and their supporters demonstrated against the bill in Victoria March 6 and 2,000 in Vancouver the following day.

“I don’t think any government has the right to say when and how an individual can strike or take a stand,” said Grace Win, a teacher in Surrey.

—Steve Penner and Ned Dmytryshyn

Related articles:
Sugar workers press fight on several fronts
American Crystal maintains lockout of 1,300
12-hour shifts underground ‘not safe,’ say Arizona miners
Deal lets bosses off hook in 2007 Utah mine deaths
Class struggle, union power is answer to ‘right-to-work’
Atlanta rally protests state law attacking freedom of speech
Journey to picket lines of locked-out sugar workers  
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