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Vol. 77/No. 22      June 10, 2013

On the Picket Line

UK airport cleaners protest pay cuts

MANCHESTER, England — Airport cleaners set up picket lines at three terminals here May 24, in the second one-day strike action by some 100 UNITE members to protest the elimination of a half hour paid break and the monthly attendance allowance by contractor Mitie.

“We’re striking against a wage cut,” said Karen Whittle, who has worked at the airport for 13 years. “We’re having to work harder since the company cut 11, then 27 jobs.”

The cleaners, whose wages average £6.95 ($10.50) an hour, have lost up to £90 ($136) a month, UNITE regional officer Dave Kennedy said in a union press release.

“More workers have joined the union since the dispute started,” said Bernard Williams, a driver at terminal three who has worked at the airport for 21 years.

—Paul Davies and Oliver Jones

Quebec unionists strike ceramics factory to defend seniority

LAVAL, Quebec — Dozens of members of the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) on strike against international ceramic products manufacturer Mapei rallied May 8 in front of the plant here. May 4 marked the one-year anniversary of the strike by 115 workers to defend seniority and other union gains.

In April workers rejected Mapei’s latest contract offer by 99 percent.

“We’ve offered 20 days flexibility,” local union President Eric Caron said in a phone interview. “But we have to keep seniority. There’s a line we can’t cross.”

“This plant is not efficient,” Mapei Canada Human Resources Director Lysanne Bruneau told the Militant. She said only one other plant in their North American operations is unionized.

Strikers have been picketing hardware outlets with Mapei products.

“We help customers with their parcels and talk to them about the conflict and they’re very receptive,” said striker Jacques Ferland.

A recent court injunction stipulates that pickets must stay 100 meters (290 feet) from store entrances.

“We’ll return and make even more noise than before. They’ll hear us anyway,” said Jean-Marc Tetrault, who has worked in the plant for 24 years.

—Katy LeRougetel

Quebec hotel workers fight to retain union

SAINT-HYACINTHE, Quebec — Some 180 workers have been on strike since Oct. 28 at the Hôtel des Seigneurs here to defend their union and demand wage raises.

On the picket line May 20 strikers said they would not return to work until they have assurances the hotel and nearby convention center will remain union if SilverBirch Hotels and Resorts sells off the complex and regardless of what the facilities are used for.

“We’re set to stay here till next winter if necessary. We’re ready to go all the way through,” said Mélanie Prud’homme, who had just trained for chambermaid when the strike began.

The 180 workers at Hôtel des Seigneurs are the last remaining hotel workers on strike. Some 35 Quebec hotels with 5,500 workers organized by the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) began contract renewal negotiations with the union in the summer of 2012. To date, 27 hotels have signed union contracts.

Montreal’s Maritime Hotel closed March 31. The 60 employees there had been locked out since the end of August 2012, picketing throughout the winter and into the spring.

“You feel better knowing you stood up for yourself,” ex-Maritime worker Carla Romain told the Militant May 21, in reference to their struggle.

—Katy LeRougetel

W. Virginia: Miners protest Patriot Coal union busting

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Some 150 coal miners, supporters and clergy gathered here May 23 to protest Patriot Coal’s campaign to use its bankruptcy filing to tear up union contracts for 2,000 working miners and cancel pensions and health benefits for thousands of retirees and their spouses. A ruling is set for May 29.

The vigil was organized by the United Mine Workers, Religious Leaders for Coalfield Justice and Interfaith Worker Justice. “Many of us left our health buried in the coal mines,” UMWA Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Kane told protesters. “We will not stop this fight until we have won. And we need to stand up for all workers across this country and across the world.”

“People need to remember where the unions came from, workers were dying in these mines,” Charlotte Kinser, the wife of a Patriot Coal miner at Hobet Mine No. 45 in Madison, W.Va., told the Militant. “The economy’s bad today, but workers didn’t have anything then back when the unions were first formed, either. It’s not just about our conditions, but what we’re willing to stand up for.”

— Janet Post

Related articles:
Bosses’ disregard for safety kills 28 miners in Indonesia
Hundreds in Papua province block roads in protest
In coming class battles, ‘keep eyes on the ranks of labor’
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