MONTREAL — Locked-out Shell Canada oil terminal workers in Montreal-East and Gate Gourmet airline caterers in the Dorval suburb here, all members of the Unifor union, are joining together to fight moves by their bosses to roll back decades of gains in wages and working conditions and to undermine their unions.
The Gate Gourmet workers were locked out Nov. 10 and the Shell workers Nov. 27. The 20 Shell workers, members of Unifor Local 121, have been without a contract for almost two years. Negotiations for the Gate Gourmet workers, members of Unifor amalgamated Local 698, started last July.
To strengthen each of their struggles, the locked-out workers held a joint solidarity demonstration Dec. 21 on the Shell workers’ picket line. About 50 people turned out, including energy workers from other Unifor locals.
Shell Canada bosses are refusing to offer the terminal workers the same terms they agreed to with other oil workers under theNational Energy Program, the union-company agreement won in the energy sector. Union officials say that the Shell bosses are initiating an attack against decades of pattern bargaining.
The 8,500 energy workers organized by Unifor across Canada negotiated an industrywide agreement in 2019. Gains were made on wages, severance pay and other issues.
This decision “has one goal only, to break the model contract in oil. They are using COVID-19 as a pretext to attack a union practice that goes back 40 years,” said Quebec Unifor Director Renaud Gagné in a Nov. 30 press release. “It’s clear to us that some employers want to use the pandemic to break the unions.”
The attack on the Gate Gourmet workers is similar in scale to the one on the Shell workers. The bosses are demanding 145 concessions that would gut the union contract.
Because of the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on the airline industry, all but 20 of the 300 members of the Gate Gourmet bargaining unit were laid off before the lockout.
“The company is trying to make an example of us to use against the Gate Gourmet workers in Toronto in their upcoming negotiations,” airline-meal assembler Gerald Carey told the Militant at a Dec. 31 march of the locked-out workers to Montreal-Pierre Trudeau International Airport.
“All workers should support them so they have the morale and determination to continue their fight,” Devendra Suthar, a co-worker from Walmart, said on the picket line Dec. 12.