Rolls-Royce workers strike to raise wages

By Félix Vincent Ardea
May 30, 2022

MONTREAL — Some 530 strikers at the Rolls-Royce aircraft engine maintenance plant here rejected another company “final offer” by a vote of 94% at a well-attended union meeting May 11. The workers, members of the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN), walked out March 15 over needed wage raises as prices soar and bosses demand to cut retiree benefits and double costs for health benefits for current employees.

“We’re prepared to stay out until the end to win what we need,” Claude Lemay, an inspector for 25 years, told the Militant  on the picket line May 12. “That includes a decent pension, not only for my generation but for the next one. Workers are entitled to them.”

Trying to intimidate the strikers, the bosses had locked them out while the union was meeting in March. The unionists responded with an overwhelming vote to strike. The contract expired in March 2020.

“We’re all motivated to stay mobilized as long as needed to get a respectful contract,” Steve Mayer, an inspector for 22 years in the plant, said.

The Rolls-Royce bosses are trying to get rid of the defined-benefits pension plan workers won in the past, replacing it with a less secure defined-contribution scheme, with no guarantee on what the company payment would be.

The workers are demanding a 23.5% wage increase over the life of a seven-year contract. The Rolls-Royce bosses have offered only 17%, with no raise at all in the first two years.

Strikers marched through the aerospace district here May 12 to make their demands known. “In a context of a labor shortage in aeronautics, we deserve respect, and respect comes with a good work contract,” Mayer told the crowd to applause.

The strikers are winning much-needed support. “The rulers want to see us divided,” Alexandre Jacob, a train conductor at Canadian National Railways and member of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference union, told the Militant  after visiting the picket line last month. “That is why it is so important that we unite beyond union lines and job types. We have to instill this habit among workers that when one of us gets attacked, we all come to their defense.”

Join the strike picket line. Send solidarity messages to Rolls-Royce strikers at CSN, 1601 avenue De Lorimier, Montreal, Quebec H2K 4M5. Tel (866) 646-7760.