On the Picket Line

Locked-out in Quebec, aircraft workers rally against Rolls-Royce

By Lynda Little
and John Steele
August 22, 2022

MONTREAL — Two hundred Rolls-Royce Canada workers, who repair and overhaul aircraft engines, and their supporters marched and rallied at Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s office here Aug. 3 to protest the Quebec government giving millions of dollars in handouts to Rolls-Royce bosses, while the workers have been locked out since March 15. They are members of a Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) affiliate.

The workers had voted down a second company offer by 75% July 24. The bosses have been fighting to raise their profits on the backs of the workers, while aiming to weaken or even break the local union.

The company insists on ending the workers’ defined benefit pension plan and replacing it with an inferior defined contribution plan. The unionists are fighting to maintain their plan and to include all those hired since 2013, who are currently excluded, and for everyone to receive health benefits at retirement.

The workers are also demanding wage increases to help meet rising inflation, as well as cost-of-living increments in the final four years of the five-year contract. “Rolls-Royce Canada is benefiting handsomely from government subsidies, and we’re the ones paying for that,” CSN Vice President Francois Enault said to cheers and applause. “We have to stand up to this union-busting.”

In February the Quebec government announced a handout to the Quebec aerospace industry of 334 million Canadian dollars ($260 million) through 2024, including Rolls-Royce. In 2011 the company received CA$30 million.

The bosses locked out the workers while they were voting by 94% to strike. In addition to firing union President Frederic Labelle, the bosses are suing a quarter of the workers, accusing them of violating a court injunction limiting picketing. They also announced the permanent layoff of 30 workers.

“We are thinking about the future generations and not just ourselves, but the younger workers,” Tim Balleine, with 25 years on the job, told the Militant. “That’s what a union is all about, solidarity. We want to go back united.”

Send solidarity messages to nego@csn-rrc.ca and donations to: https://www.csn.qc.ca/solidarite/rolls-royce.