VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The members of Public and Private Workers of Canada Local 8 are now in their 15th week of a hard-fought battle against Lantic’s Rogers Sugar bosses, who are trying to force a concession contract down workers’ throats.
Tyson Costa, Local 8’s plant chair at Rogers Sugar, told the Militant the company “is demanding a mandatory 24-hour operation with 12-hour shifts, seven days a week and no overtime pay.” In exchange, bosses held out the prospect they would scale back or drop demands for cuts to workers’ benefits.
The contract, which had expired last February, set three shifts at eight hours a day, with any overtime or weekend work being voluntary. The union is demanding the schedule remain the same over a three-year contract, with a 6% wage increase each year.
The union proposes the company hire more workers if they want to boost production, while continuing with voluntary overtime and weekend work. “Our members are not prepared to ruin our family lives while the company already makes record profits from our work,” Costa said. “They’re offering less than 3% per year for five years.
“On Dec. 8, when the company sent their concession demands to the negotiating committee, they also emailed them directly to the union membership and sent them by regular mail to union members’ homes,” he said.
The union negotiating committee called a membership meeting and presented a side-by-side visual display of the company demands and what the union was asking for. In a hand vote, workers voted to back their union and continue the fight. “Every time we get a proposal from the company, we hold a meeting where we present the proposals openly to the membership,” Costa said.
The union also held a secret ballot vote Dec. 17 on the company’s offer. “We voted 89.3% to reject the company demands,” Costa said.
Solidarity has come from area unionists. Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union bring propane cylinders to the picket line to keep strikers warm and dry. Millwrights, Machine Erectors and Maintenance Union Local 2736 brought 16 gift cards for food and Christmas toys for strikers’ children.
Messages of solidarity can be sent to PPWC Local 8 President Adrian Soldera, 596 Albert Street, Nanaimo, BC V9R 2W2; or to firstname.lastname@example.org