On the Picket Line

Quebec lead workers united against company lockout

By John Steele
and Philippe Tessier
April 8, 2024

SAINTE-CATHERINE, Quebec — “It’s clear the company is out to try to bust our union,” Steve Nault, president of the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) local at Terrapure here, told the Militant on their picket line March 20. “They locked us out a short time after we voted at our union meeting against their latest contract proposal.”

“They won’t succeed because 100% voted against their demands to take back what we have won over the years. We are united and have solidarity from other unions. When we go back to work it will be with our heads held high,” he said.

The 150 workers, who recycle lead and plastic from used car batteries for use in new ones, were locked out March 11. Negotiations for a new contract began last Sept. 21. The plant is southwest of Montreal.

The workers have set up pickets at plant entrances, along with a heated trailer and other shelters. When we were there, bringing solidarity along with donuts and muffins, one worker was cutting up wood for the fire to keep warm.

“One of the key issues in the strike is the arbitrary use of manpower, when we are often told to do work we don’t normally do,” said Nault. “Another is the imposition of 12-hour shifts, which make it difficult to have a family life.” Working overtime is another important question.

Workers told us that the company’s anti-union stance and refusal to abide by the union contract has led to a backlog of over 400 grievances that management refuses to deal with.

The bosses are trying to keep some level of production going, using supervisors and directors. Workers told us that the company staff doesn’t have the skills to do the work adequately and safely.

“The members of this union have shown exemplary patience,” Louis Begin, president of the CSN manufacturing and industrial division, told the media. “But Terrapure, operating like a thuggish employer, seems only concerned with profits. It’s unacceptable.”

The workers welcome solidarity on the picket line. Send support messages to the CSN, 1601, avenue De Lorimier, Montreal, Quebec, H2K 4M5.