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Canada: "Fighting back makes a difference"
"FIGHTING BACK makes a difference!" This slogan was written on a cardboard placard by workers who occupied their former workplace, Aradco - a parts supplier for the vehicle manufacturer Chrysler in Windsor, Ontario.
Clare Hudson, British Columbia, (CWI, Canada)
After the plant closed union members from Aradco and workers from its sister company, Aramco, (owned by Catalina Precision Products Ltd, a US based company) voted to reject an offer of just over $205,000 in severance pay. It has been calculated that they are actually owed $1.7 million in severance, vacation and termination pay. This is in stark contrast to the $165 million AIG bosses decided they were owed in bonuses alone!
Workers entered the building and welded the entrance tight from inside in protest at the measly offer. The workers knew that if they took no action it was unlikely they would get anything. The option of occupying their workplace was the last they felt they had, as tools had not yet been removed.
The local CAW (Canadian Auto Workers union) president, Gerry Farham, said: "Some of the workers here have decided to take over the plant. That's the only thing they have in order to try to get the monies that are owing to them."
On 18 March, the occupation ended after union representatives struck a deal with the former employer which, while falling short of the workers' overall demands, saw the 80 workers offered $400,000 pay out instead of the $200,000 originally offered.
What this protest shows is that fighting back can make a difference and has given many workers in Canada confidence that they can organise and win - even in a time of recession when many are told there is nothing we can do.
Job losses in Canada keep rising, throwing hundreds of thousands of skilled workers into unemployment. There were 129,000 job losses in January alone, bringing the national unemployment rate up to 7.2%. Almost all these jobs were in full-time employment. Around 101,000 of these jobs were in manufacturing, which makes it the highest loss for the industry on record.
Yet in the fall of last year, during the federal election, Stephen Harper, the Conservative prime minister, during his election campaign was promising Canadians they would not suffer under the recession, that Canada was a strong economy!
For many workers and youth these words have not been forgotten and anger and frustration is growing as the effects of the world economic crisis escalate.
But as the actions of the Windsor workers show, fighting back is and must be an option. It is likely this will not be the last of such action and the unions across the country need to step up and launch a fighting grass-roots campaign, with action to defend jobs and services, linking up with workers in the US and worldwide.
The need for a new mass workers' party is an urgent task that needs to be built by the working class and young people of Canada, to enable them to have the tools necessary to create a real opposition to the crisis of capitalism.
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