Sol­i­dar­ity is strong among work­ers


Any­one with the no­tion that worker sol­i­dar­ity has been eroded in this prov­ince may have to re­con­sider their views fol­low­ing a se­ries of high-pro­file labour dis­putes that have been mak­ing head­lines for many months.

Whether you sup­port them or not, it’s re­mark­able to wit­ness how stead­fast and united these union work­ers have been, de­spite the hard­ship of walk­ing a picket line, liv­ing off strike pay and liv­ing with the daily un­cer­tainty of not know­ing when they might re­turn to work.

Of spe­cial note are the 14 sup­port work­ers on the Burin Penin­sula who are em­ployed by the Burin-Marys­town Com­mu­nity Train­ing Em­ploy­ment Board. The work­ers, who are rep­re­sented by the New­found­land and Labrador As­so­ci­a­tion of Pri­vate and Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees, went on strike in Novem­ber 2009, and re­fused to buckle, de­spite re­peated re­fusals by the pro­vin­cial govern­ment to in­ter­vene.

Fi­nally, last month the pro­vin­cial govern­ment an­nounced a ten­ta­tive deal had been reached. It was a tough slog, in­clud­ing sev­eral demon­stra­tions in front of Con­fed­er­a­tion Build­ing, but the work­ers won their fight for a new deal.

The same can be said for union work­ers at Pu­rity Fac­to­ries in St. John’s, who were locked out by their em­ployer on Sept. 4, the day af­ter the work­ers voted in favour of a strike.

The dis­pute ended last week af­ter work­ers voted Jan. 4 to ac­cept the lat­est of­fer from the com­pany. The union said the deal “meets (em­ployee) ob­jec­tives and in­cludes a wage in­crease and en­hanced ben­e­fits.”

In other words, the work­ers pre­vailed, even though it was a painful and frus­trat­ing strug­gle.

“ Ev­ery­body stood their ground,” stated one union worker.

The Pu­rity dis­pute cen­tred around two is­sues — wages and sick leave. Mean­while, two other high-pro­file dis­putes con­tinue. In Labrador, some 130 minework­ers at the Voisey’s Bay site have been on strike for 18 months, with on-again offa­gain talks be­tween the United Steel­work­ers and Vale hav­ing col­lapsed again last week.

An in­dus­trial in­quiry com­mis­sion rec­om­mended last week that a com­pro­mise on both sides will be nec­es­sary in or­der to end the dis­pute. But there is ob­vi­ous bad blood be­tween both sides, and it’s un­cer­tain whether a res­o­lu­tion to the im­passe is near.

And the 100 driv­ers and me­chan­ics at Metrobus in St. John’s con­tin­ued to walk the picket line as of late last week, but there were signs of a thaw in the bit­ter re­la­tions be­tween man­age­ment of the city-owned tran­sit cor­po­ra­tion and the Amal­ga­mated Tran­sit Union. Pub­lic tran­sit in the city has been crip­pled since Nov. 4. Mak­ing the de­ci­sion to go on strike, or see­ing your em­ployee lock you out, is never a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s of­ten hard to pick a win­ner, es­pe­cially when the dis­putes drag on for ex­tended pe­ri­ods, as they have in these cases.

But we tip our hat to those who stood their ground and proved that work­ers in this prov­ince are a proud and stead­fast bunch.

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