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.