Click on the image above to see the photo gallery.
On January 21st, thousands of union activists, labour leaders, and local politicians gathered in London, Ontario for a massive rally against U.S.-based Caterpillar's lockout of 465 workers at the city’s Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) plant.
The demonstration was organized by the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union and the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) after EMD locked out its workers on New Year’s Day. During contract talks with the CAW, the company demanded that wages be slashed from $35 to $16.50 an hour even though Caterpillar enjoyed billion dollar profits and a 20% boost to production last year. The rally was aimed at pressuring EMD to end the lockout and withdraw its calls for devastating concessions.
Sid Ryan, President of the OFL, noted that "people are fed up with profit-rich foreign corporations destroying Canadian jobs, our economy and our communities. For workers across the province, Caterpillar has become the poster child of the greedy one percent."
Nearly 5,000 activists descended upon Victoria Park to show their solidarity with the locked out CAW members. Several protestors travelled from as far as the United States.
“A profitable multi-billion dollar company should not be asking for $20-an-hour wage cuts from its workers," says UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley. “To receive a $5 million federal tax break from the Harper Conservatives and then insist that workers' salaries be slashed in half is outrageous. UFCW Canada and the entire labour movement are standing with the EMD workers to demand that they be treated with dignity."
In addition to pressuring the company to resume fair and faithful negotiations with its unionized workers, the demonstration drew attention tothe failure of the federal Conservative government to protect Canadian jobs and interests when domestic companies are acquired by foreign multinationals like Caterpillar. Speakers such as Ken Georgetti of the Canadian Labour Congress, Ken Lewenza of CAW, and London Mayor Joe Fontana called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to overhaul the Investment Canada Act and encourage the federally-subsidized EMD to pay decent wages to its employees.
"It's time for Caterpillar to return to the bargaining table with reasonable proposals," says UFCW Canada Local 206 President John Hurley, who joined the large group of workers and community supporters at London’s Victoria Park. "People have dug in their heels because this contract will impact working conditions and wages at other Canadian manufacturing plants. The company should respect the will of its workers and the public by negotiating a fair and equitable collective agreement."