Caterpillar Workers: Locked out and sold out

Caterpillar Workers: Locked out and sold out

Following the six week lock out of Caterpillar workers in Ontario who refused to accept 50% pay cuts. Caterpillar are acting on their threat to close the factory and shift production elsewhere. The (CAW) has vowed to fight on the workers behalf. Yet not to keep the factory open, and maintain their wages, but to ensure they get the best possible severance package.

Following the six week ‘lock-out’ of workers at the Caterpillar plant in Ontario, it has been announced that the plant will close and production will be moved elsewhere.

Workers had been locked out after refusing to accept a 55% pay cut, and reduced pension benefits. Caterpillar has attempted to use the global economic crisis to attack the terms and conditions of its workers. This despite them recording record profits of $4.8 billion last year, up 83% on the previous year.

Caterpillar have already implemented similar pay cuts at some of their other plants, and as soon as the Ontario workers resisted the same measures, they immediately locked them out, and threatened to move production to Indiana if workers did not accept the new pay rates.

No date for the closure or where production will be transferred to has been announced.

The closure is likely to have a devastating impact on the local community. Despite the 465 manufacturing workers, there are score of administrative and ancillary staff at the plant, and it is estimated that around 2,000 jobs within the district indirectly rely on Caterpillar for work.

The (CAW) Canadian Automotive Workers Union has stated that it will not fight the closure, but seek to win the best possible severance for its members.

I do not know very much about the CAW, however, they appear to be a boss friendly organisation. “The CAW has played a pivotal role in restructuring Canada’s auto industry so that investors can again reap large profits. In 2009 it worked with the federal Conservative government of Stephen Harper, the Ontario Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty, and the Obama administration in the United States to impose wage and benefit cuts of $19 per worker per hour on Detroit Three workers.”

It has been suggested that if workers are not offered suitable severance, then they may occupy the plant in protest. There was widespread local support for the workers, and soon after the lockout, around 10,000 marched in solidarity.
Taking into account the level of support, the disastrous impact on the local community, directly and indirectly, it is a shame that that the tactic of occupying the plant is not being utilised to prevent its closure, rather than to just get a few more crumbs from the bosses table following its closure. However, the CAW claims that the workers are, ‘powerless to resist’.

With that kind of attitude being shown by the trade union leadership, it is little wonder that the average worker probably does feel powerless.

Comments

Khawaga
Feb 11 2012 18:42

Thanks for writing this up. An occupation is still not out of the question, but the union leadership is dragging its feet. Instead of occupying the plant they decided to occupy a series of offices for conservative MPs to call on Stephen Harper to do something. Yet again CAW shows how little they want to challenge capital directly.