Friday, June 06, 2008

As Molly writes this this morning the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) blockade of the General Motors head office in Oshawa Ontario has entered its third day. Union leader, Buzz Hargrove, has entered into talks in Detroit with the executives of GM about the situation. Buzz, however, may be past his best-before date as he limps through his last year as head of the CAW. His recent performances as leader have been less than stellar as he seems more interested in cozying up to management rather than defending the rights of his membership. A pattern of poor contracts and blaming the government and the economy rather than management has been pretty consistent for him in the last few years. While he was "cautiously optimistic" in a statement to the press before entering into the talks this morning we will see what the day will bring. For a rank and file view of the United Auto Workers, the American equivalent of the CAW, see Future of the Union and Soldiers of Solidarity. While these organizations are based in the USA they often carry news about the Canadian situation.
Here is a report from the Oshawa area ie the Durham Region News about the situation as of yesterday.

GM head office blockade continues

Read the 22 page online special report: The Truck Stops Here

OSHAWA -- The blockade continues on Colonel Sam Drive in front of the GM head office in Oshawa.

About 50 GM workers have held their position since Wednesday morning to protest plans by the company to shut down the truck plant in Oshawa and eliminate up to 2,600 jobs.

The Canadian Auto Workers union says it will not back down until the company meets face-to-face with the union to explain the decision.

A meeting has been scheduled for 8 a.m. Friday in Detroit. CAW president Buzz Hargrove and Local 222 president Chris Buckley will be among the union leaders to meet with General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner.

Federal Liberal finance critic John McCallum, MP (Markham-Unionville), was expected to show his support for the workers at a news conference scheduled for 10 a.m. at the protest line.

The Liberals have criticized Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty for comments that they say discouraged companies from investing in Ontario.

The protest has not affected production on the assembly line, and workers are being told by the union to report for their regular shifts.

GM, the country's biggest automaker, stunned the union and thousands of workers on Tuesday by announcing plans to close the 43-year-old truck plant in the second half of 2009.

New Democratic Party leader Howard Hampton, who also wore a red shirt, joined the workers yesterday.

At the demonstration, GM worker Sherry Fallis said she won't know what to do if the truck plant closes. She lost her job at a plant that supplied GM four years ago, leaving her fearful about supporting her four-year-old son.

Describing her final days at ACSYS Technologies, she told the Toronto Star, "We were hanging onto hope."

Ms. Fallis and about 1,200 other employees transferred to GM, and she thought she had a permanent position.

"It's happening all over again. I don't know what we're going to do," she said.

This time around, Fallis, 32, has a second young son to support. And her husband works at another nearby feeder plant that builds seats for GM's trucks. He'll probably be losing his job too, she said.

Other workers at the demonstration face similar difficulties.

"It's a little scary, what's going on right now," said Tim Lepine, 27. Having little seniority after just six years at GM, Mr. Lepine knows he would be one of the first in line to lose his job in 2009. In the meantime, he said, he will try to save whatever money he can.

"It's pretty bleak, what's going to happen in the future," said GM car-plant employee Jesse Forbes, chair of the union's youth committee.

It represents members under 31, and most will probably be out of work if the plant closes, he said.

"They've just gotten married and had kids and got their house, and they realize how hard it's going to be if their jobs disappear."

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