Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This one may be slightly dated, but it's interesting enough to be reprinted anyways. Last Thursday unionists, amongst whom were steelworkers from Sudbury, came to watch the debate in the Ontario Legislature over a private members bill to outlaw the use of scabs during strikes or lockouts. Under the impression that a house of public debate might actually be somewhere where the public could debate, the unionists were ejected. Not exactly the storming of the Winter Palace, but a small step in the right direction nonetheless. Here's the story from the Sudbury Star. It came Molly's way via the Steelworkers strike support site Fair Deal Now.
Steelworkers tossed from legislature:
Debate on a private member's bill banning replacement workers during labour disputes came to a halt Thursday afternoon when about 100 trade unionists, dozens of them striking Steelworkers from Sudbury, were ejected from the Ontario legislature.

The union members were escorted from the visitors' gallery after cheering -- and jeering -- several times in response to MPPs' comments, despite repeated warnings from the House speaker not to "participate" in the debate.

The audience grew rowdy when a government-side MPP defended the Liberals' position that anti-replacement worker legislation would further damage businesses in Ontario.

When the member spoke about the "strict requirements" Ontario companies are required to meet before they can hire replacement workers, several audience members began booing.

"Come and walk a picket line," a striking Steelworker yelled from the gallery. When the group was ordered to leave, it began chanting: "No more scabs, no more scabs, no more scabs" as it was led down several flights of stairs to a side exit of the legislature.

After escorting the delegation outside, security guards allowed five members to go back into the building to reclaim their and their colleagues belongings.

The members were part of a delegation of trade unionists from several communities in the province where they are on strike, locked out or facing job losses.

About half of the delegation in the legislature was comprised of Steelworkers from Local 6500 in Sudbury and Local 6200 in Port Colborne, who have been on strike against mining giant Vale Inco Ltd. since July 13.

"We've been kicked out of better places and by better people," said Wayne Fraser, District 6 director for United Steelworkers, as members waited to collect their belongings.

Vale Inco has resumed partial production at three operations in Sudbury -- Clarabelle Mill, Garson Ramp and Coleman Mine in Levack.

The mill and mines are being run by management and staff, as well as by members of USW Local 2020, which represents office and technical workers.

The inside workers, who number about 1,200, are being forced to do the work of strikers under the threat of discipline up to and including firing.

Bill 86, banning the hiring of replacement workers during strikes or lockouts, was introduced by Welland MPP Peter Kormos and seconded by Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas, both New Democrats. Port Colborne is part of Kormos's riding.

Bill 86 would reintroduce legislation enacted by the New Democrat government of Bob Rae in 1990.

When the Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris was elected in 1995, the legislation was the first bill the Tories threw out.

"When a scab comes down the street, an angel weeps," Kormos told a largely empty legislature when his bill was to receive second reading, "and the devil shuts the gates of hell."

Said Kormos: "Judas was a gentleman compared to a scab."

The MPP, who is in poor health and limped slowly into the legislature, said the use of replacement workers by companies is the "greatest single impediment to fair bargaining."

The use of replacement workers is also the largest single source of injuries on the picket line, he said.

Gelinas said the bill to amend the Ontario Labour Relations Act would not allow companies to allow managers or transferred employees to do the work of employees who are striking or locked out.

The Nickel Belt MPP appealed to her colleagues by saying that every one of Ontario's ridings has been affected by a strike or lockout.

Her research shows that 219 strikes have been held in Ontario in the last couple of years.
They affected more than 200,000 workers, cost more than three million in lost production days and lasted from half a day to "thousands of days."

Passing the New Democrat bill would help bring about fair settlements quicker and avoid the risk of conflict on picket lines, said Gelinas,

The bill was to receive second reading later in the afternoon.

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