Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Here, from the Star is the story of how some workers at a Mississaga air conditioning plant peacefully occupied their workplace the other day. Certainly there should be more of these actions to put pressure on management in these hard times.
Angry workers occupy plant:
Workers in Mississauga feel `blindsided' after hasty shuttering of M&I
Tony Van Alphen Business Reporter
Angry employees at an idle air conditioning manufacturer in Mississauga occupied the company's plant for more than three hours Monday after they charged management "blindsided" them with an abrupt shutdown and no paycheques for extra work.

More than 100 workers mingled peacefully and retrieved belongings including tools at the M&I Air Systems plant in a pressure tactic to get some answers about their missing pay and the plant's future.

Bob Chernecki, a senior official for the Canadian Auto Workers, said management had not responded to union queries since last week, when the company halted operations and told employees to go home.

Chernecki said in an interview that the occupation led to a meeting where management indicated it would inform the union about its financial status, payment to workers and any possible chance of a reopening on Wednesday.

"These workers were blindsided by this corporation just before Christmas," he said.

"It's ridiculous. They received no warning and now face so much uncertainty."

M&I did not return calls for comment about the company's situation.

Chernecki said he expects the U.S.-based company to slip into receivership or fall under bankruptcy court protection during the next few days.

"It doesn't look good," he said.

M&I formed in 1981 and provides air-moving technology and systems for industrial and institutional buildings.

Chernecki said M&I did not provide regular biweekly paycheques on Dec.10, but managers promised they would submit them on the following Monday if employees worked during the same weekend to complete a major air-system project for a customer.

"They didn't get paid on the Monday and on the Tuesday the company called them in at 9 a.m. and told them there was no work and to go home," he added.

The union, which represents about 155 workers at the plant, is seeking wages including overtime for the employees during the past three weeks plus severance and holiday pay.
Furthermore, it wants the company to file employment insurance information with the federal government immediately.

The workers, including some staff with more than 20 years service, negotiated a new three-year contract during the fall that contained small wage increases for lower-paid staff and a $400 lump sum amount for higher-paid employees. The average wage is about $18 an hour.

The CAW and other unions have pushed for stronger legislation to protect workers who are victims of plant closures, including giving them higher standing than other creditors.

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