CANADIAN LABOUR HAMILTON:
SIEMENS WORKERS RALLY AGAINST PLANT CLOSURE:
At the end of last month workers employed by Siemens Canada in Hamilton Ontario rallied at the Canadian corporate headquarters to protest the closing of a plant that has 100 years of history in that city and its relocation to North Carolina. NC essentially "bought" the plant with the promise of $22.75 million in grants and tax breaks and an additional $120 million in low cost loans. In return Siemens said that they would invest $135 million in their new facilities. Note that the government largess exceeds the promised investment by $7.75 million. Pretty sweet deal if you can get it. Oh, and don't forget that North Carolina is a so-called "right to work" state where it is much harder for workers to unionize.
The Siemens company has a long and not very glorious history. Leaving aside its "ancient history" as a supporter of the Nazi party in Germany in recent years it has been embroiled in multiple bribery scandals across the world. It has also, of course, as a "paragon of free enterprise" been the recipient of untold millions in government giveaways in many countries. Sometimes, however, they don't get away with the silverware. In 1999 they were ordered to repay 18 million pounds in grants in Britain after they closed one of their state sponsored "enterprises".
The Hamilton plant is probably doomed as Canadian governments are unlikely to offer up the amount of corporate welfare available stateside. Nor should they. The present dispute is more about severance conditions than anything else. In "response" to the demonstration reported below the company retaliated by moving up the date of closure from July 2011 to April 2011 when their present collective agreement runs out. There is, of course, little to be done from now to then except continue the argument between the union and the company. As the closure date draws nearer, however, workers at Siemens might look to how workers at GM in Windsor in 2009 , also represented by the CAW, managed to extract better conditions by occupying the plant that was due to close. This tactic has also been quite successful in many other workplaces in recent years.
The workers at Siemens are represented by Local 504 of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW). Here's the story of the demonstration from their website.
Mass Demonstration at Siemens Canada Head Office
CAW Local 504 members who work at Siemens Canada's gas turbine facility in Hamilton, Ontario held a mass demonstration outside the company's headquarters to protest plans to close the plant and move work to North Carolina.
They urged the highly profitable company to reverse the decision or find alternate work for the long-time Hamilton facility. Failing those options they demanded the company sit down with the CAW to finalize an equitable settlement.
The company has announced plans to close the gas turbine plant in July 2011.
"We're getting increasingly frustrated at this company's callous attitude towards its workforce, so this could be the first of many similar events if things don't change," said CAW Local 504 President Randy Smith. "We continue to receive strong support from our brothers and sisters at IG Metall in Germany, the metalworkers' union which represents Siemens workers there, who believe there remains a strong future for the Hamilton facility as well as gas turbine facilities in Germany."
"After more than 100 years of commitment from this workforce in Hamilton it's a disgrace the way the company is treating these highly skilled workers," said CAW National Representative Tom Rooke. "They should treat these workers with the dignity they deserve - this is a corporation that's making billions in profits each year worldwide."
"It's time for this corporation to come back to the table and negotiate a fair and equitable agreement for these workers," said Rooke.
CAW President Ken Lewenza said Siemens is a world-wide producer that has benefited from government support and procurement contracts, including here in Canada. "Siemens should not forget that it owes its success to its productive workforce, including our members at the Hamilton facility," Lewenza said.
Failing the possibility of finding alternate work to keep the plant running, Lewenza said the union is demanding a fair settlement agreement, that to date Siemens has been unwilling to consider.
CAW Local 504 represents approximately 350 hourly and salaried members at Siemens in Hamilton.