The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) stands in full solidarity with the 1480 members of USW Local 7135, who are on strike at National Steel Car. The CPC(O) further reiterates its calls for improved workplace health and safety legislation, and for enforcement of the Westray Law which holds employers responsible under the Criminal Code for workplace injuries.
National Steel Car is a notoriously harsh employer, whose disregard for worker safety and pursuit of production speedups through an “incentive” program have led to numerous workplace injuries including three deaths in a 21-month period. Even after Minister of Labour investigations into these fatalities, the company’s human resources department continues to intimidate workers who want to discuss safety concerns.
With estimated annual revenue of $540 million, the rail car manufacturer is making nearly $365,000 off each of its production workers. But despite high profits and the accompanying tragedies, NSC is unwilling to offer wage increases that match the soaring cost of living and refuses to negotiate with the union around the incentive program which accounts for about one quarter of the pay for 75 percent of production workers.
The union has tabled a solution to the problem: remove the incentive program and bring wages up or include the union in time studies and establishing the incentive pay rates.
Currently, the incentive program is not grievable or arbitrable.
National Steel Car was first unionized in the 1940s and was one of the first big industrial organizing victories in Canada by the Steel Workers Organizing Committee. The current strike is the latest of many which the workers have had to fight over the years, to win improved wages, pensions and working conditions.
There is also a political element to this struggle. Workers at NSC – and throughout the province – need strong laws to protect their health and safety, ensure good incomes including during retirement, and provide a better work-leisure balance.
The Communist Party calls for strong plant closure and plant safety legislation which would require employers to answer publicly for relocation or workplace injury, and which would impose stiff consequences including jail time for executives and nationalization of companies. Companies that refuse to provide workers with fair wages and pensions, benefits, working conditions and union rights should be refused any public contracts, including being excluded entirely from procurement or funding programs. The federal and provincial government must enforce the Westray Law, under which employers can face criminal prosecution and jail time for injuries and fatalities in their workplaces. The CPC(O) also calls for a legislated shorter work week with no loss in take-home pay, which will create more jobs, maintain incomes and increase leisure time.
Working-class unity and solidarity can win struggles like that of USW 7135, as well as the political reforms needed to protect and improve conditions for all working people.