Cash for Ont. auto-workers in plant blockade

CBC News
Former workers of Aradco and Aradco autoparts plants in Windsor, Ont., disrupt an auction of the plants’ assets on Nov.16, 2009.Former workers of Aradco and Aradco autoparts plants in Windsor, Ont., disrupt an auction of the plants’ assets on Nov.16, 2009. Former workers of two shuttered auto-parts factories in Windsor, Ont., will get more of their severance pay, nine months after barricading themselves inside one plant in protest.

The Canadian Auto Workers released details Friday of an agreement between Catalina Precision Products Ltd. and the 80 former workers from the Aradco and Aramco plants in Windsor.

The deal pays out some of what is owed to workers who lost their jobs on Mar.9, when the two parts plants abruptly closed.

‘This is our money.’—Jaime Hernandez, former Aradco worker

“We deserve it. We served this company for so many years,” said Jaime Hernandez, who worked at Aradco for 16 years.

“This is our money. That money helps us to keep going, and start all over.”

The agreement announced Friday gives the workers $225,000 of the proceeds from an ongoing auction of the factory assets at Aradco and Aramco. That amount tops up an earlier settlement of $400,000.

“To get 80 workers to push a company to pay us the money we deserve, that’s pretty good,” said Patrick Ganney, who worked at Aramco for 13 years.
‘It’s better than nothing’

While some employees called the deal a victory, it brings the total amount awarded to roughly one-quarter of the $2.4 million the union initially said its members were owed.

“The deal, it’s better than nothing,” said Fares Marar, a 13-year veteran of Aramco. “We have to support our family and our kids. Any penny is good for us.”

The workers will receive $16 per month of service, but when the plants first closed it appeared the workers would not receive anything. So on March 16, a dozen workers stormed the Aradco plant on Charles Street, sealing the doors from the inside, where they remained for two days.

“I was one of the boys that was inside, and took over the plant. I was the big guy on the roof,” said Frank Kelly, who added he’s happy with the deal, but like most of the workers, still hasn’t found a new job.

Worker frustration boiled over again, when seven months after the plant closures and subsequent occupation, employees had not seen a penny in severance pay. On Nov.16 the workers prevented the auction of machinery from their former workplaces, demanding Catalina pay them. Friday’s agreement allowed that auction to proceed, with the payments coming from the proceeds. Catalina has now promised to pay everything the workers are owed, provided it wins a lawsuit it intends to file against Chrysler Group LLC for termination of its parts supplier contract.
Calls for legislative change

“It’s wrong we had to take on the fight,” said Gerry Farnham, president of Canadian Auto Workers Local 195 representing the workers. “There’s already laws in place, government legislation that says workers are entitled to severance and termination pay.”

For Reuben Vahradian, who worked 12 years at Aramco, the new agreement was only a partial victory. “I’d give up all the money, to tell you the truth, if we could change the laws and keep everything safe,” said Vahradian.

“This is for everybody. This is a law that has to be changed for all the Canadian people.”

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