Nearly three years after going on strike, workers at the Engineered Coated Products manufacturing plant in Brantford remain on the picket line.
Approximately 80 workers walked off the job on August 23, 2008 after the company demanded big wage cuts. At the time workers were earning about $21 per hour, and the average worker had been with the company for about 20 years.
Earl Smith, the local chair of United Steelworkers says, “The company wanted 25 per cent across the board, they wanted to do away with our pensions, they wanted a continental shift.”
Sixty-two people remain on the picket line, with some workers having retired, while others have found new jobs. Those who have stayed earn $225 per week in strike pay.
Those who continue to picket are reportedly committed to the job action, Smith says “We’re not going to go anywhere until they’re ready to sit down and settle this.”
Steve Hunt is a 35 year employee. He says “We have a lot of sweat equity in this building. We put our time in. Myself, I’m five years from retirement and the rug has been pulled out from under me.”
But it hasn’t been easy, Hunt says, “Mentally it’s been hard to say we’re been out here three Christmases or going on three years, for some of the guys it’s been very difficult financially, but for me and my family it’s more of a mental thing.”
The company is still in business, using replacement workers to manufacture the steel wrap and packaging materials. Meanwhile the picketers are under the watchful eye of cameras and a security detail.
They can delay trucks coming out of the plant 20 minutes and buses carrying workers coming out can be delayed 30 minutes. Meanwhile cars and vans going in and coming out can be delayed 10 minutes as long as the traffic on busy Elgin Street is not impeded.
The union has offered some concessions, totalling about 16 per cent, but that offer has been rejected by the company.
Smith says “All this is to me is just trying to bust the union, to get the union out…because no matter what we come up with it’s not good enough.”
No one at ECP was available to comment.