Business reps and staff from Local 793’s head office attended a rally and walked a picket line with locked-out soap factory workers at the JemPak plant on Speers Road in Oakville today.
About 30 representatives of the union were at the event, carrying signs that read: Operating Engineers, Local 793 supports Unifor members locked out by JemPak.
The rally was held in support of 22 workers, members of Unifor Local 132-0, who have been locked out for two weeks in a dispute over the future of the union at the plant. The company is demanding a rollback in the union’s rights.
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) president Hassan Yussuff and Unifor national president Jerry Dias attended the afternoon rally.
Both labour leaders thanked Local 793 and the Operating Engineers for their support and showing solidarity with the workers.
Dias told the rally that management at JemPak is messing with the wrong union if it thinks Unifor members are going to give up.
The union is intent on winning the battle, he said, and it will not allow its hard-won rights to be rolled back by the company.
“One thing they need to understand is that we’ll last one day longer than them.”
Dias said the company is intent on breaking the union, but Unifor will make it tough on JemPak.
“This is not going to be a cakewalk for this organization. I can tell you right now.”
Dias said the union is going to fight the company everywhere and he told those at the rally to “hang on to your socks.”
Yussuff of the CLC told the rally that the dispute might take some time to resolve but the union is not going away.
“We’re not going to roll over and play dead,” he said, noting that what the employer is trying to do will not be tolerated.
“It may be a long dispute but the employer had better understand one thing – they picked on the wrong union.”
Yussuff said JemPak is trying to shut the union down and that will not happen.
Despite attempts by Unifor to keep contract talks going, workers at JemPak were locked out by the company May 15.
At issue is a company demand that the union agree that any new hires are not members of the union, that managers be able to do work currently done by union members and an end to seniority rights.
The company has also demanded significant economic concessions. JemPak makes laundry and dish detergent sold at Costco and Walmart, among others.
The collective agreement between the company and the union expired May 15.