BY JOANNE PRITCHARD
TORONTO - "We won," said Joe Horvath, a millwright at PC World. "And if we don't get what we want in the bargaining we'll close them down again." This was in response to the announcement by Basil Hargrove, president of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) that the company had agreed to go back to the bargaining table after locking out employees for eight months. The company is demanding pay cuts of up to Can$4 an hour from the workers, who manufacture circuit boards.
The victory followed four days of mass picketing of PC World by hundreds of CAW members from across Ontario, protesting the use of replacement workers to keep production going. Cindy Brenner from the Ford plant in Windsor said that when they heard workers had occupied the PC World plant on Monday, September 8, she and her co-workers couldn't stay away. "We have to hit the nail on the head - if they get away with scabs here, they'll get away with scabs all over Canada," Brenner declared.
This reporter was among those who mobilized outside the plant. There were tense moments on the picket line, as we expected the police to try and remove us. It wasn't until Tuesday afternoon, however, that the sheriff came to tell us that the company had won a court injunction ordering us to vacate the plant and placing a total ban on picketing. The protesters were advised that anyone carrying sticks without signs would be considered armed and would be arrested.
The unionists put out a call to beef up the picket lines. CAW members from de Havilland rushed back to their plant to leaflet the day shift and ask workers to join us. Later on that evening a busload of workers from the Lear Seating plant in Ajax walked off the line to reinforce us.
Through the evening hundreds of police mobilized. The riot squad was there with their shields, clubs, horses, and police wagons. They had cordoned off the area surrounding the plant, where the crowd had grown to more than 500. We expected an attack at any moment. Then CAW officials negotiated a deal by which the 40 people occupying the plant would vacate it and the police agreed not to arrest anyone. We continued the picketing off company property for another 48 hours.
On Thursday afternoon, September 11, the sheriff arrived to read us another injunction. Pickets chanted "No more scabs" to drown him out. The police had again mobilized. A small squad of about 10 cops marched from across the street where the police were stationed and tried to escort unionists away from the plant. Pickets stood their ground and chanted "No more scabs." At this point the police retreated to regroup, as the tactic of peacefully escorting us off the property had not been too fruitful. The pickets had a meeting to reaffirm that we needed to remain cool.
In the meantime Hargrove arrived and announced that we had forced the employer back to the bargaining table and that the only outstanding issue was the question of wages. We were to dismantle the picket lines and the employer had agreed that there would be no production as the bargaining took place. If the two sides could not come to an agreement, then the matter would be referred to binding arbitration.
While some in the crowd protested the possibility of the fight going to an arbitrator, most people thought this was a big victory. PC World striker Rakesh Oberoi made the point, "We're not willing to accept wage cutbacks, we'll be out on the picket lines again if we don't get what we want."
Joanne Pritchard is a CAW member and the Communist
League candidate for mayor of Toronto.
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