Salt Workers Deliberate and Gain More Confidence in Their No! to Union-Busting

Salt Workers Deliberate and Gain More Confidence in Their No! to Union-Busting

Following the rejection of the tentative agreement by miners at the Ojibway Salt Mine in Windsor, Ontario, the miners as well as production and clerical workers in the other two bargaining units of Windsor Salt are discussing the situation and how to make progress. The picket lines are organized so that workers from all three bargaining units on strike do their picket duty together. This has greatly strengthened their unity and camaraderie as they discuss concerns, questions and opinions openly with one another to address company and media attempts to divide them.

One of the significant matters being discussed is the tentative agreement the miners rejected. Workers from the other bargaining units did not face the same concessionary demands to destroy seniority and they are clear that the miners had no other option than to vote No. Despite differences in each offer, workers report that they can see that the company considers all of them disposable. They will not permit their ranks to be broken, they say. One provision in particular the workers highlight as they look back through the offers they were given is an attempt by the company to downgrade health and safety standards which were put in place in response to workers injured on the job.

For instance, the company wants to have maintenance workers work in the mine and above ground alone. Under the existing contract, maintenance workers work in teams of two. This comes out of the experience where a maintenance worker was working on a stacking machine and was sucked into it. Another worker happened to see the incident and jumped into action to save him. Following this experience language was specifically put into the contract to ensure that maintenance workers were not left alone and another worker of the same trade must be with them at all times when on the job. The tentative agreement would have eliminated this requirement and put maintenance workers lives at risk in return for minor increases in their wages. This makes it clear that to this company workers’ lives and the fate of their families are negotiable something the workers will never accept.

There are several others things of like kind which they are now identifying which give them even more confidence in their decision to not accept this contract.

For instance, they reject the way the company is trying to bring in new tiers of wages. This is done by introducing new categories of workers who would receive different wage scales based on the training they have received. However training would be up to the company and the workers know it would be used to further divide their ranks.

In another part of the tentative agreement, existing provisions that allow for union time for a union rep to access a worker’s WSIB claim information and to assist with the claim would be removed, meaning the union would be limited in its ability to assist a worker injured on the job navigate the WSIB process and hold the company to account for how they report workplace injuries.

As they have throughout the strike the workers have forged their unity through discussion and frank exchanges of views so that they are all on the same page. They are evermore clear that it is this unity which is their strength and it is giving them confidence to hold their line.