Electro-Motive Girding for Lock-Out in London, CAW says

May 26, 2011, 2:56 PM EST

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Management at locomotive manufacturer Electro-Motive in London, Ontario have sent a clear and aggressive message to 650 unionized plant workers that they will be locked out and their jobs put in jeopardy if they do not submit to massive workplace concessions, a belligerent move that threatens to destabilize contract talks, says CAW President Ken Lewenza.

Responding to a May 24 company letter sent to area politicians, Lewenza said the company's harsh tactics, including the hiring of a private security firm, erecting a fence around the property and removing locomotives from the facility are blatantly aggressive and border on bad faith bargaining. These steps were taken even before major contract issues, like wages, were discussed between the two parties.

In a follow-up letter sent to company Vice President Walter Hannan earlier today, Lewenza called these unprecedented actions "absolutely unnecessary," and considered this bullying of workers into a lock-out "irresponsible."

"These actions go well beyond traditional bargaining tactics. They are trying to scare our members and, by extension, the larger London community. Saying that 'it's our way or the highway' is totally unfair and we won't stand for it," Lewenza said.

CAW Local 27 President Tim Carrie said the union has been mandated by the members at Electro-Motive to negotiate a fair and responsible agreement.

"We have committed to not exercise our legal right to strike and are, in fact, prepared to work beyond the contract expiry date to get this deal done."

Earlier this morning, the company tabled a series of demands that would significantly hack workers wages, pensions and benefits. The union asserts this move is intended to drag down working conditions at or below those in a non-unionized U.S. facility in Indiana.

Electro-Motive is a subsidiary of Caterpiller Inc, a hugely profitable industrial equipment manufacturer (registering an overall operating profit of nearly $4 billion in 2010) that has earned a notorious reputation for confrontational-style labour relations.  CAW Local 27 represents 650 production and skilled trades workers at the London facility.

The current collective agreement is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday June 1.

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