Queen's Park Rally Urges Ontario Liberals to Protect Severance Pay for Workers

March 26, 2009, 9:25 AM EST

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The Save Our Severance Campaign hit the steps of Queen's Park in Ontario March 25 to demand the McGuinty government establish a fund to protect workers' severance pay following a lay off, closure or bankruptcy.

Waving flags and placards and chanting Save Our Severance, 500 CAW members, Steelworkers, CEP members, Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation members, as well as workers from unorganized workplaces that have closed, such as PMP in Toronto, took part in the rally the day before the provincial budget was released.

Speaker after speaker demanded that the Liberal government take action to help workers and their families who suffer a double whammy when their workplace closes and they are told they won't be getting the severance pay they are owed under the law.

CAW President Ken Lewenza called for a provincial wage earner protection program. Lewenza blasted Ontario Labour Minister Peter Fonseca for calling the severance issue a federal responsibility. Lewenza urged Fonseca to act like the Minister of Labour instead of the "Minister of Corporate Concern."

He stressed that workers, instead of banks and corporations, should be moved to first in the line of creditors when it comes to a bankruptcy.

The province can't walk away from its commitments to workers, Lewenza said. He also said both unionized and non-unionized workers are suffering through hardship and the insecurity of the reeling economy. He called on workers and their families to pull together with a "collective heart" and push for changes in severance legislation.

Other guest speakers included Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, OFL President Wayne Samuelson, John Cartwright of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, Winnie Ng, co-chair of Good Jobs Coalition, CAW Local 195 President Gerry Farnham, and Marie Kelly of the Steelworkers.

The Queen's Park rally was the third event in a series of rallies and demonstrations in the Greater Toronto Area intended to raise awareness about the injustice of workers who get either none or just a small portion of the severance, termination and vacation pay they are owed. 

CAW members from as far away as Windsor, Kitchener, Guelph, Oshawa and other hard hit southern Ontario communities attended the rally. The Queen's Park event came just days after CAW Local 195 members in Windsor settled a dispute in which they were forced to blockade and occupy the Aradco auto parts facility to win a portion of the severance pay owing to them.  

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