CAW Members Rally Behind Striking Steelworkers

March 25, 2010, 11:53 AM EST

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A massive solidarity rally was held in Sudbury on March 22 in support of striking Vale Inco workers who continue to battle back against company demands for concessions and fight for a new collective agreement.

Over 150 CAW members from across Ontario took part in the rally, including a contingent from Oakville, Oshawa, Hamilton and Toronto who made the same-day trek to and from Sudbury (located about four hours north of Toronto).

Nearly 5,000 workers, retirees and community supporters jammed the Sudbury Community Arena, demanding the Brazilian-based mining giant return to the bargaining table in the hopes of negotiating an end to the nine-month old strike.

The company has been relentless in its demand for workers to abandon their defined benefit pension plan, weaken seniority provisions and transfer rights and increase the use of contract workers, among other concessionary demands.

NDP Leader Jack Layton addressed the crowd along with United Steelworkers international President Leo Gerard. Brazilian trade union leaders Rogerio Pantoja, representative of the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT) and Efraim Gomes de Moura of the Coordenação Nacional de Lutas (CONLUTAS) also attended the rally.

Pantoja and de Moura offered messages of solidarity to the strikers on behalf of Vale workers in Brazil and encouraged Vale miners to stand united in the fight to protect and improve working conditions.

CAW Local 598/Mine Mill and Smelter workers President Richard Paquin said the rally provided a huge morale boost to the strikers and the community of Sudbury overall.

"It's very hard to accept that this strike has dragged on for so long, and no matter where you work you're feeling the impacts in one way or another," Paquin said.

"Vale is promoting an agenda of cutthroat bargaining that fails to respect the long-standing history and culture of labour relations in our community. We won't stand for this kind of power abuse and we'll continue to stand in support of our USW Local 6500 brothers and sisters on the picket lines."

Vale Inco workers in Sudbury have been on strike since July 2009.

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