Fighting for Decent Pensions at St. Marys Rally

May 18, 2010, 4:40 PM EST

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Hundreds of CAW members from across southern Ontario took part in a mass rally at the St. Marys cement plant in support of Local 222 members striking against company rollbacks in pensions and benefits.

"Workers have a right to a decent pension," CAW President Ken Lewenza told the May 18 rally outside the St. Marys facility in Bowmanville, Ontario. Lewenza stressed that the union is determined to ensure all workers receive secure retirement income.

He blasted management of the Brazilian-owned company for attempting to take away the Bowmanville workers' defined benefit pension plan.

Lewenza said management has indicated that the company can afford the current plan and that senior officials have admitted that the pension plan isn't an economic issue. Instead the company is attempting to institute a cultural change among its entire worldwide workforce.

He called that an insult and added this pension dispute is something all Canadians should be concerned about. "The debate should be about all Canadians having the right to a secure pension plan."  Lewenza urged the federal government to prevent employers from using the excuse of the global economic meltdown to attack workers wages, benefits and pensions.

Paul Sowden, CAW Local 222 unit chairperson at St. Marys, read a letter of support from the Brazilian union representing workers at the parent company.

He also thanked local CAW members for their courage and tenacity in the fight to protect their pension plan, which has been in place for decades. He urged the company to get back to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair and equitable agreement for workers at the open pit mine.

"We just want to keep what we have," Sowden said.

CAW Local 222 President Chris Buckley said the pension plan is financially healthy and the company has weathered the global financial meltdown better than most companies.

"I say shame on this company, which is doing extremely well," Buckley said. He praised the dedication of the striking workers who have been without a pay cheque for 10 weeks as they fight off this attack on their pensions and benefits.

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