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By Don Clark
After 13 weeks on the picket line, the strike (at the Carmeuse Lime and Stone plant in Beachville, Ontario) is over. Some was accomplished but much was lost, including a large measure of innocence.
Carmeuse chose to waste huge amounts of money on mall cop security and scabs – money that would have settled the contract long before it was necessary for the workers to take strike action. These are the obvious actions of a corporate bully who currently does not possess the ability to manage anything.
If Carmeuse wants to avoid a repeat performance in three years, they had better start right now by changing their bully boy attitudes. If their highly-touted site manager, who was imported from England, is anywhere near as good as has been claimed, it is time for the head office in Pittsburgh to give him the responsibility for and the authority needed to clean out the excessive number of bad attitude, anti-union supervisors, managers and HR people and get this operation back to what it can be if it is managed and supervised properly.
Government agencies did little or nothing to support the workers, including the scabs who had questionable qualifications and of course the local, provincial and federal politicians did absolutely nothing. They didn’t even extend the common courtesy of visiting their constituents on the picket line.
I applaud all of the workers who showed courage and determination by sticking it out for a very cold three months. I do not applaud those few who chose to be buddy-buddy with their enemies in security and Carmeuse management.
Mistakes were made by the union leadership. That is, of course, inevitable and only proves that they are human. These mistakes should be forgiven but not forgotten and lessons must be learned from them. There appears to have been far too much interference by the national union in what was strictly a local strike about local issues. The merger that created Unifor is relatively new and this type of thing must be corrected. Not all facilities are automotive assembly and supplier plants and automotive industry national representatives are not of much use in the quarrying industry. This local union needs a national representative who knows something about mining.
There was one glaring mistake made and, although this is not in any way intended to be judgmental, it is definitely something that must never be allowed to happen again. A young man in his youthful enthusiasm did something foolish, as we have all been inclined to do. Carmeuse insisted that he be a sacrificial lamb and there was a failure to demand that his job be saved as part of the settlement.
If Carmeuse wants to redeem a small part of their reputation in the eyes of this writer and the community in general they will reinstate this young man’s employment after he has served an appropriate suspension for his ill conceived act of youthful exuberance.
A wounded warrior must never be abandoned on the field of battle.