Union says labour law violations prolonging 21-month strike
Ontario commissioned report reveals contention over whether workers will return to work once a collective agreement is negotiated.
TORONTO — The United Steelworkers union has alleged that a 21-month long strike at a Toronto beer can factory is being prolonged by illegal behaviour of US-based multinational Crown Holdings.
Commissioner Morton Mitchnick, appointed by the Ontario government in March to lead the inquiry and seek a resolution to the protracted dispute between Crown and its Toronto employees, released his final report June 18.
The union says Crown provoked the strike at its Toronto factory in September 2013 by demanding massive concessions from its employees, members of USW Local 9176. Instead of negotiating a fair settlement over the ensuing 21 months, USW says the company hired replacement workers to operate the plant.
In the report released June 18, Mitchnick acknowledges the USW’s contention that the major impediment to resolving the strike is whether striking workers will return to their jobs once a collective agreement is negotiated.
Mitchnick agrees with key USW positions on the issue.
“The parties have … gotten to a point where their positions are not far apart – save for the return to work issues,” he says.
“The only matter really preventing the parties from moving on to a deal is that of return to work,” he says.
He added that he believes the company has not demonstrated real movement … on the return to work protocol, in particular for what has become known as the ’34’ … but also on the question of strikers versus replacement workers generally.”
Mitchnick also notes that Crown failed to provide “any clear articulation” of its reasons for its position.
The USW has filed an unfair labour practice complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
The complaint will be heard by the OLRB on July 7.
Mitchnick also suggests in his report that Crown should move toward the USW’s position on other collective bargaining issues.