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Workers are fed up with cost of living increases

Ritch Whyman

May 6, 2024

After a short lull in strikes workers across the country have returned to the picket lines, fighting to make up for wages lost to profit driven inflation and to cover Bay Street’s interest rate hikes that have squeezed working class households for nearly 2 years.

Thousands of workers in key industries are in the midst of, or heading into negotiations. In many cases employers are digging in their heels and refusing to offer wages, pensions and benefits that make up for several years of below-inflation wage increases.

In several key looming battles the federal Liberals under Trudeau will be tested on their commitment to “anti-scab” legislation for federal sector workers.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers have been at the table for nearly six months and have yet to submit a the required “notice of dispute” to start the over 2.5 month process to be in a legal strike position. The last postal strike saw the Trudeau liberals smash the strike with back-to-work legislation.

The over 1,000 members of CUPE local 375 at the Port of Montreal, who also had their strike broken by the NDP-backed Trudeau government in 2021, are in a position to issue the mandatory 72 hour notice prior to striking at anytime. A port strike would cost employers up to $100 million a week, yet the Maritime Employers Association is still seeking concessions from those who keep goods moving.

Thousands of members of the locomotive engineers section of Teamsters Canada are in bargaining with the mammoth rail monopolies of CN and CPKC, fighting the ongoing push against safety protocols and quality of life requirements about time off in a worker’s home region. Again and again the federal Liberals have pushed back-to-work to undermine rail workers’ rights and supported the employers push to undermine rail safety.

In Toronto, over 12,000 members of the Amalgamated Transit Union local 113 have voted overwhelmingly to authorize strike action against the Toronto Transit Commission. These workers kept the city moving throughout COVID while senior managers and politicians stayed home. They are the same workers whose managers denied them the right to mask up at the start of the pandemic.

They only recently won a court victory overturning a provincial conservative party law that stripped them of their constitutional right to strike. Now after years of forced settlements that left them losing wages to inflation they are preparing to shut the city down.

The media, bosses, Tories and Liberals will be doing everything they can to whip up a sentiment for breaking any strikes by these workers. They will paint these strikes as undermining the “economy”, of driving inflation up, of being selfish. It will be vital for the whole of the labour movement to rally to their defense, not just in flowery words or tweets, but by mobilising members to build mass pickets in defiance of any back to work legislation.

Sadly the leaderships of most provincial federations of labour, national unions and the CLC have shown no appetite to build a mass workers

fight over eroding living standards, and inter est hikes from Trudeau and the bankers. They appear more interested in clinging to the sagging sails of the NDP pact with the hated cost of living crisis creator Trudeau. To get them to move will take rank and file members and local leaders demanding mass action to defend the right to strike.

It will take union leaders to stand up and knock aside nonsense about strikes harming the economy, by taking a stand like Shawn Fain of the UAW did and defending strikes as helping our, the the workers’ economy, and yes harming their – the bosses’, bankers’, Galen Weston’s, Keith Creel’s, Trudeau’s and Poilievre’s economy.


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