Saturday, 9 June 2007

Union busting?

Quebecor is being accused of union busting with its decision to close a profitable Vancouver printing plant at a cost of 190 union and non-union jobs.

Canadian Press says the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union (CEP) said Quebecor was union busting with the pending closure of the plant on Southeast Marine Drive.

The plant, in business for more than 50 years and under Quebecor's control since 1988, prints 24 hours, Sun Media's recently revamped free commuter tabloid, magazines and other publications.

It employs 160 unionized workers and about 40 non-union staff. Layoffs at the plant could begin next week. The union workers' contract expires Oct. 31.

"I am surprised and disappointed that Quebecor has decided to abandon its employees," Dave Coles, president of CEP, said in a letter to Quebecor CEO Wes Lucas.

Alex Charles
, CEP's Local 525G president, said the plant is profitable and called the situation frustrating.

"This facility is profitable," Charles says in a CNW Group press release. "The employer called all of the staff together to congratulate them on meeting their sales targets for the year - by April - and two days later assembled them again to tell them the place was closing.

"While plant closures are not uncommon, most involve facilities that were no longer profitable," said Charles. "That's what frustrates us about this situation. The employer's negotiators were absolutely up front with us about it. They said they were closing the plant because they don't want to do business under this collective agreement any more.

"That's a pretty powerful admission. Even though they're still getting their profit, they're closing the place because they think the workers there make too much. That's just spiteful. It's a lousy way to treat the people that have been generating your company's wealth.

"This highly profitable employer is simply trying to send a message to working people that it's okay for corporations to make good money, but not for workers," said Charles. "That's not going to wash in Canada in the 21st century. Our members won't be pushed backwards, to face tomorrow's prices with yesterday's wages. What is this company thinking?"

The Vancouver Sun says a Quebecor spokesman gave another reason for the closure.

"We sold the building," said Tony Ross, executive vice-president of corporate affairs.

Ross told the Vancouver Sun that after the company told employees about its plans in April, it entered into negotiations with the union on terms and conditions to merge the operation into Port Coquitlam but "we were unable to reach a satisfactory conclusion."

Ross told the Sun no attempt will be made to relocate employees, who will all be laid off by the end of the year.

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