Mathyssen to Electro-Motive: Get Back to the Bargaining Table
January 11th, 2012 - 4:12pm
LONDON –In an open letter to management, MP Irene Mathyssen (London-Fanshawe) calls the claims that massive cuts to the wages of workers in order to remain competitive "hollow" and "not supported by the facts", and calls on the company to return to the bargaining table in good faith to get a new contract in place.
To demonstrate the London plant is already competitive, Mathyssen points to a recent agreement between G.E. and its workers in the USA that settled on wages of $30 an hour.
"When you consider the employer has no primary health care coverage costs in Canada because of our public healthcare system, and the difference in consumer buying power between US and Canadian workers, the deal G.E. reached with its workers is comparable to the compensation of workers at the London plant," Mathyssen said. "Clearly this is not a question of being competitive; so the company should either come clean about the real agenda behind the lockout or get back to the bargaining table and begin honest negotiations with the union".
The full text of Mathyssen's letter follows:
Dean Barton, Director of Operations
Bruno Couteille, Director Human Resources, Canada
2021 Oxford Street East
Dear Mr. Barton and Mr. Couteille:
Thank you for your letter of December 28, 2011. I am writing to express my profound concern regarding the very serious and unproductive lock-out situation at the Electro-Motive plant in London, Ontario.
I am sure you are very well aware that the workforce at the EMD plant in London is highly skilled, experienced, motivated and the members of that workforce take great pride in the quality of their workmanship and expertise. In fact, when this team of workers was asked to increase productivity at EMD last year, they managed to improve that productivity by an astounding 20%.
In addition to the importance of this motivated work force is the reality that Canadian workers provide a tremendous advantage to employers when compared to their counterparts in other jurisdictions. Our universal health care system means employers are not burdened with primary health care costs. The fact that workers are well educated ensures a level of training and competence second to none. The municipality, through its tax base provides secure infrastructure like clean, abundant water, low cost energy, sewers, roads and an extensive transportation network. When all of these local and human resources are taken into account, it is clear that your company enjoys significant advantages in London, Ontario. It must also be noted that Canada provides business with a very competitive combined corporate tax rate which is lower than the combined average rate in U.S. Great Lakes jurisdictions.
The situation facing the more than 400 hourly workers at EMD and their families is of profound concern to all of us in the community of London. The current lock-out and Progress Rail’s demand for greatly reduced wages, benefits and pensions, serves no one. Your corporate success at EMD is based on the technically advanced, quality workmanship done by your London workforce. That expertise has to be acknowledged in the negotiation process.
I am sorry to say that the line repeated by the Toronto firm your company has retained to field questions about the lock-out, rings hollow. The assertion that concessions are necessary to remain competitive is not supported by the facts. Your company posted profits well in excess of $1.1 billion last year. Your competitor, General Electric, was able to reach an agreement with its workers at a rate of $30/hour U.S. Given all of these factors, it is clear that the EDM plant in London, Ontario already is extremely competitive.
There is much to be gained by your company, its employees and the community when fairly compensated production resumes at the Oxford Street plant. I strongly encourage you to honour your corporate mission and vision statement that says, “We lead with integrity and trust. We develop and motivate our people and recognize and reward those who walk this talk.” It is essential that you return to the bargaining table and bargain in good faith with the Union representing EMD workers.
Irene Mathyssen MP
c.c. Tim Carrie CAW, Local 27
Mayor Joe Fontana, City of London
William Ainsworth, CEO Progress Rail
The full text of Mathyssen's letter is also attached in PDF.