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EMD vs Caterpillar – or the Little Guy vs The Corporation

January 21, 2012

London Day of ActionI digress from my normally sports and outdoors-oriented blathering to cover something close to the heart and serious in my little corner of the world. I’ve worked and played with these people, they are not just workers to me – they are my friends. They deserve better.

The EMD vs Caterpillar controversy has become international news. The gist of the story is that Caterpillar came into London a couple of years ago, received concessions from the federal government to do so, and bought EMD (locomotive plant). They came requesting a 20% increase in production as well. Both terms were met.  They are now, after posting over a $1B profit over the past year, telling the unionized workers that they must make up to 55% concessions in their wages and benefits and lose their pensions.

There is no doubt that Caterpillar had no intention of staying in Canada from the get go.  They asked for concessions and received them from the federal government.  They asked the plant to increase its production by 20% and the challenge was met. Now, as expected, they are taking their profits and leaving. Their explanation will be simple – our demands were not met, we tabled an offer and if the union workers won’t take it, we’re just going to pay Americans nothing to do the same work.
Caterpillar has a reputation for not liking unions, preferring to be able to provide fair and equitable wages. They may not like a union, but if this is their manner of offering fair and equitable compensation, I think somebody needs to hand them a dictionary.  To reduce wages when there is an economic downturn is understandable, in order to keep jobs.  But when the company is not experiencing any hardships (1.4 B in profits) it appears that minimal wage reductions would be the way to be fair and equitable.
These cuts would not allow their workers to feed their families, pay their bills and otherwise keep a roof over their heads.  To repay their hard-working loyalty by greedily filling their pockets with no other explanation than to ‘keep up with the competition’ is ludicrous.  In addition, it appears that they haven’t managed to get their Muncie plant up and running without the services of London employees and have yet to confirm that they can staff the plant with qualified people.

To my own federal government – why did you not perform your due diligence when you decided to provide funds to Caterpillar and allow them to buy EMD?  The people on the ground knew that Caterpillar was never going to stay here and was not going to treat the employees fairly.  How is it that whoever recommended that the funds be released (Treasury Board or some such) were not aware of Caterpillar’s ‘well-known’ stance on unionized workforces? You may as well have burned the $5M in front of the picket line.  And now that Caterpillar is on the brink of leaving and hundreds of workers as well as the economy of London, ON are about to fall – where are you? Where is the government that is supposed to stand up for its people? Show the working people of this country, whose backs the economy is built upon, that they are valued.

To the workers of Muncie, I understand you need jobs as well, but when they come, don’t be surprised if the concessions continue to be ‘requested’ and the ability to feed your families is taken from you.

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