·  USW@Work, Spring 2022

Victory on the picket lines!

A group of more than 20 women holding picket signs, are smiling and waving, standing on the curb by their child-care centre.There were no chairs on the picket line, hence no sitting, for the duration of a two-month strike by Women of Steel at the Au jardin de Pierrot child-care centre in Rouyn-Noranda, Que.

“We decided we were going fight this battle standing up, with a smile on our faces. We told ourselves, ‘We’re going to be seen, we’re going to be heard, and we’re going to look good!’ ” said Manon Leclerc, chair of the USW Local 9291 all-women bargaining unit that ultimately achieved significant improvements in a province-wide contract settlement with the Quebec government last December.

A second, all-women Steelworkers’ bargaining unit, employees of the Touchatouille child-care centre in Port-Cartier, Que., also waged a simultaneous, two-month strike to force the government’s hand and help achieve longoverdue
improvements in wages, staffing levels and working conditions.

Members of several unions were involved in the child-care sector bargaining with the government. Once the workers were in legal strike position, other unions staged rotating, one-day strikes, while Steelworkers members took the ultimate stand and remained on the picket line for the entire two months until a deal was reached.

“We were pioneers. We went all out because we were fed up with all the rollbacks demanded by the government during the negotiations,” said Patsy Ouellet, President of USW Local 7065, representing the Port-Cartier workers.

“We wanted to be recognized for our true worth. We were understaffed because of paltry wages, and all of these women were working so hard they barely had time to catch their breath,” Ouellet said.

“We had the support of parents and the public. We didn’t just cut a deal – we made real gains,” added Leclerc.

A group of 50 or more people, in dark winter coats, with hats, raise their fists and smile for the camera - solidarity on the picket line in Contrecoeur, Quebec“A great victory for solidarity”

A 26-day strike by 800 workers at ArcelorMittal steel plants in Longueuil and Contrecoeur, Que., led to a resounding win in February.

“This contract lives up to the expectations and, above all, the determination of our members,” representatives of three USW union locals – Local 6586 President Jason Braconnier, Local 8897 President François Lévesque and Local 8060
spokesperson Éric Imbeault – said in a joint statement.

Members were near-unanimous in strike mandate votes and in rejecting substandard “final” offers from the steel giant, leading to renewed bargaining and a settlement providing remarkable gains on Feb. 27.

“Our members were united. It’s a great victory for solidarity,” the local union leaders said.

The six-year contract provides for total wage increases of 26%, benefit improvements, and the elimination of a two-tier pension system – a landmark achievement. Going forward, new union members will automatically join the defined-benefit (DB) pension plan, as a substandard defined-contribution (DC) plan is phased out. The contract also increases monthly pensions under the defined-benefit plan.

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