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UPDATE: Council joins thousands at rally to defend EMD workers in London

The Council of Canadians London and Hamilton chapters are joining with thousands of others in London at this moment to support locked-out Electro-Motive Diesel workers. EMD is owned by Peoria, Illinois-based Caterpillar Inc., the parent company of Progress Rail Services. Almost 500 unionized workers were locked out on New Year’s Day, two days after rejecting a contract offer that would cut their wages and benefits in half. There are fears the company is planning to move production to a low-cost plant in Muncie, Indiana.

London chapter activist Don McLeod wrote earlier this week, “Our London Chapter will be our in great force on Saturday to support the Electro Motive workers & CAW in solidarity to achieve fair wage and benefits. London Chapter Members will be meeting with other Council of Canadians Chapters that will be attending this rally. Hamilton is confirmed with 6-8 members coming. Please give them a warm London Chapter welcome!”

The London Free Press reports this hour, “Hundreds of union supporters have begun gathering at London’s Victoria Park for a mass rally to support locked-out Electro-Motive Diesel workers. As many as 10,000 labour activists and other supporters, from as far away as Sudbury, Ottawa and the U.S., are expected at the demonstration, as the lockout enters its third week. …Scheduled speakers at the rally include Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan and Ken Lewenza, national president of the Canadian Auto Workers union that represents the nearly 500 locked-out EMD workers. …As protestors flow in, they’re being handed signs with slogans such as ‘Harper: Stop Corporate Greed’.”

The Toronto Sun adds, “Calling U.S. equipment giant Caterpillar ‘the poster child of the greedy one percent,’ Sid Ryan, the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), renewed his call for workers across the province to rally outside the company’s plant in London, Ont., Saturday morning. ‘People are fed up with profit-rich foreign corporations destroying Canadian jobs, our economy and our communities,’ Ryan said in a statement issued on Saturday morning.”

“CAW President Ken Lewenza also attacked Caterpillar. ‘Workers across Ontario are standing together today to call for an end to the kind of corporate greed from companies like Caterpillar that is putting at risk these 500 jobs in London,’ Lewenza said in a statement.”

In a CUPE media release, national president Paul Moist, who is at today’s rally, says, “It is simply outrageous for Caterpillar to demand these workers give up their pension plan and take a 50 percent cut in pay and benefits, while paying their shareholders record dividends for 17 years straight.”

And Linda McQuaig comments in the Toronto Star, “As the 500 London workers have bundled up in the cold, the Harper government refuses to get involved, sitting silently on the sidelines as Caterpillar brings its notorious anti-union fervour to Canada. In fact, the Harper government is involved, having played a key role in bringing about this disaster for the London workers by approving the sale of the company, Electro-Motive Diesel, to foreign-owned Caterpillar in 2010, after supposedly investigating whether the deal was in Canada’s interests. …The Harper government also approved a foreign takeover by another notorious union-busting company, mining giant Rio Tinto, which has now locked out 800 workers in Alma, Que.”

She adds, “The Canadian Labour Congress is demanding that Ottawa strengthen its foreign takeover laws to make the secretive review process more open, with public hearings in affected communities and publication of the conditions imposed — if any — on foreign owners. Ironically, the Harper government has complained forcefully about ‘foreign’ interference from outside environmentalists protesting a proposed pipeline across the Rockies. But when it comes to foreign companies stripping Canadian workers of half their wages and then moving operations out of the country, the government hasn’t a negative word to say. Harper is of course staunchly pro-capitalist, and has aggressively lowered corporate tax rates, while refusing to link lower taxes to investment or job creation. …He seems determined to turn Canada into an anti-union paradise…”

It might also be noted that Caterpillar has been for years a member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development which is seeking to impose its pro-privatization version of the green economy at the Rio+20 talks this June, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=13042.