Sterling Workers Win Strike Over Co-Pays

St. Thomas, Ontario

March 10, 2003

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Sterling Workers Win Strike Over Co-pays
Sterling Workers Win Strike Over Co-pays
dated March 10, 2003

Richard Laverty
CAW Local 1001 Interim Plant Chair

       "The total number of ballots cast 851. 770 - Yes, 80- No. That's a 91 per cent endorsement of this contract. We're ratified. We're going back to work"

       With the announcement of the results of the ratification vote Sunday morning, the 1,100 workers at the Sterling Freightliner truck plant in St. Thomas got ready to return to work that night. They struck the company for 17 days over the company's demand that they pay an escalating scale of co-pays for their health benefits. Richard Laverty, interim Plant Chair in announcing the result said the strike was the key to stopping the co-pay threat.

Richard Laverty
CAW Local 1001 Interim Plant Chair

       "We took a strike and the membership backed us and without the strike we would never have been able to convince the company that these co-payments aren't going to fly here in Canada."

       As the first contract for the newly formed CAW Local 1001, the workers got pay raises of 2.5% in the first year, 2.7 % in the second and 3% in the third year compared to the five per cent wage concession they were forced to take before they joined the CAW. More important than the wages however was a new improved benefit plan with no co-pays. CAW national representative Jerry Dias.

Jerry Dias
CAW National Rep.

       "You would think that this was a mature collective agreement that has been around for years and years. The fact that we put in place the design of a defined pension plan, got rid of a flex benefit plant that was a disaster, that was a cancer for the workers and put in place real benefits, contract language which is absolutely big three language; the fact that we were able to do that in the first collective agreement is quite amazing."

       The strike in the bitter cold where temperatures plummeted to -27 Celsius tested the solidarity of the workers. Bob Chernecki assistant to CAW national president Buzz Hargrove praised the members of CAW 1001.

Bob Chernecki
Assistant to CAW National President

       "You made the difference here because without your support there is no question in my mind, we would not have been able to come back with this type of agreement, because they were determined that you were going to pay for your benefits. Determined. And we have beaten that back forever and a day. Congratulations."

       It took 13 years to organize the Sterling truck plant and a 17 day strike to get its first contract. Richard Laverty says the company, by forcing a strike, has helped the union in the long run.

Richard Laverty
CAW Local 1001 Interim Plant Chair

       "I believe what this strike may have allowed us to do was develop solidarity in two weeks that would have taken us three years to do inside those gates."

CAW "Fighting Back Makes a Difference."

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