Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) Hamilton Committee, CPC
Siemens is trying to distract public attention from the real reason for its unilateral decision to shut the Hamilton turbine facility in 15 months and layoff 550 workers – an operation Siemens recently boasted was highly productive and efficient – by blaming public concerns about coal fired generation for their departure to North Carolina next year.
But the main reason for the move, which will expand Siemens operations in Charlotte, is because of North Carolina’s pathetic labour laws and the fact Siemens workers there have no union, no collective agreement, no bargaining rights, no right to strike, and are paid wages far lower than any worker in the Hamilton operation has ever worked for, or ever would. Benefits? What are those?
Siemens is a greedy transnational corporation, home-based in Germany, that could care less about its employees – Canadian or US, or German.
Siemens could care less about communities or the national interests of Canada. After 100 years operating in Hamilton, as Westinghouse and now as Siemens, it wouldn’t have made its secret plans to pull up stakes here and expand operations in the sunbelt, if it felt even an iota of responsibility to Hamilton, or Canada.
In the wake of this jaw-dropper, 550 families will join half a million others who have lost well-paid, permanent, unionized jobs in Ontario over the last 8 years. They’ll use their severance and their EI weeks to search for comparable jobs in an economy with 12.1% real unemployment, and at the end find themselves choosing between lower-paid, precarious work, and welfare; losing a house, giving up retirement plans, and giving up plans to get the kids a post-secondary education.
Who’s Protecting Workers?
Federal and provincial governments have nothing to say about the Siemens shutdown. They’re waving goodbye to Siemens, and they won’t lift a finger to stop them. For Liberal and Tory governments, multinational corporations can do whatever they want. Concessions and sweeteners like the tax gifts and freebies in North Carolina are the only thing on offer in Ontario. But what about governments’ responsibility to protect workers? And what about governments’ responsibility to protect the public interest for jobs, tax revenues, and for a turbine facility located in central Ontario, Canada?
Curb Corporate Power! - People’s Needs, not Corporate Greed!
Working people need new governments and new policies to put people first. Workers and communities need:
- plant closure legislation with teeth - stop corporations putting plants on skids to cut wages and break unions
- foreign investment laws that protect jobs and benefit Canada – not Siemens, US Steel, Vale Inco, and the rest
- bankruptcy protection for workers’ wages and pensions
- massive public investment to create jobs, expand manufacturing and secondary industry, build a Canadian car, build affordable housing, expand public services and Medicare, build a national child care program, roll back and scrap tuition fees
- raise wages, pensions and living standards, put Ontario back to work
- anti-scab legislation
- a Bill of Rights for Labour guaranteeing the right to strike, picket and organize
Needed Now: A Mighty Movement led by Labour
Corporations and their right wing governments say the economic crisis is over. But it’s not over for workers who continue to face massive unemployment, job loss, static wages, and declining living conditions. Now the attack is on the trade union movement itself, which corporations and reactionary governments know must be the backbone of a province-wide, and Canada-wide fightback movement.
Labour needs its democratic and community allies now more than ever, and communities need labour to beat back the corporate attack on cities, social programs, and public services.
The OFL needs to convene a labour-community summit that can organize and mobilize a mass, united and militant response to the corporate assault that can put thousands of people into the streets. In Greece, millions of workers, youth, women and people from all backgrounds are striking and demonstrating against government austerity programs and corporate attacks on jobs, wages, pensions, social programs and labour and democratic rights. This is the way to win.
For our part, we stand in solidarity with fighting members of Local 504, CAW, which has a long history of militant struggle from the early days of organizing in the 1930s and 40s up to the present. Communists played an active part in building the union in this sector, and we will continue to do whatever we can to help win the fight today. The struggle continues!