Following months of praising its workers as "essential" during the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Cat Wear Parts has locked out its Selkirk workers.
Over 60 Canadian workers, members of United Steelworkers Local 9074-12, have been locked out of the Selkirk plant by their employer as of midnight June 19, completely upending the lives of these essential workers and their families.
Recognizing the economic uncertainty presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the union went so far as to offer a two-year contract with a complete wage freeze. However, that was dismissed by the company. Owned by the Alberta-based Buxton family, Black Cat sent a lawyer to the bargaining table to deliver its mean-spirited offer and, ultimately, threw the workers on the street.
"This employer seems more interested in bringing in cheap product from its operations in China than treating its Canadian workforce with fairness and respect," said USW Area Co-ordinator and lead negotiator, Tony Sproule. "These members worked hard through COVID-19, were praised for their efforts, only to be locked out at the first opportunity. It is a real slap in the face."
Manitoba law allows either party to apply to end a strike or lockout after 60 days and have an arbitrator impose a one-year contract. Given that reality, the union wonders why Black Cat opted for a lockout.
"The feeling from the members is that the employer is being callous and spiteful," emphasized Sproule.
United Steelworkers District 3 represents approximately 45,000 members across Western and Northern Canada, including 7,000 workers in Manitoba. USW is the largest, most diverse industrial union in North America.