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March 28, 2004 - 5:57pm EST
In a nail biting ratification outcome the workers at Vitafoam came agonizingly close to rejecting the Company’s offer of settlement in the recently negotiations.
Had the forty five % of disgruntled workers been able to garner a few additional support on November 25 2003 Vitafoam Products Canada LTD would have been confronted with its 4th strike in 25 years.
Such a hair raising result should send not only shock waves to the company but force the powers that be to do some serious stock taking.
These workers are renowned for their militancy. Most are cognizant of what their counterparts enjoy wages and benefits wise in other plants in the foam industry. They note too the upswing in business in their own plant.
Therefore, their militancy and resoluteness reached boiling point when the company’s offer of 7 % wage increase, a 10 cent raise in pension contribution and a $ 2000 raise in Life insurance, all spread over 3 year, was revealed. With no improvements to other benefits they further felt cheated, insulted and humiliated. A sizable number protested that to ratify such an agreement was an affront to their dignity and intelligence.
Hence the reason for the venom spitting on November 25 2003.
A large segment of the employees justifiably argued that their colleagues even in non unionized shops are these days enjoying far more superior wages and benefits.
It is time management comes to grips with the reality that that with an ever improving economy collective bargaining has assumed new dimensions.
Job security apart, workers are seeking vast improvements to present and fighting for new benefits the cost of which cannot be home by meager wage increases.
With an aging work force plaguing the economy and the concomitant uncertainty of the CPP guarantee, substantial pension contributions by employers is the priority at the bargaining table.
It should be noted that the CAW has lunched a nation wide campaign for legislation to guarantee pensions. Simultaneously the drive is on under the Pensions Benefits Guarantee Fund to improve coverage in Ontario.
Therefore the hierarchy has a lot of catching up to do. Its interest will be best served by moving swiftly to mend a severely fractured employer-employee relationship it has 3 years to offset the many negatives the workforce harbors of it. And the overnight disciplinarians pounding the shop floor hurling vindictiveness will ignite the powder keg it is sitting on.
To summarize, the top brass of must move to seriously address contentious issues vis a vis: improve on existing and genuinely consider additional benefits the next time it sits with the union at the table. In the interim it is vital that it establishes the mechanism for a worker friendly environment in the plant.
To negate the above can be counter productive and will certainly create the catalyst for disaster in the next 3 years.

By Cecil Bansgopaul
Vitafoam Worker
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Last Updated: March 28, 2004 5:57:18 PM