The United Steelworkers (USW) began leafleting Bank of Montreal (BMO) branches in downtown Toronto Monday as part of a national campaign to inform the bank's customers about what the union called BMO's attack on unionized workers and its questionable loan to Infinity Rubber.
The union said that BMO replaced a loan (with another lender) at 18 per cent interest with a $7.5 million loan at prime plus 5 per cent.
"This will prolong the strike by giving Infinity the funds to withstand the economic pressure placed on them by their customers, suppliers and competitors," said the Steelworkers.
In December 2009, Infinity Rubber in Etobicoke forced 48 workers on strike after they refused to accept a 25 per cent reduction in wages to $16 per hour and a 50 per cent reduction in benefits, said the union.
"At the start of this strike, we were able to shut the plant down for a few days initially," said Carolyn Egan, President, Steelworkers Toronto Area Council.
But it's now one of the longest running strikes in Toronto's history.
"We know those workers there are suffering and suffering hard. And they're just an example of what companies are doing to workers across this country."
Demanding more concessions from workers as corporate profits continue to rise.
Infinity demanded these huge concessions, claimed the union, even though the workers took wage cuts of up to $6 per hour just a few months earlier.
"The employers are gaining confidence and we have to push that confidence back and show that working people in this country also have confidence," said Egan.
The USW campaign began with regular leafleting of BMO branches in the Toronto area that will eventually extend throughout Ontario and the rest of the country.
On the southwest corner of King and York Streets in Toronto across from BMO's head office, Charlie Scibetta addressed members of the USW as well as striking workers at Infinity Rubber and said, "This is the very institution that replaced a high risk 18 per cent loan with a prime plus 5 per cent to a greedy corporation."
Would they extend the same privilege to their average personal banking client under similar circumstances?
"No," said Scibetta, Assistant to Wayne Fraser, USW District 6 Director. "When are we going to stop reducing interest rates for the union-busting corporations?"
Wealthy corporations that appear to take delight in the continued suffering and misery of workers and their families.
"It's been 21 long, grueling months and there's no end in sight," said Eric Hassan, Infinity Rubber work and USW Local 526L member.
Dionne Coley, Etobicoke-Lakeshore provincial NDP candidate, vowed that her party would continue to push for legislation to eliminate the use of replacement workers during a strike.
"It's shameful and it's a disgrace to our society," said Coley. "I got to hear some of the stories (from workers) of how this has affected their families, their livelihood and their dignity."
Joe Drexler, the Department Leader Education and Strategic Campaigns for the USW Canadian National Office, made it clear at the rally that his union won't allow major financial institutions to take sides in labour disputes.
"And that's exactly what BMO has done," he said.
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