After 22 months on strike, a tentative deal for Crown Holdings workers

Photo: Flickr/Chinnian

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A very long and highly publicized strike at Crown Holdings may soon come to an end, if Crown workers vote to accept a tentative agreement reached late Wednesday night. 

The 120 workers at Crown Holdings Inc.'s Toronto plant have been on strike since September 6, 2013, after voting almost unanimously to reject a two-tiered collective agreement. The strikers are members of the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9176, and many of them have been working at Crown Holdings for over two decades.

"I commend the members of Steelworkers Local 9176 and their negotiating committee for the incredible solidarity and character they exhibited throughout this prolonged struggle," said United Steelworkers Ontario Director Marty Warren in a press release.

In March, Ontario Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn ordered an industrial inquiry to investigate the dispute. That intervention initiated a mediation process as well as an inquiry which was led by experienced mediator-arbitrator Morton Mitchnik. 

Mitchnick submitted his report to the Ministry of Labour late last month, and according the union, the investigator agreed with the union that Crown Holdings’ illegal behaviour had prolonged the strike. 

In September of 2014, the union filed an unfair labour practice complaint against the company over 34 workers that had been fired without just cause. Whether or not these workers were to be re-hired remained the main issue of contention between the company and the union. 

Replacement workers have been running production in the plant since the beginning of the strike which is why the Steelworkers and their supporters in the labour movement have been calling on Canadians to boycott canned beer and other products made by the US-owned Crown Holdings Inc. 

With about 140 plants in 40 countries, Crown Holdings Inc. is one of the world's largest manufacturers of food and beverage cans. One out of every five cans in North America is made by Crown Holdings employees, of whom only roughly half are unionized.

The proposed contract will be presented to striking workers and submitted to a ratification vote during the weekend of July 18-19.

Details of the agreement will not be released before the ratification vote.

Crown Holdings did not respond to rabble.ca's request for an interview.

Ella Bedard is rabble.ca's labour intern and an associate editor at GUTS Canadian Feminist Magazine. She has written about labour issues for Dominion.ca and the Halifax Media Co-op and is the co-producer of the radio documentary The Amelie: Canadian Refugee Policy and the Story of the 1987 Boat People.

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