Court injunction stops protesting Hamilton Steelworkers

Union claims the government is removing its members’ right to protest
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 06/14/2011

The union representing workers at Hamilton’s U.S. Steel plant is accusing government officials of co-operating with the steel company in “criminalizing” its workers’ right to protest.

Last week, a court-issued injunction stopped the United Steelworkers, Local 1005 members from blockading ships wanting to leave Hamilton harbour. The workers were occupying a lift bridge that needs to be raised while large ships navigate the area.

The ships are moving coke, a material used to manufacture steel, from its locked-out Hamilton plant to the Lake Erie Works in Nanticoke, another U.S. Steel facility. The union claims that by allowing the coke to be relocated, the government is stripping its members of the right to protest.

“For more than seven months, the workers have been subjected to a phoney lock-out,” Rolf Gerstenberger, president of Local 1005, told the local’s newsletter. “Prior to that it was shutdowns and layoffs, a workforce cut down through attrition […] The economic interests of the workers and the city of Hamilton are harmed to the tune of millions of dollars in lost wages, taxes, and services.”

The union says that the government does not understand that these workers are not striking, but that they have been locked out by U.S. Steel until they agree to the company’s new pension plan.

The workers have been locked out of the plant since Nov. 7, 2010 and have occupied the bridge twice before last week’s injunction, once on May 18 and then again on May 22. Police eventually convinced the workers to allow the stalled ship to pass.

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