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Cascade workers call for city support

Unifor members on strike at Cascade Aerospace protested at city hall on Monday.  - Alex Butler
Unifor members on strike at Cascade Aerospace protested at city hall on Monday.
— image credit: Alex Butler

Striking workers from Abbotsford’s Cascade Aerospace Inc. protested at city hall during Monday’s evening council meeting, calling on the city to “show leadership” in the ongoing labour dispute.

After the meeting, Gavin McGarrigle, the B.C.-area director for Unifor, called on Mayor Bruce Banman to publicly stand up for local jobs. Banman said that while he feels for the workers, “the city cannot get itself involved in the middle of labour negotiations between a union and a company.”

The members of Unifor Local 114 have been on strike, with a 24-hour picket line, since June 4. The union represents 440 aircraft maintenance engineers, interior technicians, painters, and more at Cascade, which was acquired by the Halifax-based IMP Group in late 2012.

McGarrigle, the union’s lead negotiator, said the workers are mainly concerned with job security and the proposal from the company on “two-tiered compensation” for vacation, pension contributions and severance.

He said young workers entering the job would receive less compensation than existing workers, which would create inequity among people doing the same work.

He said that it has been difficult for the workers to remain without wages and also keep a 24-hour picket line.

McGarrigle said politicians have been silent on the strike at Abbotsford’s largest private-sector employer. Union members have been handing out flyers that say Banman, MLAs Mike de Jong and Darryl Plecas, and MP Ed Fast should show leadership on the issue.

Union members had requested to make a delegation to council at the meeting on Monday, but the request was denied. City manager George Murray said the request was denied, as application sometimes are, because the city has no jurisdiction over the issue.

As Cascade has many contracts with the federal Department of National Defense, Unifor claims political pressure could help the company and union to settle.

Banman said he “offered to try and bring the parties together behind the scenes, but as of yet, I have not had a phone call to do that.”

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