The North Star


Westmount blue-collar workers strike

The richest city in the country wants to impoverish its workers

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On June 1, members of the Montreal Blue Collar Union (SCFP 301) in Westmount began a week-long strike, following a two-day and a three-day strike in recent weeks. The country's richest city is pressuring them to accept a limited offer that would reduce workers' purchasing power, and its latest proposal was unanimously rejected.

"The City of Westmount's wage offers are simply unacceptable. We're talking about impoverishing employees. The City tells us it's in good financial health, so why not share a little with the men and women who proudly serve the City of Westmount?" asks Jean-Pierre Lauzon, president of SCFP 301.

Union members voted in favor of a possible unlimited general strike on November 22, a mandate they will not hesitate to use if a settlement is not reached soon.

"We want the mayor to give a real push to end these negotiations. The citizens of Westmount need to know that if the workers aren't paid properly, services will be bled dry; and with the arrival of the summer season, it would be a shame not to be able to enjoy all the beauty of the city," adds the union president.

The last collective agreement for Westmount's blue-collar workers expired on December 31, 2019. Since then, negotiations have been tense, with the two parties disagreeing on several key points. Among other things, the latest inflationary period has been difficult for these workers, while the absence of a contract also means no wage increase.

The workers are asking for an increase equivalent to each year's Consumer Price Index (CPI), i.e. around 6.6% in 2022. They insist that the City of Westmount is one of the wealthiest in the country, and that they are confident it can find the resources to answer this simple demand.

"We're average, middle-class workers. We earn about $60,000 a year. Now we're negotiating with people on the city side who make about $400,000, so they're almost 10 times my salary. For them, a one-percent increase means nothing, but for us workers, a one-percent increase is huge," explains Guy Lagacé, a member of CUPE 301's negotiating committee, to North Star during a demonstration.

Mr. Lagacé adds that "when I see provincially elected officials wanting to vote themselves 30% wage increases when it's people with salaries between $100,000 and $200,000.... As I was saying, we're just asking for no impoverishment."

In addition to salary issues, the Westmount blue-collar workers are also seeking improvements in work organization. They are calling for a better balance between work and family life, notably by allowing flexible working hours so that they can, for example, take their children to daycare. They point out that such flexibility is common in today's job market and would contribute to a better quality of life for employees.

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