The North Star


On strike for 30 cents above minimum wage

“We’re making them rich and we’re struggling for that”

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Manitoba has the second highest provincial inflation increase at 8.1% and a minimum wage of $13.50, the second lowest in Canada. As a result of these effects, all 48 sewing machine operators at Freed and Freed have been forced to strike after demanding from their employer a 30-cent increase above the minimum wage.

On the second day of the picket, strikers were surrounded by 6 security guards in cars. Since then, there has been a constant security presence at the picket-line. "She's not giving us the 30 cents, but she can afford to hire a security guard and lawyers. Where can you find a security guard at a picket-line? Only here." A worker told North Star.

The Freed and Freed sewing machine operators have been without a contract since 2019. The strike mandate vote was initiated because workers are no longer able to make over minimum wage with piecework production as inflation has increased cost of materials. 

North Star joined the workers on the picket-line and spoke to many workers and union representatives from Workers United, including Abstinencia Diza who told North Star, "The employer has been saying that they've been affected by COVID-19. Everybody's affected, not just you guys. What about these workers who are just making minimum wage at 11.95$? They're affected too!"

Many of the strikers are close to retirement and have been with the company the majority of their lives. The main concern of those who have been working for Freed and Freed for over 20 years was the future of the younger workers. During negotiations, the employer offered a 0.4% Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) contribution. The average employer RRSP contribution is between 3 and 5%. 

North Star spoke with another worker on the picket-line, "This is the right time [to strike] because the young people need more income for every day living. Me, I'm [close to retirement] already, I'm doing this for them. I'm doing this to help them have money for the future."

"One of my coworkers told me this morning, 'I'm very grateful that you are here [at the picket-line] because you are doing this for the young people.' And then I told them, 'As long as you are here [at the picket-line], I'm going to go with you.'" All 48 workers are present at the picket-line everyday.

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