CAW Ends Illegal Occupation Of Plant

Canadian Auto Workers union abandon occupancy of bankrupt Ledco's Ontario plant after a judge ruled their presence was illegal.

KITCHENER, Ont. β€” Ledco workers abandoned their occupation of their bankrupt tool-and-die plant Sunday but union leaders say they aren't giving up their fight for severance pay.
Close to 30 employees left the building around 2:30 p.m. after a judge ruled their presence there was illegal.

The workers vowed to maintain picket lines outside the plant and control entrances to the building.

Unionized employees took over the plant last Friday morning after Ledco filed for bankruptcy Thursday night.

They've been out of the job since last Wednesday, after Ledco failed to win support for a 25 percent cut in wages.

The Canadian Auto Workers union, which represents 70 Ledco employees, said Sunday it is determined to get severance money for the workers, some who have spent 40 years at the plant.

CAW leader Buzz Hargrove visited employees and supporters outside Ledco on Sunday and gave them hope a deal could be struck to get the plant running again.

''We're locked out, but we're still fighting for a solution,'' Hargrove said.

''The big thing for us is to try to keep the plant open. We're talking to Ledco and other suppliers about someone who's willing to take over this place and make it work.''

Bankruptcy may have changed the rules, but there remains a demand for Ledco auto parts, Hargrove insisted.

He blamed the company for not approaching the union earlier for help, and the federal government for not addressing the pressures caused by a high dollar and competition from imported products.

The CAW argues some of Ledco's biggest customers, including General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, have a moral obligation to cover the Ledco workers' severance pay.

The union says members are owed $1.2 million in severance pay. Under bankruptcy laws, workers are eligible for severance only after all creditors are paid.

Some workers worried the end of the occupation meant their fight for compensation will be a lot more difficult.

''It lessens our leverage but the fight is far from over,'' Fred Stein, a former Ledco machinist said after union members filed out of the plant.

The union left the plant without incident, 1 1/2 hours before the court-ordered deadline.

''We didn't want any confrontation with the police, so we left earlier,'' said Tim Mitchell, president of the Canadian Auto Workers Local 1524.

''But we will keep fighting.''

Workers from plants in London, St. Thomas, Hamilton and other cities in southern Ontario joined the workers over the weekend to show their support.

In addition to a 25 percent pay cut, the company was seeking approval to slash benefits by 20 percent so it could remain open.

The CAW has a history of opposing wage concessions on the grounds they could set a precedent.
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