June 6 marked the 10th anniversary of The Society’s 105-day strike of Hydro One – the first and only strike in the union’s history – over the company’s attempt to create two-tier compensation and working conditions that would have hurt the next generation of workers.
In 2005, Hydro One wanted current workers to sellout future employees by enshrining pension, wage, job security and health benefits schemes that would be worse for all new hires.
The only problem: Society members weren’t willing to give away the next generation’s good jobs and went to the picket lines to try to stop it.
The strike was settled when the government-appointed mediator referred the dispute to binding arbitration. Though the arbitrator created a two-tier pension scheme, The Society successfully fended off two-tier wages, benefits and job security, as well as the company’s attempt to increase the length of the work week for all workers from 35 to 40 hours with no compensation.
Today, faced with more demands for concessions in Society members’ collective agreements, current Hydro One Local LVP Jim Botari, who served as a strike coordinator in 2005, says that there is much to learn from the Hydro One experience.
“Solidarity is what makes us strong when governments and our employers demand concessions,” said Botari. “We must fight to protect today’s good jobs and have a moral obligation to stand up for the next generation, too.”