Kenworth Strikers In Canada Stand Firm

By Monica Jones, The Militant, Vol.59 No.33, 11 September 1995

STE-THÉRESE, Québec—The strike at the Kenworth truck plant here remains solid after its third week. The 850 members of Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) Local 728 are waging the strike to improve their pension plan.

Negotiations broke down the first week in August and the union voted 95 percent in favor of strike action. The company refused to discuss changes to the pension plan. The monthly pension for a retiring worker is $28 for each year of service, with a penalty for retiring before age 62. The union is demanding an increase in pension payments to $33 per month in the first year of the new contract, $38 in the second year, and $41 in the third. Workers also want to be able to retire as early as age 55, with no penalty, if they have 30 years of service.

Rather than negotiate with the union the company mailed letters to workers at home. The letter, dated August 9, the second day of the strike, included a summary of their final offer. They are trying to divide us, a striker explained.

Negotiations are tentatively scheduled to resume September 6. On the picket line this is seen as a good sign. But there have been many strikes at Kenworth before; the longest lasted for more than eight months in 1978. That year the company enlisted the help of the provincial police to close the main highway as they tried, unsuccessfully, to take trucks out of the plant.