Workers at city plant mostly immigrant women: Employees locked out in wage-negotiation rift

By Aldo Santin, Wimmipeg Free Press, Thursday 5 July 2001

AN airport-area plant that employs mostly immigrant women was shut down yesterday by a contract dispute.

The Technical Products International plant on Notre Dame Avenue locked out employees yesterday morning after unionized workers, who overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer the day before, were preparing to set up a picket line.

We're preparing for the worst, said Cecile Cassista, a national representative with the Canadian Auto Workers union, which represents 250 TPI employees.

Cassista said the sticking point was money.

If the employees had accepted that contract, it would have taken them three years to reach $8 an hour, and that's unacceptable, she said. All the other issues were resolved.

Cassista said most TPI employees are immigrant women, many of them single mothers, who are forced to take part-time jobs to make ends meet.

Cassista said TPI offered its employees a three-year contract that would have seen wages increase 50 cents an hour over three years—a seven per cent increase. The average hourly wage is $7.25.

The TPI plant manufactures harnesses and connection devices for cables and wiring used in the computer, medical equipment, audio/video and automotive industries.

TPI, formerly a family-owned business, is part of Connecticut-based Amphenol Corp., a publicly traded firm and one of the world's largest manufacturers of interconnect products, with plants around the globe.

Calls to the Notre Dame administrative offices were not returned. Officials at the Amphenol corporate headquarters in Wallingford, Conn., could not be reached for comment.

In Amphenol's 2000 annual report, the company stated its worldwide sales increased 35 per cent from the year before and that its earnings had more than doubled to $2.52 US per share. The company has 11,600 employees worldwide. This is the first strike at an Amphenol plant since a one-week strike at a New York facility in 1995.

Cassista said there have been no attempts to bring in a provincial conciliator, adding talks were complicated because company negotiators were flown in from the United States.