Morbern strike comes to an end

CORNWALL, Ont. – After nine days on strike, unionized employees with Morbern Inc. returned to work on Wednesday.

Dave Branchaud, president of United Steelworkers Local 9343, told Seaway News that workers agreed to a new contract on Tuesday night (April 12).

Branchaud did not provide any information on the new agreement.

Talks between USW Local 9343 and Morbern broke down on April 1.

“For many years the union and Morbern have enjoyed very good labour relations, most often being able to resolve issues,” said Branchaud. “However, there has been a change in management, and over the past several years the union has seen this good relationship turn to a strained one. The majority of the talks that took place up until talks broke down consisted of the union fighting off major collective agreement concessions, despite the fact that the company is in a good financial position.”

The 220 unionized employees of Morbern started the strike at 10:30 p.m. Sunday (April 3).

“We’ve been out here for six days,” Bob James, a 39-year staffer, told S.N. on Saturday (April 9). “What’s our major concern? Everything – our retirement, contributions, seniority. We’re here until we get an agreement.”

Another picketer shouted: “Until they come and take my car.”

The group waved placards at two makeshift strike shelters, complete with burning barrels to beat the wintry spring weather.  

“We want respect from the company,” said Kim Quinn, a 35-year staffer. “There’s a few issues that have to be resolved. There’s all new management, and it’s a whole new scenario now.”

Branchaud said the union wasn’t striking over wages, but rather the fact that articles, such as vacation pay and stat holiday pay revolve around the employees working eight hour shifts, even though they work 12 hours shifts. 

“The company during negotiations made it clear that the plans for the future had employees working 12-hour shifts all year round, making it even more important that the language reflect the reality of the current workforce,” said Branchaud. “Another major issue is long term disability insurance. The industry standard around this insurance is payments of 66 2/3 per cent of regular pay, but this collective agreement has payments much lower, hurting the employees that are most vulnerable.”

Morbern opened in 1964, and is a leading manufacturer of decorative vinyl upholstery fabrics.

Share this article