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    Working People Under Attack:

    Sears Locks Out Lower Mainland Service Technicians

    By Aaron Mercredi
    For almost 10 weeks, service technicians employed by Sears in the lower mainland have been locked out of work. The workers, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 213, were in the process of bargaining for a new collective agreement when management shut the doors on them for refusing to work under an imposed collective agreement.

    On September 27th, bargaining had broken off between Sears and IBEW 213 when Sears demanded that the bargaining committee either reject or accept what they were offering right then and there, without even giving the union a chance to take this offer to its members to decide on.

    Sears’ offer included a longer work week with no overtime, cuts to holiday time, allowing the employer to impose split weekends (meaning no consecutive days off), and making no guarantee of wage increases over the four-year period of the new contract.

    This ‘my way or the highway’ offer came at the 10th meeting of unsuccessful negotiations on September 27th, where the workers were fighting for decent working terms and conditions. The right to bargain for a collective agreement is a fundamental right for unionized workers, and Sears is undermining that right by imposing a lock-out because they didn’t get what they wanted.

    Sears, a Union-Buster!

    When the bargaining committee refused to accept their offer, Sears then served notice that they would lockout the IBEW 213 members on October 1st at 8:30am. They also said that the lockout would be lifted at 10am, at which time the members would be invited to return to work under the terms of the rejected contract. Sears stayed true to its word, inviting the union members back to work and stating that they would not be required to pay union dues under this new ‘agreement.’

    It’s obvious that Sears is not interested in the well-being of its workers. That should be crystal clear. From trying to impose a concession-filled contract to locking out its workers for refusing to bow down to unacceptable working terms and conditions, this giant corporation is trying to turn back the clock and strip away any gains that these workers have been able to make since they unionized. In 1997, the workers began to certify with IBEW 213 because of poor management and their terms and conditions of employment constantly being chipped away by the bosses. And now, after trying to negotiate a new collective agreement with Sears, they have been left out in the cold by their employer. Many of these workers are long-term employees with families to support.

    Support the Service Technicians!

    IBEW 213 is asking people to not buy any Sears merchandise during this dispute, and to send a message to Sears to treat their employees fairly. At the BC Federation of Labour convention on November 28th, an emergency resolution was passed to support this callout to working people to stop shopping at Sears. This has also been joined by many other unions across the country, from coast to coast, who have joined the service technicians in their fight by boycotting Sears for being an unfair employer. This sort of solidarity action can bring pressure on Sears, especially during the holiday season.

    This basic fight of the Sears service technicians is a fight for dignity and respect, and it affects all working people. This can set a precedent for more companies to threaten to lockout workers who won’t accept substandard working conditions, to make more profits off our backs while stripping us of more and more our rights. The Sears service technicians have no option but to fight back. This is a call to all working people in Canada to support fellow workers in the struggle for better conditions.

    For updates on this important struggle and how you can help, please visit the IBEW 213 website at www.ibew213.org



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