Toronto’s Labour Day parade in 2005 was led by members of the Society of Energy Professionals who were in the middle of a historic 105-day strike against Hydro One. The company wanted to create two-tier compensation and working conditions, but 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.
As the strike dragged on and scabs were brought in by helicopter, the company fired a number of picketers for a variety of spurious reasons. Those fired workers, which included today’s Society President Michelle Johnston, were given pride of place at the front of the 2005 Labour Day Parade.
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 from 35 to 40 hours with no compensation. The terminated picketers were also reinstated.
The lessons from that 2005 strike remind us that our labour movement must fight to protect today’s good jobs and to stand up for future generations as well.