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Women workers fight back – Support the Brabant strikers

MARCH 7, 2005 – The Toronto Star likes to market itself as a progressive voice, including a progressive voice for women’s rights. But its owner – TorStar Corp. – is now 14 weeks into a bitter labour dispute with 59 low-paid, mostly women workers at Brabant Newspapers in Stoney Creek. And not one line about the strike has appeared in the pages of the “progressive” Toronto Star.

The strikers – members of local 87-M, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) – include inserters, whose top rate is $8.99 per hour.

Mike Sullivan of CEP says that in 1993, when these workers were non-union (and Brabant was owned by Southam), their employer agreed to a pay equity comparison – the lead-hand inserter compared to a press helper (a job which was largely male). The employer agreed that the comparison was a valid one.

But in the years that followed, the wages between the two groups drifted apart. The lead-hand inserters were unionized, and won modest cost-of living increases through the 1990s. For most of that decade, however, the inserters were not unionized, and had to live through several years of a wage freeze.

In 2001 their new boss CanWest, agreed that the comparison between the two groups of workers was in principle valid, but no contract language was carved out. Now CanWest is gone, and TorStar wants the whole pay equity issue off the table – even though it would take the wages of the inserters to little more than $10 an hour.

To add insult to injury this time around – Brabant continued to use its union label on two Toronto papers, even though they were printed in a struck plant. These workers deserve our support.

Wednesday, March 9, the Hamilton District Labour Council is organizing a solidarity picket at the plant (5:30pm, 333 Arvin Avenue in Stoney Creek).

Look for actions in Toronto. Several weeks ago, the strikers came in to bring their case to the steps of the Toronto Star, and should the strike drag on, there are sure to be more such actions in the future.

And send a letter to the “progressive” Toronto Star ( demanding that TorStar respect the rights of women workers.

© 2005 Paul Kellogg. This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license.

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