January Marked Start of Long Strike
Sudbury Got off to Tumultuous Start in 2008

By Harold Carmichael
Sudbury Star
December 26, 2008

January was one tumultuous month in Greater Sudbury.

The weather was extremely erratic. Temperatures were cold, but there was also a mild spell that produced flooding and ruined the hopes of snowmobilers, skiers, skaters and tobogganing lovers alike.

A local group that was opposed to the building of an elementary school and a medical office building on Centennial Drive -- Citizens for the Preservation of the Nepahwin/Lily Creek Wetlands -- gave up their Superior Court challenge Jan. 22 to try and stop the medical office building from going ahead. That was because the group lost a similar court challenge earlier in the month involving the elementary school.

Six men announced Jan. 28 they were coming forward and suing the Roman Catholic Church's Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie for $4.5 million each for sexual abuse they allegedly suffered from priests employed by the diocese decades ago.

There was also one very trying development that got its start Jan. 13 -- the launching of the strike at the five local Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce branches. By a narrow margin of 27-25, the more than 60 employees who were largely women, set up pickets outside all of the branches.

The bank countered by closing four of the branches and directing customers to the branch located inside the New Sudbury Centre.

As the strike dragged on, the United Steelworkers of America (the strikers were members of Local 2020) moved to close its CIBC accounts as a show of support. Steelworker retirees showed up on the picket lines to help bolster spirits.

Laurentian University economics professor, David Leadbeater, in an interview in early April, lamented the fact that there appeared to be no interest in applying political pressure in an attempt to end the strike.

The labour dispute appeared settled in mid-June when the bank and union came up with a tentative settlement following several days of talks -- talks ordered by Arnold Powers, the Ministry of Labour's director for consultation for Ontario. The union's bargaining committee was even recommending acceptance. But the strikers flatly turned the offer down 38-12 (76 per cent).

"I think we took them to the limit on the weekend," said a surprised Jim Kmit, the Steelworkers staff representative involved in the talks at the time. "I think it may be a very long time before we get back (to bargaining)."

The strike dragged on into the summer months and then the early fall with no talks being held. The labour dispute went on for so long that it even cast a shadow on the two local races in the Oct. 14 federal election. The nine-month strike ended three days after the election.

It was the second involving local bank workers in less than a year. In 2007, local TD Canada Trust workers were off the job for five weeks.


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