Steelworkers Pull Out of BMO, Advocate Others Do the Same

Toronto – The United Steelworkers (USW) announced today that it has sold all Bank of Montreal shares held through the Steelworker Benefit Plan to protest BMO’s role in prolonging a bitter, 27-month strike at Infinity Rubber.

USW members have been on the picket line at the Etobicoke rubber plant since December 2009 to resist their employer’s demands for a 25% wage cut and a 50% reduction in benefits.

USW learned that in June 2011, BMO’s main Hamilton, ON branch gave a brand new $7.5-million mortgage to the Infinity Rubber group through its holding company, BRI Holdings Inc.  BMO chose to grant the mortgage despite the ongoing strike and the operation’s recent history of insolvency and bankruptcy.  The fresh BMO financing enabled the operation to repay an 18% loan it had previously negotiated with Callidus Corporation Inc. and to continue operating with temporary replacement workers.

“By giving the Infinity Rubber group a new mortgage at a much better rate than what it had, BMO is helping the employer drag out the strike.  With the new BMO financing in hand, Infinity can continue to refuse to meaningfully negotiate and run its business with low-wage replacement workers,” USW District 6 Director Wayne Fraser stated.

Fraser also sits on the board of the Steelworker Benefit Plan, a multi-employer plan that provides vision, dental and supplementary health benefits to thousands of Steelworker members and staff.

“This plan is funded with USW members’ money and we don’t want to use that money to support a bank that is bankrolling an attack on our members,” Fraser said.

The decision to sell all BMO shares, valued at approximately $260,000, was made unanimously by the Steelworker Benefit Plan Board at its late February meeting. The sale was completed today.

“All these workers wanted was a fair deal.  Most of them had worked at that rubber plant their entire adult lives.  Infinity Rubber is determined to get rid of its unionized workers and the Bank of Montreal is helping them achieve that,” Fraser added.

The Steelworkers have been running a campaign to raise awareness about the Bank of Montreal’s role in the Infinity Rubber strike and is advocating to all its allies in the labour movement to do the same.

“As representatives of working people, we want to deal with financial institutions who side with the workers.  Clearly, Bank of Montreal is not one of those institutions,” Fraser concluded.

For more information on the strike at Infinity Rubber and the campaign highlighting the Bank of Montreal’s role in the dispute, see www.usw.ca/BMObankrollsInfinityRubber