Thousands protest auto industry job losses

By From CBC News | May 28 2007
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About 30,000 people attended a labour rally Sunday in Windsor, Ont., to protest what the Canadian Auto Workers union says is a job crisis in Ontario cities that rely heavily on the automotive industry.

A smaller rally held in Oshawa, Ont., drew about 600 people.

In Windsor, participants braved rainy weather for the march organized by the CAW and other labour organizations. They broke into three groups as they walked past different auto plants in the city before converging for the mass rally.

More than 100 cardboard tombstones were erected at the site of that rally, each bearing the name of a company and the number of people who have lost their jobs.

The border city has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country — 9.4 per cent in April, compared with the national rate of 6.1 per cent — although many labour leaders say the latter may be deceptively low because many new jobs are part-time or temporary.

Much of the high unemployment rate in Windsor stems from job cuts in manufacturing, particularly in the auto sector. The city has lost $2 billion and 17,000 jobs in auto assembly and parts alone in the past two years.

"Just with the turnout rate, less cars mean less jobs, and that means more layoffs and more people out of work, and it's bad for our communities," CAW worker Neil Klassen told CBC News in Windsor.

Union president Buzz Hargrove told the Canadian Press the federal government needs to do more.

"Let's get off some of the arguments we are having in the House of Commons and deal with the real issue," he said.

Oshawa has lost 7,000 auto parts jobs in the past 12 months, the CAW said.

The so-called Big Three automakers — General Motors, Chrysler and Ford — have all had massive layoffs in the past few years, but in Windsor many smaller auto parts plants have closed, with jobs going overseas.

Labour groups are organizing another rally for Wednesday on Parliament Hill to press various levels of government to do more to stop job losses in the manufacturing sector.

The provincial government recently announced it would hold an economic summit in Windsor in August to look specifically at the problems faced by the city and surrounding area.

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