Labour disputes will continue
Business agenda continues to strike at heart of labour, Hargrove says

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 16/98) - Labour disputes like the Con mine strike will continue as long as the federal government continues to support a big business agenda, a major union leader said.

The Con strike can be linked to the "struggle of working people around the world," Canadian Auto Workers national president Buzz Hargrove said.

Asked about the timing of the gold mine strike, Hargrove said Con mine owner, Miramar Mining, found itself with the "upper hand" and the worker pays the price.

With gold's price hovering at its lowest level in years and Miramar hedging its gold position well above the spot price, it could be argued that the miners were not in a strategically beneficial position to strike.

"It's a struggle. (Con miners) are obligated not to give up the fight," he said.

The Con strike has been quiet because of no scabs, Hargrove also said. "Every strike should be like that."

Hargrove also said big business is moving money around the world but when the money is pulled out, countries are left in disarray. Hargrove pointed to Russia and the Far East. In the last two years, the Canadian government sent business group Team Canada to every one of these countries, he said.

Hargrove spoke Saturday at the NWT Federation of Labour's meeting at the Explorer Hotel.

Government now needs to act as a balance between business and labour instead of undermining the power of labour groups, he said.

Labour's role is to fight back, Hargrove said.

"They want us out of their face (to get) long-term agreements so you won't see your membership. Nothing engages our membership like collective bargaining."

Hargrove called it a "God damn disgrace" that GNWT workers have not had a wage increase in six years.

He also said the denigration of all public sector workers has to stop.

There is a "mind-set that a public-sector worker is less than a person. Public sector workers are a damned important part of any sane society."

On the UNW-GNWT pay equity issue, Hargrove pointed to the federal government.

By ignoring the decision of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, the federal government has "set a new (low) standard."

It sets a sad example for provincial and territorial governments, he added.

Hargrove supported a move by the Union of Northern Workers to get a NWT human rights commission.