TORONTO (Oct. 31, 2011)—The Bank of Montreal betrayed striking workers at Infinity Rubber Technology Group Inc. when it loaned the company $7.5 million, according to the United Steelworkers.
The USW is rapidly expanding the protests it began Oct. 11 when it started handing out anti-BMO leaflets at BMO branches around the Toronto area.
“BMO recently gave the management group that runs Infinity Rubber a $7.5 million mortgage to continue operating their business their way,” the USW leaflet said. 'Not only is that management group leaving its long-time employees out on the street, it has a proven record of bankruptcy.”
More than 800 protesters—representing the USW, the Canadian Postal Workers Union and the Toronto and York Region Labor Council as well as members of the Occupy Toronto movement—assembled on King and Bay streets in Toronto Oct. 27.
The protest—designed to show general support for Occupy Toronto—also took specific aim at Infinity Rubber and BMO, according to a USW press release.
“We are still on strike because the government is allowing this company to hire agency workers, taking our jobs,” said Fernando Silva, a USW member and one of 65 striking Infinity Rubber workers, at the protest. “We are entering our third winter in this fight, but with your support, we'll get through it.”
Based in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke, Infinity Rubber was known as Biltrite Rubber (1984) Inc. until July 2009, when a group of investors and Biltrite executives led by Biltrite CEO James Chung bought the bankrupt company and changed its name. Chung has been CEO of Infinity Rubber ever since.
The strike began Dec. 2, 2009, after management demanded that workers accept a $5-per-hour pay cut (25 percent of wages) and pay for 50 percent of their group insurance benefits. All subsequent attempts at bargaining between labor and management have been unsuccessful.
About one year after purchasing the company, the Infinity management group refinanced the business with a BMO loan that, according to the USW, offered much more favorable terms than the original loan by a company specializing in loans to high-risk clients.
BMO customers and others have been very supportive of the anti-BMO campaign, according to Joe Drexler, head of strategic campaigns in Canada for the USW. “The public generally has been surprised and shocked at what BMO did,” he said.
Beginning the week of Oct. 31, the USW will expand the protests to BMO branches throughout Canada, Drexler said.
BMO officials declined comment, as did Chung