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‘We all do the same job!’ IMT workers in Ingersoll on strike for wage parity

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All 208 Unionized workers at IMT Defence in Ingersoll say they are striking “for the next generation.”

The members of United Steel Workers Local 2918 voted 98 per cent in favour of strike action.

Picket lines are in place at three entrances surrounding the plant located at the intersection of King and Ingersoll Streets. Company-paid security guards are also on site.

Among those carrying picket signs is Jessie Whittle. He and his partner, Mikayla Coulter-Kirk, are new parents. They both work at IMT and voted in favour of strike action.

“Rent is a little pricey nowadays, especially with the low wage they are offering. I don’t think it is very fair,” said Whittle.

In a statement to CTV News London, IMT said it has offered a 19.5 per cent pay increase to the “overwhelming majority of workers,” and a $2,500 signing bonus.

But local union President Jay McDonnell said the hike does nothing to address the wage gap between long-term and newly hired workers.

Mikayla Coulter-Kirk and her partner Jesse Whittle are seen with their son, Miles. The pair are both on the picket line at IMT Defence in Ingersoll. June 4, 2024. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)“In 2007, new hires were making more money than our current members are making now. We find that very wrong,” said McDonnell

IMT operates with a two-tiered wage system.

McDonnell said 44 senior machinists are paid about $30 per hour, and added those hired in recent years cap out at $22 per hour.

The union wants gradual parity.

“Something along the lines of, when you get hired, you start at 80 per cent of the wage. And every couple of years, you move up. They [IMT] wanted nothing of that.”

“The thing about it is, somebody is making $22 an hour in a facility that makes this kind of money, it is ridiculous!” stated 30-year employee Rick Smithers.

Smithers is among the few who recall a 2005 strike at IMT.

A group of strikers attempt to block a bus full of replacement worker in a 2005 strike at IMT in Ingersoll. Now known as IMT Defence, 208 workers are on strike once again. June 4, 2024. (CTV News London file photo/Sean Irvine) It lasted 13 weeks and saw the company bring in replacement workers.

“It was terrible for the guys on the line at the time,” shared Smithers. “The new owner, when he bought the place, wanted to cut everything by 35 per cent. Well, of course, we were not going to let that happen. We had to stand up for ourselves.”

McDonnell said that’s what will happen this time around. He said the union will not tolerate replacement workers.

“We are a secured goods facility, so we know that they can’t just bring in anyone. They have hired some people who are secured goods, and we believe they will be trying to do our jobs. We’re just hoping it doesn’t get to that.”

IMT is currently finishing up a plant expansion project.

The firm said its final wage, pension, and benefits offer is “well above the average for other companies in similar fields.”

But 18-month employee Tracey Rutter vehemently disagrees.

“We all do the same job. We’re all here for a paycheck. Like everything is going up but our pay.”

And until it does, McDonnell said, “We’re in it for the long haul!” 

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