Boiler-room lullaby: Montreal workers struggle as the garment industry quits Canada

By David Koch with Mostafa Henaway and Neal Rockwell

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Immense steam boilers at a factory complex in Montreal have ceased to operate, as garment companies have fled Canada, in search of cheaper labour.

The harsh dislocations this process has caused in the lives of workers locally are evident at the Montreal factory where these machines now sleep.

I was there with two friends from the Immigrant Worker’s Centre (IWC), a group that fights for those who (to take one example) find themselves unemployed after getting fired for talking back to an abusive boss.

Mostafa Henaway – an organizer with the IWC – was there, along with Neal Rockwell – an independent writer and photographer. We were handing out IWC campaign flyers to workers who were ending their shifts in the February evening.

While there, we recorded interviews with two workers (their names have been changed for this report to protect their identities). One, who we’ll call Bob, is an immigrant from Sri Lanka, trained in computer science, who worked pleating pants in Montreal for the same company for more than nineteen years.

The other, called Joe in this report, is a Canadian-born factory maintenance worker, who told us his job is protected by his membership in a union.

They told us that the industry, once a steady source of employment, declined most dramatically following trade liberalization in the mid-1990s.

Most poignant was Bob’s description of the daily threat of unemployment, the struggle to make ends meet (“I have to work like a dog,” he said), and his disenchantment with Canada, after having moved here for a better life.

For more information on the Immigrant Worker’s Centre, please visit:
http://iwc-cti.ca/

3 thoughts on “Boiler-room lullaby: Montreal workers struggle as the garment industry quits Canada

  1. 2012 January 28, 2012 / 7:38 pm

    2012
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  2. source May 27, 2012 / 3:38 am

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