Montreal textile industry moves south: Getting their cut

Getting their cut

Textile workers: Fighting back
Photo: Tatiana Gomez

Pressure tactics by the Quebec Council of UNITE HERE union and its members finally paid off last week when manufacturing giant Golden Brand (who owns Moores Inc. and Men’s Wearhouse) agreed to give $3.5-million in severance pay to its 540 workers.

The employees lost their jobs when the company’s local manufacturing facility, which included a cutting room, fusing department, and pant and coat shop, closed on March 3.

While it was a historic settlement for workers in Montreal’s clothing industry, former employees, mainly held by new immigrants, still face an uphill battle to find new jobs. It also isn’t likely to stop the industry trend of closing local operations to move production south in search of cheaper labour and higher profit margins. This year alone, hundreds of jobs were lost. And, according to a recent Statistics Canada report, for the first time ever, more Canadians are involved in selling products than producing them.

"Factories are moving south to low wage countries, where people are being paid cents per hour, not dollars per hour," explains Lina Aristeo, director of UNITE HERE, Quebec Council.

Members of the Immigrant Workers’ Centre (http://iwc-cti.ca/) in Côte-des-Neiges, a committee of workers dismissed by Montreal textile manufacturer Lamour Inc., are actively protesting their situation and organizing for better treatment.

"Over 600 jobs have been lost over the past couple years, as Lamour Inc. is closing operations and following a pattern of corporate globalization," outlines Mostafa Henaway, an organizer with the Immigrant Workers’ Centre. "Companies are shutting down their manufacturing centres, retaining their administrative operations in Canada and moving manufacturing to places in the south with more exploitable labour."

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