International says workers hurt during strike support

| 6/27/2002

A confrontation at the strikebound International Truck & Engine Corp. truck plant Monday in Chatham, Ontario left three workers injured, one in critical condition, when a van driven by a security guard struck striking workers.

According to published news reports, Canadian Auto Workers president Buzz Hargrove, speaking from the CAW's Toronto head office, said, "it wasn't an accident. It was a deliberate effort to try to maim or kill a number of our picketers. The goons in the truck deliberately took a big van and ran deliberately into six people."

Steele Leacock, of London Protection Inc., was charged with three counts of dangerous driving, reports said.

Hargrove threatened to pull thousands of workers out of other auto-related factories across Ontario including employees of DaimlerChrysler, Ford and several parts manufacturers and send them to Chatham to help strengthen picket lines.

Hargrove said it was the first time since 1945 that a Canadian automotive company had used replacement workers. "We've got 130,000 members in Ontario and we're going to call on every one of them if we need them," he said.

More than 600 workers represented by CAW Local 127 walked off the job June 1 over a dispute with the company's plan to cut costs by $28 million.

Last week police turned back two buses with temporary workers to avoid a confrontation and a third left on its own after a fracas between strikers and a security guard, police said.

International has threatened to close the plant - the city's largest employer - if workers refuse to accept pay cuts. Some orders for trucks normally produced at the Chatham plant are being made in Escobedo, Mexico.