Nfld. & Labrador

Workers striking at Steele Honda dealership in St. John's

The strike comes after four months of unsuccessful negotiations about rates for mechanical work and benefits for new hires, said Richard Gill, president of the workers' union.

Workers say bosses want to introduce two-tier benefits and flat rates for mechanical work

About a dozen workers from Steele Honda set up a picket line outside Steele Mazda on Kenmount Road in St. John's on Thursday. (Adam Walsh/CBC)

About 40 workers from the Steele Honda dealership on Kenmount Road in St. John's went on strike Thursday morning, saying their bosses are trying to cut their pay and their benefits.

The strike comes after four months of unsuccessful negotiations with the company, said Richard Gill, president of the Teamsters Local 855 union, which represents the workers.

"We're not prepared to go there," Gill said.

About a dozen of the striking Steele Honda workers picketed outside the Steele Mazda dealership just down the road. That's because the company has been sending cars that would normally be serviced at Honda down the street to be serviced at Mazda, Gill said.

"Our work is going down the street," he said.

A statement from Steele Honda on Thursday morning says that while the company is disappointed the workers are striking, it "fully respects this process and the rights of its unionized employees."

Richard Gill is the president of the Teamsters Local 855, the union that represents the striking Steele Honda workers. (Adam Walsh/CBC)

The Honda dealership changed hands from the Penney Group to the Steele Auto Group about a year ago, he said.

Steele shops charge a flat rate for mechanical work and the new owners want the Honda shop to follow suit, he said.

"When it comes to the unionized sector, there is no flat rate and we'll never go there," he said.

The company is also trying to introduce a two-tiered benefits system that would short-change new employees, he said.

"These folks, while they're not going to be impacted necessarily — although some of them might be — they're not going to sell out the future employees," he said. "We're not going down that road."

Working toward agreement

Steele Honda said it would not publicly comment on the details of contract negotiations, as the company works toward an agreement.

"Steele Honda is motivated by maintaining positive relationships with its employees, while delivering a quality, cost-effective service program with reasonable wait times for customers," reads the company's statement. "That is what we are striving for."

Gill said workers are prepared to strike "for as long as it takes."

The Honda shop was closed on Thursday, but the Mazda shop was open, he said.

Steele Honda said it had a contingency plan in place and that customers affected could call them for help.

"We will do our best to reschedule all service appointments as soon as possible and our sales team will continue to be available."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Adam Walsh and The St. John's Morning Show

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