Statistics Canada reported today that economic growth dropped to a bare 0.1% in January. The New Year began with Rio Tinto locking out former Alcan employees at Alma, Quebec, and Caterpillar locking out former Electro Motive employees at London, Ontario.
Closing these major facilities contributed to cutting growth in durable-goods manufacturing from 1.5% in December to 0.8% in January, its lowest rate in five months. Indeed, Statistics Canada explicitly referenced the Rio Tinto lock-out in its release: “There was a decline in primary metal manufacturing, partly the result of a labour dispute at an aluminum smelter in Quebec.”
Fortunately, non-durable manufacturing, utilities, transportation, accommodation and food services picked up, keeping the Canadian economy in slightly positive territory.
The Harper government has intervened to prevent unions from striking at Air Canada, allegedly to safeguard the wider economy. Will Conservatives similarly try to stop employers from conducting lockouts that are stalling economic growth?
Erin Weir is an economist with the United Steelworkers union and a CCPA research associate.
UPDATE (March 31): Quoted in The Waterloo Region Record