Friday, 5 January, 2001

    Unions fight to save Northlander

    Northern Ontario union leaders launched a publicity campaign Thursday to derail the provinces plan to privatize major divisions of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.

    Representing 800 commission workers, a group of seven union presidents said they want public support to stop the sale of rail freight and passenger services, as well as telecommunications division.

    The people of this region have trusted the government to utilize the (commission) to counter the regional disparities between the north and south, and the decision to dismantle the (commission) is a betrayal of that trust, Brian Stevens, president of the General Chairpersons Association, said at a news conference in a local hotel.

    If those recommendations were followed through, there would be significant economic and social damage done to residents, communities and businesses of the north.

    Placards designed like red stop signs were plastered across on the walls around Stevens, samples of thousands the group plans to erect on yards, and put in cars and business front windows from North Bay to Hearst, Ont.

    Weve got 1,000 24-by-24-inch red stop signs that will be posted on lawns and properties along the (Ontario Northland Railway) line and Highway 11, Stevens said earlier.

    A Web site, billboard advertisements and leaflets are also part of the campaign, expected to get into full swing early next week.

    He said small stickers shaped like stop signs will also be placed on employees money to show how their paycheques are spent.

    The active payroll for Ontario Northland is close to $60 million and the retirees pensions add significantly to that, said Stevens, reading from a prepared news release.

    The debt-ridden, provincially funded service between Toronto and Cochrane is to shut down by summer unless another rail company can be found to salvage it, the province warned in early

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