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The lockout at the Electro-Motive facility in London, Ont., is seen as a harbinger of heightened conflict between companies and workers in 2012

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Anna Wittich (left, standing) and Magdalena Schoenmakers (sitting) join locked-out Electro-Motive workers on the picket line in London, Ont. Workers were locked out by the company, which is owned by Caterpillar Inc., on Jan. 1, 2012. Ms. Schoenmakers’ son-in-law works at the factory.

Mark Spowart/mark spowart The Globe and Mail

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Locked-out workers and supporters picket at locomotive maker Electro-Motive in London, Ont. The company’s final offer to the employees would have slashed current wages from $35 down to $16.50 an hour.

DAVE CHIDLEY/DAVE CHIDLEY/THE CANADIAN PRESS

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The more than 450 unionized workers at Caterpillar subsidiary Electro-Motive Diesel refused to accept what the Canadian Auto Workers said were company demands to slash wages in half, along with reduced pensions and benefits.

DAVE CHIDLEY/DAVE CHIDLEY/THE CANADIAN PRESS

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The fight between Electro-Motive and its workers is emblematic of what is expected to be a tough year for union members in both Canada and the United States.

DAVE CHIDLEY/DAVE CHIDLEY/THE CANADIAN PRESS

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Ken Lewenza, national president of the CAW, called the deep wage cuts and other proposals from Electro-Motive ‘unprecedented’ in Canadian labour history.

DAVE CHIDLEY/DAVE CHIDLEY/THE CANADIAN PRESS

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper waves from the cabin of an engine at the Electro-Motive facility in London, Ont. The CAW has demanded that the federal government re-examine the sale of the plant to the U.S. company last year.

Frank Gunn/FRANK GUNN/THE CANADIAN PRESS

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Security fences surround the Electro-Motive facility in London, Ont. The lockout of the workers has galvanized Canada’s long-declining labour movement, but is seen by some as a dark sign of conflict to come at workplaces across the country.

DAVE CHIDLEY/DAVE CHIDLEY/THE CANADIAN PRESS

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Pickets walk the line at the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter in Alma, Que., after the company locked out workers following the collapse of last-ditch contract talks. Some observers believe that companies, unnerved by economic uncertainty and increased global competition, are expected to get more aggressive at the bargaining table this year.

Gimmy Desbiens/GIMMY DESBIENS/THE CANADIAN PRESS

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Douglas Oberhelman, CEO of Caterpillar Inc., which owns Electro-Motive, expects a Chinese entrant in the heavyweight class of big-machinery makers within a few years and that has the company looking closely at their collective labour agreements for savings.

Jeff McIntosh/JEFF McINTOSH/THE CANADIAN PRESS

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