August 21 – 23, 2015
Report by: Jaspal Brar
The 2nd Annual Unifor Canadian Council was held at Palais Des Congres in Montreal during August 21st 2015 through to August 23rd 2015. In attendance were 1241 people made up of delegates, observers, staff and guests of which 30% were women.
Peter Kennedy (Secretary Treasurer) opened the Council by welcoming everyone and adopting the agenda.
Quebec Director Renaud Gagne welcomed everyone to Quebec and introduced Daniel Boyer (Quebec Federation of Labour President) who spoke about the need for better jobs and a better society. He said that 40 percent of the workers in Quebec are unionized. It is only when workers are united that they are able to take on the challenges of corporations. He also stated that in the last election Quebec had elected 59 MP’s and will look to elect more in the next election.
At lunch time there was a mass rally held in opposition to Harper and also to support the 135 workers employed by GardaWorld. The members have been locked out since May 14th, after bargaining for three days they were given a final offer and refused to return to the bargaining table. The employer is demanding huge cuts in benefits and changes to the pension plan. After locking out the members from the Ottawa branch, GardaWorld closed that branch laying off all the workers and moved the work to Quebec.
Jerry Dias (National President)addressed the Council and talked about the first two years of Unifor, he said our Union has been a force for change in this country and has been working to make Canada a better place for all. Because of our Union labour has changed, politics have changed and we have changed. He said that change is not something you turn on and off but it is a process and continuum, we are piece by piece building a new union. Jerry Dias reviewed the many victories our Union has had in its first two years as well as the ongoing struggles. But all of our hard work can be diminished if we don’t change the politics of the country. The Harper government has not helped the working people and must be defeated in the next election.
Lieutenant-General theHonourable Romeo Dallaire (Retired) addressed the Council and spoke about the need to treat our Vets with respect. He said they get sent overseas to fight for causes and come back sometimes in body bags and sometimes injured for life. They not only need to be shown respect but also need to be treated with respect. They need to have fair compensation for the work they do and be able to live in dignity. Canada has been a Nation of Rights and Freedom, needs to regain that position in the world. The Honourable Romeo Dallaire had a distinguished career in the Canadian Military, after his retirement he founded The Romeo Dallaire Child Soldier Initiative in 2007 whose mission is to end the use of children across the world as weapons of war.
Women in Electoral Politics – There were three women speakers who spoke of the need for more women to be involved in politics and shared their backgrounds and role they play.
Peggy Nash NDP MP for Parkdale-High Park spoke that Unions are a good place for women to get started. They can learn vital skills and build confidence, she said when she first became an MP she had faced heckling and said it was nothing compared to some of the ratification meetings she had been to.
Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP MP Berthier-Maskinonge has fought for affordable childcare saying this would help more women to not only support their families but also to further their education and make time to be involved with the community and politics. She said she knows the importance of this because she herself is a single mother and needed affordable childcare.
Nancy Peckford is the Executive Director of Equal Voice; she said that only 25 percent of women are Members of Parliament. She said this will likely increase to past 30 percent in the next Federal Election. “We are making incremental improvement, but until women have an equal voice we have a lot of work to do” she said. “Solidarity in the labour movement, I’m speaking to the men here, means encouraging your sisters to play a role. It means occasionally sitting down and letting her speak.”
Unifor Economist Jim Stanford gave a presentation of a comparison of Stephen Harper’s economic record to previous Prime Ministers. Using annual data from Statistics Canada from 1946 through to 2014 on 16 Indicators (Job Creation, Unemployment Rate, GDP Growth, Personal Incomes, etc) Harper had ranked as having the worst economic record of any Prime Minister since the Second World War.
RolyKiehneUnifor Director of Membership Mobilization and Political Action encouraged everyone to vote on Election Day, he said there needs to be a better turnout at the polls so that we get a true picture of democracy. In the last election Harper got elected with a 30 percent turnout and that needs to change. Everyone should exercise their democratic right and vote, he said Unifor is not telling anyone who to vote for but is ensuring the right information is provided to make a good choice.
Chris Buckley is a past president of Local 222 Oshawa and currently a Unifor National Rep; he will be running for the Ontario Federation of Labour presidency at the next general election. After announcing his bid to run Buckley said “This is about rebuilding the labour movement, we want to build a stronger and inclusive movement where workers and their unions are all working towards a shared vision together.”
U.A.W. President Dennis Williams attended and addressed the Unifor Canadian Council saying both UAW and Unifor are united. He said mistakes were made by the financial sectors and corporations but the focus is always on the 7 percent of the labour costs. Sacrifices were made by the workers to help keep corporations viable. He said he is tired of investments going to China and Mexico when the products end up being sold in the largest consumer (North America). There are more people being born in poverty than ever before, people have to have purchasing power for which we need good paying secure jobs. “It is time to take on the status quo; we have to take charge of our destinies.”
Anggie Godoy is nineteen years of age from Los Angeles and was balancing school and a job a McDonalds, she saw her single mother struggling to fend for her three daughters and find good work and wanted to help her with rent, food and clothing. At McDonalds she saw the struggles of her co-workers and decided to stand up to the employer for better wages and working conditions. After 3 strikes and a hunger strike by Anggie she was successful in getting a boost for wages for fast food workers to $15.00 per hour from $9.00 where it was difficult to get by on. There is now a minimum $15.00 campaign across Los Angeles for all fast food workers and spreading across the U.S and inspiring minimum wage activists across the world. After being called brave for taking on a big company like McDonalds, Anggie said “It’s not bravery because we know it’s the right thing to do. We don’t need the money for luxury; we need it to support ourselves.”
Financial Report – Peter Kennedy (Secretary Treasurer) presented the audited Unifor Financial Report to year ending August 31st 2014 which was read out and adopted.
Regional Directors Reports – Western Regional Director Joie Warnock recounted the NDP victory in Alberta thanking everyone who had actively helped with that important historical election, the result which is still being reverberated across the Nation. She said Unifor’s growth is due to its activism and hard work.
Ontario Regional Director Katha Fortier reported on the settlement for the Metro grocery workers saying it will improve the lives of retail workers. Katha also commented on the success of the largest organizing drive of this century which was at Casino Rama, roughly 1700 workers showed overwhelming by voting 71% in favour of joining Unifor. She also spoke of the work for an Ontario Registered Pension Plan and of the work of the Local Union Task Force which will be holding local meetings in the Fall in order to build stronger locals.
Atlantic Regional Director Lana Payne said Unifor has been a force at both the bargaining table and in politics in Canada’s Atlantic Provinces, including the fight by health care workers against a plan by the Nova Scotia government to force the merger of unions in the sector. She also congratulated the FFAW on the hard it did to protect not only the rights of fishers on the east coast but also of the jobs in the processing plants. She said these efforts help our members and also help the communities prosper.
Bud Jimmerfield Award – This award is given out each year to an outstanding union member who gets recognized for the activism in health, safety, and environment or workers compensation. This year the award was presented to Emil Mesic from Local 707.
Young Workers and the Federal Elections – Bilan Arte (Canadian Federation of Students) got involved with the labour movement in Manitoba’s students’ federation and wanted to see a more equitable society. The federation represents different locals and is run similar to a labour movement. In elections it is a myth that students do not vote, there was a 38% voter turnout the last time and yes it could be better. The students are carrying debt of about $17 billion which is just the federal portion. This is a huge amount of debt to carry and can only be paid off if there are good paying jobs available for the students when they enter the workforce.
Bridgette Pape (Council of Canadians) had achieved fame when as a Page in the House of Commons she held out a STOP sign in protest of the Harper government. She encouraged all the young people to come out in record numbers to vote and have their say for their own future, she said there will be ads coming out for the youth to vote in September which will be a national wave across the country.
2015 Federal Elections–Unifor to focus its political work on issues which directly affect our members (Labour laws restoration, comprehensive jobs strategies, renewed health care accord, national child care, restoring full OAS at age 65, restoration of EI coverage for the unemployed, etc.) Encourage all members to the “I will vote” pledge and draw attention to www.uniforvotes.ca website.Passed
Truth and Reconciliation Commission – Unifor to promote this report which has 94 recommendations to address the damage inflicted on indigenous people.Passed
Global Action on Climate Change – World scientists project that to limit global warming to below 2 degrees C the industrialized countries must make deep reductions in carbon emissions by 2050. Unifor to support a new Canadian climate action goal to meet the global goal in limiting global warming to 2 degrees C.Passed
Raising the Floor for low wage and precarious workers – Unifor has always been and must continue to taking the lead on raising minimum wages and seeking good secure jobs. Passed
Organizing – Encourage all local unions to develop and “ALL IN” plan for their community and local union (“ALL IN” plan can be viewed on the national website).Passed
Boycott of appliances made by MABE – over 1500 retirees and active workers have been cheated out of the pension plan by this company which declared bankruptcy in 2014. Despite the bankruptcy the company still continues to operate under MC Commercial in partnership with parent company GE selling appliances like GE, Hotpoint and McClary).(Passed)
Ban Asbestos – Unifor works to ensure all asbestos in Unifor workplaces be removed and replaced with safe substances.(Passed)
Canadian Council to only allow Delegates to be on the floor – Amend Article 9 Section 8 to include Alternates to attend Council meetings without voice or vote.(Referred to Constitutional Convention)
Open and transparent hiring process within the National Union–All staff of the National Union shall be hired by the President after a full and open hiring process that includes a posting with national distribution at regional and local offices.(Referred to Constitutional Convention)
Reinstating CAW/Unifor Retirees P-COLA and Benefits – To make this a priority in 2016 Bargaining.(Withdrawn)
Carbon Emissions Pricing – Support a just transition program as a safeguard so workers will not be negatively affected.(Referred to Ontario Regional Council)
Stop Bill C-51 – Designed for anti-terror laws, this Bill also deems peaceful work stoppages, strikes, and other forms of non-violent civil action as unlawful.(Passed)
Privatization of Public Assets – Unifor to commit to work towards returning any assets back to the public sector that have been privatized, commercialized or sold.(Passed)
Calculation of Union Dues – Unifor to use a graduated tax to collect union dues rather than a flat tax system.(Referred to Constitutional Convention)
More details on the Canadian Council Convention are available in the Union Office and also on the National Website www.unifor.org
This report can also be viewed on the Local website at uniforlocal1285.ca under the Local News & Media/Delegates Reports tab.
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Thank you for your support in electing me as your Canadian Council Delegate.