August 21 – 23, 2015
Report by: Ardis Snow
From August 21 – 23, 2015 I attended Unifor Canadian Council in Montreal, Quebec. Peter Kennedy – Secretary Treasurer called the meeting to order at 9 am. He welcomed all the delegates and staff to Canadian Council of all the Regional Councils.
The Quebec Director Renaud Gagne of Unifor introduced the President of the FTQ (Quebec Worker’s Federation) Daniel Boyer. Daniel started by saying Quebec voted a Liberal government at the Provincial level and we need to do our best to remove Stephen Harper as Prime Minister. Quebec is still anti-Conservative with only 5 Conservatives seats and 59 seats for the NDP. 40% of Quebec workers are Unionized. We need to remove the Conservatives completely. We need better jobs, real pensions and an equitable society.
National President Jerry Dias then addressed the council. He started by saying salaries of CEOs have increased at twice the rate of workers since 2008. Unifor has been a force for change in this country, working to make Canada a better place for all. Because of our Union, Labour has changed and Politics have changed. Jerry reviewed the many victories Unifor has had in its first 2 years as well as its ongoing struggles. Jerry said we have had 10,000 new members join our Union since Unifor was created. He went on to say we will have a huge fight with the Detroit 3 next year. He said we deserve products in our country and there will not be a resolve until there are products in Oshawa, Windsor and Brampton. Jerry spoke about the increase in support for the NDP within the province of Newfoundland and Labrador since Earl McCurdy (retired director of Unifor/FFAW) took over the leadership of the NDP. Jerry said Harper called the longest, most expensive election in Canada’s history because he knows he can outspend the Liberals and NDP. This also stops Unions from continuing their attack on the Conservatives with the rules of the Elections Canada Act. Jerry said we need to highlight the scandals within the senate. All of these senators were appointed by the Prime Minister and controlled by the Prime Minister’s office. Jerry went on to say there are 2 million Canadians out of work today and more young adults out of work since 2006 when Harper became Prime Minister. Jerry said this government has signed so many trade agreements that give other countries more rights to our country than we do as Canadians. It is our time to change our government.
There was a presentation called “Canada in the World” by retired Lieutenant-General, The Honorable Romeo A. Dallaire, O.C., C.M.M., G.O.Q., M.S.D., C.D. He said we need to support our troops. First when we send them, give them the tools to do their job and when they returned injured for life, we need to take care of them. When they are killed in action we can’t forget their families, we need to show them respect and dignity. He said Canada is a great country that believes in Human Rights and Equality. Canada is a middle power and innovators of peace. He said 15 million children are affected by armed conflicts and countries are using them as child soldiers. This is no different than child labour and it is defining modern conflict. The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative seeks to progressively end the use and recruitment of child soldiers through a security sector approach. In a world where children continue to be used as weapons of war, we cannot wait until the child has left the field to effectively protect them. We must be proactive in our approach. This can be found at www.childsoldiers.org.
There was a presentation called “Women in Electoral Politics” with three speakers. The first was Peggy Nash, NDP MP for Parkdale-High Park who said Unions are a good place for woman to get started in political activities where they will learn vital skills and build their confidence. Peggy called on Union leaders at the council to actively encourage women among their membership to get involved and to support them when they do. The second was Ruth Ellen Brosseau, NDP MP for Berthier-Maskinonge Quebec who said we need affordable childcare in our country which would enable more women to not only support their families, but to further their education and get involved in their communities and politics. The last speaker was Nancy Peckford, Executive Director, Equal Voice who pointed out only 25 per cent of the members of parliament are women and it will likely increase past 30 per cent after the October 19th election. She said Unions must make a real effort to get more women involved.
During the lunch on Friday Unifor members marched through the streets on Montreal in protest of the Federal government’s policies and mismanagement of the economy. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has the worst economic record of any government since World War 2. The march ended at a rally outside Gardaworld, the Montreal office of the international security firm. Garda has locked out Unifor Local 4266 members in Ottawa since May 15th, 2015. Unifor represents 140 Gardaworld workers in Ottawa. Gardaworld is demanding huge cuts in benefits and major changes to the pension plan.
Quebec Director Renaud Gagne reported on some of the challenges facing Unifor members in Quebec, particularly with regard to pension plans. On the Quebec political scene, public services have come under attack. Unifor Quebec has supported the anti-austerity campaign organized with the QFL.
For the first time in almost 30 years, a UAW Executive member spoke at a CAW/Unifor Council meeting. The CAW was created when we left the UAW in 1985. Dennis Williams, President of the UAW told the council that workers on both sides of the border made huge sacrifices a few years back when the companies and banks made mistakes. He said everyone looked at the workers to save the Auto companies when we are only a small percentage of the cost. We made the sacrifices but the investments are going into Mexico when they should be here in Canada and the U.S. He said we can’t build an economy if we don’t have good wages with purchasing power, we need to be able to afford to buy what we built.
North America is the largest market for purchased goods yet companies still try to exploit us. It’s time to take on the companies and we control our destiny. Everyone needs to join us to take our countries back, if not the billionaires will run our lives.
Jerry and Dennis spoke the night before and agreed if there is a fight with one of the Detroit 3 companies, there will not be any parts coming from either country to undermine their bargaining. It’s time to go on the offence and no more defense. The companies can’t beat us if we are in solidarity.
Peter Kennedy, Secretary Treasurer gave a Financial presentation on Unifor. As of August 31, 2014, in current assets, long term assets, current liabilities and long term liabilities, the total amount was $307,980,716. The report was accepted.
Anggie Godoy from Los Angeles gave a presentation on her fight for a $15 dollar an hour minimum wage. She saw the struggles of her mother, her co-workers, looked at her own work to balance school and a job at McDonald’s and stood up. Three strikes and a hunger strike later, she led a successful fight to boost wages for fast food workers to $15 an hour. There is now a $15 dollar an hour minimum wage for all fast food workers in Los Angeles and her fight has spread to other cities across California and has inspired minimum wage activist around the world. She said without the raise she couldn’t even think about collage which she has now enrolled in. Anggie plans to study Politics and Labour. Inspired by her address, Unifor pledged to contribute $3,000 to her education.
There was a presentation called Organizing Non-Unionized Workers by Hans Marotte, Mouvement Action-Chomage de Montreal. Hans is a lawyer by trade, he has spent many of his years defending non-unionized workers. Without a Union, many of these workers can’t defend themselves. Hans said most of the people they see are people who have lost their jobs and no EI is available. They are told to go work for minimum wage at McDonald’s. Minimum wage doesn’t pay the bills. Hans said it is time to rid ourselves of the Harper government and elect the first truly progressive government so we can all enjoy a fair society. This year marks the 75 year anniversary of the EI Plan. The government didn’t create it because they were nice. It came from the crisis in the 20’s when people lost their jobs. The people starting talking together and went to Ottawa demanding the insurance.
The three Regional Directors all gave reports. Western Region Director Joie Warnock got things started by recounting the NDP victory in Alberta under Rachel Notley who spoke at Unifor’s Prairie Council. Their focus now is to rid themselves of Stephen Harper and the Conservative Government. Ontario Region Director Katha Fortier spoke about the opportunities we currently have in Ontario with the review of the Labour Relations Act which hasn’t been done in many years. Minimum wage is not up for review but Ontario’s minimum wage will increase to $11.25 on October 1, 2015. Atlantic Region Director Lana Payne said Unifor has been a force at the bargaining table and in politics in Canada’s Atlantic Provinces including the fight by Health Workers in the province against a plan by the Nova Scotia government to force the merger of Unions in the sector.
John Aman Director of Organizing gave a presentation on the history of Organizing since Unifor was created in September of 2013. 10% of all union dues are put towards Organizing. 10,000 new members have joined Unifor since the creation and 75% of the new members are female.
The Bud Jimmerfield Award was presented at the Council. This award is presented to an outstanding Union member for activism in the area of health, safety, environment or worker’s compensation. This year the award was presented to Emil Mesic from Local 707.
There was a presentation called “Young Workers and the Federal Election”. Bilan Arte of the Canadian Federation of Students and Bridgette DePage from the Council of Canadians spoke about the need for young workers to vote and be outspoken with friends and families about voting. We need to get the 2/3 of young voters that didn’t vote in the last election to vote. Youth unemployment is twice the National average and the Conservative government is not doing anything to help. They have cut funding from 80% to 50% making it so only the elite can attend university. Student debt is currently at 17 billion dollars at the Federal level. This is even higher is you include Provincial and private debt.
Jim Stanford, Unifor Economist gave the final presentation called “Harper’s Economic Record”. From 2009 to 2015, the Harper government claims to have created 1.3 Billion jobs. Our working population has grown by 2.5 billion during this time putting our unemployment levels as bad as they were in 2009. Unifor’s research department conducted a detailed examination of the economic record of each government in Canada’s postwar history. All were measured using annual data from 1946 through 2014 from Statistics Canada and other public sources. The full Unifor paper is available at www.uniforvotes.ca. In summary, Canada’s economy has never performed worse, since the end of World War II, than under the current Conservative Government.
Throughout the Council there were 5 recommendations discussed and voted all in favour. There was 1 Emergency Resolution that was discussed and voted in favour. There were 9 Resolutions, 1 Resolution was withdrawn, 1 resolution was referred to the Ontario Regional Council, 3 were referred to the Constitution Convention and 4 were voted in favor. A copy of all the recommendations and resolutions can be obtained upon request.
Canadian Council Delegate