Toronto – August 20, 2019 – Today, UFCW Canada, Breast Cancer Action Quebec, Environmental Defence Canada, and Mind the Store join forces to launch a public campaign urging Canada’s leading grocery retail giants – Costco Canada, Loblaws, Metro, Sobeys, and Walmart Canada – to stop using receipt paper coated with bisphenol-A (BPA) or bisphenol-S (BPS).
Strong unions are not only vital to protecting good jobs and the middle class, but to fending off the rise of the radical right in Canada and around the world, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told the Unifor Convention today.
"When it comes to defending workers’ rights and supporting the middle class, one thing is certain. No political force is more essential or more effective than strong unions,” Freeland said.
Freeland said a strong middle class is the best protection against the rise of right-wing populism.
“Populism develops where the middle class is eroding, where people are losing ground and hope,” Freeland said.
“When people feel that their economic future is threatened, when they believe that their children have fewer opportunities than they had in their youth, this is where people are vulnerable to the demagogue.”
The rise of such leaders around the world poses a real threat to smaller countries such as Canada, saying we cannot survive in a world with no rules and where only the law of the jungle prevails.
When it came to renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement and fighting the U.S.’s 232 tariffs on steel aluminum, then, it only made sense to treat it as an opportunity to fix what was wrong with the original NAFTA, Freeland said.
Unifor National President Jerry Dias was a consultant to the NAFTA talks, a role that Freeland said was key to the new deal containing significant improvements to worker protections, including a requirement for major changes to Mexican labour laws.
“None of this would have been possible were it not for our very strong partnership with labour unions and labour leaders, including the amazing Jerry Dias and his team,” Freeland said.
“We all stood shoulder to shoulder in the fight over NAFTA and 232. You were fighting for your own jobs, of course, but you also knew you were fighting for your whole country.”
Outgoing Western Regional Director Joie Warnock gave a passionate update on activities in the western region to Unifor Convention delegates on Tuesday, highlighting the commitments to reconciliation with First Nations.
“As usual, it is our members on the ground making the biggest difference toward reconciliation,” said Warnock.
Crediting the testimony and wisdom coming from Indigenous communities, she urged members across Canada “to listen and act upon what we have heard.”
Activists in Manitoba earned thanks for leading Unifor’s fight for paid domestic leave. In May 2016, the province became the first to pass legislation mandating paid time off for those fleeing domestic violence.
“Now, there is domestic violence leave legislation in every province and territory,” said Warnock. “Our success has served as a valuable example of what’s possible through our mobilizing and political action.”
Warnock spoke directly to Saskatchewan Crown workers who are preparing to take job action.
“We are fighting against a premier who saw fit to increase MLA wages by 2.3 per cent and offer nothing to front-line workers – needless to say, we’re not accepting this,” said Warnock. “We’ve held rallies, days of action in our workplaces and launched an advertising campaign to get the message out there, so we’ll do whatever it takes to achieve fair collective agreements.”
The 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike reminded all workers of their collective power.
“Many things have changed since 1919, but workers’ collective power is still the most important political force in our society,” said Warnock. “Capital knows damn well that we pose a direct threat to their unfettered ability to mistreat workers and concentrate their wealth even further.”
She closed her speech with special recognition of union organizers and a call to every member to deepen their involvement in the union.
Warnock has been appointed to work in the President’s office as an assistant following Convention.
Across Ontario, Unifor members rallied in support of one another and for all workers and their communities whenever and wherever needed, Unifor Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi said.
“In Ontario, we are being tested every single day,” Rizvi said in her address to the Unifor Constitutional Convention today. “The story of Ontario in the last year is one where Unifor members have truly, openly, and honestly come together.”
When General Motors threatened the jobs of Unifor members, the union pushed back by rallying the community behind the workers and an aggressive publicity campaign.
“The entire country stood with us, while we took back GM headquarters, while we welcomed Sting and the cast of The Last Ship, and we felt solidarity from workers across the province when we brought the fight to Windsor, across from the Detroit headquarters,” Rizvi said.
“We don’t accept that this engine of Ontario’s economy should be allowed to slowly fall idle.”
The same solidarity was shown when Casino Rama announced layoffs, prompting a rally at the facility in support of the Unifor members there.
“Every sector, every corner of the province was in Rama to support gaming workers. That’s how we do it in Ontario,” Rizvi said.
Unifor also pushed back when Premier Doug Ford rolled back workers’ rights. Using the power of collective bargaining, Unifor put those rights on every bargaining table across the province.
“Since implementation seven months ago, close to 9,000 Unifor members have gotten back what was legislated away from them,” Rizvi said.
When staff ratios at long-term care centres fell, Unifor rallied members and the public with an award-wining campaign spoofing the ads used by long-term care centres to point out the poor working conditions in the industry.
“In typical Conservative style, the Ford government pushed for privatization, and a wage cap,” Rizvi said. “This, in a sector where many make minimum wage, for a backbreaking, exhausting, and vital job.”
Unifor is working hard to make sure Ford’s first term in office is his last, including having a nine-member team of on the ground organizers across the province. In the past year alone, they have pulled together more than 600 events, including member meetings and rallies.
“They have built local coalitions, supported parents of children with autism, made their Members of Provincial Parliament squirm, and inspired new activism across the province,” Rizvi said.
Such activism will be vital as Unifor pushes back against Ford’s cuts and in the coming federal election, she said.
Unifor Atlantic Regional Director Lana Payne delivered an inspired address to the 3rd Unifor Constitutional Convention delegates, stressing the importance of fighting back and building solidarity.
“When you consider what’s ahead of us as working-class people – climate change, automation, and right-wing populism – we are going to be tested in new and profound ways,” said Payne. “We can respond with our hearts, with passion and by using the power of our solidarity to win even in the toughest of times.”
As an example of strength in tough times, Payne reflected on the hundreds of Unifor members, staff and leadership who descended on the town of Gander in Newfoundland and Labrador in September and October to support 30 aerospace sector workers who were locked out by their greedy employer.
“It didn’t matter that it was 30 workers, or 300 workers or 3,000; what mattered is that our union, the right to a union, was under attack,” she said. “We sent the strongest of messages to bosses everywhere that we will resist every attempt to try to break us and our union.”
The lock out in Gander played out for as long as it did largely due to weak labour laws, and this is why Unifor demanded stronger protections for workers in the Newfoundland and Labrador election this past Spring.
“That’s why, even when we don’t always get the political outcomes we wish for, that we work for, we must never stop fighting for governments that work for workers,” said Payne. “Even though politics has failed the working class, political decisions affect our working lives and in order to fully defend our members, we can’t sit politics out.”
Payne congratulated the work of activists in New Brunswick during their fall 2018 election and emphasized the importance of member mobilization during the upcoming federal election. With Ontario and Alberta as startling examples of anti-worker governments taking hold across Canada, she said it is more important than ever to push for policies and laws that protect and support workers.
“Friends, as we stare down a vicious assault on trade union freedoms, we must turn every obstacle into an opportunity to build solidarity and to organize and strengthen worker power,” said Payne. “We know what bosses and their political allies want. They want to push us out of politics because they want to run the country as they see fit. Well, this country doesn’t work without workers, and it won’t work without unions.”
Payne is standing for election as Unifor’s National Secretary Treasurer at the convention.
For more details on the incredible work in sectors across the Atlantic and impactful wins at bargaining tables, watch Lana Payne’s full speech.
Montréal – August 19, 2019 - Once again this year, the Montreal Pride festivities and parade were an opportunity for UFCW Quebec activists to share solidarity with members of the LGBTQQQIP2AA+ community.
Hamilton, Ont. – August 19, 2019 – UFCW Canada activists recently joined students and food experts from across the country at the 2019 National Student Food Summit in Hamilton, where participants explored strategies for creating a healthy, equitable, and sustainable food system that works for everyone.
When you take on Unifor, whether government or an employer, you can expect a fight, Unifor National President Jerry Dias said in his opening address the Unifor Constitutional Convention today.
“Unifor is not getting pushed around. Not now. Not ever,” Dias said as the convention began in Quebec City.
“There will be a fight, I can promise you that - and if what we did forces employers to take a pause, to take a step back, and think twice before attacking our members, then that’s a victory for this union. That’s a victory for all workers.”
Across Canada, employers and governments have learned that lesson as Unifor has mobilized members, staff and entire communities when the interests of workers are challenged.
And we haven’t been shy about it, Dias said.
In Gander, Unifor sparked some controversy with a video naming and shaming scabs at DJ Composites, where workers were locked out for almost two years. Some people told Unifor they were outraged by the video.
“Let me tell you what’s outrageous. Twenty-one months on the picket line. Scabs doing our work. Scabs dragging this out. Scabs keeping food off our members tables,” Dias said.
“You know what’s outrageous? A government that sat and twiddled their thumbs, while workers suffered.”
The government of Newfoundland and Labrador wasn’t the only one to sit on its hands while workers and communities were threatened. In Ontario, Dias said. Premier Doug Ford was ready give up when GM said it planned to shut its Oshawa assembly plant.
“Big, tough-talking Doug Ford, threw in the towel on GM even before he stepped in the ring,” Dias said. “In less than 24 hours, the premier threw up his hands, saying – and I quote – ‘The ship has left the dock.’”
Ford might let corporations roll right over him, but Unifor never will, Dias said.
Whether it’s long-term care facilities undercutting the services and the wages of its workers, a salt mine or a doctor’s office taking a hard stand on negotiations, a rich grocery store chain cutting hours while taking government subsidies, Conservative governments in Alberta and elsewhere attacking the rights of workers, the search for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, trade deals, and more, Unifor will not only fight hard, Dias said, we will show others how it’s done.
“We bargain. We fight. We don’t back down. We do whatever it takes,” Dias said.
“Our members are telling us that many of the issues there are due to inadequate staffing levels and problems with recruitment and retention. We understand that rural and remote areas are difficult to service, but surely there are ways to help lessen this gap.” ― Jerry Earle, NAPE President
Keynote speaker Nancy MacLean addressed the Unifor 2019 Convention and shared her research into the political maneuvering of the super-rich, and the tactics they use to undermine workers across the United States and Canada.
In her book Democracy in Chains, she takes readers behind the scenes of today’s political establishment – led by billionaires – and reveals their decades-long strategy to change the rules of democracy itself in their favour. She outlined key points of her book to delegates and highlighted the role of unions such as Unifor in fighting back.
“When future historians look back on this moment 50 years from now and try to make sense of it, I don’t think they will focus on Donald Trump the way most journalists are now,” said MacLean. “I think they will be much more interested in a quiet transformation underway that this president’s conduct distracts our attention from.”
In describing this ‘quiet transformation’, MacLean emphasized that it is not yet complete. Their endgame would mean citizens would be left to fend for themselves and, of course, those who don’t fare well would be left without government benefits and protections.
MacLean quoted leaders of this far-right ideology as saying they aim to create a system of winners and losers where even the quality of water “might not be what citizens are used to” and where “partial shantytowns” would satisfy the need for cheaper housing as wage inequality grows and government shrinks.
MacLean urged that progressive voices must work together, preserve our public services, and fight for our rights and the gains we’ve made over many decades of principled work.
“One lesson we can draw is not to let ourselves get distracted by the daily circus, which is often quite intentional,” she said. “We need to work on democracy beyond elections – on year-round involvement of the people in our workplaces, schools, communities and governments at all levels.”
MacLean left delegates with hope and even evoked the convention theme, telling delegates that we must do “whatever it takes” to win and reform democracy to save it.
No government can claim to be standing up for average Canadians if it is not willing to work with unions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in his address to Unifor’s Constitutional Convention today.
“The labour movement deserves fairness, not a government that sees it as an enemy,” Trudeau said.
“When Andrew Scheer spoke at a labour event in Ottawa recently, he couldn’t even say the word union. Canadians serve better. We all deserve better.”
This is not the first time Trudeau has spoken at a Unifor Convention. Three years ago, he pledged to delegates at the convention in Ottawa that his new government would work with Unifor and other unions to improve the lives of working Canadians.
“To have a strong middle class, you have to have strong unions.”
Soon after coming to power, Trudeau’s Liberals repealed the anti-union legislation brought in by the previous Stephen Harper Conservatives. When the North American Free Trade Agreement came up for renegotiation, Unifor played an active role.
“Millions of families were counting on us to get the new NAFTA right, and together we put the interests of Canadian workers at the very heart of our negotiating strategy,” he said.
Unifor National President Jerry Dias was a consultant to the Canadian negotiating team throughout the talks, which resulted in significant improvements to worker protections than those established in the original deal, including a requirement for major changes to Mexican labour laws.
“In other words, we created a new standard,” Trudeau said. “That, my friends, is the power of solidarity. That is the power of putting people first.”
Trudeau said the labour movement has a long history of standing up for fair wages, reasonable working hours, and safe workplaces and for women, LGBTQ workers, disabled workers and for Indigenous communities.
“You can continue to count on our government,” Trudeau said. “We know the only way we will make real progress is by investing in people – not by cutting services.”
The labour movement is vital to that effort, Trudeau said.
Toronto – August 16, 2019 – Calling all UFCW Canada activists and allies: your urgent support is needed to help stop the union-busting tactics of global meat giant Cargill, who is punishing workers for expressing their democratic right to join a union.
The “alarming but not surprising” survey reveals physical violence, verbal abuse, and sexual harassment, poor staffing levels, and inadequate management support.
"The Wettlaufer killings of 8 residents in Ontario long-term care have thrown light on the inadequate care being provided to elderly residents in these facilities. Our elderly and infirm people deserve better; profit should not be dictating staffing levels and quality of care.”— Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Toronto – August 15, 2019 – UFCW Canada's ground-breaking online education program, webCampus, has launched four new labour studies courses that can help you conduct effective meetings and investigations, get involved in activism, and be more inclusive at work and in your community.
Members of Local 1103 voted 92.5% in favour of their new collective agreement at a union meeting held on August 4, 2019.
The following are the main highlights of the agreement:
- Across-the-board salary increase of 2 per cent per year;
- Wage adjustment for several positions;
- Employer’s portion of group insurance premium increased to 70 per cent and employees’ portion reduced to 30 percent (instead of 50-50);
- Starting rate increased by 9.5 percent;
- Addition of one year for each block of vacation and reinstatement of a 6th week of vacation;
- Wage rate guaranteed at all times;
- Reinforcement of clauses for the training committee and prevention representative;
- Hour bank increased to 80 hours instead of 40 hours;
- Increase in evening, night, trainer and group lead premiums;
- Increase in the amount paid annually into the Paid Education Leave program.
De Luxe Paper Products Inc. makes specialized packaging for use mainly in the food industry. The plant employs 70 Unifor members.
On August 10, hundreds of members of Unifor Locals 222, 444, and 1090 as well as members of the general public, gathered at Memorial Park in Oshawa for a rally and picnic in solidarity with independent auto parts supplier workers facing plant closures and ongoing negotiations of restructuring agreements.
The family-friendly event featured live music, entertainment, and a public address from Unifor Local 222 President Colin James, Unifor Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi, Oshawa Member of Provincial Parliament Jennifer French, and Ontario Federation of Labour President Chris Buckley.
“This rally brought together Unifor members, elected officials, and the public in solidarity with the 1,700 women and men who deserve fair and just severance for their years of hard work and sacrifice,” said Colin James, Unifor Local 222 President. “All of us need to come together and stay strong as we use every tool available to us to get the best possible deal for auto parts supplier workers.”
The announced closure of the assembly line at General Motors Oshawa has meant thousands of additional auto parts workers and support staff are facing job losses. The rally helped draw attention to the uphill battle faced by Oshawa workers as Unifor continues to pressure employers to fund a just transition to new employment including enhanced severance agreements, extensions to heath plans, and employer contributions to an adjustment centre.
“More than anything, we want all the independent parts supplier workers to know that through your resiliency you have become an inspiration to all workers across Ontario,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director, addressing the rally’s attendees. “You took the fight in to the streets and because of that you have been a motivation and provided encouragement for all Unifor members facing similar circumstances.”
Since the auto parts supplier park and feeder plants for General Motors Oshawa was created, Unifor estimates it saved the company more than $2.7 million in annual operating costs each year. Efforts to pressure parts supplier companies and General Motors to provide workers with fair compensation are ongoing, however, greater efforts by the provincial and federal government are needed to prevent further closures in the near future.
“We’ve been trying to convince the provincial and federal governments that the bleeding has to stop,” said Chris Buckley, former Unifor Local 222 President and President of the Ontario Federation of Labour. “This community was built on strong, good paying manufacturing jobs and we have been bleeding and bleeding for far too long. Our governments have a moral obligation to protect workers’ jobs.”
Unifor will continue to use every option available to negotiate the best possible deal with independent parts supplier companies so that workers are given fair compensation. As well, Unifor will continue to pressure governments at all levels to create an automotive and parts supplier industrial strategy that will prevent future manufacturing job losses as multinational corporations continue to receive generous public subsidies while moving jobs to low-wage jurisdictions.
View photos from the auto parks worker solidarity rally and picnic on Facebook here.