CAW Skilled Trades Bargaining and New Technology Conference

March 2, 2012, 9:20 AM EST

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Over 200 delegates, staff and guests from across Canada gathered for the 9th Bargaining and New Technology conference in Toronto from February 22 to 24.

In his opening address to the conference, CAW President Ken Lewenza emphasized the important role that the skilled trades have played in building the union.

"The ability of tradespersons to speak with a distinct and unified voice in contract talks and during conferences, like this, where bargaining and political campaign priorities are set, has created a stronger, more informed union, that sets us apart from others," Lewenza said.

Lewenza also noted the challenges faced by workers at the Electro-Motive facility in London, the need for governments to reform existing investment and labour laws, as well as upcoming contract negotiations between the union and Detroit Three automakers.

Conference delegates also debated and endorsed a series of resolutions including: the need to push for apprenticeship ratios in both private and public sectors (of 1 apprentice for every 4 journeypersons), the need to prevent the downgrading of skills and trades standards by employers and governments, and to ensure strong work ownership language for tradespersons, among others.

CAW Skilled Trades Director Colin Heslop said he is constantly encouraged by the resolve of CAW tradespersons to work tirelessly for the benefit of all tradespersons, young and old, organized or unorganized.

"In my view, there's no group better positioned to champion the rights of skilled trades workers and to protect the integrity of the skilled trades than our union," Heslop said.

Heslop has held the position of Skilled Trades Director for 7 years and will be retiring in March. He said it's been an honour working with the CAW-TCA Skilled Trades Council and in representing the hardworking men and women in skilled trades, and encouraged delegates to keep up their important work, especially in social commitment projects like Hurricane Katrina relief work in New Orleans 9th Ward and with the Assembly of First Nations.

"It's critical that we keep up our efforts to create, preserve and provide access to recognizable apprenticeships and bona fide skilled trades jobs for all Canadians. Our voice is widely respected in skilled trades circles and it must continue to be heard."

The conference included a number staff presentations and special guest speakers, including Rob Johnston, Executive Director for the International Metalworkers Federation; Sid Ryan, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour; Kevin Evans, CEO for the Industry Training Authority in British Columbia and The Canadian Council Directors of Apprenticeship; Sarah Watts-Rynard, Executive Director for the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum and Ron Johnson, Chair of the Ontario College of Trades.

CAW Staff Representative Pat Blackwood will replace Heslop as Skilled Trades Director.

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