April 12, 2013
Volume 43, No.14
April 5-7, 2013 Port Elgin, ON
Political Advocacy Core to Collective Bargaining Successes
In his opening address to the CAW Council on April 5, CAW National President Ken Lewenza spoke to the need to be politically engaged to make progress for workers.
Lewenza spoke about the threats posed by looming free trade agreements - CETA (Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), with Japan and other Asian nations. "These free trade deals will continue to put more nails in the coffin of the auto industry and good jobs here in Canada," said Lewenza. "Many municipalities are now opposing CETA, but they are being ignored by the federal government."
Lewenza spoke about his recent meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper where he addressed issues such as non-reciprocal trade, the necessity of maintaining fair dues check-off mechanisms, and concern around starving the provincial health care systems through shrinking transfer payments to the provinces. He said that Harper expressly pointed out that he did not agree with the CAW's position on regulating trade with the goal of establishing reciprocal trade flows.
Lewenza raised the importance of the union dues check-off system, which helps create greater workplace fairness. "In 1946, Justice Rand ruled that union security meant that every member benefits from the collective agreement, so everyone should pay union dues," Lewenza said, adding that the premise allows unions to make important improvements in workplaces across the country.
Austerity Doesn't Work
Lewenza also raised the terrible impact governmental austerity programs are having on working people around the world, particularly in parts of Europe where the official unemployment rate is more than 20 per cent. "Austerity programs are just not working."
Lewenza pointed to the ongoing severe impact that government spending and program cuts are having on workers and, by extension, economies in Canada and around the world.
"Economies can't find their footing when unemployment rates remain stubbornly high," Lewenza said, highlighting specifically the Harper government's recent stay-put budget and the need for ongoing direct investment to put 2 million Canadians back to work.
Lewenza's comments come on the heels of the April 5 release of Statistics Canada's job market numbers for March. The national statistics agency reported the economy shed 55,000 jobs last month, completely erasing the unexpected (and temporary) national job gain in February.
"We won't solve our fundamental economic problems without first answering the jobs question," Lewenza said. "Communities across the country continue to struggle with chronically high unemployment and, worse, a decline in those actually seeking jobs."
"By focusing on austerity rather than job-creation, our governments are making the problem worse - not better. It's time we invest in good jobs, quality services and much-needed infrastructure."
Lewenza said that he's looking forward to the formation of the new union with CEP where the new organization will play a significant role in every sector of the economy. "We're not joining with CEP to be bigger, we're doing it to be a stronger union, with more clout at the bargaining table."
Lewenza acknowledged the delegation of CAW women who participated in the United Nations 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York City. The union was recognized by the International Labour Organization (ILO) for the Women's Advocate program as an effective mechanism for helping women with issues of domestic violence, harassment and abuse, while at work.
The Women's Advocate program was first negotiated in 1993 at the major auto companies and has since grown to 260 trained women's advocates across the country.
The CAW Women in Skilled Trades program has also recently garnered acclaim for its innovative board game that was adopted by Skills Canada-Ontario into Skills Work! Skills Play! and unveiled on March 22. The game was originally developed as a module for the CAW's week-long Women in Skilled Trades and Technology Awareness program. The game is intended to draw young people (particularly young women) into the trades in an effort to help fill current and future gaps in an aging Canadian labour market.
The game will go into more than 2,000 schools across Ontario.
Pension Security - We Need it
Lewenza also raised two outstanding issues for the union around pensions - at Nortel and Navistar. He expressed outrage at the recent collapse of mediation efforts over the distribution of Nortel's remaining assets and that the needs of former Nortel workers, pensioners and the long term disabled have been disregarded on account of bondholder greed.
In the case of Navistar, Lewenza criticized the company's decision to appeal a recent Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) ruling aimed at protecting the pension rights of over 800 former employees.
Lewenza also referenced recent bargaining successes, including at Coast Mountain Bus in the B.C. Lower Mainland, General Electric facilities in Ontario and Hitachi in Guelph, among others.
He also indicated that at CAMI auto assembly plant, negotiations have been temporarily suspended on account of General Motors refusing to table the pattern bargained by the CAW previously. The contract pattern, normally followed at CAMI, was established at Ford, then GM and Chrysler in September 2012.
New Union Update
CAW Secretary-Treasurer Peter Kennedy delivers moving address on April 6.
"Here we are filled with hope and filled with desire," an emotional CAW Secretary-Treasurer Peter Kennedy told hundreds of CAW Council delegates following a detailed presentation on the launch of the New Union.
Kennedy recalled the deep emotions felt 28 years ago when plans were underway for UAW-Canada to become a new Canadian union - the CAW.
"I know we are making the right decision," said Kennedy, who is also co-chair of the New Union Proposal committee co-ordinating plans to join the CAW and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers' Union into a new dynamic, progressive and accessible union of more than 300,000 members.
He outlined the activities of the six working group committees that have been preparing for the launch of the new union including the creation of a new constitution, a new name, logo, communications strategy, organizing model, new executive board, union councils and much more.
Kennedy described the enormous amount of work that is going into preparations to launch the New Union on Labour Day. But Kennedy said this work is motivated by a strong desire to build a new and better union, something that is greater than the simple sum of the two unions.
In the coming weeks a series of regional meetings for leadership, which will also be open to members will be held to outline progress on the New Union project. These meetings will be held:
April 25 Thunder Bay, April 26 Winnipeg, April 27 Vancouver, April 30 Ottawa, May 6 Windsor, May 6 Sarnia, May 7 London, May 7 Brampton, May 8 Oshawa, May 11 Halifax, May 13 Quebec, May 15 Edmonton, May 15 Teleconference, May 16 Saskatoon.
There will also be a teleconference meeting on May 15 for those who can't attend the other meetings.
Kennedy urged all local unions to discuss the New Union project at membership meetings this spring. They should also pass a motion in support of the formation of the new union which includes reference to the joining of CAW Canada into the new union and the continuation of the local union in the new union.
For more information on the New Union including specific times for the upcoming regional leadership meetings visit http://www.newunionproject.ca/.
Thread of Life Founder Shares Story of Loss
Threads of life Executive Director Shirley Hickman speaks on April 6, following the of Mourning Ceremony.
It was through her own experience of the loss of her son that Shirley Hickman came to found Threads of Life, an organization that helps other families who lose a loved one to a workplace fatality or occupational illness.
Hickman addressed CAW Council on April 6, 17 years to the day that she and her family buried her eldest son Tim. In 1997, Hickman and family lost Tim to a terrible injury he suffered from a workplace explosion at a London, Ontario area on March 23.
"As a mother, I had expectations for my kids to grow up, be respectful, get an education and be a good citizen," said Hickman.
Hickman explained that the first few months were filled with grief and shock. Later though those sentiments gave way to anger and frustration at the lack of concern for workers safety by employers and how easily Tim's accident could have been avoided. It was this deep fury that led Hickman to make a commitment to do something to honour her son and help others. Threads of Life was founded in 2002.
Threads of Life helps families affected by a workplace fatality, life-altering injury or occupational disease. It provides families with referrals and the only one-on-one peer support assistance program in the world that is delivered by trained Volunteer Family Guides who have also experienced a workplace tragedy. It is currently working with more than 1,100 families from across Canada who have been affected by a workplace tragedy.
Hickman encouraged CAW delegates to take part in upcoming Steps for Life taking place on May 5 in communities right across the country. Click here for more information: http://www.stepsforlife.ca/locations/
Council Throws Support Behind Passenger Rail Campaign
CAW Council delegates voted unanimously in favour of supporting a national campaign to stop further government cutbacks to VIA Rail, Canada's public passenger rail service.
Various elected workplace leaders representing the rail sector of the union spoke in favour of the recommendation.
CAW Local 4003 President Frank Consiglio called the steady decline in both operational and capital funding for VIA's cross-country services "totally unacceptable."
"We can't allow government to dismantle our hard fought gains we've made in developing passenger rail service," Consiglio said.
CAW Assistant to the President Bob Orr said the inevitable result of VIA funding cuts is fewer travel options, especially for those living in more remote communities, calling that patently unfair.
CAW Council 4000 Secretary-Treasurer Heather Grant said that chronic underfunding of VIA services has led to looming fears of privatization - a move that would strip passenger rail from public hands and democratic decision-making.
"We have to fight back now and forever, in the face of privatization," Grant said.
CAW Cements Support for Rand Formula
In an April 6 presentation to Council, CAW Economist Jim Stanford recounted the historic Ford Windsor strike of 1945, which lasted for 99 days. The courageous strike was conducted by UAW Local 200 members who were trying to secure union recognition in the workplace.
The strike was ended by an arbitrated settlement in 1946 by Supreme Court Justice Ivan Rand, whose ruling was a compromise solution to secure union recognition and labour peace. The ruling set out that workers would not be forced to join the union, but anyone who was covered by a collective agreement must pay union dues. Accordingly, the ruling also set out the limited periods when strikes can occur - securing labour peace within the term of a collective agreement.
Stanford outlined that paying union dues is an economic investment in a worker's future. In Canada, on average there is a $5 difference between a union member and a non-union member's wage.
No greater example can be found to contrast the Canadian experience than the southern U.S. where 'work for less' laws have been passed, which outlaw the negotiation of union dues check-off. These laws now exist in 24 states, including neighbouring Michigan.
According to Stanford:
- The unionization rate is 6.5 per cent in work-for-less states, compared to 14.3 percent otherwise - more than double;
- The average weekly wage in work-for-less states is $760, compared to $925 - 22 per cent higher;
- Similarly workplace fatalities are also much lower in states without anti-union laws - 3.7 per cent vs. 5.2 per cent - 30 per cent lower.
Stanford warned that work-for-less laws are part of an agenda to push down wages and working conditions, similar to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the proliferation of unregulated temp agencies. And this agenda has already started to encroach on Canadian soil - through Saskatchewan's introduction of Bill 85; Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak threatening to gut labour relations laws; and federal Conservative MPs musing about introducing legislation to eliminate or drastically change the Rand Formula.
The CAW will soon be engaging in a membership campaign to talk about the fairness that unions bring and the benefits of unionization and dues check-off.
With the Canadian Labour Congress, the CAW will be developing campaign materials to go out to all local unions, to be sent out over the coming weeks.
CAW Local 200 President Chris Taylor said that he's proud of his local union's history and echoed the importance of maintain the 1946 victory.
CAW Boosts Médecins Sans Frontières Syrian Aid Work
MSF's Julie Francis details many of the horrors of the Syrian crisis.
A financial contribution of $50,000 made by CAW to global humanitarian relief organization Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has boosted much needed aid work being delivered in war-torn Syria, said MSF's Julie Francis.
Francis, MSF's Donor Engagement Officer, delivered a presentation to CAW Council delegates on April 6, highlighting the important health services to the citizens of Syria, impacted by a two-year civil war that has devastated the country's healthcare system.
"Healthcare has been pushed to clandestine networks and through underground channels," Francis said, also noting that more than 70,000 Syrians have been killed since March 2011.
The CAW donation has been used by MSF members on-the-ground in Syria to support emergency surgeries, provide life-saving supplies as well as conduct primary healthcare consultations, maternal care and training in the use of surgical kits, anesthesia, among other initiatives.
Médecins Sans Frontières was established in 1971 by a small group of French doctors who had worked in Biafra. Upon their return, they were determined to find a way to respond rapidly and effectively to public health emergencies, with complete independence from political, economic and religious influences.
Today, MSF is one of the world's leading independent international medical relief organizations, working in around 80 countries worldwide and with operational centres and national offices in 19 countries.
For more information, visit: http://www.msf.ca/
AFN National Chief Brings Greetings to CAW
In a video greeting to the CAW Council, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo spoke to the need for all Canadians to get involved in the cause of fairness and justice for aboriginal people.
"The sentiment that enough is enough has never been as loud as in recent months," said Atleo, referencing the way of demonstrations and activism across the country that formed the #Idlenomore movement.
AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo.
"There has been an unprecedented engagement and mobilization of our peoples and an unprecedented attention to the issues - treaty implementation, fair and equitable education, resource revenue sharing, accessible health care, adequate housing and community safety and security - to name a few."
Atleo said that it's an exceptionally exciting time for First Nations and Canada.
"First Nations youth are the fastest growing population," said Atleo, indicating that with this growth comes great potential.
Atleo pressed that there is a role for everyone. He urged CAW members to stand with aboriginal people in finding practical solutions, particularly to "end poverty, once and for all."
To view the short video greetings, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/user/CAWMedia
Barrage of NAFTA-style Trade Deals Won't Benefit Workers
CAW Council delegates unanimously endorsed a recommendation to continue opposing a raft of new free trade agreements currently being negotiated by the Harper government.
CAW Economist Jim Stanford told delegates that federal negotiators are participating in 18 different trade deals - negotiations taking place concurrently and jokingly questioned whether trade negotiators are the fastest growing employment sector in the country.
"As we all know, free trade deals have little to do with trade or economic prosperity for workers," Stanford said, pointing to the significant decline in industrial jobs since Canada signed on to the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993.
Canada's trade performance has deteriorated since the worldwide financial crisis and recession in 2008 and 2009. In addition, Canada's trade deficit in manufactured goods topped $100 billion in 2012 - a far cry from the $12 billion surplus Canada enjoyed in 1996.
Stanford expressed particular concern over proposed trade deals with Japan, a multi-lateral agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as well as an accord with the European Union that's expected to be firmed up within months.
Stanford also expressed concern the impact each of these new deals with have on Canada's hard-hit auto sector, noting that further tariff reduction will fuel more imports and further entice corporations to jurisdictions where production costs are lower.
Navistar's Appeal of Pension Ruling Shameful, CAW says
CAW President Ken Lewenza said he is outraged to learn that Navistar Corporation is appealing a recent Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) decision aimed at protecting the pension rights of over 800 former employees.
"It is shameful that this company willingly wants to spend the time and money to continue fighting its former workers, many of whom spent their entire lives producing the heavy trucks that Navistar sold to earn profits for its shareholders and executives," Lewenza said.
The FSCO decision issued in March of this year covered four key issues in dispute between the CAW and Navistar: the date of the wind up of the pension plan; the early retirement programs in the pension agreement; pension entitlements of those who retired before the wind up date of July 28, 2011 and credited service upon layoff. The appeal was filed on April 3..
In its decision, the commission sided with the workers on all four counts, a move the union considered "just" after the Chatham plant was shuttered more than three-and-a-half years ago.
Lewenza said the appeal exemplifies an arrogance that has characterized Navistar and its approach to workplace relations.
"Our union will continue to provide full support to the Chatham workers and remain committed to seeing justice served on this matter," Lewenza said.
Once the appeal process has been initiated, both union and company representatives will appear before a three-member tribunal of the FSCO. The timeline for that tribunal hearing has not yet been determined.
The CAW represents members of Locals 127 and 35, formerly employed at the Navistar truck plant in Chatham, Ontario. Navistar idled the plant in June 2009, but only announced the official closure in July 2011.
Rain Barrels for Earth Day
On Earth Day, April 22 the CAW Durham Regional Environment Council (CAW D.R.E.C.) will host its fifth truckload sale of rain barrels from 6:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. at CAW Local 222 - located at 1425 Phillip Murray Avenue, in Oshawa, Ontario.
The funds raised will support CAW D.R.E.C. community outreach and environmental education.
Each rain barrel comes fully equipped with a leaf and mosquito filter basket, an overflow adaptor that permits multiple barrels to be connected in series, 1.2m of overflow hose and a spigot that attaches directly to a garden hose. These environmentally friendly products were once used to import fruits and vegetables and have been refurbished and re-purposed to offer years of reliable service as rain barrels. They are available in three colours including grey, blue, and white. Additional product options are now available.
For anyone in the greater Toronto are who would like to order a rain barrel visit: http://rainbarrel.ca/oshawa/.
Register now! CAW Employment Insurance and CPP Conference
The CAW will be running an Employment Insurance and CPP Conference from May 31 to June 2, 2013 at its Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, Ontario.
The conference will include workshops on EI rules, policies and practices delivered by Service Canada representatives, and will help delegates better understand the Canada Pension Plan as well as pension benefits.
Guest speakers will include CAW President Ken Lewenza, EI Commissioner Mary Lou Donnelly, NDP MP Malcolm Allen and Canadian Labour Congress Economist Angella MacEwan.
For registration information, contact CAW National Representative Cammie Peirce: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notice of Conference Change
The Aboriginal & Workers of Colour Conference originally scheduled for May 10-12, 2013 is rescheduled for October 25-27, 2013 and will be held at the CAW Family Education Centre in Port Elgin.
For more information, contact CAW Human Rights Director Vinay Sharma: email@example.com.
Rethinking Drug Coverage: Time for Universal Pharmacare
The Canadian Health Coalition and Carlton University will host a conference May 24-25 in Ottawa on Universal Pharmacare and CAW local unions are being encouraged to attend.
This conference will examine best-practices in pharmaceutical management in Canada and internationally, identify the barriers to a universal public drug plan, and provide a platform to raise awareness and build political momentum in Canada for a national pharmacare plan.
CAW Assistant to the President Deb Tveit said that pharmacare has many important advantages. "It would provide equal access to prescription drugs, replacing our uneven patchwork of provincial programs and private insurance at work. It would also control costs by allowing providers to negotiate good prices and reducing administrative costs."
Tveit said that a national pharmacare program could improve drug safety and improve prescribing practices as well.
"Like so many other industrialized countries, Canada can afford a national drug plan. We already pay for our drugs-but pharmacare would let us do so more effectively, more economically and more fairly."
CAW locals are encouraged to send delegates to this important conference. The CAW national union and the CAW Ontario Health Care Council are joint silver sponsors for the event.
For more information and to register, please visit: http://pharmacare2013.ca/.
CAW Staff Appointment
CAW President Ken Lewenza has appointed Tim Carrie, Local 27 president and president of CAW Council to the Education Department, working out of our Toronto office, effective Sunday, April 14, 2013.
CAW Visit to Halifax Shipyard
A tour of the Halifax Shipyard to showcase shipbuilding skilled trades was held on March 25. In the photo are:
Steve Coleman, Production Director for New Construction, Irving Shipbuilding Inc.; Joe Elworthy, President CAW Local 2200; Dino Chiodo, President CAW Local 444; Karl Risser (back), President MWF Local 1; Pat Blackwood, National Skilled Trades Director; Jamie Vaslet, Business Agent MWF Local 1; David Cassidy (back), President of Skilled Trades Council and Financial Secretary CAW Local 444; Claudine Bardsley-Samson, Director, Labour Relations, Irving Shipbuilding Inc.; Les Holloway, National Representative; and Garry Sudul, Director, Coprorate Pensions and Benefits, J.D. Irving Limited.