June 14, 2013
Volume 43, No. 23
CAW Reaches Tentative National Agreement with Loomis Express
A work stoppage by thousands of CAW members at Loomis Express has been narrowly averted after marathon bargaining talks led to a tentative agreement for a national contract.
"The CAW members at Loomis Express stood together across the country and fought hard to resist the massive concessions tabled by this employer," said Bob Orr, Assistant to CAW President Ken Lewenza.
"The CAW Master Bargaining Committee comprised of members from six different provinces is unanimously recommending acceptance of the new agreement," Orr added.
The agreement was reached in advance of the deadline of 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, June 12.
The CAW will be setting up ratification meetings in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Nova Scotia.
Further details of the tentative agreement will be released after the ratification process has been completed.
VIA Rail Concession Demands Derail Contract Talks, CAW says
Major concessionary demands tabled by VIA Rail negotiators have effectively derailed talks for a new collective agreement with the CAW.
"The company presented their economic offer to us late last night and it was riddled with demands for deep concessions," said Bob Orr, Assistant to CAW National President Ken Lewenza.
Orr said that the company's proposal would roll back access to long-standing income protections for seasonal workers, cut thousands of dollars in take-home pay, each year, from VIA employees, and slash pension benefits for new hires to levels lower than at any Crown Corporation in Canada.
"What's infuriating is that the company actually increased their concessionary demands as we moved closer to the deadline," said CAW Council 4000 Secretary-Treasurer Heather Grant, representing customer service and on-board service agents at VIA Rail.
The CAW had issued a 72-hour strike notification to the company last week, following a strong strike mandate provided by the members. A strike deadline is set for Friday June 14 at 12:01am.
"We came into these negotiations looking for ways to reach a fair deal for our members. The company came looking for cuts. That's not how we move forward," said CAW Local 100 President Ken Hiatt, representing skilled trades and maintenance workers at VIA Rail.
The union is currently preparing members to set up pickets at VIA stations and maintenance centres across the country.
Conservative Bill a Deformation of Labour Relations, CAW Says
New legislation proposed by Conservative backbencher Blaine Calkins would "grotesquely deform" labour relations in the federally-regulated sector of the economy, predicts Ken Lewenza, National President of the CAW.
Bill, C-525, unveiled in the House of Commons on June 5, would create a double-standard by making it more difficult for unions to organize - but far easier to remove unions as bargaining agents. The Bill would make representation votes mandatory in all union organizing applications in the federal sector which includes industries like transportation, banking, and communications.
At present, labour boards in the federal sector can certify unions as bargaining agents based on written evidence of majority support, usually in the form of signed membership cards, and have the discretion to hold votes in appropriate cases to ensure that unions have majority support.
"Mr. Calkins' rhetoric about workplace democracy is intended to mislead people about the true and obvious intent of this bill which is to weaken unions and collective bargaining in the federal sector of the economy," Lewenza said. "In reality this bill would limit the democratic right of workers to form a union and negotiate a collective agreement."
Bill C-525 would require a union that is seeking to represent a new group of employees to first have written evidence of support from 45 per cent of that group, and then receive votes from at least 50 percent of all the workers in that group, not just those casting ballots.
"If this same distorted standard of democracy were applied to federal MPs, there would not be a single Conservative member sitting in the House of Commons today," Lewenza noted. "There is no MP in Canada who was elected by over 50 percent of the voting-age adults in their riding. Why on earth should this test apply to unions, but not MPs?"
At the same time as making it harder to certify a new union, Bill C-525 would make it much easier to remove existing unions. In applications to "decertify" an existing union, over 50 per cent of all employees in a bargaining unit would need to vote to keep the union. This would place the onus on the union to ensure a high voter turnout, not just a win majority of votes, in order to avoid decertification. This would also invite employers and union opponents to attempt to suppress voter turnout.
"This is hardly a democratic practice," said Lewenza.
Lewenza noted that the bill is just the latest in a continuing series of anti-union initiatives from federal Conservatives, including Bill C-377, back-to-work orders, imposed settlements, and interference in collective bargaining at Crown corporations (including CBC and the Bank of Canada).
"The fact that this is presented as a private members' bill, rather than as part of the official Conservative legislative agenda, gives us little comfort," Lewenza added. "We have seen the government effectively crack the whip to drive through private members' bills that the government unofficially endorses."
The CAW represents approximately 30,000 members working in the federally-regulated sector of the economy. The CAW is forming a new union, Unifor, together with the Communicatons Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) that would be the largest single union covered by the Canada Labour Code. For more information please visit: http://www.caw.ca/en/12144.htm.
Ornge Employees Raise Funds for Families of Deceased Co-workers
It is a tragedy of the magnitude that would immobilize most people.
In the early hours of May 31 fight paramedics Dustin Dagenais, Chris Snowball, First Officer Jacques Dupuy and Captain Don Filliter perished when their helicopter went down just outside of Moosonee, Ontario.
On the same day that the tragedy occurred, shocked and grief-stricken colleagues at Ornge went into action, setting up a benevolent fund and T-shirt fundraiser for the families of the four employees who lost their lives in the line of duty. All monies donated to the funds will be deposited in equal portions into trust accounts for the families of all four crew members.
"This is the nature of how emergency service personnel (paramedics, firefighters and police) respond in a crisis," said Ornge District 344 Chairperson Chuck Telky. "When colleagues and friends come together like this we show our true spirit of compassion and camaraderie."
On behalf of the membership of CAW Local 2002, the Local Executive Board has contributed $1000 from the Local Donations Fund to the Ornge Employee Benevolent Fund.
"In solidarity with our brothers and sisters at Ornge I encourage everyone to make a donation to show support for the brave crew of Flight 7793," commented Local President Jamie Ross. "We can't turn back the clock - but we can help to meet the on-going needs of the families left behind and carry on the memories of their lost and loved ones."
For locals who would like to make a donation please visit: http://www.orngeemployees.org/.
CAW Local Receives Bill Zilio"Spirit" Award
Members of CAW Local 1941 accept Bill Zilio Community Labour "Spirit" Award.
CAW Local 1941 received the Bill Zilio Community Labour "Spirit" Award from the United Way of Chatham-Kent and the Chatham-Kent Labour Council on Friday June 7. The award is presented each year to a local chartered union for its efforts in going above and beyond the normal call of duty to help in making a significant contribution to the quality of life of community members or the community at large.
The award was presented to the local in recognition of their efforts to create the Tilbury Labour Adjustment Centre as well as an asbestos intake clinic following the closure of the ArvinMeritor plant. The closure of the plant had a tremendous impact on the local and the community as a whole. Through the Labour Adjustment Centre, the local helped workers to get their Grade 12 Equivalency, computer skills upgrades, lift truck licenses, and offered many other courses to help workers meet the needs of today's job market.
The loss of the plant caused further concern to the community as the plant has used Asbestos in the past and many former workers from ArvinMeritor have contracted cancer. The newly elected Local Executive (six positions on the local executive were vacated with the plant closure) voted unanimously to continue and expand an asbestos intake clinic, fully funded by Local 1941.
"Hundreds of volunteer hours were spent compiling a list of all past employees," said Local 1941 President Bob Ashton. "In the end we had a list of over 1,400 past employees to contact. Countless more volunteer hours were spent calling these former members or their families to try and locate them."
The local organized retiree meetings to explain the intake and WSIB claim processes. Information was also mailed out to all past employees of ArvinMeritor.
"We know that these are the members that built our Local and our community and we need to support them," said Ashton. "There is a large group of retirees who continue to support our Local and stimulate our small community of Chatham-Kent."
Yard Sale with a Cause
Members of the CAW Local 504 Women's Committee organized a yard sale and barbeque in support of Hamilton-area women's shelter Martha's House.
The day was a great success, attracting hundreds of community members.
In the photo is from left to right: Gloria Hendricks, Sherry Robitaille, Catherine Hill, Joyce Borman, Hazel Gibaldi, Keitha Rylett, Nelson West, Joe Ortalizio and Tammy West.
CAW Reaches New Deal for Workers at Crosby Canada
Members of CAW Local 1285 at Crosby Canada voted 87 per cent in approval of a new collective agreement on June 9.
Highlights of the new agreement include a 2 per cent increase in wages each year of the three year agreement, a $1,500 pension contribution, and an increase to paid education leave from 5 to 7 cents per hour. The agreement also includes improvements to benefits such as a drug card, a $500 increase to dental coverage, an increase to life insurance provisions and coverage for laser eye surgery.
"We heard loud and clear from the members that they needed to see improvements to benefits and we were able to achieve this", said Odingo Green, unit chair. "Both the local and the National representatives felt strongly about going in with the member's needs at the forefront."
"We appreciate that the employer was respectful at the bargaining table and we feel this is a fair agreement for all," said Green.
The agreement also recognizes Unifor as the successor union once formed at convention on Labour Day weekend.
CAW Local 1285 represents 111 members at the Brampton plant manufacturing wire rope fittings and harnesses for heavy lifting in the mining, oil and construction industries.
CAW Participates in 'Our Dreams Matter Too' Walk
CAW Eastern Ontario Area Director Harry Ghadban represents CAW and CEP at Our Dreams Matter Too event in Ottawa, Ontario.
The CAW was proud to support and participate in the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada's Our Dreams Matter Too - a nation-wide walk and letter-writing event supporting culturally based equity for First Nations Children.
Events were held across the country on June 11. In Ottawa, participants gathered on Victoria Island and walked to Parliament Hill following an Algonquin prayer led by children from Kitgan Zibi Anishinabeg and welcomes from Kitigan Zibi and Pierre Elliot Trudeau Schools.
As part of the celebration on the Hill, four adults, representing the four peoples of the medicine wheel, symbolically accepted a gift on behalf of adults in Canada. The gifts were offered on beheld of all children and youth who stand with Frist Nations children for equity and fairness to ask adults to join children and young people in standing together with First Nations children families and communities.
CAW Eastern Ontario Director Harry Ghadban was honoured to represent both the CAW and CEP at the walk and to be one of the four adults to accept a gift.
"The gift, the Grizzly Bear Box of Hope, was created by students from Charles Hayes Secondary School in Prince Rupert, BC," said Ghadban. "It was an honour to be a part of this event and to convey the support of both the CAW and CEP."
The CAW and CEP were proud to donate $1,000 each to support this event.
Changing Names for Changing Times
By: Ken Lewenza and Dave Coles
This was printed in the Windsor Star June 4, 2013
May 30 will be a date to remember. It was the day thousands tuned in - some in person, many online - to find out the long-awaited name of our new union. The word "Unifor" appeared on screen mid-way through a spectacular public event in Toronto. The new name appeared alongside a bold new logo - a shield housing a stylized letter "U" in the middle, reflecting the coming together of two unions. You could hear 200 participants in the room gasp, and then break into an uproar of applause. The most anticipated union renewal project in Canadian labour history finally had a name and an identity. Unifor: the new Canadian union.
In the days following the launch, many have asked: Why Unifor? I like it, but I don't get it. Some have said they think it's a refreshing change, something new. Others feel we've missed the mark - and that's okay too.
There's no question, Unifor, has got people talking. Not just our members, but the public at large. And that's a good thing. Major television, radio and print news outlets across Canada and around the world carried the story. Online polls sprouted up, asking people to cast their votes about the name. Alternative media outlets reported on it extensively too. Marketing experts attempted to dissect it. And social media sites lit up with conversation ("Unifor" was actually a top trending topic on Twitter across Canada).
Unifor is a unique name. It's attention-grabbing. Part of its appeal, as we've seen since the launch, is that it's hard to ignore. And it's intentionally ambiguous. We want it to mean different and personal things to our increasingly diverse membership.
Unifor will be a union built for workers. But it will also be a union for the unemployed and self-employed, a union for women and young workers - a union for everyone. That's its strength.
For too long, unions have had their image constructed for them - by well-resourced opponents. Unions have always brought forward new, progressive ideas for a better society yet we have been tarnished as constantly fighting "against" the decisions of others. Unifor will push "for" positive and progressive ideas, and not get stuck fighting "against" bad ones. Our goal is to help set the progressive agenda.
As a national Canadian union it was essential that our name be bilingual. In French the name combines the words 'unis' (united) and 'fort' (strong). Unifor reflects, in both languages, the core values that our new union stands for: unity and solidarity, strength and determination, and a modern, forward-looking perspective.
Our new name is dynamic and versatile. It has possible applications as diverse as our membership. It reflects the hard work our union will do to improve the lives of all Canadians. Unifor is strong, principled, and inclusive. New membership approaches will redefine who can be a union member and radically change the trade union landscape.
A strong union protects and defends its members and stands for safer workplaces, secure employment, wages and benefits. This was a message we heard loud and clear from both members and the general public, young and old. The shield logo reflects this sense of protection and strength.
The colours - a bold red and blue - were chosen to make Unifor stand out and have instant recognition. The fiery red conveys our passion and commitment to our members. We will be unmistakable.
All that said it is difficult to part with the past. Our unions each have a long, proud history - one defined as much by our struggles as our successes. We will carry those memories with us, in our minds and in our hearts, as we bear down and face the challenging road ahead.
We wouldn't be honest if we said we weren't afraid of change. There's something unsettling with the unknown. But if we don't change, the movement dies and working people suffer. Canada becomes a more unequal, more unfair and less inclusive society. We would have betrayed those that have come before us.
Change is what the CAW did in 1985, when it broke from its U.S.-based parent to form a daring new organization. Change is what united Canadian communications, energy and paper workers together as a diverse and potent new union in 1993. Our willingness to change saved our unions. These changes made for a better Canada.
Let's never forget our history, but let's embrace change. It's served our union well in the past. We're certain it will serve us well in the future, through Unifor.
Ken Lewenza is the National President of the Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) and Dave Coles is the National President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP)