The Chronicle-Journal (Newspaper of the Northwest)
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
The merger of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada and Canadian Auto Workers will benefit all of Northwestern Ontario, local union leaders say.
“I think it’s great for the people in Northwestern Ontario,” CEP Ontario Region vice-president Kim Ginter said Tuesday.
“(The amalgamated union) can show solidarity for one and another . . . supply more and better services for people, be a much more democratic and rank-and-file-run union for people, be more financially sound and offer more services for members,” said Ginter.
The CEP/CAW union, which was approved by the CEP membership on Monday and in August by CAW members, has yet to settle on a name. It will initially have more than 300,000 members across 20 sectors of the economy.
The consolidation follows years of manufacturing and forestry job losses that have reduced the number of union members to 30 per cent of the Canadian workforce.
Most of the membership would be concentrated in manufacturing, communications and transportation, but the merged union will also represent some public sector employees working in health, education and transit roles.
Details, including membership fees, will be worked out over the coming months by one of six committees that will toil ahead of a founding convention to be held, at the earliest, next summer.
Ginter predicts that the new union will have more power to negotiate contracts with employers.
“I think that companies have shown their nervousness about this,” he said.
“We will be able to put a lot more people on the street, and increase our media coverage, which will all help at the bargaining table.”
CAW Local 229 president Kari Jefford said the merger “is a very good move for the labour movement as a whole.
“The labour movement is rethinking, reorganizing and renewing itself, and the marriage between CAW and CEP is the first step in this process,” said Jefford.
She noted that “working people in Ontario and Canada are under the attack of very large national and international companies looking to take our resources from Canada, send them off to other countries with very unfair labour practices, and then, sell them back to us for huge profits.’’
Locally, she said, the region has “experienced huge negative impacts when our paper mills started closing due to the high costs of electricity, huge corporate tax cuts, ‘free’ trade agreements and the ‘competitive market’.
“When communities lose good-paying jobs replaced with low-paying jobs, no benefits or pensions, our tax bases shrink and we continue to spiral down,” she said.
“(With this merger) we will begin to try to balance the power of people in Canada,” said Jefford.
“When our numbers grow, so will our bargaining influences and power. The new union will continue to grow and find effective ways to work with employers and to positively influence all levels of government,” she added.
Ginter said the new union will also “have a new and bigger direction in organizing efforts.’’
Resources for increasing membership in the union will be doubled to $10 million per year, he said, noting that there a lot of unions waiting to see what happens with the CEP/CAW merger.
The new union will also be creating a mechanism that will allow students, retirees, the unemployed and others to join.
“There will be numerous more avenues for people to get involved and help move the workers’ agenda forward,” Ginter said.