The Chatham Daily News
October 17 2012
The merger of Canada’s two largest private sector unions is only the beginning.
On Monday, the commercial, energy and Paperworkers union voted overwhelmingly to merge with the Canadian Auto workers during its national convention in Quebec city. Members of the CAW unanimously supported the merger during the union’s convention in August.
Now the real work begins to bring the two labour groups into a single union, representing more than 300,000 members. this will create the largest private sector union in Canada, which will have a $135-million defence fund to support striking workers.
“There’s a lot of work, yet, to be done,” said Rick Garant, local national CAW representative and the union’s chair of constitutional affairs.
“It’s going to create a new Canadian union, a new name, a new logo . . . all those things are yet to be decided,” he added.
Noting there is no date set, yet, for the founding convention in 2013, Garant said the first thing to do is to form a constitutional working group to draft a formal constitution for the new union.
There are also other working groups in the areas of implementation, staff relations and organizing that need to be formed, he added.
Garant said the elected leadership will overwhelmingly be made up from rank and file leaders.
“We’re going to look at gender equality, diversity . . . to create this new union,” he said, adding both unions share the same mindset on these issues.
“We’re hoping this will reorganize and revitalize the Canadian labour movement,” Garant said.
“It gives us a major presence in so many sectors, including manufacturing, communications, transportation, resources and services,” he added.
Union membership has been shrinking and unions are facing tough battles with employers, as well as with governments that have passed legislation that stifles the collective bargaining process.
Garant believes this merger bodes well for preserving workers’ rights.
“There’s no question about it, this sends a clear message that labour is ready to do what’s necessary to take on governments and employers who would like to see nothing more than us to disappear, quite frankly.”
Dave Coles, CEP president said history was made with Monday’s vote to merge with the CAW.
“If they pick on one of us, they pick on all of us,” he said.
– With files from QMI Agency