I am pleased to submit the following report on my Labour Council work of the past month, and on some key issues I wish to bring to your attention.
- Health & Safety Dinner November 20th
- Labour Council Elections January 11th
- ONDP Convention
- Buy Bottles Not Cans in Support of Steelworkers
- Working at Heights Regulation Finally Introduced
- Proposed Ontario Retirement Pension Plan Introduced
Health & Safety Dinner November 20th
Our annual Health & Safety Dinner was a big success: over 150 people attended. I was honoured to be able to present this year's Health & Safety Activist award to Claudette Demaere of Unifor 1106: congratulations, Claudette! We also learned important tips for investigating health and safety issues in our workplaces from our guest speaker John Oudyk of the Labour Occupational Health Clinics Academic Research Collaboration (LOARC). You can view some photos from the event on our Facebook page (facebook.com/wrlabour).
CLC Election Preparation Conference January 23-24, Kitchener
The venue is booked, the workshops have been selected, and the speakers are being invited for this important conference to help us prepare for the 2015 federal election! The event will give us skills to be able to mobilize around the key issues of good jobs, retirement security, child care, and health care so we can defeat the Harper Conservatives. The conference will be FREE, so start tapping people in your union to attend now! The event will be at the Kitchener-Waterloo Crowne Plaza at King and Benton Streets in Kitchener on Friday night, January 23rd, and all day Saturday, January 24th. Watch for special emails with registration details soon!
Labour Council Elections January 11th
We will be hosting elections for our new Labour Council Executive on Sunday, January 11th at 1:30pm (please note, one of our previous emails had the wrong date: please mark January 11th in your calendars now!). In order to be eligible to run for the Executive, you must have attended at least 50% of our membership meetings in the past six months, be an official delegate of your union to the Labour Council, and your union must have its per capita dues fully paid up. Now would be a good time to make sure that your union Executive has paid up its dues and has submitted an official list of current delegates to the Council! You can read the details on our website at wrlc.ca/affliation.
I attended the Convention of the Ontario New Democratic Party as a representative of our Labour Council on November 14-16th. I was sent with a mandate to hold the Party to account for a campaign that failed to speak to labour or social justice values adequately. Many others were evidently sent with a similar mandate. A telling moment for me was the debate on a motion about the direction of the party: the motion’s pre-amble outlined several of the regressive, anti-tax positions the Party has taken in the last year and called for a return to more progressive values. Some strong speeches received loud applause, and the motion passed unanimously. I was pleased to see that Leader Andrea Horwath had listened to similar concerns from party members in the weeks leading up to the Convention, and had made several needed changes as a result. Some senior Party strategists were let go, and new people, including former ONA Executive Director Michael Balagus and former MPP Jonah Schein, have been placed in key positions of responsibility. The Party leadership apparently made an effort to reach out to several union leaders for their input into nominees for the Party Executive, which resulted in a much more balanced leadership. You know from media reports that the leadership review resulted in a 77% endorsement of Andrea, and while several bridges still need mending within the Party, I am hopeful that the labour movement will be able to be proud of the ONDP again.
Buy Bottles Not Cans in Support of Steelworkers
This holiday season, when you raise a bottle, instead of a can, you are supporting good jobs for workers and their families. Take a stand against union-busting by promoting the USW beer can boycott this holiday season. Crown Holdings, the U.S.-based aluminum can giant, has forced its 120 Toronto workers out on strike since September 2013 by demanding massive concessions. Since then, Crown has refused to negotiate a fair settlement, closed its Montréal plant and bused in scabs to break the union in Toronto. Please spread word of the boycott to your family and friends, and join the USW Day of Action this Saturday, December 13th. We’ll be leafleting at beer stores across the region: please sign up on the sheets being distributed at tonight’s meeting, or register for the event at www.bottlesnotcans.ca.
And finally, two short updates on issues we will hear much more about soon…
Working at Heights Regulation Finally Introduced
Our Labour Council was quite vocal about the death of construction worker Nick Lalonde in Waterloo last year, who wasn’t wearing a safety restraint when he fell from a height. Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife has been pressing the Ministry of Labour ever since to introduce new training standards for all companies employing workers at heights. The regulation was finally introduced last week and will come into effect on April 1, 2015. Susan Daub of the Workers’ Health & Safety Centre will be bringing us more details very soon. Thanks to all of you who helped by signing petitions and raising your voices on this issue.
Proposed Ontario Retirement Pension Plan Introduced
This week, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne introduced legislation which will establish a new mandatory pension plan for employers in addition to the CPP. We will need some time to analyse the details, as the Liberal government also introduced a voluntary pooled retirement savings program on the same day, so we’ll have to investigate how “mandatory” the pension plan will be. However, this legislation is undoubtedly the result of the CLC’s Retirement Security campaign, which for years has been calling for an increase in the CPP program to lift more seniors out of poverty.
December 9, 2014