Jump to main content
IndustriALL logotype

CAW and CEP merge to form Unifor

2 September, 2013IndustriALL’s Canadian affiliates CAW and CEP merge at a founding convention in Toronto to form Unifor, which represents 300,000 workers in industry and services. President Jerry Dias pledges focus on organizing and communities.

On 1 September, more than 2,500 elected delegates from the Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) voted to merge and create a new union called Unifor. The statutes received 96 percent support from the founding convention in Toronto.

Unifor represents 300,000 members in a wide range of sectors including manufacturing, energy, forestry, services, telecommunications and transportation.

The convention elected Jerry Dias national president, Peter Kennedy secretary-treasurer and Michel Ouimet as Quebec director.  Of Unifor’s executive board on 25 members, 44 percent are women, well over their 28 percent share of the membership.

Jerry Dias began his working life in 1978 at de Havilland Aircraft (now Bombardier Aerospace) in 1978, and was elected shop steward later that year. He became local president before moving to the national office in 1993 to coordinate the aerospace sector. Before elected president of Unifor, Dias was assistant to the CAW president.

We want a Canada that treats every person with decency, respect and security. A Canada that values the workers who produce the wealth, rather than devaluing and sacrificing us,

Dias said in his keynote speech.

The convention adopted an innovative organizing policy. One new element is the introduction of “community chapters” through which new groups of workers may join Unifor, even if they do not yet belong to a recognized bargaining unit. Unifor will dedicate 10 percent of its income or 10 million Canadian dollars annually to organizing new members.

Unifor will carry on the tradition of social unionism of its founding organizations. This political action means broad engagement in communities, participation in issue campaigns, and involvement in elections to raise issues and support to candidates who agree with them.

The convention gave a rousing farewell applause to CAW president Ken Lewenza and CEP president Dave Coles who both retired.

In his greeting, IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina praised the tradition of global solidarity provided by the founding organizations:

In a globalized world without borders, we need to work together more than ever. I am confident that Unifor will continue to support our sisters and brothers in Colombia, Mozambique and elsewhere.