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New union in Canada takes shape

17 October, 2012Two unions in Canada, CEP and CAW, are planning to join their forces and create the largest new union in the private sector of Canada, representing the collective interests of 300,000 workers in 22 economic sectors.

At its Convention in Quebec from 14 to 17 October, union leaders and members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, have overwhelmingly voted in favour of creating a new union jointly with Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW), another affiliate of IndustriALL.

“With this new union we are sending out a clear message that labour is ready to do what is necessary to take on governments and employers who would like nothing better than to see us disappear,” said CEP National President Dave Coles. “I have no doubt that this bold initiative will bolster the efforts of labour and other progressive movements across the country,” he said, noting that “with a critical mass in every province, it will be the largest union of its kind in Canada.”

His colleague, CAW President Ken Lewenza echoed this message saying, “Our new union will be well-suited to take on today’s challenges, particularly around the growing precariousness of employment.” He added, “Workers across the country will soon have a greater opportunity for union representation in their community and existing members will have more bargaining clout when sitting across from their employer at the negotiating table. We will be stronger, more effective and yield greater influence.”

CAW members confirmed their engagement towards creation of the new union at their Convention in August.

In his address to the participants of the CEP Convention, Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, praised the work Canadian unions are doing both inside and outside their country and welcomed the creation of a new strong union saying, “I’m convinced that you will be not only bigger, but also better. Your message is clear: we are big, we are strong, we are united – don’t mess with us.”

Both unions have formed a joint Proposal Committee, made up of eight local and national leaders from each organization. The Committee will meet to plan the upcoming work of the six working groups – Constitutional, Implementation, Staff Relations, Organizing, Communications and Convention Planning.

Nationally the new union will focus on collective bargaining with the aim of providing for its members better wages, pensions and benefits, protecting rights and respect at the workplace, improving health and safety, promoting democracy at work, as well as organizing. The new union will cultivate equality, transparency and democracy of its structures. In a broader society among others the union will commit to the fight for freedom, civil liberties and democratic trade unionism, support an environmentally sustainable future, resist corporate globalization, contribute to global union solidarity and work to end war and contribute to world peace.

The concrete date for creation of the new union has not yet been decided, but the founding convention is scheduled for 2013.