Unifor National Skilled Trades Council Report
Windsor – November 10-12, 2017
This past weekend, four delegates from Local 199, members of the Unifor Niagara Region Skilled Trades Sub-council attended the Unifor National Skilled Trades Council in Windsor. This council was well represented by Skilled Trades leadership from coast to coast with approximately 150 delegates and guests in attendance.
Elections were held for National Council Executive positions. Brother Dave Cassidy was re-elected as Chair of the Council, as were all other members of the Executive re-elected. Congratulations to Niagara Region Sub-council Vice President and Local 199 brother Paul Dortono on his election to the Bylaws Committee of the National Council.
Following elections we were addressed by Unifor National Financial Secretary brother Bob Orr, who updated us on a variety of issues that has the National engaged including President Jerry Dias involvement in the 4th round of NAFTA talks. In his address he mentioned the seat that Jerry’s been given at the table as a result of Unifor’s involvement in politics and how our union has been able to affect change, how our boots on the ground helped defeat Harper and Hudak. The strength of Unifor’s grass roots influence now gets us meetings with politicians where we can voice our concerns before policy is made. This has helped get labor rights on the agenda, how even US Senator Elizabeth Warren took a page from our book when she recently spoke in the Senate about worker’s rights. Mexican workers have the same rights as before NAFTA, for them nothing has changed exposing the lie that NAFTA was supposed to raise all boats but has instead engaged us all in a race to the bottom. This is proven by the number of Right to Work States in the US that were created in an attempt to undercut NAFTA.
We were also addressed by former CAW National President Ken Lewenza, who among other things expressed his disappointment that CAMI Local 88 did not take the opportunity to show solidarity and align with the GM Master Bargaining Committee by signing a 3 year collective agreement so GM couldn’t pick them off, how they wouldn’t be able to do that if we were all out at GM, on strike together.
Ken also recognized Serge DuPont in attendance, who is Assistant to Quebec Director Renaud Gagne’, and the significance of the work he, along with Jacques Ouimet and Nelson Gagne are doing to put Skilled Trades on the map in Quebec.
During delegates reports we heard:
- How many employers are choosing to ignore that we are in the midst of a Skilled Trades shortage, as well as failing to recognize the need to train apprentices to replace the skills lost through retirements in places like Local 707 Ford Oakville where similar to us, their average age is 55 with over 20 years experience. They still believe they’ll be able to hire, but as Local 1285 FCA Brampton has experienced, this is not so easy. They have hired 25 new Trades in the last 3 months, but even though they have 29 apprentices in the system, they can not keep pace with retirements.
- How mine workers in Sudbury and Goderich are threatened by new technology, switching from diesel to electric autonomous equipment – basically robotic mining equipment that gets taught once then repeats the same operation, and how one person can operate up to 8 machines
- How Bombardier in Thunder Bay is behind on orders because of bad parts from Mexico.
- Thanks from the Local 88 President for the solidarity CAMI workers were shown during the strike.
We had many discussions over the weekend with Local 4212 Trades Rep Mark Bocchinfuso from the Seaway, who recently joined our Niagara Council. Mark will be heading to his first set of negotiations this coming April. He was very interested to hear some of the solutions we have used to address issues over the years, issues they are currently facing like full utilization, language for apprentices, contracting out and new technology. The Seaway spent $500 Mil to automate the locks installing auto mooring devices that have been described by management as maintenance challenges, while providing no training on the equipment. In addition to our assistance, the National Skilled Trades department has pledged their full support to assist Mark in formulating his demands to help him prepare for April, demonstrating just one very valuable benefit of membership to the Skilled Trades Councils.
Unifor National Skilled Trades Council Report
Calgary – June 9-11, 2017
Two delegates from Local 199 attended the Unifor National Skilled Trades Council in Calgary his past June, 2017.
Of note during this Council was the address on the subject of the Ontario College of Trades by former CAW Skilled Trades Director Pat Blackwood, who is the Chair of the COT. He talked about the history of the COT, and its reason for being. The Armstrong Report of 2008 recommended a self-funded, self-regulating body be established for the Trades, similar to bodies for Doctors and Lawyers, and from 2011 – 2013 the COT was set up. From 2012 – 2014 Hudak lined up with coalitions against the COT like “Stop the Trades Tax” who opposed regulating the trades so they could use whoever they wanted to do Trades work. He vowed to abolish the COT in addition to watering down Journeyman-Apprentice ratios and other regulations that were opposed by contractors. Since Hudak, the COT has taken the Government out of the equation on decisions affecting the Trades, and have created a governance structure that strikes a balance between union and non-union, private and public sectors with the mandate to protect the public interest by regulating the Trades and enforcing those regulations. This in addition to the promotion of Skilled Trades and apprenticeships, updating curriculum, training standards and assessment tools, and guiding people into high demand S/Ts. They are involved with 100s of events, competitions and national forums. In 2013 they ran the Cool Jobs Campaign – “behind the music scene”, and in 2016 ran a TV and Film Campaign – “behind the scenes”. They work tirelessly to link apprentices with employers.
In Nov. 2016, Ontario Government introduced BILL 70, Schedule 17, which allowed the OLRB to overturn enforcement actions by the COT. On Nov. 30, a rally to protest Bill 70 was held at Queen’s Park with over 5000 people in attendance. Following the rally, the S/T Dept. along with President Jerry Dias met with Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn to discuss the impact this bill would have on S/Ts and Apprentices, and they were successful in making significant changes to the bill. Even though the bill has passed, this is a work in progress, and consultations continue with the government as well as industrial and construction affiliates.
Footnote to report: As we learned this past weekend: Recommendations made may not be implemented in legislation – Unifor Legal is involved as are Unifor S/Ts Dept.
Brother Dave Cassidy has been appointed to sit on the Board of Governors for the COT (4 Employer / 4 Employee), and FCA Trades Co-ordinator Sister Terry Weymouth sits on the Board of Appointments. She reports there are 120 positions on COTs, only 33 positions filled.