Retiree Chapter Chairperson Reports

Retiree Chairperson Report –  October, 2023

I met with “Open Arms Food Bank” in Welland to see what we could do and come up with for Christmas.  They told me they have put a package together for $45.00 for a Christmas meal for the whole family and probably a toy or I’m proposing that we look at feeding maybe (25) families this year.  I know it sounds like a lot, but this is an unusual year and I think it’s something that we must do as a Retirees Organization.  We spend money in a lot of ways feeding the poor and less unfortunate in the community and a lot of them are retired.  John Neely is meeting with the “St. Catharine’s Food Bank” as well to see what their set up for Christmas will be.

In closing, the Ratification meeting was busy and active.  Your older workers stated their views on the contract.  The younger workers (TPT’s) had many questions.  There doesn’t seem to be any trust with the Union and (TPT’s) and the younger workers know what improvements should be made.  They feel the Union doesn’t answer their questions and I feel it falls short in a lot of ways for retirees.

I also told them tha surviving spouses are not getting any money at all which is wrong, absolutely wrong.  Lana Payne, in an opening statement, talked about needing to fix it next time.  The problem we have is that it is 3-years away and we’re all getting older.  I told them to let General Motors know that I’m going to live till 105, so I’m not going.

Retiree Chairperson Report –  April, 2023

Things went well at the last March meeting.  I’d like to thank John and the rest of the Executive committee for doing a good job in my absence.

March was a real busy time for me.  A lot had taken place for the week I was gone.  I attended a “Human Rights” training course and had (3) intensive days at 8 hours each day.  It was a real eye opener as there were a lot of updates since the last time I took this course.  The trainer did a wonderful job and I know most of the people who took the course with me seemed to be quite pleased.

A board meeting that took place with the “Retired Workers Council”, which I am a Member-at-Large on, was a broad discussion over the upcoming contract as well as how the Union itself is going to make improvements for all retirees, not just auto but for retirees in general.  Under the uniform flag, I think it’s important that this is done.  We’re going to be going to a convention in Halifax and at that convention there will be (1) day of bargaining at the conference which hasn’t taken place under the uniform flag since the inception of uniform and it’s important that we as retirees have the right to put our demands to the bargaining committees.

Going forward and in the future, we have to work a closer relationship amongst the membership, the retirees and the leadership because I think it’s something that hasn’t happened in a long time and I think what Lana has brought up is positive, so hopefully it will work out.  We’ll see where we go and how it comes about but at least we’re getting our fair hearing and I think by doing that we should be able to get our message across to the top leadership of the bargaining committees of what we as retirees need and are looking for in our future.

Also, in May there is going to be a meeting of the “Big 3” Master Committees with representatives from each group.  There will be representatives from Ford, General Motors and Chrysler retired workers.  I think it’s important that we have this opportunity to put the demands forward for pensions and pensioners on the “Big 3” auto huddle.  It’s something that hasn’t happened in a long time and we convinced Lana that we had to do something here going forward.

In closing, May is going to be a big month for me and I hope you have a great May as well.

Retiree Chairperson Report –  February, 2023

February is here already.  Hopefully, we’ll get by the winter blahs quickly.  Before you know, we will be into March and April with more meetings on the agenda for us.  Right now we have people in Unifor, the Congress of Union Retirees and the National Pensioners, along with a few others set to make presentations this week before the Senate in Ottawa on the Pension Protection Act.  It will change what the priorities for pension plans are in the event of a company’s bankruptcy.  The goal is to change the pecking order to bring us closer to the top making us the number 1 or 2 priority.  So, what’s taking place is pretty important and it is pretty important that we pay attention to this because it’s something that really matters to any retired worker who is covered by a defined pension plan. 

Also, at the end of this month and towards the early part of next month, I’ll be attending a D3 meeting.   Some of the contract demands that are going to be put forward will be up for discussion. Then we will want to talk about them with the Master Bargaining Committees.  There is also going to be a meeting in May with the Master Bargaining Committees of the Big 3.  There will be representatives from Ford retired workers there and from the General Motors and the Fiat Chrysler retired workers.

We are working close together. I’m hopeful that we’ll have the National Union’s ear in order to be able to tell them something must be done in 2023.  Understand that this is for your benefit due to of the injustice that took place concerning our pensions in 2008; when we all took a haircut.  Somehow, some way these historic problems of ours must be addressed. 

We’ll see what takes place.  But we’re still driving towards some kind of improvement for including pensioners in 2023. It’s important that we talk about that.             

Talking about support, now we will have a talk at our March meeting. Natalie from the Ontario Healthcare Coalition is going to be making a presentation.  I was in zoom meeting with her just last week.  She has plenty of her knowledge about what’s going on and how the coalition is setting everything up for these protests going forward.  I think you’ll be happy to hear from her.  She’s a very knowledgeable person.  She already participated in a meeting held this month in Niagara Falls about the situation of healthcare in Ontario.  This is something that we all have to be aware of because it’s something that affects all of us as retired workers. 

In closing, I won’t be at the March meeting.  But I will see you in April at our chapter meeting.  Thank you. 


Retiree Chairperson Report –  December, 2022

The end of the year is here.  Hopefully 2023 will be a lot better for retirees and for people in general, especially because 2022 was a pretty rough year for myself and for a lot of other people.  I’m glad it’s over!

I was at the “Unifor Retired Worker’s Council” for two days.  At our Executive Board meeting we met with Lana Payne.  We were talking to her about pensions and when we did, we were talking about pensions for everyone in our union not just for one specific group.   I told Lana that the Union itself had made big gains in years when interest rates were high. The year 1987 was a prime example. We went into bargaining that year with interest rates at around 14%.  When I mentioned that, she more or less agreed with me.

I feel that we had a pretty good meeting with Lana, insofar as, I was able to cover everything that I could possibly cover.  Gary Parent from Windsor did his part as well in our discussions with her.  We got a clear message to her that there must be some gains made in pensions as a whole, meaning for the whole membership.  I think she got the message.  I’m hoping she did in any case.

The “Retired Workers National Executive Board” is now made up of people from all the way across Canada.  I can see that this makes a big difference.  This was the very first meeting to have everyone from every province being represented.  It makes a difference because you get different perspectives and encounter different ways of thinking.  I think this is good.   I hope there will be some gains made by our union, as a whole, for retirees as a result of these changes.  It looks positive to me and I’m looking forward to what will come in the future.

I also attended “Unifor’s Ontario Council” at the beginning of this month.  I came away feeling that it was really a lot about nothing in a sense.  This is because the delegates were rehashing the same things over and over again for a day and a half.  This wasted our time.  The human rights issues which were addressed are important.  But they should not take up our agenda for an entire day and a half.  Issues in the workplace should have been front and center because that is what a labour organization is about.  These other issues could have been mixed in with workplace issues, in effect going one part apple and one part orange, one part grape and one part banana.  But it should not be all the same fruit. This really made for a boring council meeting.  I was not impressed.

We had a meeting of “Niagara Region Retired Workers Area Council” this morning prior to this meeting taking place.  I think we’re going to make some changes there as well.   I think that with the new delegates to the council taking their places that we can make changes for our area council going forward in order to make it more active, relevant and accountable than it has been in the past.  We will see what the future brings for our Niagara Area Council, but I have pretty good hopes, given the new people on it, who will drive a process of change.  In short, that’s what it needs as far as I’m concerned.

In closing, I wish everyone and their family a very “Safe and Happy Holiday Season and all the Very Best in the New Year 2023.

Retiree Chairperson Report –  November, 2022

I’m looking forward to December and Christmas and all of us having a good time.  We will be giving away turkeys again and some bottles of wine.

I was at the latest Big Three Auto Council meeting in London, Ontario.  We addressed a lot of issues that we will be dealing with going forward towards the 2023 Collective Bargaining Convention.  We will be striving to get pensions for everyone and that means getting defined pensions for every member of our Union along with annual improvements in those pensions.  You can call it whatever you want.  Money is money and that’s what we’re looking to get.  We are going to campaign for such things at the Collective Bargaining Convention in the Spring.

After the New Year, I’m going to ask our retirees to try to attend some of the Local 199 General Membership meetings.  I think it’s time to start making contact with the younger workers because we retirees are workers as well as retirees.  I think there are a lot of things that we can bring forward and present different ideas.  There is a lot of experience we retirees acquired in the workplace and there is nothing wrong with the active members having the opportunity to have us add something to whatever is going on at those meetings.

In closing, I’d like to talk about what happened with Doug Ford and his confrontation with CUPE.  Doug Ford played his cards wrong.  Ford thought that he would win and then he had to back down.  He looked ridiculous doing that.  What Ford really did was show us his true colors.  Ford also showed that he has no guts.  Once he had his back against the wall, he cracked.  Ford thought that he was going to get away with what he tried to do to the CUPE members, and the rest of the labour movement said, “No Way Doug.  No Way!  We’re all one when it comes to this kind of attack on our rights and you’re not going to screw up collective bargaining by attacking everybody’s right to bargain collective agreements.

It’s important for us as a union to stand up and always fight for the right to bargain agreements.  When somebody tries to take that away from any one of us as workers, regardless of who we are, we all have to stand together.  Doug Ford really underestimated what would take place.  He thought that the labour movement would just fold, faced with the possibility of a $4000 fine for each worker.  It really is a matter of money versus principle.

On the 29th of November, I am going to a meeting in Toronto of the National Retired Workers Council and then I will attend Unifor’s Ontario Council.  We’re going to hand out the leaflet that we’ve produced for the Big 3.  I think it’s going to be important to act on the issue of pensions at that meeting.  Longer term, we’re planning a campaign from now till the Collective Bargaining Convention regardless of the date when it will happen.

Lana Payne made a commitment that we’re going to have a Collective Bargaining Convention this Spring.  We’ll see when the dates for it will be.

Retiree Chairperson Report –  October, 2022

It’s October already.  We are looking to line things up for our Christmas events.  We’ve started working on that and we’re working on a few other things to happen in the New Year.

I’m going to a Big Three Auto Council meeting in London, Ontario at the end of October. There, we will be making a decision concerning what we are going to do going forward in advance of both contract negotiations and the 2023 “Unifor Collective Bargaining Convention”.  The convention is going to take place in the Spring, just before the Big Three contract negotiations take place.  In particular, we will be making decisions about the type of actions we’re going to take and what direction we’re going to go in the coming year.

I also have a meeting with the Retired Workers Council Executive Board in late October. There are lots of things that I will be bringing forward.  We’re going to play a more active role in the Retired Workers Council.  We’re going to go to different locations and make presentations on what we as retirees are doing at the Council itself.   In other words, retirees and their leadership will be taking a much more active and visible role in the Union.  I think it’s long overdue that we did.  As far as I am concerned, the time of us being complacent is over.  I had an active role when I was a worker and I think I’m going to have an even more active role now as a retired worker in our Union going forward.  Fasten your seat belts!

In closing, please remember that I have people coming from the “Healthcare Trust” next month.  They will provide us with new information and answer our questions.  I think it is important for our members to participate in meetings with them.  As retirees, we will gain the opportunity to ask all the questions we have and to speak about whatever we see that’s wrong with our benefits, if anything, and to speak about what improvements we can make.  I think this is the right thing to do.  So, I’m hoping that we have a good turnout for this meeting.

Retiree Chairperson Report –  September, 2022  

 Well, the summer is over, and we are heading into the autumn.  It’s back to work.  It’s been a busy Fall so far.  Our delegates have been in Port Elgin for the 2022 Unifor Retired Workers Conference.  I got re-elected as a Member-at-Large on the National Retired Workers Executive Board at the conference.  Thank you to everyone who supported me.

Generally, everything went well at the conference.  I had an opportunity to talk directly to our new National President, Lana Payne.  I express to her what the concerns of retirees are with respect to our pensions and what must be done going forward in order to help future retirees.  She had no answers in response.  With pen in hand, Lana was writing down everything I said.

Also, there has been a new Federal Conservative leader elected, Pierre Poilievre.  I think there will be a lot of trouble on the horizon if he gets elected as Prime Minister or acquires power of any kind.  He’s a real right-wing fanatic and he embraced everything that was going on with the truck blockades and all that was associated with it.  He eagerly took part in their protest.  So, I do not have too much use for him.

In closing, I think we’re going to have a busy Fall this year with different situations facing us at the national level for retired workers.  But I am looking forward to the challenge of it all.

Finally, we will be having our elections in a month, at the October meeting for the Executive Board of the Retired Workers Chapter of Unifor Local 199.  Make sure that you show up and vote for the candidates of your choice.  Again, this will be held at the same time as the October General Membership Meeting.

Retiree A/Chairperson report – May, 2022 – by Vice Chairperson – John Neely

I would like to start by sending out sincere condolences from all our members to Fred and his family on the recent passing of his wife.  I want to let you know that the rest of the Executive, along with Laurette and John Pula donated money with an extra $100 coming from the Retiree Chapter on your behalf to have 50 trees planted in memory of Priscilla Dougan.  There will be a celebration of life held on Sunday, May 29th from 1-4 at the Welland Legion.

I attended the Day of Mourning at St. Catharines City Hall on April 28th and there were about 12-15 people there which included a few kids so that was good to see.  One of the speakers was talking about a fatality that happened at a company in Stoney Creek just 2 days before the event.  They mentioned that the same company had been fined $150,000 in 2018 for another fatality two years before that.  It makes you wonder how effective these paltry fines are by the Ministry of Labour who investigate these events, when it happened twice in six yeas at this same facility.

I also went to the May Day event on May 1st which was starting on St. Paul St. and according to the poster was to include a march.  I was about 20 minutes late as it took a while to find a parking spot and then had about a 10 minute walk to the meeting place.  When I got there, no one was around so I went back home wondering if the event had been cancelled because the weather was not the best that day.  I contacted Bruce later in the afternoon to find out they had the rally and he told me yes, they had the event and marched to the City Hall area where booths were set up.  If they had mentioned that on the poster, I would have gone there instead of heading home.  The point I want to make is that Unifor were not involved in organizing this event as we are not part of the OFL and our union was encouraging people to go to the event held in Toronto while other union people were asking their brothers and sisters to attend the local event.  I think it’s about time Unifor made peace with the other unions and rejoined the OFL and CLC as we seem to have forgotten the motto, “we are stronger together” and also better organized as one too.

I would like to remind everyone that we have a Provincial election coming up June 2nd and have the privilege to participate in this by casting our vote and I always say if I don’t vote then I don’t deserve the right to bitch about the government and its policies.  Please take the time to do it and for your information, there will be advanced poll voting from May 19-28.  Wile on the subject, when I was in Ingersoll last week attending the Ontario Region Retired Workers Council, it was mentioned that both Wayne Gates in Niagara Falls and Jeff Birch in Niagara Centre are in tough fights for re-election, so if anyone can spare the time to help out these campaigns, I’m sure it would be much appreciated by the candidates in their quest to keep their seats.

Finally, talking of voting, the nomination box for anyone wishing to attend the Retired Workers Council in Port Elgin the week of September 4- 9 will go out after this meeting.  The box will stay out until Friday, May 27th until 3:00 p.m. If there are more then 8 applications, a vote will be held at our next General Membership meeting in June.  Also, anyone putting their name forward have to be double vaccinated to attend.

I would like to congratulate everyone who were successful in the recent election to the Executive Board of Local 199.

Retiree Chairperson report – April, 2022

Good afternoon everybody.  Sadly, things are not so good with our union at the moment as I am sure all of you know. Two things need to be said about the current situation at the top of the house.  One is that no one is even trying to deny what the reports are saying has taken place.  This is terrible.  The other is that this situation has seriously damaged the reputation and image of our union because the person at the centre of it has been in the public face of Unifor for nearly nine years.  We must face up to this.  We need to have an honest and very open discussion about the damage that has been done to our union and what needs to be done to right the ship.  We cannot be silent and act like everything is fine and carry on like nothing has happened.  If we do that, the reputations of Unifor cannot be repaired.  I welcome your thoughts and comments about this.  Free and open discussion of important issues is vital to any democratic organization.

Now that I have touched on the subject of being democratic, I want to say that in just six weeks we will have a provincial election.  We have a Premier going around the province telling everyone he is a friend of the worker.  Don’t believe it.  This so-called friend of the worker passed legislation to not allow the wages of public sector workers to increase by more than one per cent per year.  This same person has fought against giving workers the paid sick days they need and which will make workplaces more safe to work in.  He has handed billions of dollars in surplus money at the WSIB back to the corporations instead of meeting the needs of injured workers many of whom live in severe poverty.  He now says he is in favour of raising the minimum wage. But one of the first things he did as Premier was block an increase in the minimum wage that was passed into law by the previous government.  Doug Ford is not a friend of works.  He does not deserve our support and another four years in office.  We need to send him a message on June 2.

While I am speaking about voting, I want to urge any of you who have not voted in the run-off elected for the President of Local 199 to vote after our meeting.  Have your say.  Every vote matters.

Finally I want to urge you to spare a thought for the many people who are suffering as a result of the invasion of the Ukraine and other conflicts around the world.  Donate some money to ease their suffering if you can

Retiree Chairperson report – March, 2022

I want to begin my report by clearing up a couple of very important things and set the record straight about them.  To start with, something must be said regarding the big improvements we have seen in our benefits.  I know how happy our retired members are about them.  But what must be understood once and for all is this.  Those retiree benefit improvements were not negotiated by the union.  So it is wrong for anyone in the union to get credit for them and it is even more wrong if anyone in a position of leadership tries to bask in the glory of these important gains for us.  We got these big benefit improvement because of some 20 months during the pandemic the use of our benefit package was sharply reduced.  This reduction in use an the good administration of the benefits plan by those who administer it resulted in a big financial surplus.  That surplus money was put back into the plan making these benefit improvements possible.  Those are the facts.

Second, I want to set the record straight regarding what took place at the last contract ratification meeting.  It was held on Zoom.  Our retirees were shut out.  This was very wrong and I can say this from personal experience having been at every contract ratification meeting since the one held in 1964.  That was when I was a new hire and 18 years old.  I attended it following a two week strike.  Up until 2021, our retirees could always attend these ratification meetings and have a voice but not a vote.  That is not the worst of it.  In 2021, I was the Chair of the Retired Workers Chapter and a Local 199 Executive Board member.  As an Executive Board member, I have the right under our union’s constitution to attend any and every unit meeting in our Local Union.  This right of mine as your representative under our constitution was deliberately violated and everyone in our  local leadership knows it.  Both actions, shutting out our retirees from a contract ratification meeting and shutting out their Chairperson were insult to each and every one of us.  I feel that you need to be told this especially now when our Local Union’s Executive Board is up for election.  Speaking of the Executive Board elections, there are some other things which I feel need to be said as we gather here in our Retirees Centre.  There are people on our current Executive Board, including our President who were willing to see us lose our current Centre.  I am telling you this because they wanted to get an office in downtown St. Catharines and said so in the plant.  This would have left us with the centre and all the costs associated with it making it impossible for us to continue to have this centre.  Whereas now, we are sure to have it for at least 5 more years and possible much longer.  We need to be clear about all of this and consider it when we help to decide who will lead this local union going forward.

Finally and many of you already know, the Executive of our Chapter has endorsed the candidacies running for President and Vice-President.  Given that voting is underway, I am not at liberty to anything further so I will close my report and wish everyone a Happy Easter.

GM Retiree Benefits are being updated January 2022

All GM retirees should have received a letter explaining the pending changes to Retiree benefits package provided by ASR Trust.  The benefit improvements will start in January of 2022

Gord Graham normally attends a retiree meeting to provide an update on our benefits, due to COVID Gord made the following video so he could explain the benefit coverage in a safe manner.

If you have any questions regarding the video or the retiree benefit package please contact the GM Benefit rep., Lawrence Robson 905-641-6444. Please wait until the New Year when he returns from the Christmas break.  Greenshield representatives will also not be able to explain these new benefits until then.

Click here to watch the video