Retiree Chair 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.
Fred Dougan, Chairperson
Unifor Local 199