Delegates to Ontario Regional Council were thanked and congratulated for their work over the past year – including defeating the Harper Government – and encouraged them to keep up the effort in the coming year on the many issues still facing working people.
“Stephen Harper is no longer prime minister – I’ve been waiting since October 19 to say that,” Unifor Ontario Region Director said. “You canvassed, you donated, you volunteered and you voted.”
The efforts paid off, she said, noting that one million more Ontarians voted in the 2015 election than in previous elections, while voting on First Nations reserves increased 70 per cent. More Aboriginal and persons with a disability were elected as MPS, and half the cabinet is women, she said.
Fortier also noted that when Unifor National President Jerry Dias asked for 25 Unifor families in the Toronto area to help Syrian refugees settle in Canada, 61 stepped forward.
“This is a project that can really change lives. Not only for the refugees, but for those who help them,” she said.
Despite the successes, Fortier said, there are ongoing concerns. Topping the list is the Trans Pacific Partnership and the challenge it poses to good jobs, particularly in the auto sector, as well as concerns about supply management, drug patents, Canadian media content and investor rights.
“We need a commitment that Canada remains a country that builds,” she said, committing that Unifor will be active in the review of the TPP and making its concerns public. “We will fight for a trade deal that works for Canadians, and not against us.”
Among the many other challenges Unifor will be facing in the coming year, Fortier cited the push for the CRTC to ensure adequate funding for local TV news production and the challenges facing both school bus and taxi drivers.
Successes at the bargaining table for Unifor members at No Frills, Metro and Air Canada over the past year shows gains can be made for part-time and precarious workers.
That effort continues with Unifor’s push to improve labour laws and employment standards, she said, noting that Unifor’s 156-page submission to the Ontario Workplace Review has 43 recommendations to recognize the increasingly precarious nature of work.