More than 300 Unifor Skilled Trades members from across the country attended the second Unifor Skilled Trades Bargaining and New Technology Conference, held on February 26-28 in Toronto, Ontario.
Unifor National President Jerry Dias opened the Conference by calling on the 300 delegates to challenge mental health stigmas and continue their work to build a strong skilled trades sector through creating opportunities for women and Indigenous workers.
“Our union has made a commitment to diversify workers in the skilled trades,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “A diverse workforce in the skilled trades is crucial for building our union and sustaining good jobs in Canada. We have created apprenticeship programs for Indigenous workers at the Irving Shipyard and have grown our Women Unlimited program.”
The conference featured a candid and informative talk by broadcaster Michael Landsberg who spoke about the need to challenge mental health stigmas in our workplaces, unions and communities. Landsberg shared his own mental health struggles and stressed that silence is often the biggest ally of depression and encouraged those who live with mental illness to reach out for help.
“As we continue to grow our National Skilled Trades Council we must understand the importance of supporting people with mental illness,” said Dave Cassidy Unifor National Skilled Trades Chairperson. “It starts with a collective effort from ownership, management and workers to create a community that facilitates mental wellness and social inclusion.”
Delegates spent part of the conference and set out the priorities that skilled trades workers will take into bargaining over the next year. “The issues of contracting out, work ownership and apprenticeships affect all skilled trades,” said John Breslin, Unifor Skilled Trades Director. “Bargaining strong language that protects all trades in every sector will be a cornerstone of bargaining strategy in the years ahead.”
During the conference delegates voted on resolutions of skilled trades issues facing members in their workplaces, new technology and skilled trades training, opposing precarious work for skilled tradespeople and much more.
“Supporting our members has and will always be a fundamental pillar of our union,” said National Secretary-Treasurer Bob Orr during his concluding remarks. Orr explained the support offered by the national union to skilled trades members and the need to grow the skilled trades council that is inclusive and equitable.