The workforce across the Atlantic Provinces is diverse, but there isn’t a Unifor member whose life and workplace hasn’t been affected by COVID-19. In her live address to members, Atlantic Regional Director Linda MacNeil emphasized the strong work being done by many locals to protect the health and safety of their members.
“A lot is happening in our Atlantic Region within our union, both on the ground and in the political arena,” said MacNeil. “What I know for sure is that your activism and your leadership hasn’t stopped during this pandemic and I’m so proud of each and every one of you for all you do. Thank you for your dedication.”
MacNeil outlined the political changes ahead as the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador has stepped down, seeing Premier-Designate Andrew Furey – a political newcomer – take the reins, and as Nova Scotia faces a similar situation with Premier Stephen McNeil recently announcing his resignation as leader. In New Brunswick, minority-government Progressive Conservative leader Blaine Higgs has called an election for September 14.
“Many may be swayed by the positive way in which the pandemic was handled in the province, but I will remind our members in New Brunswick that the future of the province must now be guided by someone who has working families at the top of the priority list,” said MacNeil. “Unifor will continue to be the loud voice in each party’s ear demanding progressive policies that favour workers and their families.”
The union made some key victories for health care workers in Nova Scotia since the onset of the pandemic: highlighting the need for PPE for all health care workers, winning premium pay for those on the front lines, and achieving a 12% wage increase for Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). Unifor worked with four other health care unions in the province to advocate for LPN wage parity after a consent award was granted for several hundred LPNs at the former Capital District Health Authority, finally bringing their pay in line with changes to their scope of practice.
Along with the victories, MacNeil noted the challenges the union continues to face, including fighting for severance pay for Northern Pulp workers, mitigating job losses in the offshore oil sector in Newfoundland and Labrador, supporting airline workers through restrictive Canadian travel policies, and more.
With a vigorous commitment to fighting those battles, MacNeil also addressed the more private battles members are facing in their personal lives.
“These are unprecedented times and we are all feeling the strains on our mental health and our general well-being,” she said. “Some members are combatting addiction, and an increasing number of women may be trapped at home in a violent situation. I encourage you all to look through the Unifor mental health resources and share them with your fellow members. Helping each other is what us Atlantic folks do best – and right now, that’s exactly what we all need.”