More than 100 members gathered in Thunder Bay on February 24-25 for the annual Northern Ontario Leadership Meeting to strategize on how to fight Doug Ford’s attack on workers.
“Locals in Northern Ontario understand the importance of collaboration and solidarity as a path to build stronger communities,” said Lana Payne, Unifor’s National Secretary-Treasurer in a speech to delegates. “We’re up against blistering attacks on workers’ rights and public services – if we don’t act now, we’ll lose the hard-earned gains the labour movement has made for Canadians.”
The two-day meeting welcomed conversations and planning on political activism; issues faced by northern Ontario locals, including the impact Ford’s deep cuts have on rural communities; and ways to achieve progress by determined lobbying and strategic bargaining.
“In response to Ford’s deplorable attacks against the working class, we must be 100 times bolder in our demands for better working conditions, good jobs, and the advancement of workers’ rights,” continued Payne. “Make no mistake, the dismemberment of public services and weakening of union protections is, by design, meant to perpetuate injustice – and we won’t let that happen.”
Members voiced their overwhelming support to turn up the heat through political action and mobilization, and the importance of addressing issues collaboratively and head-on.
“Unifor is becoming stronger and more effective each day. From coast to coast we’re making significant gains for workers and leveling a system that’s stacked against us,” said Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director. “Thousands of workers showed up to protest the Ontario PC convention this past Saturday. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – we’ve built a movement across this country that is a force to be reckoned with.”
Sessions at the meeting highlighted recent attempts by employers to undermine workers, including the historic Co-op Refinery lockout in Regina, shifting tides at Bombardier, drastic cuts to personal support workers, and the epic failure of the Nova Scotia government to save good jobs in forestry.
“Together, we are building a fighting union,” continued Payne. “The determination and commitment of the 100 leaders and activists here today goes to show how creating stronger, more resilient communities impacts long-term systemic change. There is no room for complacency – we must continue to disrupt how the economic pie is split.”