Delegates to the 2018 Ontario Regional Council made it clear that they represent a bold movement to defend workers’ rights in the province.
“We are going to move forward to implement a working peoples’ agenda in this province and stop Ford in his tracks,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “If it’s not our role to lead and give hope, to fight and fix a wrong, then why are we here?”
Operating in opposition to a Conservative government that already rolled back hard-won rights, Unifor leadership and speakers at the Council emphasized the strength of members to organize and win. In a moving show of solidarity and commitment to action, members unanimously passed a resolution to strengthen mobilization efforts in support of Local 222 members and all workers affected by GM’s threat to close the Oshawa facility.
Fight for Workers’ Rights
In response to the conservative rollback of workers’ rights and minimum wage through Bill 47, delegates adopted a provincial bargaining strategy to bargain for decent work.
As a result of the bargaining directive a $15 minimum wage, fair scheduling, paid personal emergency leave and equal pay for equal work will be presented at every Unifor bargaining table.
To mark the passing of the recommendation, the more than 900 ORC delegates marched to the Minster of Labour’s office to announce the new program.
Watch a video of the media conference here.
“We are giving notice to employers– that you may have hid behind this government and pushed for lower standards for your workers, but we will bargain back those labour standards,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director.
Support from Solidarity Partners
Delegates heard messages of support and struggle from an impressive roster of speakers.
Andrea Horwath, Ontario New Democratic Party Leader, Tracey Ramsey, MP for Essex (NDP) and Unifor Local 200 member and Jennifer French, MPP for Oshawa (NDP) all shared solidarity with the Oshawa community, with Ramsay encouraging Unifor members to become directly involved in electoral politics.
An exciting partnership with OPSEU was revealed by Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President, and Jerry Dias.
Diversity and Community
The two-day Council was preceded by a provincial President’s Meeting, industry council meetings and ORC standing committee meetings, all coming together to reflect and plan for the year ahead.
At the Presidents’ Meeting, ORC Chairperson Scott McIlmoyle led an exciting discussion about current issues and upcoming challenges for local unions, saying, “the year ahead presents a challenge for Unifor members from every corner of this province. But looking around this room I know that together we will win.”
A Young Workers’ Conference also welcomed more than 50 young activists for the day before Council. During the council, members also had the opportunity to attend a round-table discussion on human rights, racism and Islamophobia in Ontario. Over caucuses, delegates were able to learn more about the work of Unifor’s five equity committees. Following council adjournment, an allies caucus brought together activists working in this various realms.
A Strong Leadership Team
Elections were held for ten positions at the Ontario Regional Council and the following members joined the ORC executive and standing committees:
- Stephanie Haskell (Local 938), Vice Chairperson
- Carly Finch (Local 87-M), Member at Large
- Jamie Martinez (Local 1090), Member at Large
- Jim Fling (Local 34-O), Member at Large
- Sandy Knight (Local 584), Health & Safety Committee
- Dharshan Rajasinham (Local 6006), Young Workers Committee
- Kelly Janes (Local 1120), EI/CPP Committee
- Dan Cushenan (Local 504), EI/CPP Committee
- Kathleen Brooks (Local 8300), Workers’ Compensation Committee
- Jessica Ridgwell (Local 1285), Employee and Family Assistance Committee