Greetings Unifor Family:
This has been a year of profound and historic challenges, but also inspiring solidarity. We started 2020 on a freezing cold picket line facing an impossible employer intent on busting our union in Regina. Some 20 Unifor activists, including two of us, were arrested defending Local 594 members at the Co-op Refinery, before the lockout eventually ended in June.
In March, we all faced an even more powerful foe: COVID-19. The pandemic took hold of our lives, infected our loved ones, killed workers on the job, and sent our economy into a tailspin. So many of you risked your lives as essential workers, and went to work every day and continue to do so.
Facing a new normal, our union adapted to continue to defend our members in new and different ways. Keeping our members and staff safe was and is our top priority. We launched our COVID Task Force, held daily conference calls, and strategically planned our campaigns to fight to protect Unifor members. We stayed connected through zoom meetings, a virtual Summer Summit, online rallies and digital news conferences to continue the work of our union in these unprecedented times. Local unions and leaders also stepped up. Members on the frontline, our COVID heroes, shared personal and powerful video messages to inform and inspire us. It was the toughest of times and across our union, leaders and activists, including our network of health and safety advocates, rose to the occasion.
The pandemic exposed deep flaws in our economy and in our public institutions. It was a loud wake up call, prompting government action on a range of issues such as income security and Employment Insurance, a system so badly flawed it had to be shelved to make way for CERB. We lead and won the fight for PPE for all health care workers and we continue to put the safety of our members first. In our long-term care sector, which tragically accounted for thousands of COVID-19 deaths, we’ve pushed the government hard and finally have a commitment to a four hour minimum standard of care in Ontario.
We made the federal government listen to us and work with our union to introduce programs to support workers. Our demand for an expanded wage subsidy program lead to CEWS, at 75%, instead of the original proposed 10%.
We were directly engaged with cabinet ministers to develop an expanded temporary EI program and various post-CERB recovery benefits. We have our fingerprints all over these historic EI changes. We pushed hard for premium pay subsidies for front-line workers, including those in retail, health and long-term care. While governments did not listen to everything we said, we are not backing down as the second wave hits our members and their workplaces.
In June, we released our Road Map for economic recovery. Our Build Back Better plan put us ahead of the pack, demanding universal childcare, stronger labour standards, industrial strategies for auto, aerospace and other sectors. We heard some of our own terminology repeated in the federal government’s Throne Speech this fall, proving we are making an impact. However, there is much work ahead. We remain concerned with how Conservative premiers are tackling the crisis in provinces such as Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. We are fighting for recovery plans for many sectors of the economy including aerospace, aviation, hospitality, rail, retail, and other sectors more severely impacted by the pandemic.
We have also seen some major wins for our union this year. An historic round of auto bargaining positions our members at the front of Electric Vehicle manufacturing and returns truck assembly in Oshawa. We secured nearly $5 billion dollars in investment from the Detroit three automakers and the federal and Ontario governments to stabilize our plants and create thousands of new jobs.
We defended racial justice and put it as a priority at the bargaining table. And we fought for essential workers against the greed of some of Canada’s wealthiest corporations.
Because we know this year has been tougher still on our community friends, we decided to double our annual contributions to food banks and women’s shelters. Local unions across the country have also gone above and beyond their normal solidarity efforts and we thank you for your incredible social and community unionism.
We want to wish everyone – local leaders, activists, members and our excellent staff - a safe holiday season and hope you will get to enjoy some down time with loved ones while staying vigilant to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. As we monitor vaccine plans closely, we can’t promise you 2021 will be any easier, but we can tell you that no matter what we face, we will do so together, as a family of workers fighting together for justice for everyone.
Solidarity friends. Stay Safe. Happy Holidays!
Jerry Dias Lana Payne
National President Secretary-Treasurer
Renaud Gagné Linda MacNeil
Quebec Regional Director Atlantic Regional Director
Naureen Rizvi Gavin McGarrigle
Ontario Regional Director Western Regional Director