In an unprecedented address to Unifor’s convention, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to work with the labour movement to reverse the damage of the previous Conservative government and to build a better Canada.
“My government is pleased to be a solid partner with workers,” Trudeau told an overflow crowd at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa.
“The labour movement believes in justice, compassion, and the growth and success of Canada’s middle class. And on that, our government shares common ground with you.”
Trudeau was elected prime minister last fall, ending 10 years of Conservative rule in Ottawa. Unifor and other unions and progressive groups played an active role in the campaign, encouraging members to vote out the Conservatives.
Once in power, the Trudeau government repealed the worst of the Harper government’s regressive labour laws and has been much more open to meeting with Unifor and other groups on a regular basis.
“We know that working people are not the enemy. And we know that after a decade of – to be polite about it – neglect, the labour movement deserves fairness from the federal government,” Trudeau said.
Unifor National President Jerry Dias said he has already seen a difference in Unifor’s relationship with the federal government as doors have opened to regular dialogue.
“Prime Minister Trudeau recognizes that labour has a huge role to play in shaping the economic and social fabric of this country, said Dias. “Unifor is pleased to be part of the dialogue with the Prime Minister and his government.”
Trudeau outlined several initiatives his government has undertaken since being elected, including infrastructure funding, money for union-based apprenticeship training, cutting the waiting period for Employment Insurance, signing the International Labour Organization Convention on child labour and lowering the eligibility for Old Age Security back to 65.
“Our government is committed to making sure workers are supported throughout their entire careers – during training, while working, and upon retiring,” he said.
“We want to ensure that hardworking, middle class families can get ahead. That they can build a stable, secure life for themselves, and for their loved ones.”
The convention was not the first Unifor event Trudeau has attended. He was also at the Good Jobs Summit in Toronto before he was elected prime minister.