TORONTO, Dec. 5, 2013 /CNW/ - Unifor, Canada's newest union is mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela, who passed away today.
"Nelson Mandela was an inspiring figure like few others the world has ever seen," said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. "His efforts inspired not only his fellow South Africans, but countless others around the world who identified with the struggle he led for justice and peace."
The Canadian labour movement had close ties with Mandela and the labour movement in South Africa, dating back to 1964, when Mandela was arrested and many others were exiled or went to live underground due to persecution.
Unifor's founding unions - the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP), both had strong relationships with the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) - affiliated to Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) party.
"The trade union movement in South Africa played a major role in bringing down Apartheid," said Dias. Leading up to the national boycott of South African goods, many local unions across the country partnered with SACTU solidarity committees here in Canada to do fundraising and community outreach on the need to boycott South African products and support the human rights and political struggle occurring in South Africa.
During the Apartheid, former CAW President Bob White sent audio messages of solidarity that were played in South African train stations, encouraging workers to stay strong in the face of adversity and pledging Canadian support. After the end of Apartheid when democratic elections were held in South Africa in 1994, ushering in Mandela and the ANC, union staff and activists were invited as part of a Canadian delegation to observe elections, including now NDP MP Peggy Nash and others.
The CAW was also a founding member of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund in Canada, which helped get curriculum into schools about the experience of the Apartheid. The union also helped organize the large Nelson Mandela Children's Fund event which brought in thousands of children and Nelson Mandela himself, into the former Toronto Sky Dome on September 25, 1998. The union has since maintained close a close relationship with Mandela and the South African free trade union movement.
To read the full Unifor statement on Nelson Mandela, please visit: http://www.unifor.org/en/whats-new/news/nelson-mandela-1918-2013
SOURCE Unifor the union