New union aims to be Canada's largest
The Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) are attempting to join forces to create the country's largest industrial union.
In doing so, the two unions hope to give themselves the muscle necessary to protect their members. The groups recently released their final report on the merger, negotiated over the last year.
"In this report, our unions are mapping out the way to a new union that will focus on advancing the interest of all Canadian workers," says CAW National President Ken Lewenza. "This blueprint has the potential of giving working Canadians the strength they deserve to fight for their basic rights."
If the two were to join, the new union would represent more than 300,000 workers across Canada in every province. It would also be the largest merger between two private sector unions in history, says a release from the CAW.
"The proposal for a new union was built on principles of democracy, transparency and progress for working people," explains Dave Coles, National President of CEP. "This report is the first step towards reaching out beyond traditional workplaces and increasing the political influence of working people in Canada."
To fully consummate the deal, both sides will have to report back to their respective members for approval to go forward at their conventions. The CAW convention will be held in Toronto August 20 to 24 and the CEP convention will be held in Quebec City October 14 to 17.
Other features in the new deal include $50 million over the next five years to recruit new members.
Locally, Oshawa's CAW Local 222 would still exist under the new arrangement.
"All existing local unions of CAW and CEP shall continue as successor chartered local unions of the new union," reads the report.
"There will be no direct affect to CAW Local 222 as a result of the merger but I would suggest there will be a strong indirect effect," says Lewenza in an email to The Oshawa Express. "Local 222 is a well-respected local union, deeply rooted in the community so there is an expectation that they will lead in collaborating with CEP locals within that region, strengthening our presence and vision for workers both organized and unorganized."
In Oshawa, where Local 222 is faced with the loss of 2,000 jobs when General Motors completes its scheduled closure of its consolidated line, the new union will wield the same kind of indirect influence. It will send a strong message to companies that organized labour isn't going anywhere, explains Lewenza.
"The CAW/CEP discussions are a longer term vision of better positioning to defend workers and those most vulnerable in society but knowing our union will be stronger certainly sends a determined and positive message to all employers that we will stand tall for the long haul," he says.
However, there would be some changes to how things work under the new union. The proposal recommends dues paid to the union be a percentage of members' regular wages.
"This represents a change for former CAW members, whose dues were determined on the basis of a certain number of hours' pay," notes the report. "The new national union rate will be 0.735 (per cent) of the worker's regular wages. For CAW members, this rate is roughly equivalent to the national union's share of total dues under the previous formula (54 (per cent) of 2 hours and 20 minutes of pay per month), for those members who worked 40 hours per week."
The benefits of the new union are many though, says Lewenza. It will go a long way towards "strengthening the union presence in particular communities, municipalities, province and, of course, the country," he notes. "Both unions have a presence throughout the country, combining forces will deal with combined resources and energies. Huge concentration of resources, time and energies will go into organizing the unorganized and mobilizing with particular campaigns through education which generates enhanced activism."
The report on the merger can be viewed in its entirety at www.newunionproject.ca.