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 Union Representation and Union Building

Unions and working people have been persistently under attack in recent years, especially with the election of regressive governments at all levels, new waves of conservativism within and south of our border, and the  erosion of democracy in our institutions.

Outdated labour laws continue to embolden employers to find new ways of limiting compensation and workers’ voices in the workplace.

Legislative changes over time have made it more difficult for unions to organize and bargain. The proliferation of casual, temporary, shortterm, part-time, contracted out and “gig”-based labour simply creates more forms of precarious work, where workers have little job security and protection. Governments across the country have also made cutbacks to important public programs, leaving the most vulnerable Canadians without the support they need to keep their families afloat.

Apart from the individual impact on workers, these strategies also fragment our workplaces, undermine worker solidarity and erode bargaining unit structures.

In this context, it is more important than ever for workers to have strong union representation, which includes fostering an empowered and engaged membership in our workplaces. A strong union needs active and well-resourced Local Unions, which relies on an informed and engaged membership. Front-line stewards and committeepersons must be supported and equipped to effectively address workplace issues, enforce contract rules and instill confidence in our membership. Union representatives need the time and space to do union work, and members need to be given the opportunity to know their union.

An effective union is also able to connect its bargaining successes to broader political and social struggles within our home communities and communities of workers around the world. By broadening our bargaining goals outward, we are able to push for legislative and social change in a meaningful way.

We must continue to do what we’ve always done – push back against employer attacks, make meaningful gains at the bargaining table for our members and be tireless advocates at home and abroad. As our workplaces  evolve and increasingly threaten the job security of our members, and as globalization requires us to better connect with workers around the world, our ability to build union capacity is more important than ever.

Building a stronger union through bargaining requires us to negotiate collective agreement language that facilitates more opportunities for members to do effective union work, and support the struggles of other workers.

Our vision for building union strength through collective bargaining

Building a stronger union through bargaining requires us to negotiate collective agreement language that facilitates more opportunities for members to do effective union work, and support the struggles of other workers in our local communities and around the world.

Building this strength can take many forms: from negotiating more time for local union representatives to address workplace issues, to providing more access to union education, to financial contributions that help vulnerable communities in countries abroad – and everything in between. Building our union involves increasing our capacity to empower our members, Local Unions and workers everywhere, toward achieving socioeconomic and workplace justice. It is with this approach that will enable us to make bargaining gains for our members, push back against employer attacks and prepare for future challenges.

Our bargaining priorities

We must continue to build the union through membership development and providing greater capacity for union representatives to address issues in the workplace. Further, we must continue to enhance the mechanisms intended to support working people in local communities and around the world.

To achieve this, Unifor will:

Bargain more workplace representatives, wherever possible including stewards, health and safety representatives, equity representatives, women’s advocates and bargaining committee members, among others.

Bargain sufficient paid time for union representatives so they can effectively address workplace issues and support the membership.

Bargain language that enables the union to provide new member orientation in the workplace. Where orientation programs exist, it is important to regularly update sessions and materials.

Bargain employer-funded Paid Education Leave (PEL), which provides opportunities for members to attend education courses. Where PEL funding already exists, local committees should aim to increase contributions,  and explore other measures to make educational opportunities more accessible for members.

Bargain employer contributions to the Social Justice Fund (SJF), which offers solidarity and support to workers and communities at home and abroad for development, emergency relief and the fight for socio-economic justice. Where SJF funding already exists, local committees should aim to increase SJF  contributions.

Bargain employer contributions to the Canadian Community Fund (CCF), which are used for community development projects in Canada. The CCF was created in 2015 after negotiations with CP Rail and CN Rail.  Bargaining CCF contributions will enable to the fund to support important projects.

Bargaining language that enables the union to place and display a Unifor sign or flag at the workplace.

Success stories

Flair Airlines (Local 2002): This first contract for Flair pilots included employer contributions to our Paid Education Leave program and the Social Justice Fund.

Resolute Forest Products (multiple Locals): Members negotiated an agreement that included employer contributions to the Canadian Community Fund.

GardaWorld – Regina International Airport (Local 1-S): Members bargained a first contract that included employer contributions to our Paid Education Leave program.

Victoria Regional HandyDART (Local 333-BC): Members successfully secured annual increases for Paid Education Leave funding in the last set of negotiations, reaching six cents per hour by the end of the contract, significantly increasing the ability of members to participate in union education.

Toromont-Concord (Local 112): The bargaining team secured first time contributions to the Social Justice Fund.

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