Canadian unions ask members to vote on merger

New union will represent over 300,000 members, allocate $50 million to recruitment
||Last Updated: 08/01/2012

Two of the largest private sector unions in Canada have presented their official proposal to merge. The new union would be the country’s largest industrial union, the two groups say.

The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) union are proposing the two organizations merge to “better protect existing members” and attract new ones, the unions said at a press conference on August 1.

"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," said CAW president Ken Lewenza. "This blueprint has the potential of giving working Canadians the strength they deserve to fight for their basic rights."

A joint committee report was presented at the press conference and highlights the founding principles of the potential new union, as well as a number of new aspects.

The unions claim the new union will achieve the following:

  • represent over 300,000 members from across Canada;
  • prioritize organizing new members by allocating $50 million (10% of its revenue) over five years to recruiting new members and developing new local unions;
  • offer membership to temporary agency, contract workers, unemployed workers and students;
  • maintain a $135-million defence fund to support workers on strike.

The new union would be made up of five regional councils and a 25-member executive board, the two groups said at their announcement, adding that the merger will mark the single largest coming together of two private sector unions in Canadian history.

"The proposal for a new union was built on principles of democracy, transparency and progress for working people," said CEP president Dave Coles. "This report is the first step towards reaching out beyond traditional workplaces and increasing the political influence of working people in Canada."

A new report shows labour’s portion of the national income has decreased from 63 per cent to 50 per cent over the last 20 years and unions are in danger of losing rights won in the 1940s, Lewenza said.

"Worker wages have stagnated over the last three decades," he said, “and we are seeing the consequences in growing dissatisfaction, inequality and distrust of government.”

The CAW and CEP have been discussing a potential merger for several months. The new yet-to-be-named union will be created in 2013 if the proposal is accepted by the members of both unions.

The CAW will vote on the proposal at its convention being held on August 20 to 24. The CEP will vote at its convention on October 14 to 17.

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